Associate Professor of South Asian Studies and History
Uditi's research interests include state-society relations in independent India, the gendered nature of governance, and the complex relationship between displacement and development. Through micro-histories of rehabilitation policies she explores how categories and discourses of governance have impinged upon the lives of vulnerable citizens. Oral historical research forms a vital component of her work, which enables her to give prominence to perspectives "from below" and investigate the interface between memory and identity.
Her forthcoming book, entitled Citizen Refugee: Forging the Indian Nation after Partition, explores how the independent government of India demanded that refugees from Pakistan perform the role of agents of post-colonial development in order to access rehabilitation benefits. This particular policy orientation led to the marginalization of women and placed upon dalit refugees the disproportionate burden of enacting the agenda of Nehruvian development in "backward" regions of the country. Her publications include the essays "Dissident memories: Exploring Bengali refugee narratives in the Andaman Islands," published in an edited volume on Refugees and the End of Empire: Imperial Collapse and Forced Migration during the Twentieth Century (Palgrave McMillan, 2011) and a forthcoming essay in Modern Asian Studies entitled "The myths refugees live by: Memory and history in the making of refugee identity."
At present she is working on the manuscript of a Bengali book, entitled Deshbhager Prantakatha (Voices from the Margins of a Divided Country) based on her interviews with Bengali refugees in the Andaman Islands.
In the twentieth century, the ideals of "national self determination" and "national liberation" created powerful political movements throughout the world. But what happened when two peoples claiming the right of "self determination" lived amongst each other? In India, Palestine and Ireland, the British sought to solve the problem through partition: dividing a territory to accommodate conflicting national aspirations. Rather than solving a problem, this solution led to some of the century's longest conflicts and ethnic cleansing. In this course we will study how the idea of partition developed and how it was practiced in India, Palestine and Ireland. We will explore how partition relates to changing concepts of nationhood, and how the repercussions of these partitions continue to shape politics today.
One of the most enigmatic political leaders of the modern period, M.K. Gandhi remains a controversial figure. On one hand, he is celebrated as the father of the Indian nation and an apostle of non-violence, and on the other hand viewed as a wily politician and a patriarch with problematic views of gender and sexuality. In his lifetime, thousands saw him as a saint, while others (mainly Hindu nationalists) reviled him as a traitor to Indian nationalism and blamed him for the partition of India. This course investigates these multiple myths and images around Gandhi in order to understand which, if any of these, have any historical validity. Using Gandhi's own writings and the words of his contemporary admirers and detractors, it attempts to go beyond these binaries and instead explore his biography, his politics and his philosophy in their full complexity.
This course will explore how women have been at the forefront of articulating a radical vision of politics and de-colonisation in the Global South, through a comparative exploration of feminisms in Latina American countries, such as Bolovia, and India. We will explore how far from being an 'imported' copy of Western feminism, or an 'alien' concept, feminism in these countries draws upon vibrant local legacies of women resisting colonialism, a flawed model of development and hetero-patriarchal oppression. Margaret Cerullo will draw upon her long association with and research into Latin America to lead students through an exploration of how Latin America has become the "turbulent center" of new movements, ideas, and practices, new subjectivities and challenges that are effectively de-centering Europe and the US as the site of knowledge production and political innovation. Uditi Sen will draw upon her own participation in queer and feminist movements in India and her research into Indian politics and history to illuminate how Indian feminists negotiate the double burden of 'traditional' and colonial patriarchies, and articulate radical new visions of azadi or liberation. We hope to bring into dialogue, through skype or actual visits, and through student engagement, feminists and feminisms from these two regions. Students are expected to spend six to eight hours every week in preparation for classes and in producing the required assignments.
In this course students will engage analytically and creatively with the memories of refugees in India and Pakistan. These are Hindu and Muslim refugees who often witnessed, and fled from, genocidal ethnic violence that accompanied the partition of British India into India and Pakistan. Their reminiscences, preserved as audio and video files in several online archives and blogs, offer a unique perspective of history 'from below'. Through an informed engagement with these voices from the past students will explore broad questions of universal relevance: how do refugees negotiate displacement? What impact does violence and trauma have upon identities? How does memory and identity interact in the telling of life stories? This course will use online documentaries, videos, movies and audio-visual interviews, along with necessary readings. The final and culminating part of the course conceptualizes hearing as an active and creative process. Students use creative formats, such as acting, dance, movement etc. to reinterpret and perform voices from the past. No prior knowledge of South Asia is necessary, but some experience or comfort with performance and creativity is recommended.