Assistant 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 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.
India's image in the West as a land of poverty and spirituality often obscures its long tradition of radical and vibrant social movements. This course explores recent and ongoing people's movements in India. Beginning with lectures that introduce students to politics and society in India, it moves on to in-depth case studies of vibrant people's movements, such as the armed revolution of the Naxals, non-violent movements for gender justice and queer liberation, dalit (oppressed caste) movements and the embattled protests of peasants and tribal communities against dams and mines, that threaten their livelihood and the environment. Besides readings, this course will rely heavily on documentaries and skype conversations with activists. Students will be encouraged to think through the possibilities and limits of violent and non-violent strategies employed by protestors. This is an advanced seminar where students can develop independent research and advance writing skills in anticipation of the Division III.
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 immerses students in a creative process of hearing, interpreting and performing voices from the past. The voices are of ordinary people, describing their extra-ordinary experiences of living through the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. Through a combination of creativity and historical inquiry, students explore what it means to 'hear' a voice from a different culture and time. In the first part of the course, students will engage with documentaries and historical writings to contextualize the people's memories of partition. In the second part, students learn about the interpretative methods used by oral historians and use them to develop their own method of 'hearing'. 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.