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BHUM 12A03 - Silk road: the languages of the Silk Road

Type d'enseignement : Seminar

Semester : Autumn and Spring 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

This course will study the persistent gap between linguistic communities, identities and political units in the history of the silk roads and show how the nation state framework often prevents us from understanding past and present situations. The languages used along the silk roads will be approached by category, in order to show the wide variety of social and political systems organized around them. The linguistic communities we will study will sometimes be bigger than political entities, such as the languages of segmentary societies or cosmopolitan languages, sometimes smaller, such as imperial languages, or cutting across political boundaries, such as trade languages and diaspora languages. More broadly, this course will introduce the students to the current rethinking of linguistic identities across the social sciences. At the end of the course, the student is expected to : 1°) Understand alternatives to the nation state 2°) Be able to detect and criticize projections of nation states in the past 3°) Know how to spot nationalist biases in historiography


WORMSER, Paul (PhD. Teacher-INALCO)

Pedagogical format

Each class will include a lecture followed by a debate session based on preassigned readings. Students will also hand out a 1 page summary of the preceding lecture at the beginning of each class. Each group of 2 students will write a research paper (10 pages) and present it in class during the final colloquium session.

Course validation

To validate the course, the student is expected to pass the following assignments (at least three grades): 1°) One course summary grade 2°) One debate grade 3°) One research paper grade

Required reading

Bellwood, Peter, “Austronesian Prehistory in Southeast Asia: Homeland, Expansion and Transformation”, in The Austronesians, Historical and Comparative Perspectives, Canberra, ANU Press, 1995, p.103-114.

Additional required reading

  • Harari, Yuval, Sapiens, New York, Harper, 2014, p.53-57. Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism, London, Verso, 2006. p.12-22.
  • Pollock, Sheldon, The Language of the Gods in the World of Men, Berkeley, University of California Press, p.10-19.
  • Ricklefs, Merle, A New History of Southeast Asia, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, p.18-31.
  • Ricci, Ronit, Islam Translated: Literature, Conversion and the Arabic Cosmopolis of South and Southeast Asia, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2011, p.13-20.