I am a cultural and social historian of modern South Asia with an interest in examining cultural contestations within colonial and postcolonial societies. My research focuses on northern India in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, particularly, in understanding identities that are expressed and debated at the intersection of print culture and urban history in provincial cities. I work with historical and literary archives in English, Hindi-Urdu, Bengali, and Persian. In my teaching too, I bring to bear the perspectives of both the humanities and social sciences. I want students at all levels to critically engage with the epistemic construction of South Asia as a region and an area of study. Critical insight and empathy are the two skills I encourage students to develop in the study of a culture that may be different from their own. I have previously taught at colleges affiliated with the University of Delhi, at Ashoka University, and at the University of Chicago. I am committed to public humanities and in making academic insights available to to a wider audience. To that end, I have written for journals like Scroll, Economic and Political Weekly, and academic blogs. I have also participated in public history initiatives at the Newberry Library, Chicago and most recently, at NPR (National Public Radio, USA) where I was a Research Fellow at Throughline, a Peabody-award winning history-podcast. I am also a part of the South Asian Studies podcast team at New Books Network where I discuss recently published books with authors and translators.
Fields of interest
- Caste, Religious, and Gender Identities in South Asia
- Comparative Studies of Caste and Race in a Global Context
- History of Print Culture
- Urban History of Modern India
- Literary Studies in English, Hindi, Urdu, and Bengali
- Colonial and Postcolonial Studies
My doctoral thesis titled “Writing Allahabad: Texts and Identities in a Provincial City,” interrogates a variety of identities: specifically, caste, linguistic, gender, and religious expression, at the intersection of print culture and urban modernity in colonial India. I carried out nearly twelve months of archival research (interrupted by Covid-19) and drew from Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, and English historical and literary sources to show that textuality is a crucial but underexamined staging ground for the development of colonial provinciality and urbanity in colonial India. My book project takes forward one aspect of my dissertation--caste identities--and adds new research material in order to show how an indigenous discourse on caste was developing in vernacular languages in colonial India with the provincial city of Allahabad as a prime center. This work responds to scholarship on caste which overemphasizes the role of colonial construction of the discourse. Building up on the work of contemporary scholars of caste, I show how jātis (sub-castes) at different rungs within the caste (varṇa) hierarchy were consolidating, negotiating, or resisting their position. In so doing, they were generating an urban-based discourse on caste in north India that was specific in its regional focus yet spoke to the national “caste question” that was emerging at this period.
Grants and awards
Mellon Foundation-University of Chicago Dissertation Completion Fellowship.
Research Award for best paper presented at 26th European Conference on South Asian Studies, 26-29 July 2021, awarded by Council of European Association for South Asian Studies (EASAS).
University of Chicago Humanities Division Dissertation Research Fellowship
Committee on Southern Asian Studies Research and Dissertation Write-up Fellowships (multiple)
Nicholson Center for British Studies Graduate Research Fellowship (twice)
International House Ralph W. Nicholas Graduate Fellowship (twice)
Teaching Fellow in the Humanities (Postdoctoral Position), September 2022–August 20 24 (not completed). Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, & Department of Race, Diaspora, and Indigeneity, University of Chicago
Ph. D., M.A. Dept. of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago (defended June 2022)
M.A. (2009) and M.Phil. (2013) (English,) University of Delhi
B.A. (Honors), English, St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, 2007.
Poddar, Sanjukta. "The Decline of Multilingualism in a Divided Public Sphere: The Indian Press and Cultural Politics in Colonial Allahabad (1890–1920)", Forthcoming, 2023, in Modern Asian Studies.
Poddar, Sanjukta. “Delhi: Heterotopic Imagination and Alternative Urbanity.” In Postcolonial Urban Outcasts: City Margins in South Asian Literature, eds. Madhurima Chakraborty and Umme-al-Wazedi. New York & London: Routledge, 2016, pp. 205–220.
Poddar, Sanjukta. “Globalisation, Alternative Historiography, and Fictive Possibilities in Amitav Ghosh’s River of Smoke,” Postcolonial Text 10, No 1 (2015): 1¬22.
Poddar, Sanjukta. “City of Capital: Slum-Making and Film-making in Colonial Bombay,” Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 58, No. 3, January 15, 2022: 30-34.
No relevant ancillary activities