Ph.D. in Sociology (1995), Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University, India.
Research interests: religion, the city, the body, social memory, South Asia.
My doctoral dissertation (published as The Mouths of People, the Voice of God: Buddhists and Muslims in a Frontier Community of Ladakh, Oxford University Press, 1998) is an ethnography of two Himalayan villages on the geopolitical boundaries between India, China, and Pakistan. It embeds constructions of cultural identity and cases of spirit possession within the context of borderland political economy.
My next major research project focused on Bangalore city, described as India' s
“Silicon Valley.” My book, Landscapes of Urban Memory: The Sacred and the Civic in India’s High Tech City (University of Minnesota Press, 2001), examines the various pathways that history, memory, and the body take in a city inserted within global processes. Its central focus is a festival dedicated to Draupadi, the polyandrous wife of the Pandava brothers, heroes of the pan-Indian Mahabharata epic. This annual festival is the largest civic ritual in Bangalore today and attracts an audience of over 100,000 people for its key event---the incarnation of Draupadi in the body of a male priest from a community of gardeners. The book as a whole interrogates dominant models of Bangalore as a science city and presents other paradigms of public space emerging from religious cultures in the city.
My new book (In the Presence of Sai Baba: Body, City and Memory in a Global Religious Movement, Leiden/Boston: Brill and Delhi: Orient Longman, forthcoming 2008) is based on research conducted in India, the United States and East Africa. It examines a contemporary religious movement centered on the Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba that has grown into an efficient transnational organization with thousands of devotional centers in India and abroad. In addition to Sai Baba' s charismatic role, I am interested in the relationship between contemporary religious movements and globalized urban society, their redefinition of citizenship and social memory through new institutional forms, and their novel regimes of the body.
2005 - “Warrior goddess versus bipedal cow: Sport, space, performance and planning in an Indian city.” (With James Heitzman). In James Mills, ed. Subaltern Sports: Politics and Sport in South Asia. London: Anthem Press: 139-171.
2002 - “Cities of the past and cities of the future: Theorizing the Indian metropolis of Bangalore.” In John Eade and Christopher Mele, eds. Understanding the City: Contemporary and Future Perspectives. Oxford: Blackwell: 247-277.
2001 - “The advent of the avatar: The urban following of Sathya Sai Baba and its construction of tradition.” In Vasudha Dalmia, Angelika Malinar and Martin Christof, eds. Charisma and Canon: Essays on the Religious History of the Indian Subcontinent. Delhi: Oxford University Press: 293-309.
- In the Presence of Sai Baba: Body, City, and Memory in a Global Religious Movement. Leiden/Boston: Brill; South Asian paperback edition, Hyderabad: Orient Longman(Reviewed in American Ethnologist, Contemporary South Asia, Material Religion, Practical Matters, The Hindu, Religion).
- Landscapes of Urban Memory: The Sacred and the Civic in India’s High-Tech City. Revised Indian edition, Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan (Reviewed in Economic and Political Weekly, The Hindu, Down to Earth).
- Landscapes of Urban Memory: The Sacred and the Civic in India’s High-Tech City. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. (Reviewed in Urban Affairs Review, American Journal of Sociology, Social Semiotics, American Ethnologist, Contemporary South Asia, American Anthropologist, Journal of Contemporary Religion and Journal of Asian Studies).
- The Mouths of People, the Voice of God: Buddhists and Muslims in a Frontier Community of Ladakh. Delhi: Oxford University Press. (Reviewed in The Tibet Journal, The Hindu, Ladakh Studies Bulletin).
- "Urban Forms of Religious Practice." In Vasudha Dalmia and Rashmi Sadana, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Modern Indian Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 67-79.
- “Spaces of modernity: Religion and the urban in Asia and Africa.” (With Mary Hancock). In Mary Hancock and Smriti Srinivas, ed. Symposium on Religion and the Formation of Modern Urban Space in Asia and Africa, pp. 617-709. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Vol. 32 (3): 617-630.
- “The Karaga festival: A performative archive of an alternate urban ecology.” In Aditi De, ed. Multiple City: Writings on Bangalore. New Delhi: Penguin Books India: 133-139.
