I retired from my faculty position in 2022, but continue to supervise graduate students in the Departments of History and Anthropology.  I am a cultural anthropologist and historian of modern South Asia, with a specific interest in Tamil-speaking southern India, where I have worked on projects concerning gender and religiosity, the rise of Hindu nationalism, public space and memory. 

  • 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.
  • 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.


  • Hancock, M. 2023 “Did the Masters of Disenchantment Ever Wonder?: India in the Nineteenth-Century American Evangelical Imaginary,” Wonder in South Asia, ed. Tulasi Srinivas. (SUNY Press), pp. 79-102.
  • Hancock, M. 2021. “Conversionary Christian Place-making in 19th century Madurai,” Spaces of Religion in Urban South Asia, ed. Istvan Keul (Routledge), pp. 39-55.

The most recent chapters concern the 19th century religious networks that linked the US and India, with attention to the traffic in material objects, forms of spatiality, and ideas in which American Protestant imaginaries took shape


  • 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.