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Uday Chandra, Assistant Professor, Government, Georgetown
Political Science; India
How long have you been a member of AAS?
Why did you join AAS and why would you recommend AAS to your colleagues?
AAS offers an interdisciplinary space in which scholars
working on different parts of Asia can enter into a range of productive
dialogues. That's why I joined and also why I recommend it to others.
How did you first become involved in Asian Studies?
I am from India, and my doctoral research at Yale focused
on history and politics in South Asia. So, I suppose I became involved in Asian
Studies by default or at least unwittingly. In 2011, in Honolulu, I organized my
first AAS panel on "rural modernities" in contemporary India. Since
then, I've missed only one AAS annual meeting.
What do you enjoy most or what have been your most rewarding experiences involving your work in Asian Studies?
I particularly enjoy attending panels outside my own areas of expertise, whether thematic or geographical. So, it was a truly rewarding experience to attend panels on, say, early historic South Asia or land politics in Southeast Asia. Through AAS, I have come to appreciate the rewards of reading and researching across conventional spatial and temporal barriers. I now teach an interdisciplinary course on inter-Asian connections, which reflects the insights I’ve gleaned over the past decade in Asian studies.
Tell us about your current or past research.
My doctoral research, which will form the basis of my
first book, traces how the notion of "tribe" has co-evolved with
modern statemaking processes in South Asia and beyond. Living among rural
Adivasi or "tribal" communities for thirty-six months in rural
Jharkhand, listening to their songs, stories and histories, and undertaking
fine-grained archival research in multiple archives, I show how these rural
communities negotiated their rights and entitlements with colonial and
postcolonial states. While these negotiations circumscribed the limits of
modern state power from below, they also remade forest communities as
"tribal" subjects of those states. Far from being vestiges of some
imaginary past, I argue, these "tribal" communities dwelling in the
margins of modern states ought to be recognized as moderns par excellence.
My current research takes me in two different directions:
(1) circular flows of labor migrants that remake rural and urban spaces and
define the social contours of capitalism in contemporary India, and (2) the
nature and emergence of vernacular forms of Christianity among the most
marginalized populations in South Asia since the mid-nineteenth century.
What advice or recommendation do you have for students interested in a career in Asian Studies?
I believe that one needs to engage deeply with the past
and present of the region in which one wishes to work. Long-term commitments of
this kind are not only more rewarding professionally, but they are also
personally enriching in a variety of ways, including those that are unexpected.
Outside of Asian Studies, tell us some interesting facts about yourself.
I have now lived nearly half my life outside Asia, and I
am increasingly drawn to the study of the interconnected histories that bind
Asian societies to other world regions, especially Europe and Africa.