Associate Professor (2006 )
On Leave: Spring 2014
Office: 234 Nau Hall
Phone: (434) 924-6417
Email: nn2v (at) virginia.edu
Fields & SpecialtiesModern South Asia, History of Education
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.
* Reviewed in The American Historical Review, Oral History Review, The Book Review, Contemporary South Asia, The Hindu, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, Journal of Genocide Research, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, and several other journals. For a more complete list, see http://neetinair.wordpress.com/reviews/academic and http://neetinair.wordpress.com/reviews/blog-posts
'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. Cited in The Telegraph, 15 February 2014.
'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.’ Encyclopedia entries in Ayesha Jalal ed., Oxford Companion to Pakistani History, Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2012.
‘riyaaz, saadhana, taiyyari: life practices’, Seminar Special Issue 'A Country of Our Own', No. 632, 2012, pp. 27-30.
‘“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.
‘Restraint vs. Denial: The Struggle between India and Pakistan’ Harvard International Review, 6 February 2009.
‘The Truth of Geography’, Outlook India, 4 December 2008.
‘“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.
Book Reviews for the American Historical Review, Social History, Journal of Asian Studies, Journal of British Studies, Journal of Islamic Studies, Contemporary South Asia, Seminar.
My research and teaching interests span a wide range of topics in modern South Asian history and politics - colonialism, anticolonial nationalism, the Partition of India, the place of religion and other markers of identity in politics, memory studies, the making and transformation of colonial-era laws, the relationship between domestic policy and foreign policy, and between education and citizenship.
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 second book-length project, 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 at the height of the Cold War, were reflected in attempts to transform India's higher education and thereby create a new citizenry. Using newly available records from various ministries, select university archives, parliamentary debates, private papers, newspapers and interviews, I will connect critical debates on religious education, the medium of instruction in a linguistically diverse nation, and the desire to remain non-aligned with the compulsion to create a nationally integrated, self-sufficient, and suitably decolonized citizenry. These debates are also important for the light they throw on the nature of the Indian government and state.
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. 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) and was recently cited here.