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Sumathi Ramaswamy, James B. Duke Distinguished Professor and Chair

Sumathi Ramaswamy

I am a cultural historian of South Asia and the British Empire and my research over the last few years has been largely in the areas of visual studies, the history of cartography, and gender. My recent publications in this area include The Goddess and the Nation: Mapping Mother India (Duke University Press, 2010); and three edited volumes, Barefoot Across the Nation: Maqbool Fida Husain and the Idea of India (Routledge, 2010),  Empires of Vision (co-edited with Martin Jay, Duke University Press, 2014), and Motherland: Pushpamala N.'s Woman and Nation  (co-edited with Monica Juneja, 2022). My pictorial monograph titled Husain's Raj: Visions of Empire and Nation was published in 2016 by Marg, Mumbai. My work in popular visual history also led me in 2006 to co-establish Tasveerghar: A Digital Network of South Asian Popular Visual Culture.   For a number of years, I have also been working on a project on Gandhi and visual culture funded by the Humboldt Foundation which honored me in 2016 with the Annaliese Maier Research Award. In the sphere of public visual humanities, I published two works in 2020: Gandhi in the Gallery: The Art of Disobedience, and a digital project titled B is for Bapu: Gandhi in the Art of the Child in Modern India

I am also pursuing a research agenda on the cultures of learning in colonial and postcolonial India. As part of this agenda, I published a monograph titled Terrestrial Lessons: The Conquest of the World as Globe (University of Chicago Press, 2017), in which I explore the debates in colonial India about the shape and disposition of the earth in the universe and examine the course of science education conducted around the terrestrial globe as a pedagogic object as it enters Indian schools. 

A second project tentatively titled "A Strange Kindness? Giving & Learning in Tamil India," draws upon my experience as Program Officer for Education, Arts & Culture for the Ford Foundation in New Delhi (2002-2005). It charts the ethical, economic and political impulses that have governed private philanthropy directed towards the establishment of colleges and universities across Tamil India from the 19th century into the present.


Contact Info:
Office Location:  Dept of History, 325 Classroom Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Office Phone:  +1 919 684 3014
Email Address: send me a message
Web Page:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=031Gp5PtuVg

Education:

Ph.D.University of California, Berkeley1992
M.A.University of Pennsylvania1986
M.A.Jawaharlal Nehru University (India)1982
B.A.University of Delhi (India)1980
Specialties:

Cultural History
Global Transnational History
Comparative Colonial Studies
Gender
African, Middle East and Asia
Global and Comparative
Research Interests: history of cartography, South Asian visual culture, cultural history of India, philanthropy in India

I am a cultural historian of South Asia and the British empire and my research over the last few years has been largely in the areas of visual studies, the history of cartography, and gender. My recent publications in these areas include THE GODDESS AND THE NATION: MAPPING MOTHER INDIA (Duke University Press, 2010); and two edited volumes, BAREFOOT ACROSS THE NATION: MAQBOOL FIDA HUSAIN AND THE IDEA OF INDIA (Routledge, 2010), and EMPIRES OF VISION (co-edited with Martin Jay, Duke University Press, 2014). I am also working on a pictorial monograph titled HUSAIN'S RAJ: POSTCOLONIAL VISIONS OF EMPIRE AND NATION (under contract to Marg, Mumbai). My work in popular visual history has also led me to co-establish Tasveerghar: A Digital Network of South Asian Popular Visual Culture at http://www.tasveerghar.net/. In recent years, I have also embarked on a new research agenda on the cultures and ethics of schooling and learning in colonial and postcolonial India. As a Fellow at the National Humanities Center in 2013-2014, I am completing a monograph titled TERRESTRIAL LESSONS: THE CONQUEST OF THE WORLD AS GLOBE, in which I explore the debates in colonial India about the shape and disposition of the earth in the universe and examine the course of science education conducted around the terrestrial globe as a pedagogic object. Another project tentatively titled "A Strange Kindness? Giving & Learning in Tamil India," draws upon my experience as Program Officer for Education, Arts & Culture for the Ford Foundation in New Delhi (2002-2005). It charts the ethical, economic and political impulses that have governed private philanthropy directed towards the establishment of colleges and universities across Tamil India from the 19th century into the present

Keywords:

India

Current Ph.D. Students  

  • Kena Wani  
  • Kshama Kumar  
  • Ajay J. Thomas  
Recent Publications   (More Publications)

  1. Brown, RM; Ramaswamy, S, Being in the World Artfully: Institutions, Infrastructure, Interconnections, South Asian Studies, vol. 40 no. 1 (January, 2024), pp. 1-3 [doi]
  2. Ramaswamy, S, Passions of the tongue: Language devotion in Tamil India, 1891-1970 (September, 2023), pp. 1-343, University of California Press, Berkeley, ISBN 9780520208049 (Hans Rosenhaupt Memorial Book Award of The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, 1999; ACLS History e-book project: http://www.historyebook.org/.)  [abs]
  3. Ramaswamy, S, Bernard Bate; E. Annamalai, Francis Cody, Malarvizhi Jayanth, and Constantine V. Nakassis (eds.). Protestant Textuality and the Tamil Modern: Political Oratory and the Social Imaginary in South Asia., The American Historical Review, vol. 128 no. 2 (June, 2023), pp. 1049-1050, Oxford University Press (OUP) [doi]
  4. Ramaswamy, S, A Historian among the Goddesses of Modern India, in HOW SECULAR IS ART (2023), pp. 297-330
  5. Ramaswamy, S, The goddess and the nation: Subterfuges of antiquity, the cunning of modernity, in The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Hinduism: Second Edition (May, 2022), pp. 580-594, ISBN 9781119144861 [doi]  [abs]


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