The Masters in Society and Culture, a unique program conceptualized and implemented by the faculty at the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (since 2013) has a specific goal of providing to students (from any disciplinary background) breadth and focus in the key disciplines within the Humanities and Social Sciences. It does so by providing fundamental learning, debates, and methods in the disciplines of literature, sociology, anthropology, political science, and history. The two year Masters emerges from a conviction that students need to be trained to understand the social and political context around them; that encounters with theoretical and cutting-edge formulations on societies and nations are necessary and must also be learned in tandem with real-life observation and fieldwork.
That being said, the program also helps students understand intersections between disciplines so that recurring themes such as identity, democracy, tradition, modernity, citizenship, selfhood do not get restricted to a narrow disciplinary focus. This two-pronged approached i.e. a grounding in the individual discipline as well as exposure to interdisciplinarity form an integral part of a student’s learning, and this is further developed and tested through rigorous research project. In order to help students deepen their knowledge in a discipline of choice, they are also offered an opportunity to follow a discipline ‘track’ whereby faculty specializing in, for example, disciplines of literature and history, take a student through a focused path, without compromising on his/her need to understand other disciplines as well.
The thirteen dissertations emerging from the first round of Masters in Society and Culture ranged from a study of rag-picking girls in the slums of Ahmedabad to the welfare policy implementation in the Lambada community of Telangana on one hand; and the emergence of Bhimgeet among young Ambedkarites to the making of queer language on the other. Students were provided with an opportunity to access journals, and scholarship from any part of the world, and the vast international network of the faculty used to provide them with internship and research experience relevant to their chosen research project.
It may be worth asking why a Master’s? Also, why in society and culture? The former, that is a Master’s Program, is especially to address a need gap. The Master’s provides a short but significant transitional stage for a student to learn what interests him/her for super-specialization. The focus on society and culture is to enable a student to understand social mores, cultural codes, along with the universality of human nature in particularized contexts of nations and societies. In this respect, India remains an important site of engagement in the MA in Society and Culture at IIT Gandhinagar.
Students graduating with Master’s in Society and Culture are equipped with a nuanced and deeper understanding of their context; sufficient enough for them to realize the dangers of single narratives. Their learning and skills equip them for doctoral studies; policy work; corporate consultancy and a range of jobs and research careers. It is important to note that the MA Society and Culture is not listed for NET/SLET examinations. However, the students can opt to write NET/SLET in allied disciplines. Although IIT Gandhinagar takes no responsibility for student placement, it supports the student in identifying future trajectories.