- “Warrior goddess versus bipedal cow: Sport, space, performance and planning in an Indian city.” (With James Heitzman). In James Mills, ed. Subaltern Sports: Politics and Sport in South Asia. London: Anthem Press: 139-171.
- “Sai Baba movement.” In Lindsay Jones, ed. Encyclopedia of Religion. 2nd ed. Vol. 12. New York: Macmillan Reference USA: 8026-8029.
- “Cities.” (With James Heitzman). In Lindsay Jones, ed. Encyclopedia of Religion. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. New York: Macmillan Reference USA: 1801-1812.
- “Another Mahabharata: Bangalore’s Karaga performance and oral epic.” Parampara, November: 1-3.
- “Bangalore.” (With James Heitzman). In Melvin Ember and Carol R. Ember, eds. Encyclopedia of Urban Cultures. Vol. 1. Bethel, Conn.: Grolier: 285-292.
- “Cities of the past and cities of the future: Theorizing the Indian metropolis of Bangalore.” In John Eade and Christopher Mele, eds. Understanding the City: Contemporary and Future Perspectives. Oxford: Blackwell: 247-277.
- “The advent of the avatar: The urban following of Sathya Sai Baba and its construction of tradition.” In Vasudha Dalmia, Angelika Malinar and Martin Christof, eds. Charisma and Canon: Essays on the Religious History of the Indian Subcontinent. Delhi: Oxford University Press: 293-309.
- "The Brahmin and the fakir: Suburban religiosity in the cult of Shirdi Sai Baba." Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 14, No.2, May: 245-261.
- "Hot bodies and cooling substances: Rituals of sport in a science city." Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Vol. 23, No. 1, February: 24-40.
- “Inhabiting the body of the goddess: Urban form within the festival of Draupadi in Bangalore.” In Jackie Assayag, ed. The Resources of History: Tradition, Narration and Nation in South Asia. Paris and Pondichéry: École française d’ Extrême-Orient and Institut français de Pondichéry: 347-359.
- “Remembering the city: The incarnation of the goddess and the boundaries of the metropolis.” .Special issue, Jackie Assayag and Gilles Tarabout, eds. Possession in South Asia: Speech, Body and Territory. Purusartha,no. 21: 357-382.
- “Sai Baba: La double utilisation de l’écriture et de l’oralité dans un mouvement religieux moderne en Asie du Sud.” Diogenes, No. 187, Juillet-Septembre: 114-129.
- Translated and reprinted as: “Sai Baba: The double utilization of written and oral traditions in a modern south Asian religious movement.” Diogenes, No. 187, Vol. 47/3: 88-99.
- “The household, integration and exchange: Muslims and Buddhists in the Nubra valley.” In Henry Osmaston and Nawang Tsering, eds. Recent Research on Ladakh 6. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers: 251-280.
- “Witch possession in Nubra valley: The analysis of a case.” In Thierry Dodin and Heinz Räther, eds.Recent Research on Ladakh 7. Universitat Ulm: Ulmer Kulturanthropologische Schriften: 457-478.
- “On the religious imagination of the city.” Seminar (445): 43-47.
- “Conjunction, parallelism and cross-cutting ties among the Muslims of Ladakh.” The Tibet Journal, Vol. XX, No.3, Autumn: 71-95.
- “The dialogic mode, role reversal and fieldwork.” In Clive Thomson and Hans Raj Dua, eds. Dialogism and Cultural Criticism. London, Canada: Mestengo Press: 111-148.
- “The kindred and political patriliny: Two styles in extra-local integration in Nubra valley, Ladakh.”Sociological Bulletin, 43(2) September: 193-213.
- “New economic policy, voluntary organizations and rural poor.” (With G.S. Aurora et al.) Economic and Political Weekly, April 2: 787-788.
- “Hope on the horizon: A rapprochement.” Frontline, November 19: 52-55.
- “The lost horizon? Problems in a strategic spot.” Frontline, October 26 - November 8: 81- 87.