Niche courses are in focus and they’re helping fetch unusual jobs for students
Now you can watch horror movies as part of honing analytical skills, learn about the comedy business and study how cities operate.
Across the world, the study of humanities is undergoing a change. While comic books, popular films, and fashion history became legitimate subjects of study in the West in the 1980s, the field is now fragmenting and specialising in India, with a special focus on preparing students for jobs in new fields.
In India, you can now pursue a course in comedy even if you have no aspirations of being a stand-up comic yourself – the curriculum looks at how comedy is a tool for communication. You could specialise in understanding the built environment in your arts degree and land a job with a civic body as a solid waste manager. Or you could hone your analytical skills watching award-winning scary movies that might prepare you to critique other forms of culture at a media house or film studio.
Over the last year, universities have been expanding the scope of their humanities courses with seemingly niche subjects that they hope will add value to the wired world. “Having these courses in the undergraduate degree can help you decide your specialisation and a field you want to work in,” says Richa Saklani, founder of a career guidance firm, Inomi Learning. “Gender studies, for instance, can help you get a job in the human resources department at a corporate firm, and studying built environment can help you work as a demolition manager in your city.”
Saklani adds that studying niche courses can help students realise that there are more careers in humanities than communications managers, public relations executives, journalists and content writers.
What’s on offer?
The foundation course for undergraduates at Flame University in Pune, has included horror as a film genre, comedy and reading popular culture since last year. “Horror is a popular genre in cinema, it is evolving with films such as A Quiet Place that do not involve sound to create the horror effect,” says Nandana Bose, faculty - Liberal Arts. “In the course, you learn about sound and light techniques used to create the right vibe, you learn how to read between the lines and understand the social and political context the films.” One horror film, Don’t Breathe, presents America as a capitalist nightmare as refugees would describe the US to be.
At American College in Madurai, you can learn about 58 genders, sexuality and the social context in the course called Gender Queer and Intersex Studies. The course is a part of Tamil and English literature curriculum from this academic year. At Mumbai University, you can sign up for a three-month long course in hip-hop. “Students will have to submit research papers on the subject, they will learn about how hip-hop has been used to speak out against oppression, violence and the dominant culture,” says Yatindra Ingle, assistant professor at Mumbai University and coordinator of the course.
The Built Environment course by OP Jindal Global University, Sonepat, teaches you how to make the best use of waste generated by the demolition of buildings. “You get to understand the basics of urban planning, city tourism and how to audit smart cities in the course,” says YSR Murthy, professor, and registrar at the university.
Get that job
Sujay Kumar, 18, first-year student of Bachelors of Arts (BA) at the OP Jindal Global University says that as a part of the course in built environment, the students are helping revamp a community centre for orphan girls in South Delhi. “We are handling everything from getting permissions and rebuilding certain parts of the building, to managing the waste generated when rebuilding.” Kumar adds that the course teaches you the finer point sof in urban policy, sustainability and community design that an architecture degree normally wouldn’t.
“These courses also help you develop critical thinking and expand your outlook,” says Lily Kelting, assistant professor at Flame University. “In the comedy course, for instance, we address the issues of gender representation, talk about plays on important political events such as war and how comedy can represent the cultural setup of the country. I even teach them tolerance, accepting the differences and understanding concepts such as marital rape through references of standup comedy and satire.”
Saklani says that studying comedy can get you a job in writing for television shows and web series. “ Socialisation in gender studies opens doors to work in community centres, public policy think tanks, marriage and family therapists and counselling firms, she says. “Taking a course in horror films as a genre can help you understand if you are interested in the field and take up film studies after graduation,” says Bose from Flame University. “You can work with platforms such as Netflix that are experimenting with the genre, later.”
Studying hip hop helps you learn the language, communication skills and learn how audio equipment works. “You can go on to work with sound engineering industry, hip-hop also has therapy applications you can explore,” says Ingle from Mumbai University.