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South and Southeast Asian Religions


The Department of Religious Studies offers graduate training in the study of South and Southeast Asian religious traditions from premodernity to the present. The program takes an area orientation in order to train the student to situate, both historically and theoretically, particular religious formations within an interdisciplinary approach that draws on the rich academic community within and beyond Religious Studies at UVa. While students in the program usually focus on Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic traditions, it is possible to design a course of study that centers on Jainism, Sikhism, Christianity, or Judaism in South Asia. Supported languages include Sanskrit, Pali, Persian, Arabic, Hindi-Urdu, Braj Bhāṣā, Kashmiri, and Burmese.


PhD students in the South and Southeast Asian Religions area are to take two seminars on theories and methods in the study of religion. One of these courses must be RELG 7360 (“Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion,” which is required of all PhD students in Religious Studies). The other theory course should be selected in consultation with one’s advisor. The PhD student must also complete 39 graded credit-hours of seminars and tutorials on subjects pertinent to their research interests, for a combined total (theories and methods courses plus others) of 45 credits.  Students who enter the PhD program with a relevant prior graduate degree should petition for “advanced standing” by the end of their first year, in order to obtain up to 15 transfer credits toward their UVa degree. In all course planning, the student should work with their advisor to construct a sequence of study that balances depth in one’s area of specialization with a wider field of research. As appropriate, students can and should take classes in other departments of the university. 


Students must have an advanced level of proficiency in a language of South or Southeast Asia (classical or modern, depending on the student’s research).  It is expected that students will have typically taken at least two years in such a language upon matriculation. Competency is also required in a relevant secondary language, though to a less advanced level than the primary language. Additionally, it is necessary to pass a competency exam in one modern research language relevant to the student's field of research.

Comprehensive Examinations

Four exams are required, tailored to student needs in consultation with their advisor. One will concern the primary religion of study; another topics and issues related dissertation research both within and beyond the primary religion of study; a third will focus on theories and methods; and a fourth exam will test the student’s ability in their primary language of research. Students must complete all examinations by the end of the semester following the completion of coursework (though it is possible and often useful to take some of the exams earlier during coursework). Each exam has a primary examiner and a secondary. The format of the exams and the readings lists for exams will be arranged by the examiners in consultation with the student.