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I am a medical and sociocultural anthropologist and interdisciplinary scholar working at the intersection of several fields including feminist, postcolonial and queer theories; religion and secularism; medicine and the body; and South Asia. My research projects in South India and the United States have roots in longstanding engagements with the politics of sexuality, gender and religion. These projects have focused in particular on the body as an artifact of culture and power in relation to questions of sexual subjectivity, social transformation and citizenship projects. I have conducted research in the US on sexual ‘risk’ and transsexual medicine and in South India on ‘sacred prostitution’ (devadasi dedication) and Dalit conversion to Buddhism.
My first book, Given to the Goddess: South Indian Devadasis and the Sexuality of Religion (Duke University Press, 2014), is an ethnography of a contemporary practice in which girls are married to a goddess. I take this ongoing practice and its reform as an occasion to consider what can count as religion and who and what marriage is for.
My current research focuses on religious conversion in the context of the revival of Buddhism in Karnataka, South India. Two major themes have emerged from this research thus far: the reconfiguration of the stigma of untouchability, and the assertion of a counter history of India. The book, provisionally entitled We Were Always Buddhist: Dalit Conversion and Sexual Modernity, will build on some of the central concerns of my first book—the politics of sexuality, religiosity and postcolonial governance— extending them into questions of embodiment and the uses of history.
- Religious Studies Program
- Asian Studies
- Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender studies
- ANTHR 1520 - Tamil Conversation in Context
- ANTHR 4520 - Society and Culture in the Nilgiris: Engaged Research in Rural South India
- ANTHR 4910 - Independent Study: Undergrad I
- ANTHR 4920 - Independent Study: Undergrad II
- ANTHR 4984 - Honors Thesis Write-Up
- ANTHR 7530 - South Asia: Readings in Special Problems
- ANTHR 7900 - Department of Anthropology Colloquium
- ANTHR 7910 - Independent Study: Grad I
- ANTHR 7920 - Independent Study: Grad II
- ANTHR 7930 - Independent Study: Grad III
Given to the Goddess: South Indian Devadasis and the Sexuality of Religion (Duke University Press, 2014).
Conjugality and Beyond: Sexual Economy, State Regulation and the Marital Form in India, edited with Srimati Basu (Women Unlimited Press, 2015).
“Clinical Encounters and Citizenship Projects” Medical Anthropology: Cross Cultural Studies in Health and Illness, November 2014, Vol. 33 (6).
“Troubling Kinship: Sacred Marriage and Gender Configuration in South India” American Ethnologist, November 2013, Vol. 40 (4).
“When the Devi is Your Husband: Sacred Marriage and Sexual Economy in South India” Feminist
Studies, Spring 2011, Vol. 37 (1).
“Magical Hair as Dirt: Ecstatic Bodies and Postcolonial Reform in South India” Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, December 2009, Vol. 33 (4).