Conference Participants

Faculty Presenters


Title: Encounters at Sea: The Borders of Piracy in the Western Indian Ocean

Jatin Dua is a socio-cultural anthropologist whose research focuses on maritime piracy in the Indian Ocean and projects and processes of governance, law, and economy along the East African coast.  His current book project explores maritime piracy in the Western Indian Ocean within frameworks of protection, risk and regulation by moving between the worlds of coastal communities in northern Somalia, maritime insurance adjustors in London, and the global shipping industry.

Dua teaches courses on the anthropology of law and regulation; oceanic studies; global capitalism; state and non-state violence; and on the various historical and contemporary practices that have been labeled “piracy” from maritime raiding to the moral economy of hacking.


bodhi edited

Title: Frontiers to Come: Landscape, Lineage and Limited Liabilities

Bodhisattva Kar received his PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India, before joining the University of Cape Town in 2012. His research interests include histories of development and disciplines; primitivism; nineteenth and early twentieth-century history of South and South East Asia; connected and comparative histories of frontiers; nationalist formations; and joint–stock companies. Kar’s work tries to bring together economic and cultural histories into conversation, explore the anti-identitarian potential of the discipline, and develop an ethic of approaching the non-historical without giving up on the delights of the archive. Kar has co-edited New Cultural Histories of India: Materiality and Practices (Oxford University Press, 2013).

Sudipta Kaviraj – Faculty Panel: THE DEMOCRATIC LIFE OF VIOLENCE


Title: Democracy and Violence

Sudipta Kaviraj is a specialist in intellectual history and Indian politics. He works on two fields of intellectual history: Indian social and political thought in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and modern Indian literature and cultural production. His other fields of interest and research include the historical sociology of the Indian state, and some aspects of Western social theory. He received his PhD. from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Prior to joining Columbia University, he taught at the Department of Political Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He has also taught Political Science at JNU, and was an Agatha Harrison Fellow at St. Antony’s College, Oxford. He is a member of the Subaltern Studies Collective.

Kaviraj’s books include The Imaginary Institution of India (2010) Civil Society: History and Possibilities co-edited with Sunil Khilnani (2001), Politics in India (edited) (1999), andThe Unhappy Consciousness: Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay and the Formation of Nationalist Discourse in India (1995).

Ajantha Subramanian – Faculty Panel: THE DEMOCRATIC LIFE OF VIOLENCE


Title: Meritocracy and Democracy: The Social Life of Caste in India

Ajantha Subramanian is an Assistant Professor in the Anthropology department at Harvard University. She offers courses on social movements, cultural and political rights, immigration, environmental politics, and leads an inter-disciplinary workshop in political ecology. Subramanian is the author of Shorelines: Space and Rights in South India (Stanford University Press, 2009), and is currently completing a book on resource rights struggles in southern India’s fishing economy. Her research interests grew out of political involvement in three different social movements: mobilization around slum dwellers’ rights to housing and other urban resources in Madras City; artisanal fisher activism against domestic and global capitalist restructuring of Indian fisheries; and opposition to Hindu majoritarianism in India and the Indian diaspora. She has held research and teaching positions at the Institute for Policy Studies, and at Cornell and Yale Universities.

Graduate Student Presenters

Alok Amatya – Graduate Student Panel on Violence

Alok AmatyaProgram: English PhD, University of Miami

Title:  “Transnational Environmentalism from the Fourth World: Authenticity and Literary Form in Arundhati Roy’s Walking with Comrades.”

Alok Amatya is a doctorate student in English Literature at the University of Miami. His dissertation project studies resource conflict literature as a sub-canon within contemporary global literature. In 2013, he presented a paper at Florida International University’s Women and Gender Studies Conference on the divergence between local queer politics and transnational feminism in responses to Deepa Mehta’s 1996 film Fire. He also studies affect and sympathy in literary representations of Hurricane Katrina.

Dharitri Bhattacharjee – Graduate Student Panel on Sovereignty

Dharitri BhattacharjeeProgram: Modern South Asian History PhD, University of Texas

Title: Weak Border/Powerful Symbol: Engagement with historiography on Bengal’s borderlands.

