Assistant Professor and Head of the Department
I hold degrees in History (Honours, BA 2002, Presidency College, University of Calcutta; MA 2004, University of Calcutta) and History of South Asia (Dr. phil. 2010, University of Heidelberg). I have worked as Research Fellow at the Zentrum Moderner Orient (now Leibniz Zentrum Moderner Orient) and taught at the Freie Universitaet, both in Berlin, before joining Presidency University in autumn 2013.
My research interests lie widely in the fields of socio-religious and intellectual history of modern South Asia. I am the author of Ismailism and Islam in Modern South Asia: Community and Identity in the Age of Religious Internationals (Cambridge University Press, 2017), a book in which I explore the evolution in modern India of the community of the Shia Ismailis with reference to issues of religious leadership, community development, and identity while also remaining sensitized to the transregional and global aspects of that history. In addition, I have also published in a number of refereed journals and edited books. I am now in the process of transitioning to broadly four research projects in the following areas: 1) Indian secularism, religious pluralism, the idea of civil religion, and the intellectual enterprise of “Indian philosophy”; 2) the relationship between spirituality, religious experience, and discourses of consciousness within the rubric of the “psy-disciplines” in modern India; 3) the interface of fantastic histories and “new religious movements” interrogating, along the way, a number of crucial issues, such as those of scientism, identity and authority; 4) narratives of trans-Himalayan pilgrimage and sacred space in the Himalayan borderlands. Publications from these new projects are at different stages of development.
I have been recipient of doctoral scholarship of the German Academic Exchange Service, a number of prizes and grants in my Undergraduate and Graduate years, and have been elected Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland. Most recently, in 2017, I have been selected as a Short-Term Scholar within the rubric of the exchange programme on the Study of the U.S. Institute for Scholars on Religious Pluralism, funded by the Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs, United States Department of State.
I teach courses in the fields of social, religious and intellectual history of modern South Asia and encourage my students to engage, at the same time, with questions of transregional and global nature. I also supervise MA dissertations on a wide array of themes and look forward to welcoming PhD candidates even as Presidency University starts the programme in earnest.
BA with Honours in History (Presidency College, University of Calcutta, 2002): Co-ranked First Class Third.
MA in History (University of Calcutta, through Presidency College, 2004): Ranked First Class Third.
PhD in History of South Asia (University of Heidelberg, 2010): Graded Magna cum Laude.
I graduated with a First Class in History (Honours), ranking third (in brackets) in the order of merit, from Presidency College, University of Calcutta (2002) and was awarded a Master’s degree in History, also graded First Class and ranking third, from the same institution (2004). I also qualified in the State Level Eligibility Test (SLET) for lectureship in colleges and universities and between 2004 and 2007 taught at both Undergraduate and Postgraduate levels.
In 2007 I won a Doctoral scholarship of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to pursue my research leading to PhD at the Department of History, South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg which I completed in 2010 with an overall grade of Magna cum Laude. I subsequently relocated to Berlin to first work as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Zentrum Moderner Orient (2011-12), and thereafter, on a secondment, as fulltime Lecturer in Islam in South Asia at the Freie Universität, also in Berlin (2012-13). In October 2013 I joined the Department of History, Presidency University as an Assistant Professor and am, since 22 December 2016, the Head of the Department of History.
I have been recipient of a number of prizes and grants in my Undergraduate and Graduate years, and have been elected Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland. Most recently, in 2017, I was selected as a Short-Term Scholar within the rubric of an exchange programme on the Study of the U.S. Institute for Scholars on Religious Pluralism, funded by the Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs, United States Department of State.
Research / Administrative Experience+
I am currently the Head of the Department of History (since 22 December 2016).
It is my pleasure to be on a number of committees and sub-committees at the Department of History in particular, and the university in general, that require attending to responsibilities ranging from regular day-to-day adminstrative matters to long-term planning. For instance, I have been on a 5-member committee that organized an inter-disciplinary winter school on "The Relevance of Studying the Humanities & Social Sciences in the Himalayan Region" in Dow Hill, Kurseong (November-December 2016) to mark the commencement of academic activities of the Himalayan Centre of the Presidency University.
Furthermore, I have been on the review/ advisory board of ARGUMENT: Biannual Philosophical Journal in 2014, have reviewed book proposal (Oxford University Press; Routledge/ Taylor & Francis), and have been external examiner of M.Phil. dissertation (Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata/ Jadavpur University).
A substantial part of my earlier research focused on the history of Islam in South Asia with particular reference to issues of religious and socio-political change, of socio-religious leadership and identity. My Doctoral work, for instance, explored the history of a Daudi Bohra and a Nizari Khoja identity in colonial Bombay. However, thanks to my wider interests in entanglements of socio-religious networks of South Asian origin on the Indian Ocean, I came to focus in my Postdoctoral work on the transregional history of the Aga Khani Khojas and the Ismaili Imamate's religiously informed and/ or underpinned discourse of social service.
