Required Common Courses. ISLE students are required to take the following courses:
Conversational Sinhala I and II. 85-90 hours of intensive language instruction in colloquial Sinhala, emphasizing functional use of the language in contexts that students can be expected to encounter in daily life. Classes are held at the ISLE Study Center.
Class format consists of classroom instruction, language tasks to be performed at host family homes and other sites, one-on-one sessions with instructors, and sessions on topics such as communication and language learning strategies, and cross cultural topics involving language and etiquette. Quizzes, review and feedback sessions round out the format of this class.
The Sinhala I and Sinhala II courses are each worth four semester-hour credits, for a total of eight semester-hour credits.
Archaeology and Sri Lanka Studies Seminar. Study of ancient history and archaeological sites in the northern parts of Sri Lanka is mixed with more modern topics relating to social, political, and environmental issues in the country. This field study and lecture course is concerned with a range of topics related to the environmental, industrial, political, religious and artistic history of Sri Lanka. The Northern Tour takes students to a number of prestigious historical sites, possessing some of the best representations of classical Sri Lankan art, sculpture and architecture. The reading materials and lectures give context and texture to the students' field trip experiences. This course is worth two semester-hour credits.
Independent Field Study. The Independent Field Study is the culmination of the semester-long Sri Lanka Studies Seminar, and represents four weeks of independent field study, resulting in a major written report and oral seminar presentation on a topic chosen by the student in consultation with the ISLE Faculty Director and Field Study Consultant. The Sri Lankan Studies Seminar also consists of orientation readings and discussions conducted online before departure for Sri Lanka, a series of lectures, discussions and presentations by distinguished Sri Lankan academics and writers/artists on topics of historical and contemporary relevance. This course is worth four semester-hour credits.
ISLE students choose two courses from among a range of electives, each of which is worth two semester-hour credits. Following is a list of electives offered by the ISLE Program in recent years. Applicants should contact the Program for specific elective course information for the ISLE semester they plan to attend.
Art, Drama, and Poetry. A survey study of social, cultural, political, and religious themes in 20th century Sri Lankan novels, fine arts, and drama. The course is comprised of lectures, a number of field trips to museums and theaters, and a wide range of reading materials. Students are encouraged to investigate the music, poetry and art of Sri Lanka prior to the beginning of the course.
Buddhist Ethics. Studies of fundamental Buddhist theories of action as articulated in canonical texts, and their applicability in the context of moral and psychological dilemmas in contemporary life. Meditation and observation of various Buddhist rituals are part of the field study experience.
Colonial and Modern History of Sri Lanka. Discussion of the political, social, and economic impacts of Portuguese, Dutch, and British hegemony from the 16th century through 1948 and beyond. The course is comprised of lectures and seminars covering a variety of themes designed to assist students in understanding today's Sri Lanka as a result of five centuries of change. Topics include the beginning of colonial rule, the establishment of British rule, the rise of nationalism, and political change in the early 20th century and the passage to independence.
Development and Change in Modern Sri Lanka. Close-up views of a developing nation's attempts at economic transformation to deal with the colonial legacy of a plantation economy, including problems related to poverty, nutrition, education, land distribution and population relocation.
Ethnicity and Social Identity. Examines the construction of racial, religious, linguistic, and historical class identities in Sri Lankan society. One of the key issues explored is the question of ethnicity and its role in shaping group processes, political dynamics, and social conflict in contemporary Sri Lanka. A day-long field trip involves interviews with locals exploring ethnic issues.
Images of the Feminine and the Social Experiences of Women. A survey of the important factors that inform women's gendered status in Sri Lankan society through an introduction to the forces - cultural, social, economic, and political - which impinge upon, and shape, women's options and life-experiences in Sri Lanka. Conceptions of what it means to be a female in Sri Lankan society as understood in Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim sociological contexts, and processes through which women are seeking to enhance the status of themselves and their families. This includes a seminar with women representing various ethnic and religious communities.
Modern Sri Lankan Politics. Critical review of political dynamics from 1948 to the present, giving particular attention to the application of ethnicity-based arguments to "legitimize" political activities during volatile periods of ethnic conflict and attempts made to resolve the ethnic conflict both by military and political means. A lively debate with leaders of various political parties is the highlight of this course.
Ritual and Folk Culture. A guided field study of Sri Lankan folk life, involving readings, observations, and interpretation of rites and symbols of social, cultural, and religious importance in traditional Sinhalese life. The course culminates in a three-day pilgrimage tour to a famous shrine in the south.
Theravada Buddhist Thought. Theravada Buddhism represents one of the most ancient interpretations of the teachings of the Buddha. The importance of the Theravada teachings as a philosophy of life, a psychology, an ethical system, a social, political and economic philosophy will be discussed, as will implications of the Theravada doctrines on some of the current social problems in Sri Lanka. (Recommended for interested students without prior background in the study of Buddhism.) In addition to the theoretical understanding of Buddhist meditation that will be provided, students will be introduced to the practical aspect of Buddhist meditation by taking them for a day's retreat to a lay meditation center in Nilambe.
Biodiversity Through Space & Time. An environmental studies course incorporating ethnobotany, plant taxonomy, biogeography, and historical ecology and exploring how agriculture, silviculture, and horticulture have created brand-new anthropogenic ecosystems that not only became the foundation of human civilization, but at the same time transformed entire biomes, shifted the distribution of species, inflicted widespread extinction, propagated weeds and other invasive organisms, and even changed patterns of rainfall, drought, and climate. Classes are held in Peradeniya Botanical gardens. In addition, students are taken on field tours.
Extra-Curricular Offerings: Dance/ Drumming and Batik classes are held on alternate days during Session II. Students have the opportunity to perform in a dance and drumming recital at the close of Session II.