Dharitri Bhattacharjee is working on her PhD in Modern South Asian History from the University of Texas. She has received her MA from Miami University, Ohio in Gender and Comparative World History as well as an MA in Modern Indian History from the University of Delhi. She has also presented the following papers:

  • To Decolonize or Not: Last Colonial Decade in Bengal (1937-1947)” Britain and the World Conference, British Scholar Society, Austin, Texas. April, 2015
  • De-centering the decolonization Debate: High Politics in Bengal” Annual Conference on South Asia at University of Wisconsin, Madison. October, 2014
  • Bureaucracy as a contested site of power in Bengal’s last colonial decade” Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference, San Diego, March 2013
  • Neglected Majority- Muslims in Bengal Historiography (1905-1947)” Annual Conference on South Asia at University of Wisconsin, Madison. October, 2008

Michael Collins – Graduate Student Panel on Citizenship

Michael CollinsProgram: South Asia Studies PhD, University of Pennsylvania

Title: Recalling Democracy: An Ethnography of Democratic Participation

Michael Collins is a sixth year doctoral candidate in the Department of South Asia Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Methodologically, his research takes cues from anthropology and political science to examine the democratic formation of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (Liberation Panthers Party), the largest Dalit political party in contemporary Tamil Nadu. In particular, his longitudinal study of democratic integration draws from conversations with Viduthalai Chiruthaigal leadership and cadre alongside ethnographic fieldwork supported largely by a Fulbright-Hays DDRA Award (September 2013 – May 2014). While much scholarship has examined the recent proliferation of political parties including lower caste assertion in modern India, Collins’ work incorporates the perspectives of party organizers alongside grassroots workers to examine ethnographically the gains, loses and compromises folded within formal democratic participation.

Sarah T. Hamid – Graduate Student Panel on Violence

Sarah T. HamidProgram: Media Studies MA, University of Oregon

Title: Rape, Alterity, and the Politics of Speaking: Limitations of Occupying the Frame

Sarah T. Hamid is a MA candidate in Media Studies at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication. She graduated from the University of the Pacific in 2010, majoring in English Literature and Post-Colonial Studies, and minoring in Film Studies, Art History, Gender Studies, and History. Currently, Sarah serves as Webmistress for the Fembot Collective – a collaboration amongst scholars, media producers, artists, and librarians promoting research on gender, new media and technology. Her research looks at developing a more nuanced understanding of new media technologies, “the” internet, infopolitics, and the lived and anticipated sociopolitical transformations being spurred on by the ubiquitous nature of digital (new/old) media.

Swaroopa Lahiri – Graduate Student Panel on Sovereignty

Program: International Affairs Program MA, Columbia UniversitySwaroopa Lahiri

TitlePrecarious Borders: the Intricacies of the Indo-Bangladesh Frontier

Swaroopa Lahiri is studying for a Master’s in International Affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), with a concentration in Economic and Political Development and a regional specialization of South Asia. She completed her undergraduate degree from Sciences Po Paris’s Euro-American campus in Reims, France and spent her final year as an exchange student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she worked as a research assistant at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab’s (J-PAL) Agricultural Technology Adoption Initiative Department.

Autumn Mathias – Graduate Student Panel on Citizenship

Program: Sociology PhD, Northeastern University

Title: Responding to Violence in the “Homeland”: Identity and Transnational Activism within the Indian Christian Diaspora

Autumn is a PhD candidate in Sociology at Northeastern University.Prior to beginning at Northeastern, Autumn worked in diverse fields such as services to refugees and asylum seekers, foster care/adoption, elder services, and political advocacy/community organizing around issues impacting immigrants. Autumn’s research interests were inspired by her international travels and her experiences as a social worker, and she is a current licensed certified social worker (LCSW) in Massachusetts. She has completed comprehensive exams in ethnonationalist and religious conflict and violence and globalization and transnational processes. In particular, she has been studying transnational human rights activism spearheaded by diverse South Asian diasporas; her dissertation research is focused on the responses of Indian Christians in North America to communal violence in India. Currently, she is working with Dr. Liza Weinstein on a project examining the intersection between communal violence and demolitions of informal settlements in urban India vis a vis representations in Indian media.

