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Somak Biswas

My PhD looks at a network of major Indian figures such as Gandhi, Tagore, Vivekananda and their Anglo-American disciples in the late 19th/early 20th century colonial India. It looks at how such discipleships were forged, negotiated and sustained through the spatial sites of letters and ashrams (semi-monastic spaces). Part of my work looks at how these intimacies were forged and transformed through acts of letter writing and close-living in ashrams, and how categories such as race, class, caste and gender frame such articulations. The other part looks at how these intimacies were put into determinate practice through cultural nationalist deployments at home and abroad. The desire to articulate love, longing and loss for their mentors created a language of discipleship and racial inversion that was mapped onto projects around anti-indenture, Hinduism as Universal Religion and normalising the Indian migrant in the empire. It analyses how affective languages of love and longing are translated, mobilised and invoked in anti-colonial projects. I conceptualise the cultural politics of articulation manifest in these networks and identities, situating such affective processes at the heart of public political discursive formations.

I am currently supervised by Dr Sarah Hodges, at the Dept of History, Warwick. I have done my M.A (2013) and M.Phil (2015)degrees from the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Research Interests

Transnational History; Race, Gender, Caste and Sexuality; History of Emotions; Queer Studies; Feminist and Postcolonial Theory; Global histories of empire; South Asian cultural and religious history in late 19th/early 20th centuries, Dalit Histories, Public History.

Conference/Workshop Papers and Presentations

  • Convenor, Doctoral and ECR Workshop on 'Between & Beyond:Transnational Networks & the British Empire, Ca. 18-20th centuries', 21-22 June 2018.
  • India, Indenture and the Empire: Cultural Politics of a Transnational Discourse, 1904-1945, 7 February 2018, Research Seminar, ‘India, Empire and Identity’, London School of Economics on
  • October 2017: ‘Untouchable Pasts: The Lives and Afterlives of Academic and Popular Histories in India’, Public History Conference, University of Essex, UK.
  • March, 2017: Panel Discussant, ‘Reforming the Self: Gender and the Nation’, Young Scholars Conference: ‘Narratives of Embodiment’, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
  • December 2016: Participant, Winter School on ‘Gandhian Ideas and Thought’, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla.
  • September, 2015: ‘In Pursuit of an Ideal Space: Gender in Gandhi’s ashrams: 1925-1935’, CHS-Cambridge History Workshop, ‘Ideas in Practice’, Centre for Historical Studies (CHS), Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
  • May 2015: ‘Networks of Indophilia: C.F. Andrews, Sister Nivedita and their Ordeals of Love’, Third Asian Association of World Historians on ‘Migration in Global History: Peoples, Plants, Plagues, and Ports’, hosted at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, 29-31 .
  • April 2014: ‘Politics of affect in an age of empire: 1895-1915’, British Association of South Asian Studies Annual Conference, Royal Holloway College, University of London, London.
  • October, 2014: ‘From Noble to Nivedita: Sister Nivedita and her passages through India', Bengal Studies Conference, Martin Luther University, Halle, Germany

Co-Curricular Engagements/Experiences

• 2019 - Sessional Tutor, Transnational Media Ecologies, Dept of Sociology, University of Warwick

• 2018: Module Contributor, South Asia in Britain, University of Warwick

• 2018- Convener, Queer History Reading Group, University of Warwick

• 2018 - : Member, Centre for the Study of Women and Gender Seminar Committee, University of Warwick

• 2017- 2018: Academic Tutor, Realising Opportunities, University of Warwick

• 2017 - 2019 : Research Assistant, Wellcome Trust Project on Therapeutic Commodities: Trade, Transmission and the Material Culture of Global Medicine, Global History and Culture Centre, Warwick.

• 2018 - current: Member, Royal Historical Society, UK

• 2016 and 2017: Student Research Ambassador, Dept of History, University of Warwick.

• 13 Oct, 2016: Organised Panel Discussion and Performance event, #Kashmir2016: India and the Question of Kashmiri Sovereignty, Another India, University of Warwick.

• 1st February, 2016: Organised- India: No Country for Beef?, Film Screening and Panel Discussion event on contemporary South Asian politics, Another India, University of Warwick.

• 17th March 2016: Organised Times of the Nation: Being Anti-national in the Contemporary India, Panel Discussion event, University of Warwick.

• 2015 -Present: Member, University and College Union, UK

• June, 2014 - September 2015: Research Assistant to Uttara Shahani, Ph.D Scholar, Cambridge South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge .

• 5-7 Feb. 2014: Convener, Pathways in History, International Young Scholars Conference, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

• 2011-2015: Member, History Association, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
• 2011-2012: Student Representative, Student-Faculty Council, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.


  • 2017: Feminist Theory Workshop Travel Grant, Duke University, NC, U.S
  • 2016: PG Research Fund Bursary, Dept. of History, University of Warwick
  • 2015-2019: Chancellor’s International Scholar, University of Warwick.
  • 2013-2015: Rajeev Gandhi National Fellow, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • 2012: Qualified for Lecturership in the Indian University Grants Commission – National Eligibility Test.
  • 2011: 'Order of Merit’ for being First Class First in B.A (Hons.), History, by the University of Calcutta.
  • 2010: ‘Certificate of Honour for securing Highest marks in History Hons. Exam, Dept. of History, Presidency College, Calcutta.
  • 2010: Ashin Dasgupta Memorial Prize, Department of History, Presidency College, Calcutta.

Publications and Articles:

Language Skills:

Can speak, read and write fluently in English, Hindi, Bengali. Able to read and write in Sanskrit.



Office: H241, Dept of History, Humanities Building