Sumathi Ramaswamy

Sumathi Ramaswamy

James B. Duke Professor of History

External address: 
Dept Of History, 325 Carr Bldg, Box_90719, Durham, NC 27708
Internal office address: 
Box 90719, Duke University, Department Of History, Durham, NC 27701
Phone: 
(919) 684-5764

Overview

I am a cultural historian of South Asia and the British Empire and my research over the last few years has been largely in the areas of visual studies, the history of cartography, and gender. My recent publications in this area include The Goddess and the Nation: Mapping Mother India (Duke University Press, 2010); and two edited volumes, Barefoot Across the Nation: Maqbool Fida Husain and the Idea of India (Routledge, 2010), and Empires of Vision (co-edited with Martin Jay, Duke University Press, 2014). My pictorial monograph titled Husain's Raj: Visions of Empire and Nation was published in 2016 by Marg, Mumbai. My work in popular visual history led me in 2006 to co-establish Tasveerghar: A Digital Network of South Asian Popular Visual Culture.  More recently, in collaboration with Heidelberg Sinologist Barbara Mittler, I have started  a comparative project titled, "No Parallel?: The Fatherly Bodies of Gandhi and Mao."  This project has been funded by the Humboldt Foundation which honored me in 2016 with the Annaliese Maier Research Award.

I am also pursuing a new research agenda on the cultures of learning in colonial and postcolonial India. As part of this agenda, I have recently published a monograph titled Terrestrial Lessons: The Conquest of the World as Globe (University of Chicago Press, 2017), in which I explore the debates in colonial India about the shape and disposition of the earth in the universe and examine the course of science education conducted around the terrestrial globe as a pedagogic object as it enters Indian schools. 

A second project tentatively titled "A Strange Kindness? Giving & Learning in Tamil India," draws upon my experience as Program Officer for Education, Arts & Culture for the Ford Foundation in New Delhi (2002-2005). It charts the ethical, economic and political impulses that have governed private philanthropy directed towards the establishment of colleges and universities across Tamil India from the 19th century into the present.

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley 1992

  • M.A., University of Pennsylvania 1986

  • M.A., Jawaharlal Nehru University (India) 1982

  • B.A., University of Delhi (India) 1980

Selected Grants

Anneliese Maier Research Award awarded by Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2016 to 2021

Cartography and Creativity in the Age of Global Empire awarded by Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2012

Barefoot Across India: Art & The Politics of Risk awarded by Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2009 to 2010

Fellowships, Supported Research, & Other Grants

Senior Short-Term Fellow awarded by American Institute of Indian Studies (2015)

Duke Endowment Fellow awarded by National Humanities Center (2013)

Directeur d'etudes invite à l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales awarded by l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris (2011)

Senior Short-Term Fellow awarded by American Institute of Indian Studies (2010)

Shivdasani Fellow awarded by Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies (2008)

Franklin Research Grant awarded by American Philosophical Society (2007)

Fellow awarded by John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2001)

Fredrick Burkhardt Residential Fellowship awarded by American Council of Learned Societies (2001)

Advanced Research Grant awarded by Social Science Research Council (1997)

Ramaswamy, S. Terrestrial Lessons: The Conquest of the World as Globe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017. (Monograph)

Ramaswamy, S. Husain's Raj: Visions of Empire and Nation in Postcolonial India. Mumbai: Marg Publishers, 2016. (Monograph)

Visual Homes, Image Worlds: Essays from Tasveer Ghar, the House of Pictures. Edited by C Brosius, S Ramaswamy, and Y Saeed. New Delhi: Yoda Press, 2015. (Edited Book)

Empires of Vision: A Reader. Edited by M Jay and S Ramaswamy. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014. (Edited Book)

Ramaswamy, S. The Goddess and the Nation: Mapping Mother India. Durham: Duke University Press, 2010. (Monograph)

Barefoot across the Nation: Maqbool Fida Husain and the Idea of India. Edited by S Ramaswamy. London: Routledge, 2010. (Edited Book)

Beyond Appearances?: Visual Practices and Ideologies in Modern India. Edited by S Ramaswamy. New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2003. (Edited Book)

Ramaswamy, S. Passions of the Tongue: Language Devotion in Tamil India, 1891-1970. University of California Press, Berkeley, 1997.

