I am a historian of South Asia with particular interests in colonial and postcolonial India, racism and social exclusion, subaltern histories, and histories of democracy. My research focuses on Dalits (‘untouchables’) of India and their engagement with colonialism, nationalism, spatial and social exclusionary regimes, and democratic thought and practice in modern India. I have recently finished a co-edited book, Dalit Studies, with my colleague K. Satyanarayana based in Hyderabad (India), and it will be published by the Duke University Press in April, 2016. It makes a major intellectual intervention to the study of South Asia and a unique feature of the volume is that majority of the writers are Dalit scholars based in India. I am currently writing a second book, ‘Parallel Publics: A New History of Indian Democracy,’ which explores the role of Dalit groups in introducing innovative ideas and practices in the history of liberal thought. The second book project has received generous support from the Smuts Visiting Fellowship, University of Cambridge, the American Council of Learned Societies’ Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship, and the Senior Fellowship from the American Institute of Indian Studies.
My first book, Reconsidering Untouchability: Chamars and Dalit History in North India (Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2012 & Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011), is the recipient of Joseph Elder book prize awarded by American Institute of Indian Studies (2009) and received ‘Honorable Mention’ in 2013 Association of Asian Studies Bernard S Cohn book prize. Building on extensive archival and ethnographic fieldwork, Reconsidering Untouchability questioned the association of untouchability with impure occupations by effectively demonstrating that Dalits were historically cultivators who were primarily engaged in agricultural production in north India. It examined the social and cultural politics and Hindi-language writings of Dalit activists and organizations from the early part of the twentieth century to demonstrate that their struggles over identity marked the beginning of a new politics. Much of my research over the last decade has involved bringing Dalit narratives into conversation with colonial and nationalist accounts of Indian history as part of a larger effort to question stereotypes concerning Dalit occupational identities, histories and politics.
Awards, Honors and Professional Activities
- Smuts Visiting Research Fellowship in Commonwealth Studies, University of Cambridge
- Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship, American Council for Learned Societies (for 2015-16)
- “Honorable Mention,” Bernard S. Cohn Book Prize awarded by the Association of Asian Studies for Reconsidering Untouchability: Chamars and Dalits in North India (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2011)
- Center for Global and Area Studies Research Grant, University of Delaware
- General University Research Award and Faculty Research Enrichment Award, University of Delaware
- Publication Grant. Warner Fund at the University Seminars, Columbia University
- Book Prize, The Joseph W. Elder Prize in the Indian Social Sciences from the American Institute of Indian Studies
- American Institute of Indian Studies Senior Long Term Fellowship, India (2008-2009)
- Harry Frank Guggenheim Dissertation Fellowship
- Association for Asian Studies South Asia Travel Grant
- 1999-2003. SEPHIS Doctoral Fellowship, International Institute of Social History (IISG), Amsterdam, The Netherlands, South-South Exchange Programme for Research on the History of Development, 1999-2003
- Indian Council for Historical Research, Research Grant, 1994-1995