Rijuta Mehta – Graduate Student Panel on Violence

Rijuta MehtaProgram: Modern Culture and Media, Brown University

Title: The Repatriation Portrait: Women at the End of Empire

Rijuta Mehta is a PhD candidate in the department of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University. Her dissertation, titled The Anticolonial Snapshot: South Asian Disruptions, is an archival project that theorizes anticolonialism in South Asia through photographic and literary statements in the long twentieth century.

Natasha Raheja – Graduate Student Panel on Citizenship

Natasha RahejaProgram: Anthropology PhD, NYU

Title: From Minority to Majority: Pakistani Hindu Claims to Indian Citizenship

Natasha Raheja is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at New York University, where she is also enrolled in the Culture and Media program. Her research interests are in the areas of citizenship, migration, and belonging along the India-Pakistan border. She will begin her dissertation fieldwork this fall.

Tariq L. Rahman – Graduate Student Panel on Sovereignty

Tariq L. RahmanProgram: International Studies (MA), University of Oregon

Title: Being Modern in Bhakkar City: A Gated Community in Rural Pakistan

Tariq L. Rahman is a Master’s candidate in the Department of International Studies at the University of Oregon. His research focuses on urban development in Pakistan and the role of the state, the military and private developers in that process. Tariq’s current project looks at the co-constitution of modern identities and a gated community in rural Pakistan. Tariq is a recipient of the University of Oregon’s Promising Scholar Award and his research has been supported by the Department of International Studies’ Slape Fellowship and Thurber Award. He has presented his work at Yale University’s Modern South Asia Workshop and the South Asian Literary Association’s (SALA) annual conference.


Call for papers

Call for Papers: In Dialogue With Borders: Critical Conversations on Violence, Citizenship, and Sovereignty in Modern “South Asia”

Brown University Graduate School in Partnership with South Asian Studies

April 3-4th 2015

Providence, Rhode Island

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: February 7th  2015

Borders are often imagined as static lines on maps that do not change. However, recent scholarship on South Asia has problematized this conception of borders as static objects and unquestioned boundaries. Building on this body of scholarship, Brown University is hosting a year-long series in 2014-2015 titled “In Dialogue With Borders: Critical Conversations on Violence, Citizenship, and Sovereignty in Modern ‘South Asia,’” which will engage with the dynamic and evolving conceptions of borders on the subcontinent.

As part of our year-long series, the graduate student organizing committee is pleased to welcome abstract submissions for our spring colloquium, which will take place April 3rd and 4th 2015 at Brown University. We welcome submissions from graduate students interested in issues related to modern South Asia, across disciplines and at all stages of graduate study, to present their latest work to a critical and supportive audience of students and faculty. Presenters will also have opportunities to receive feedback from the specially invited faculty at our graduate student workshop as well as from invited faculty participants as discussants on panels. Confirmed invited faculty participants include Bodhisattva Kar, Ajantha Subramanian, Sudipta Kaviraj and Jatin Dua, among others. In lieu of a traditional keynote address we are organizing a keynote roundtable discussion related to our colloquium theme, between our invited faculty and participants

We welcome submissions from a range of perspectives on borders and modern South Asia. Our conference has emerged from an interest in the three broad themes related to borders (violence, citizenship, and sovereignty) and submissions are encouraged to engage with (but are not limited to):

  •  Violence, communal, epistemic or gender-based
  • Interstate warfare and militarism
  • Genocide and ethnic cleansing
  • Social movements
  • Interactions between regions and languages
  • Movement into and out of South Asia, of people, commodities, texts
  • Diasporas in South Asia, and South Asian diasporas
  • Regionalism and globalization
  • Critical cartography
  • Ecology and environment

Students interested in presenting should submit a 350-word abstract and a 250-word bio (as a Word or PDF attachment) to by February 7th 2015. Notifications will be sent out by Mid-February. For other inquiries please contact us at Some funds are available for travel reimbursement available on a case-by-case basis. Please make a brief request in your bio. For additional information about the colloquium please visit our wordpress site We hope to see you in Providence in April.