Ramaswamy, S. "V. Geetha and S.V. Rajadurai, Towards a Non-Brahmin Millennium: From Iyothee Thass ro Periyar (Calcutta: Samya, 1998)." The Indian Economic and Social History Review 37, no. 1 (2000): 97-99.

Pages

Ramaswamy, S. "Art on the Line: Cartography and Creativity in a Divided India (In preparation)." In Mapping the Transition from Colony to Nation,edited by J Akerman. University of Chicago Press, 2017. (Chapter)

Ramaswamy, S, Brosius, C, and Saeed, Y. "Visual Homes, Image Worlds: A Guided Tour Through Our House of Pictures." In Visual Homes, Image Worlds: Essays from Tasveer Ghar, the House of Pictures,edited by C Brousius, S Ramaswamy, and Y Saeed, 1-13. New Delhi: Yoda Press, 2015. (Chapter)

Ramaswamy, S. "Artful Mapping in Bazar India." In Visual Homes, Image Worlds: Essays from Tasveer Ghar, the House of Pictures,edited by C Brosius, S Ramaswamy, and Y Saeed, 50-67. New Delhi: Yoda Press, 2015. (Chapter)

Ramaswamy, S, and Jay, M. "Postcolonial Looking." In Empires of Vision: A Reader,edited by M Jay and S Ramaswamy, 377-391. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014. (Introduction)

Ramaswamy, S, and Jay, M. "The Imperial Optic." In Empires of Vision: A Reader,edited by M Jay and S Ramaswamy, 25-43. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014. (Introduction)

Ramaswamy, S. "The Work of Vision in the Age of European Empires." In Empires of Vision: A Reader,edited by M Jay and S Ramaswamy, 1-22. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014. (Chapter)

Ramaswamy, S. "Global Encounters, Earthly Knowledges, Worldly Selves." In L’Inde des Lumières: Discours, Histoire, Savoirs (XVIIe-XIXe siècle),edited by M Fourcade and I Zupanov, 359-391. EHESS, Paris, January 2013.

Ramaswamy, S. "The Work of Goddesses in the Age of Mass Reproduction." In Transcultural Turbulences: Towards a Multi-Sited Reading of Image Flows,edited by C Brosius and R Wenzlhuemer, 191-220. Springer Verlag, 2011.

Ramaswamy, S. "Barefoot across India: An Artist and his Country." In Barefoot across the Nation: Maqbool Fida Husain and the Idea of India,edited by S Ramaswamy, 1-20. London: Routledge, 2010. (Introduction)

Ramaswamy, S. "Mapping India after Husain." In Barefoot across the Nation: Maqbool Fida Husain and the Idea of India,edited by S Ramaswamy, 75-99. London: Routledge, 2010. (Chapter)

Pages

RAMASWAMY, S, and OSELLA, F. "Charity and Philanthropy in South Asia: A preamble." Modern Asian Studies 52, no. 01 (January 2018): 1-3. Full Text

RAMASWAMY, S. "Giving Becomes Him: The posthumous fortune(s) of Pachaiyappa Mudaliar." Modern Asian Studies 52, no. 01 (January 2018): 35-61. Full Text Open Access Copy

Ramaswamy, S. "The Wretched of the Nation." Third Text 31, no. 2-3 (May 4, 2017): 213-237. Full Text Open Access Copy

Ramaswamy, S. "Conceit of the Globe in Mughal India." Comparative Studies in Society and History 49, no. 4 (2007): 751-782. (Academic Article)

Ramaswamy, S. "Beyond appearances? Visual practices and ideologies in modern India - Introduction." CONTRIBUTIONS TO INDIAN SOCIOLOGY 36, no. 1-2 (2002): VII-XII. (Introduction)

Ramaswamy, S. "Maps and mother goddesses in modern India." Imago Mundi 53 (January 2001): 97-114. Full Text

Ramaswamy, S. "Remains of the race: Archaeology, nationalism, and the yearning for civilisation in the Indus valley." INDIAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL HISTORY REVIEW 38, no. 2 (2001): 105-145. Full Text

Ramaswamy, S. "Catastrophic cartographies: Mapping the lost continent of Lemuria." Representations 67 (December 1, 2000): 92-129. (Review)

Ramaswamy, S. "History at land's end: Lemuria in Tamil spatial fables." JOURNAL OF ASIAN STUDIES 59, no. 3 (August 2000): 575-602. Full Text

