- First Name
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- United States
- VA Virginia
- Ph.D. student
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- Modern South Asia, Postcolonial History, Citizenship and Identity, Nations and nationalism, Contemporary International Migration, Tibetan Studies, Tibetan History, Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhism and Himalayan Studies, Tibetan and Himalayan societies, Himalayan culture, identity and statehood. Digital Humanities, Geospatial Analysis
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- About Me
I am a Ph.D candidate in South Asian history at the University of Virginia, and a Junior Research Fellow at the American Institute of Indian Studies (2018-19). My research and teaching are animated by two common questions: Why do people move? And, relatedly, how should we respond to the humdrum enquiry, “Where are you from?” My current work approaches these questions through a focus on nationalism, sovereignty, and migration in the Himalayan regions of postcolonial South Asia. I am broadly interested in issues of statelessness, exile, and citizenship in the modern world.
Although primarily ensconced in the field of modern South Asian history, my work is informed by my grounding in the digital humanities, literary studies, public policy, and religious studies.
My research has secured support from the American Institute of Indian Studies, the USAID, Taraknath Das Foundation at Columbia University, Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Virginia Foundation for Humanities, the Institute for Humane Studies, and the Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures at the University of Virginia.
Before coming to UVa, I taught at the University of Delhi as an assistant professor and lecturer of English from 2008-13. My courses have consistently been rated highly in student feedback, and I was awarded UVa’s All University Distinguished Graduate Teaching Award for Arts and Humanities for 2017-18.
My former training is in literary studies (M.Phil., M.A., and B.A. degrees) at the University of Delhi, where I also taught as an Assistant Professor and Lecturer of English from 2008-13.
My doctoral dissertation titled “Between Homelessness and Homecoming: Tibetan Nationalism and Citizenship in Late 20th Century India” studies nationalisms and citizenship claims directed against the Indian state from the Tibetan cultural region. This includes Tibetan territory under Chinese control, the states of Nepal and Bhutan, the erstwhile kingdom of Sikkim which was merged into the Indian Union in 1975, as well as Tibetan-speaking parts of northern and north-eastern India, such as Ladakh and Tawang. It covers the period beginning with the political transition from colonial to Indian leadership in the mid-1940s to the recent military standoff at the tri-junction point in Doklam (between India, Bhutan and China) from June to August 2017.
My project analyzes assertions of identity and sovereignty that question some of the Indian state’s most cherished nationalistic myths. First, we can apprehend complex cultural and cosmological understandings of the region among the borderland populations, which draw on the overlapping resources of Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam in South Asia. Second, we see the unfolding of border-making in newly independent India through a cartographic project of producing authoritative maps, proscribing “erroneous” ones, and publicizing the former in the aid of nation-building. Third, when faced with the ubiquity of customary itinerancy, we see the modern state’s attempts to forcibly settle moving peoples; both sedentarization and itinerancy get (respectively) to the core of the state’s and communities’ self-definition. Finally, legal citizenship emerges as the arena in which contestations about identity and loyalty are adjudicated; citizenship comprises legal status, rights and entitlements, and a sense of identity and belonging.
The dissertation is among the first in South Asian history to draw on recent advances in geospatial digital humanities in its theorization of the role of cartography in state-building. It includes a curated online exhibition of maps from the Himalayan region that have never before been presented in this format. These are sourced from archives in India, Nepal, the UK, and the USA (CIA records), as well as publications that were variously banned by the Indian and Chinese states. I have also mapped reconstructions from migrants’ itineraries, and depositions of applicants for Indian citizenship, many of whom did not consider parts of India as “foreign” territory. I also draw on literary texts, visual and born-digital sources, scriptural and exegetical materials, oral histories and interviews, and ephemera.
- Recent Publications
2019 “‘No Nationality Now’: Tibetan Applicants for Indian Citizenship, 1947-1959,” in Bobbi Herzberg, Christopher Coyne, and Don Bordeaux, eds, Political Process and Political Order (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, Forthcoming).
2018 “A Long Look Homeward: Ideas of Time and Space in the Tibet Museum,” in Nandini C. Sen, ed, Through the Diasporic Lens (New Delhi: Authorspress, pp. 267-283).
2019 Review of Townsend Middleton and Sara Shneiderman, eds, Darjeeling Reconsidered: Histories, Politics, Environments, Himalaya: The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies (Vol. 39, No. 1, Forthcoming).
2018 Review of Jessica Vantine Birkenholtz, Reciting the Goddess: Narratives of Place and the Making of Hinduism in Nepal, Studies in Nepali History and Society (Vol. 23, No. 2, Forthcoming).
2018 Review of Bérénice Guyot-Réchard, Shadow States: India, China and the Himalayas, 1910-1962,Essays in History(Vol. 51).
2017 Reviewof Richard P. Tucker, A Forest History of India, Himalaya: The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies (Vol. 37, No. 2).
2016 Reviewof Uther E. Charlton-Stevens, Decolonising Anglo-Indians: Strategies for a Mixed Race Community in Late Colonial India during the First Half of the Twentieth Century, Dissertation Reviews.
2017 “Increasing the Civic and Political Participation of Women in the Global South: Understanding the Risk of Strong Resistance,”USAID and IIE Research and Innovation Series. Co-authored with Denise Walsh, Vanessa Ochs, Dannah Dennis, Paromita Sen, and Catalina Vallejo.
2018 “Buddhist Nuns in Contemporary Asia,” essay in Michael Tarver, ed, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of the Daily Life of Women: How They Lived from Ancient Times to the Present(Santa Barbara: ABC Clio, Forthcoming).
Op-eds and Popular Writing
2018 “From Illiteracy to PhD: How Exiled Tibetan Buddhist Nuns Are Ensuring Gender Parity,” The Wire. 25 September 2018.
Republished inEurope Solidaire Sans Frontières. 7 October 2018.
2014 “On Sharing Credit and Courting Trolls,” Scholars’ Lab, University of Virginia
- Media Coverage
- Country Focus
- India, China, Tibet
- Expertise by Geography
- Asia, East Asia, India
- Expertise by Chronology
- 19th century, Modern, 20th century, 21st century
- Expertise by Topic
- Colonialism, Human Rights, Migration & Immigration, Pedagogy, Women