The Organizing Team

Meet the organizers

Malay Firoz | Anthropology, Modern Culture & Media

Malay Firoz is a third year PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at Brown University. His research focuses on contemporary paradigms of humanitarian intervention, specifically addressing debates about state sovereignty and the rise of global governance as a response to the proliferating threat of mass displacement. Although his current project deals with the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, his research more broadly is informed by his training as a South Asian anthropologist in critical theory, postcolonial theory and subaltern studies. Malay is the recipient of two gold medals at the University of Delhi for his Bachelors and Masters degrees. His publications include “The Contemporaneity of Terrorism: assessing the stakes in culturalist readings of 9/11”, which appeared in the Journal of International Relations Research in 2012. At Brown, Malay is a recipient of the Chancellor Thomas Tisch Fellowship. His current research is funded by the Watson Institute through the Graduate Program in Development (GPD) Fellowship. He is also pursuing a secondary Masters degree in the Department of Modern Culture and Media, funded by the Mellon Foundation through Brown University’s Open Graduate Program.

Brian A. Horton | Anthropology

Brian A. Horton is a third year PhD student in the department of Anthropology. His research is invested in understanding the experiences of LGBTQ persons in contemporary India. Brian is motivated by a broader theoretical interest in subaltern studies, queer anthropology, postcolonial studies, development studies, and critical theory on governmentality and citizenship. His research is currently funded by the Watson Institute’s IGERT/NSF grant for Development and Inequality in the Global South. He is also a recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, a Brown India Initiative Fellowship, and has been funded by the Brown Graduate School’s Joukowksy Fellowship. He has conducted fieldwork in India during summer 2013 and will return to India in summer 2014.

Abhilash Medhi |  History

Abhilash Medhi is a third year PhD candidate in the department of History. His broad interest is in the interaction between imperial imaginations and political subjectivities. He is specifically interested in British imperial ideology in the northwestern and northeastern frontiers of the British Empire in South Asia, and the influence of colonial histories and literature on historical and anthropological thought in these areas. Abhilash is a graduate fellow of the Brown-India Initiative and a recipient of the South Asian Studies fellowship.

Anar Parikh | Anthropology

Anar Parikh is a second year PhD student in the department of Anthropology. Her current work investigates the politics of heritage preservation in Ahmedabad, India, and seeks to situate current efforts for historic and cultural preservation within the broader socio-political milieu of post-economic liberalization India. More broadly, her research interests are grounded in urban anthropology, everyday life in South Asia, and the South Asian Diaspora. Anar is a graduate fellow of the Brown-India Initiative.

Andrea Wright | Anthropology

Andrea Wright is a third year PhD student in the department of Anthropology. Her research, concerning the migration of women from Northeastern India to Bangalore, lies at the intersection of intimate labor, gender, development policy, race, and marginalization. She was previously a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar and earned a Master’s in Development Studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai. Andrea is currently funded by an  IGERT/NSF grant for Development and Inequality in the Global South and the Social Science Research Council’s Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship. Andrea is also a 2014-2015 Graduate Fellow at the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women. She was a Brown India Initiative graduate fellow from 2013-2014.

Announcing a colloquium

Borders are often imagined as static lines on maps that don’t change. However, recent scholarship on South Asia has problematized this conception of borders as static objects and unquestioned boundaries. Building on this body of scholarship, Brown University is hosting a year long colloquium in 2014-2015 titled “In Dialogue With Borders: Critical Conversations on Violence, Citizenship, and Sovereignty in Modern ‘South Asia,’” which will engage with the dynamic and evolving conceptions of borders on the subcontinent.

Through two graduate student workshops, one in the fall semester and another in spring, as well as a two-day conference featuring invited faculty and graduate student presentations in Spring 2015, this colloquium seeks to open up important discussions about contemporary forms of “border making” in South Asia and the forms of violence, citizenship, and sovereignty that produce these boundaries. Ultimately we aim to push our understanding of modern South Asia as well as the broader methodological boundaries that constitute South Asian Studies.