Pages

"Charity and Philanthropy in South Asia." Edited by Ramaswamy, S and Osella, F. Modern Asian Studies 52, no. 1 (2018). (Special Issue)

"Beyond Appearances? Visual Practices and Ideologies in Modern India." Edited by Ramaswamy, S. Contributions to Indian Sociology 36, no. 1&2 (2002). (Special Issue)

Ramaswamy, S. "Going Global in Mughal India: A Digital Muraqqa." (October 2014). (Digital Edition)

Ramaswamy, S. "Bhārat Mātā." (2012). (Digital Edition)

Ramaswamy, S. "Artful Mapping in Bazaar India." (March 2011). (Digital Edition)

Ramaswamy, S. "Midnight’s Line." Edited by I Dadi and H Nasar. Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space (2012): 25-35. (Essay)

Ramaswamy, S. "Doing Pictorial History at the Roja Muthiah Research Library." Māṟṟuvēli 4 (2010): 82-89. (Academic Article)

Ramaswamy, S. "The Politics of Prayer." Frontline (1999): 92-93. (Scholarly Commentary)

Ramaswamy, S. "Ancient Indians in Southeast Asia: Plying the Eastern Trade Route." The India Magazine (December 1982). (Scholarly Commentary)

Pages

Iconic Interruptions, Selected Works of Gigi Scaria. Curator. https://sites.duke.edu/iconicinterruptions/ (2017)

Abstract

or the secular citizen-artist of our times, is the inheritance of the twentieth century a burden to be overcome, or a gift to be embraced? Iconic Interruptions explores this question with the help of some select works of Indian artist Gigi Scaria who lives and works in New Delhi. Over the past two decades, Scaria’s lens-and-screen based works have exposed with deep insight and searing irony the catastrophic outcome of runaway urbanization, environmental degradation, and human displacement, but at the heart of it all lies an abiding concern with the state of the Indian nation, forged and fostered over the course of the last seventy years and yet clearly in the artist’s vision in a state of crisis, especially with the consolidation of a majoritarian nationalism and the retreat from a vaunted pluralism. Occupying the cusp of what he has characterized as ‘the burdened past and the disconnected future,’ Scaria periodically recalls the iconic figure of the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, to interrupt a triumphal neo-liberal narrative of India 2.0 that has gained traction in recent years.[1] Yet such a reactivation is not without an aesthetic awareness of the inevitable fate that awaits such founding figures and master men, be they Gandhi or Mao, Lenin or Stalin. Yesterday’s heroes and today’s icons are tomorrow’s relics, ‘a new layer of debris glittering on old trash.’ [2] Curated by historian Sumathi Ramaswamy with the assistance of Katie King, Iconic Interruptions is a compelling reminder that artists like Gigi Scaria are conscience keepers of our times, as they are also creators against the grain of inherited pasts and foretold futures.

Going Global in Mughal India. Curator. Mughal muraqqa' project (2014)

Abstract

This project uses the tools of digital humanities to track the itineraries of the terrestrial globe in Mughal India. Supported by grants from the Arts and Sciences Committee on Faculty Research and the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University, I have undertaken this project as a cultural historian interested in documenting cartographic practices in the Indian subcontinent. Using Turning the Pages™ software, I have assembled imperial Mughal paintings from the seventeenth century in a digital album (muraqqa’) that showcases "the calculated display” of the globe of the earth within the frame of each work. I have also been concerned in this project in making available to a wider public a specific set of highly-specialized arguments regarding the arrival of the terrestrial globe as an object and as representation in India. Not least, this project uses the new tools of digital humanities to explore both the promise—and the limits—of online scholarship and curatorial work.

Spring 2019

Private Wealth & Public Giving (HISTORY 123)
LSRC A247, MW 03:05 PM-04:20 PM

Fall 2018

Gtwy: Gandhi, King, Mandela (HISTORY 163S)
Perkins 079, Tu 03:05 PM-05:35 PM

Fall 2017

Private Wealth & Public Giving (HISTORY 123)
Carr 240, TuTh 04:40 PM-05:55 PM
Camera Asia (HISTORY 530S)
Perkins 085, M 03:05 PM-05:35 PM

Spring 2015

Modern & Global India (HISTORY 218)
West Duke 106, TuTh 03:05 PM-04:20 PM

Fall 2014

Topics In Focus Program (HISTORY 190FS)
Biddle 101, TuTh 10:05 AM-11:20 AM