Associate Professor (2006 )
Office Hours: Wednesdays, 10 am to 12 pm, and by appointment.
Office: 234 Nau Hall
Phone: (434) 924-6417
Email: nn2v (at) virginia.edu
Fields & SpecialtiesModern South Asia, History of Education, History of Law
B.A. – St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, 1998
M.A. – Tufts University, 2000
Ph.D. – Tufts University, 2005
Changing Homelands: Hindu Politics and the Partition of India, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press and Delhi: Permanent Black, 2011, 356 pages including notes, bibliography, and index.
Reviewed in The American Historical Review, The Indian Economic and Social History Review, The Book Review, Contemporary South Asia, The Daily Star, H-Asia, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, Journal of Genocide Research, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, India International Centre Quarterly, Oral History Review, The Hindu, and several other publications. For more details, visit http://neetinair.wordpress.com/reviews
Books in Progress
Secularism, Autonomy, Internationalization: The Multiple Pasts of Indian Higher Education.
The Blasphemy Laws: A South Asian History.
'Beyond the "communal" 1920s: the problem of intention, legislative pragmatism, and the making of section 295A of the Indian Penal Code' in The Indian Economic and Social History Review, July 2013, Vol. 50, No. 3, pp. 317-340.
'Delhi University's Undergraduate Programme: Notes from the Archives' in Economic and Political Weekly, May 25, 2013, Vol. 48, No. 21.
‘Hindu Mahasabha’, ‘Pt Madan Mohan Malaviya’, ‘Rangila Rasul’, ‘Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’, ‘Sanatan Dharm’, ‘Shuddhi’, ‘Swami Shraddhanand.’ Entries in Ayesha Jalal ed., The Oxford Companion to Pakistani History, Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2012.
‘“Partition” and “minority rights” in Punjabi Hindu Debates, 1920-1947’ in Economic and Political Weekly, December 24, 2011, Vol. 46, No. 52, pp. 61-69.
‘Bhagat Singh as “satyagrahi”: the limits to non-violence in late colonial India’ in Modern Asian Studies, May 2009, Vol. 43, No. 3, pp. 649-681.
‘“We Left our Keys with our Neighbors”: Memory and the Search for Meaning in post-Partitioned India’, Rosemarie Rogers Working Paper # 29, MIT, November 2004.
'The uniformity project' in The Indian Express, 26 June 2014. Translated into Bengali and published as ‘English has now become an Indian language’, Ananda Bazar Patrika, 7 August 2014.
‘riyaaz, saadhana, taiyyari: life practices’, Seminar Special Issue 'A Country of Our Own', No. 632, 2012, pp. 27-30.
‘Restraint vs. Denial: The Struggle between India and Pakistan’ in Harvard International Review, 6 February 2009.
‘The Truth of Geography’ in Outlook India, 4 December 2008.
'On a Personal Note', Review of Strictly Personal: Manmohan & Gursharan by Daman Singh in The Sunday Tribune - Spectrum, 21 September 2014.
Review of Women, War, and the Making of Bangladesh: Remembering 1971 by Yasmin Saikia in The American Historical Review, 118, 1, 2013, pp. 169-70.
Review of Pedagogy for Religion: Missionary Education and the Fashioning of Hindus and Muslims in Bengal by Parna Sengupta in Social History, 37, 3, 2012, pp. 341-43.
Review of The Partition of India byIan Talbot and Gurharpal Singh in Journal of Islamic Studies, 21, 3, 2010, pp. 464-67.
Review of Witnessing Partition: Memory, History, Fiction by Tarun K. Saint in Seminar No. 610, June 2010, pp. 57-61.
Review of Shameful Flight: the last years of the British Empire in India by Stanley Wolpert in Journal of British Studies, 47, 2, 2008, pp. 475-76.
Review of Precolonial and Colonial Punjab: Society, Economy, Politics and Culture edited by Reeta Grewal and Sheena Pall in Journal of Asian Studies, 66, 2, 2007, pp. 568-71.
Review of India: A National Culture? edited by Geeti Sen in Contemporary South Asia, 14, 1, 2005, pp. 113-15.
Review of The Aftermath of Partition in South Asia by Tai Yong Tan and Gyanesh Kudaisya in Seminar No. 534, February 2004, pp. 74-76.
My research and teaching interests span a wide range of topics in modern South Asian history and politics - colonialism, nationalism, the Partition, the place of religion and other markers of identity in politics, memory studies, legal history, foreign policy, and the history of education.
My first book Changing Homelands: Hindu Politics and the Partition of India (Harvard and Permanent Black, 2011) traces the politics of Punjabi Hindus in the first half of the twentieth century. A religiously defined minority in undivided Punjab, these Hindus aligned themselves with Punjabi Muslims and Sikhs during various critical anti-colonial national movements. But almost simultaneously they inched eastward, towards the rest of Hindu-majority India, styling themselves 'communalists' and their politics 'communal'. I study their politics, mark their particular motivations, and account for the suddenness with which Partition and Partition violence struck - both in history and in memory. I also raise and answer the critical question: was Partition inevitable?
My new work, tentatively titled Secularism, Autonomy, Internationalization: The Multiple Pasts of Indian Higher Education, explores how deliberations over the place of secularism in the wake of India's Partition, the promise of autonomy for diverse states from a newly created center, and moves toward internationalization and 'non-alignment' during the Cold War, were reflected in attempts to transform and reform India's higher education. Using newly available records from the ministry of education, university archives, parliamentary debates, private papers, newspapers, and oral histories, I connect debates on religious education, the medium of instruction in a linguistically diverse nation, and the desire to remain non-aligned with the postcolonial project of national integration. These debates are critical to our understanding of the roles that Indian higher education was meant to play, even as we acknowledge and study its different subsequent trajectories.
I am also working on a history of the many amendments and additions to section 295 of the Indian Penal Code, a law that was originally instituted to punish those who sought to insult the religious beliefs of Indian subjects. Now titled The Blasphemy Laws: A South Asian History, this book will also track the different journeys that this section of the penal code has traversed in neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh. An early piece of this research has been published as 'Beyond the "communal" 1920s: The Problem of Intention, Legislative Pragmatism, and the Making of Section 295-A of the Indian Penal Code' (IESHR, 2013).
History of Modern India.
Twentieth-century South Asia.
India’s Partition: Literature, Culture, Politics.
Imperial Encounters: Rules and Lives in Colonized India.
The Partition of India: Problems and Perspectives.
Narratives of post-1947 South Asia: New Archives, New Subjects.
Histories of Education and Nation-Making in India
The Subaltern in Literature and History. (Co-taught with Mrinalini Chakravorty, English)
Memory and Archive in South Asian History.
Histories of Education and Citizenship in India.
Graduate Readings Courses:
Colonialism and Indian Ocean Studies.
Post-colonial developments in South Asia.
To learn more about the graduate program at UVa, click on the Guide to Graduate Study in History and scroll down for South Asia.