Anthropology and History, UCSB | Curriculum Vitae (PDF)
My research concerns the intersections of urban place-making and religiosity in both southern India and the U.S. My first book, Womanhood in the Making (1999), on household ritual practices of upper caste Hindu women in Chennai, argues that while ritual created spaces of action, self-understanding and identity formation for women that straddled public and private worlds, it was also among the quotidian practices that encapsulated and reproduced enduring structural inequalities, in some cases, in the service of Hindu nationalism. My second book, The Politics of Heritage from Madras to Chennai (2008) documents the strategies with which diverse and competing publics reclaim and remake the past, the religious idioms that inform these efforts, and the forms of cultural citizenship and political participation with which these activities are bound. My new project on evangelical youth cultures investigates the transnational networks and spaces of evangelical Christianity, with specific attention to the ways that urban spaces are claimed and remapped through affective investments in “mission,” at home and abroad.
Anthropology, UCD | Curriculum Vitae (PDF)
I have worked on cities, religion, and the body in a variety of contexts in South Asia and other regions. I am also co-founder of “Nagara,” a center for urban studies, history, and culture, based in Bangalore. My research in recent years includes three main areas: The first focuses on Bangalore City, described as India’s “Silicon Valley.” One outcome of this research was a book, Landscapes of Urban Memory: The Sacred and the Civic in India’s High Tech City (2001), which examines the various pathways that memory and the body take in a city inserted within global processes. Its central focus is a festival dedicated to Draupadi, the polyandrous wife of the Pandava brothers, heroes of the pan-Indian Mahabharata epic. The book as a whole interrogates dominant models of Bangalore as a science city and presents other paradigms of urban space emerging from religious cultures in the city. The second are of research is a transnational religious movement centered on the Indian guru, Sathya Sai Baba (1926-2011), who attracts a global following from Japan to South Africa. My book, In the Presence of Sai Baba (2008), studies the movement in three cities — Bangalore, Nairobi, and Atlanta — linking regimes of spatial, somatic, and symbolic production. It presents insights for the understanding of “urban religion” as well as the relationship between a religious imaginary, understandings of citizenship, sites of sociality, and devotional memory. I am currently working on a new book project — inspired by the work of the botanist and urban planner Patrick Geddes — that explores several transcultural, urban, and somatic imaginations of (E)utopia or a “good place.”