Sumathi Ramaswamy

Professor of History

Director, Duke Center for South Asian Studies

-- Duke University
HWL Affiliation: Humanities Lab, Steering Committee

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 these areas 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). I am also working on a pictorial monograph titled HUSAIN'S RAJ: POSTCOLONIAL VISIONS OF EMPIRE AND NATION (under contract to Marg, Mumbai). My work in popular visual history has also led me to co-establish Tasveerghar: A Digital Network of South Asian Popular Visual Culture at In recent years, I have also embarked on a new research agenda on the cultures and ethics of schooling and learning in colonial and postcolonial India. As a Fellow at the National Humanities Center in 2013-2014, I am completing a monograph titled TERRESTRIAL LESSONS: THE CONQUEST OF THE WORLD AS GLOBE, 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. Another 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.