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Dr Somak Biswas

I received my Doctorate in April 2020.
My PhD thesis is entitled 'Indian Gurus, Western Disciples and the transnational politics of Indophilia'. It looks at how networks of western discipleship were mobilised for a series of representative projects around India and Indians in the early 20th century. I show that these discipleships, produced through a series of complex affective practices and protocols, were inevitably inflected by the caste/class/religious presumptions contingent to their mentors’ worlds. Bringing themes such as intimacy, discipleship and migration together, I argue that Indophile deployments around transnational projects such as the abolition of indenture and global Hinduism, while often anti-colonial, were not necessarily emancipatory. Rooted in a politics of respectability, they insistently sought to produce and normalise an idea of India that was often itself hegemonic in formation. Indophiles were instrumentalised for a set of ‘worlding’ projects that sought to settle a ‘cultured’ and honourable idea of India for a largely (but not only) western audience and geographies. In this, they reproduced the very hierarchies of race, class and caste that they were supposedly seeking to transgress.
Currently I am working on a Coventry City of Culture funded project entitled 'Queer and Coloured'. It looks at historical narratives of queer immigrants of colour in the city of Coventry since the 1970s and the ways they have sought to identify, invest and integrate within the city and its diverse subcultures. I am also developing my next project on Transnational Hinduism, that will explore the making of Hinduism as a global culture discourse in the later half of the 20th century, in the backdrop of intensifying labour immigration from India to Britain and north America.
Research Interests
Transnational and Global History; Migration; Race, Gender, Caste and Sexuality; History of Emotions; Queer Studies; Feminist and Postcolonial Theory; modern South Asia, Dalit Histories, Public History, Decolonisation.

Education

April 2020 PhD, Department of History, University of Warwick, entitled Passages Through India: Indian Gurus, Western Disciples and the Cultural Politics of Intimacy: 1890-1940. (Thesis Supervisor: Prof Sarah Hodges, History)

Aug 2013–’15 Master of Philosophy, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. (Thesis Supervisors: Profs Tanika Sarkar and Radhika Singha)

July 2013 Master of Arts Degree, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Memberships

  • 2020- now: Member, Global History and Culture Centre, Warwick
  • 2018- 2019: Founder and Convener, Queer History Reading Group, University of Warwick
  • 2018 - current: Member, Royal Historical Society, UK
  • 2015 -Present: Member, University and College Union, UK

Employment:

  • April-Dec 2020: Early Career Fellow, Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Warwick
  • Autumn Term, 2018-present: Module Contributor and Guest Lecturer, ‘South Asia in Britain’, Institute of Advanced Teaching and Learning, University of Warwick
  • Oct 2019- present: Associate Tutor, Dept of History, Warwick
  • Oct 2019 - present: Sessional Tutor, Dept of Sociology, Warwick
  • 2018- 2019: Sessional Tutor, Dept of Sociology, Warwick
  • 2017-2018: Academic Tutor, Realising Opportunities, Warwick

Academic Awards (selective):

  • 2020-2022: Past and Present Junior Research Fellowship, Institute of Historical Studies, University of London.
  • 2019- 2020: Coventry City of Culture Grant, Project: ‘Queer and Coloured: Asylums, Islamophobia and LGBT movements in Coventry, 1970-2010’
  • 2015-’19: Chancellor’s International Scholarship for Doctoral Studies, University of Warwick
  • 2019-2021: International Partnership Award for Institutional Collaboration between Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and Global History Centre, Warwick.
  • 2016-2019: Global History and Culture Centre Conference Award(£3000), Humanities Research Centre Conference Award (£500), Economic History Society Conference Grant (£1000), Global Research Priorities, Warwick: Connecting Cultures (£1000) and Another India (£500); HRC: Passions Workshop Research Grant (£500)
  • 2017: Feminist Theory Workshop Travel Grant, Duke University, NC, U.S
  • 2014-’15: Rajeev Gandhi National Fellowship for Minorities, Government of India.
  • 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:

 

  • In Preparation: ‘Vedanta and Its Variables: Vivekananda, Western Disciples and the Making of Modern Hinduism’, To be submitted to Modern Asian Studies.
  • In Preparation: ‘India, Indophiles, Indenture: Cultural Politics of a Transnational Discourse’, To be submitted to Journal of Global History.
  • ‘From Noble to Nivedita: Sister Nivedita and her Passages Through India’, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 75, Platinum Jubilee (2014), pp 790-797
  • ‘Claiming a History: The 2012 Cartoon Controversy and Public History Debates in Contemporary India’, The Journal of the Ever Present Past, ESTRO Vol 10 No 2 April 2019

Impact

  • ‘Queer’ in Asia, October 2019, Queer History Warwick, https://queerhistorywarwick.wordpress.com/2019/11/01/event-review-queer-asia-book-launch/
  • ‘Between and Beyond: Transnational Networks and the British Empire (18th-20th Century): Notes from a Workshop’, Global History and Culture Centre, Warwick, 25 September 2018
  • 'Dalit movements across India will be a front against hegemonic nationalism', Hindustan Times, New Delhi, 18 April 2018.

 Invited Seminars and Talks:

  • Jan 2020: Seminar: ‘Vedanta and its Variables’, World History Workshop, Cambridge.
  • May 2019: Chair, Roundtable on ‘Hindutva: Trans/National and Global Narratives of Hindu Nationalism’, Warwick.
  • February 2018: ‘India, Indenture and the Empire: Cultural Politics of a Transnational Discourse, 1904-1945’, Dept of International History, LSE
  • March, 2017, Panel Discussant, ‘Reforming the Self’, Young Scholars Conference on Narratives of Embodiment, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.
  • 2016 and 2017: Student Research Ambassador, Dept of History, University of Warwick.

 Events/Conferences Organised

  • March 2019: Convenor, ‘British Empire: Networks, Mobilities, Cultures’, Warwick;
  • June 2018: Convenor, 'Between & Beyond: Transnational Networks & the British Empire, Ca. 18-20th centuries', Global History Centre, Warwick
  • Nov 2019: ‘Race Matters: Race and the Global Writing of History’, Global History Annual Conference, University of Warwick, UK
  • Oct 2016: Organised Panel Discussion and Performance event, #Kashmir2016: India and the Question of Kashmiri Sovereignty, Another India, University of Warwick.
  • March 2016: Organised Times of the Nation: Being Anti-national in the Contemporary India, Panel Discussion event, University of Warwick.


Presentations (Selective)
:

  • June 2018: ‘Indenture: Cultural Politics of a Transnational Discourse’, Global History Conference, Freie Universitat, Berlin, Germany.
  • June 2018: ‘Cartographies of the Self: Indian Gurus, Western disciples and the Politics of Epistolary Articulation’, University of Sheffield, UK.
  • December 2016: Participant, Winter School on ‘Gandhian Ideas and Thought’, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, India.
  • 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, India.

 

Research Assistance/Administration

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

 

Languages

Hindi, English, Bengali (fluent speaking, reading and writing), Sanskrit (fluent reading and writing).

profile pic somak
Office: H241, Dept of History
Humanities Building, University of Warwick

Institiutional email:

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