Personal Statement:

I am a cultural anthropologist and historian of modern South Asia, with a specific interest in Tamil-speaking southern India. I hold a joint appointment in the Anthropology department. In the History department, I teach courses in public history and memory, spatial studies, religion, and South Asian history.

Research and Teaching Interests:

  • The politics of heritage in urban South Asia
    I am interested in popular historical consciousness and cultural memory in southern India, particularly in the context of urban redevelopment projects.
  • Proselytic media and evangelical Christian missionary activity
    I have begun a new project on the history of the use of mass media in evangelical Christianity.
  • Religion, gender and nationalism in modern South Asia
    I am interested in the rise of Hindu nationalism in postcolonial India and its impact on everyday religiosity, especially as it affects gender ideologies and practices.

Current Projects:

  • The Politics of Heritage from Madras to Chennai (Indiana University Press, 2008)
    This book examines the proliferation of popular concerns with and debates about public memory in the rapidly changing city of Chennai in the wake of India’s adoption of neoliberal economic policies.

Selected Publications:

  • Womanhood in the Making: Domestic Ritual and Public Culture in Urban South India (Westview, 1999)
    An ethnographic and historical analysis of Hindu women’s domestic religious practice, examining the influence of Hindu nationalism and modernization on these areas.
  • “Home Science and the Nationalization of Domesticity in Colonial India,” Modern Asian Studies, 35:871-904 (2001)
    Deals with the history of the Home Science movement, both its colonial influences and feminist aspirations.
  • “‘The Crusade is the Vision’: Branding Charisma in a Global Pentecostal Ministry,” co-authored with Tamar Gordon, Material Religion 1:386-403 (2005)
    Analysis of the proselytic rhetoric used in evangelical Christian media, focusing on the ways that marketing concerns and theology converge.
  • The Politics of Heritage from Madras to Chennai (2008, Indiana University Press)
    This book asks why, how and by whom urban pasts are remembered and represented, concentrating on how spaces of memory are created and transformed by “creative destruction” of the urban landscape, following India’s liberalization.
  • “Subjects of Heritage in Urban South India,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 20: 693-718 (2002).
    This article deals with a new “living museum” in southern India, comparing and contrasting its organization and mission with other such sites.
  • “Modernities Remade: Hindu Temples and their Publics in Southern India,” City and Society, 14: 1-35 (2002).
    This article is about the efforts to create a “heritage zone” around a Hindu temple in the city of Chennai; I explore the competing political aims and outcomes.
  • “Unmaking the Great Tradition: Ethnography, National Culture and Area Studies,” Identities, 4:343-388 (1998).
    This article examines the impacts of Indian nationalism in academia, concentrating on the emergence of South Asian area studies in the 1950s and 60s.
  • “Hindu Culture for an Indian Nation: Gender and Elite Identity in Urban South India,” American Ethnologist 22:907-926 (1995)
    This article explores the ways that Hindu nationalism influenced ideologies of gender and class in the 1980s.
  • “Washington’s Landscape of Fear: Banal, Sublime and Dangerous,” City and Society 28: 1-6 (2006).
    This article introduced a special section of articles about the impact of post 9/11 security measures on Washington D.C.’s sites of national public memory.

Courses Taught:

  • Survey of South Asian History (HIS 88)
    An introduction to the history of the South Asian subcontinent, from the earliest times to the present.
  • History, Memory and Museums (HIS 192Q)
    An undergraduate seminar on historical memory and the popular cultural institutions through which memory is expressed. I share teaching responsiblity with Ann Plane and Harold Marcuse.
  • Culture, Space and Power (HIS 293)
    A seminar that offers graduate students an in-depth introduction to the interdisciplinary field of spatial studies.
  • Introduction to Public History (HIS 192)
    A lecture course introducing the four fields of public history to upper division undergraduates. I share teaching responsibility with Ann Plane.
  • History and Ethnography of Religion (HIS 210)
    This seminar explores the ways that historical and ethnographic sources may be combined to study religion.