Swati Chawla

Field & Specialties

South Asia
Global South
Digital Humanities


Ph.D.               Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia, April 2019 (expected)

M.A.               Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia, 2015

M.Phil.            Department of English, University of Delhi, 2010

M.A.               Department of English, University of Delhi, 2008

B.A.                Gargi College, University of Delhi, English (Honors) with History and Hindi


I am a Ph.D candidate in history and a 2014-15 Praxis Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Virginia. I have always been curious about why and how people make their homes in new places, and am currently pursuing this question through my dissertation on nationalisms and citizenship claims directed against the postcolonial Indian state. My research is focused on migration across the Himalayas in the second half of the twentieth century, and I am broadly interested in issues of statelessness, exile, and citizenship in postcolonial South Asia. My research has been supported by the Taraknath Das Foundation at Columbia University, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the Virginia Foundation for Humanities, the Institute for Humane Studies, and the Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures at the University of Virginia. I recently completed a USAID commissioned study on “Risk and Resistance in Response to Women’s Increased Civic and Political Participation in the Global South” as part of an interdisciplinary faculty-student collaboration. I was trained in literary studies (M.Phil., M.A., and B.A. degrees) at the University of Delhi, where I also taught as an Assistant Professor and Lecturer of English from 2008-13. 


Book Chapters

2019                “‘No Nationality Now’: Tibetan Applicants for Indian Citizenship, 1947-1959,” in Bobbi Herzberg, Christopher Coyne, and Don Bordeaux, eds, Political Process and Political Order (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, Forthcoming). 

2018                “A Long Look Homeward: Ideas of Time and Space in the Tibet Museum,” in Nandini C. Sen, ed, Through the Diasporic Lens (New Delhi: Authorspress, pp. 267-283). 


Book Reviews

2019                Review of Townsend Middleton and Sara Shneiderman, eds, Darjeeling Reconsidered: Histories, Politics, EnvironmentsHimalaya: The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies (Vol. 39, No. 1, Forthcoming).

2018                Review of Jessica Vantine Birkenholtz, Reciting the Goddess: Narratives of Place and the Making of Hinduism in NepalStudies in Nepali History and Society (Vol. 23, No. 2, Forthcoming).

2018                Review of Bérénice Guyot-Réchard, Shadow States: India, China and the Himalayas, 1910-1962,Essays in History(Vol. 51).

2017                Reviewof Richard P. Tucker, A Forest History of India, Himalaya: The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies (Vol. 37, No. 2).

2016                Reviewof Uther E. Charlton-Stevens, Decolonising Anglo-Indians: Strategies for a Mixed Race Community in Late Colonial India during the First Half of the Twentieth Century, Dissertation Reviews.


Working Papers

2017                “Increasing the Civic and Political Participation of Women in the Global South: Understanding the Risk of Strong Resistance,”USAID and IIE Research and Innovation Series. Co-authored with Denise Walsh, Vanessa Ochs, Dannah Dennis, Paromita Sen, and Catalina Vallejo.


Encyclopedia Entries

2018                “Buddhist Nuns in Contemporary Asia,” essay in Michael Tarver, ed, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of the Daily Life of Women: How They Lived from Ancient Times to the Present (Santa Barbara: ABC Clio, Forthcoming).

Current Research

My research is animated by two everydayquestions: Why do people move? Relatedly, how should we respond to the humdrumenquiry, “Where are you from?” My current work approaches these questions through a focus on nationalisms, conceptions of sovereignty, and policies governing migration in the Himalayan regions of postcolonial South Asia. I study how these were impacted by the Partition and the subsequent changes to the Indian Citizenship Act, by the institutionalization of human rights under the United Nations, and by the rise of Communism in Asia.Although primarily ensconced in the field of modern South Asian history, this research is informed by my grounding in the digital humanities, literary studies, public policy, and religious studies. In addition to archival materials from the collections of six national governments and four Indian states, my work draws on literary texts, visual and born-digital sources, scriptural and exegetical materials, oral histories and interviews, and ephemera. 


My doctoral dissertation titled “Between Homelessness and Homecoming: Tibetan Nationalism and Citizenship in Late 20thCentury India”studies nationalisms and citizenship claims directed against the Indian state from the Tibetan cultural region. This includes Tibetan territory under Chinese control, the states of Nepal and Bhutan, the erstwhile kingdom of Sikkim which was merged into the Indian Union in 1975, as well as Tibetan-speaking parts of northern and north-eastern India, such as Ladakh and Tawang. My project covers the period beginning with the political transition from colonial to Indian leadership in the mid-1940s to the recent military standoff at the tri-junction point in Doklam (between India, Bhutan and China) from June to August 2017. 

Awards & Honors

2018                All University Distinguished Graduate Teaching Award for Arts and Humanities, Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs, University of Virginia

2016                Second Position for research on “Religion’s Unexpected Influences,” Huskey Research Exhibition, University of Virginia

2015                Scholarshipfor Bologna-Duke Summer Program on Global Studies and Critical Theory, Academy of Global Humanities and Critical Theory

Courses Taught

Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia, Instructor of Record

Forging the Postcolonial Nation-State in South Asia (2018)

Migration in Modern South Asia: History, Literature, Film, Ephemera (2018)

Twentieth Century South Asia (2017)


Global Studies (Interdisciplinary Major), University of Virginia, Instructor of Record

Making Culture Visible (2018)


International Studies Office, University of Virginia, Instructor of Record

Identity in Translation: Critical Orientation, Reflection, and Engagement (CORE) Program (2017- 2018) 


Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia, Teaching Assistant with Sections 

Emergence of Modern Britain (Spring 2016), Japan to 1868 (Spring 2015), History and Civilization of Medieval India (Fall 2014)


Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia, Grader

History and Civilization of Classical India (Fall 2015)


Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, University of Virginia, Grader

Foundations and Contexts of Public Policy (Fall 2015)


Department of English, Shyama Prasad Mukherji College, University of Delhi, Assistant Professor

Select Courses: Eighteenth Century British Literature, World Literatures, Postcolonial Literature, English Grammar (Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced), Remedial English 


Department of English, Gargi College, University of Delhi, Assistant Professor

Select Courses: College Writing and Composition, Popular Fiction, World Literatures, Nineteenth Century British Literature


Department of English, University of Delhi (undergraduate colleges), Instructor

Select Courses: Modern Indian Literature, Nationalism in India, Postcolonial Writing in English, Contemporary Literary Theory, Renaissance and Metaphysical Poetry, Popular Fiction, College Writing and Composition,Remedial English (2008- 2013)

Media Appearances

Interview with Chintan Girish Modi, #southasiachatChaat Masala Collective, Twitter, 8 October 2018

Interviewed in documentary film Sarhad-e-Bollywood: Pakistan through Bollywood Eyes, 2008

Interview on “How South Asian is My Food?” for Who Cares About Britishness? A Global View of the National Identity Debate, 2007

Interviewed in documentary film The Right to be Me, 2006