Key strands of the above research, especially from the Postdoctoral project, have coalesced into my first monograph. The book explores the evolution of a Shia Ismaili identity and crucial aspects of the historical forces that conditioned the development of the Muslim modern in late colonial South Asia. It reassesses the tortuous legal process that, since the 1860s, recast a Shia Imami identity for the Ismailis culminating with the installation of a line of successive living Imams, the Aga Khan(s) at the apex. Furthermore, it illustrates how, under the Imamate of Aga Khan III (b. 1877- d. 1957; Imam from 1885 to 1957) the community virtually reinvented itself first in the transregional western Indian Ocean world and gradually in the global arena. This process reflects the complexities of heightened internationalist organizational activities that animated several of world’s major religions since the late nineteenth century— an age of ‘religious internationals’, as my book posits. Marshalling a rich corpus of neglected primary sources, the book elaborates on questions such as, the Aga’s understanding of colonial modernity, his ideas of India, restructured modalities of community governance and the evolution of Imamate-sponsored institutions. Moreover, it illuminates key strands in scholarship that characterized the development of the Muslim and Shia Ismaili modern, and above all Muslim universality vis-à-vis denominational particularities that often transcended the confines of the modular nation and state structure. These are questions of crucial contemporary relevance that both inform the functioning of the present Imamate and forge what this book calls an ‘Ismaili international’.
NB: For an overview of my current research see above in the section titled 'About You'.
Teaching / Other Experience+
This semester I am teaching courses on socio-religious & intellectual history of Islam in modern South Asia (Postgraduate, year II) and on early modern South Asian cultures (General Education). In recent times I have taught courses on Asian interactions between c. 700s and 1500s (UG II) and on methodology of reading texts in History (PG I, sessional). Further recently taught course include: Asian interactions between c. 1500s & 1960s at the Undergraduate level (year III) and, at the Postgraduate level (year II), modern Indian intellectual history (Postgraduate, year II), and a sessional course on approaches to the practice of history, in which I focused on methods in intellectual history (Postgraduate, year I, co-taught).
Other recently taught courses include those on aspects of modern Indian intellectual history (Postgraduate II, Core course), religious normativities, social reform and social service (Postgraduate, Optional), and modules on intellectual history (Postgraduate, Sessional), & seminal concepts and methods as part of a sessional course on reading texts in history (Postgraduate I). At the Undergraduate level, I have been teaching courses and/ or modules on the Reformation in Europe and political and social history leading to the First World War and aspects of world politics since 1945, with particular reference to the Islamic Revolution in Iran (UG III), socio-religious reforms in 19th & 20th century South Asia (UG II), aspects of religious and intellectual history in ancient South Asia (UG II & UG I), and apsects of early medieval South Asian history (UG I).
Moreover, I have been also teaching General Education courses focusing in particular on modules on modern South Asian history, as well as aspects of pan-Islamism and pan-Asianism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
In my supervisory role I have also been guining a number of MA dissertations on a varied range of themes.
Post Graduate Supervision+
My current responsibilities include supervision of MA dissertations. At Presidency University, we are now developing our PhD programme. I look forward to welcoming interested candidates in the near future.
Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland
A) Book/ Monograph:
Ismailism and Islam in Modern South Asia: Community and Identity in the Age of Religious Internationals (Cambridge University Press: 2017).
B) Articles in Refereed/ Peer-Reviewed Journals:
1) ‘Universalising Aspirations: Community and Social Service in the Isma'ili Imagination in Twentieth-Century South Asia and East Africa’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Series 3, 24, 3 (2014), pp. 435-453; special issue on 'Isna 'Ashari and Isma'ili Shi'ism: From South Asia to the Indian Ocean'. [Reprinted in Justin Jones & Ali Usman Qasmi (eds), The Shi'a in Modern South Asia: Religion, History and Politics (New Delhi etc.: Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 105-130].
2) ‘Being “Ismaili” and “Muslim”: Some Observations on the Politico-Religious Career of Aga Khan III’, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 34, 2 (2011), pp. 188-207.
3) ‘Two Accounts of the Colonised “Other” in South Asia: Re-exploring Alterity’, South Asia Research, 30, 2 (2010), pp. 165-184.
C) Book Chapters/ Papers in Conference Proceedings:
1) ‘Die internationalen Netzwerke des Aga Khan Development Network: Möglichkeiten und Grenzen eines muslimischen Kosmopolitismus’ in Bernhard Gißibl & Isabella Löhr (Hg./ eds), Bessere Welten: Kosmopolitismus in den Geschichtswissenschaften (Frankfurt/ M & New York: Campus Verlag, 2017). [Trans. into German by Felix Kurz & Bernhard Gißibl], pp. 343-372.
2) ‘Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s Jesus and the Rediscovery of “Lost Tribes”: Towards a Manifesto for Connected and Fantastic Histories’ in Kingshuk Chatterjee (ed.), Contours of Relationship: India and the Middle East (New Delhi, KW Publishers Pvt. Ltd./ University of Calcutta CPWAS/ IFPS, 2017), pp. 13-44.
3) ‘Modular Projects: Socio-Religious Sensibilities and Political Imagination among the Daudi Bohras in Modern South Asia’ in Radu Carciumaru (ed.), Negotiating Conflict and Accommodating Identity in South Asia (in Heidelberg Papers in Comparative & South Asian Politics Series) (New Delhi: Samskriti, 2015), pp. 167-201.
4) 'Ismaili Samaj ebong dharmiyo netritto: kichu prasanga' in Aniruddha Roy (ed.), Itihas Anusandhan 22 (Kolkata: Paschim Banga Itihas Samsad, 2008), pp. 402-405.
D) Encyclopaedia/ Lexicon Entries:
i) Bahmani Sultanat; ii) Bihar & Orissa; iii) Bijapur Sultanat; iv) Bombay; v) Gujarat; vi) Ismaili; vii) Kaschmir; viii) Parsen in H. Hiery (Hg/ ed), Lexikon zur Überseegeschichte (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2015).
NB: Book reviews, publications in popular media not listed.