Affiliated Graduate Students


Noaman Ali

Noaman Ali is a fifth-year PhD candidate in political science. His interests include agrarian political economy, state-society relations, and development. Noaman’s research examines the relationship between class relations and politics in Pakistan. In particular, he is looking at how certain peasant movements in north-western Pakistan have attempted to overcome the political determinants of inequalities in access to land and markets, what the outcomes of these struggles have been, and what such struggles can tell us about the nature of society and the state in Pakistan and post-colonial South Asia.


Ponni Arasu

Ponni Arasu is a queer feminist researcher and activist from Tamilnadu, India. She is a PhD student at the Department of History at the University of Toronto. She has an MA in History from Jawaharlal Nehru University and Bachelor’s in Law. Ponni has worked on issues related to sexuality, labour, law, and caste in South Asia as an activist, researcher, and legal practitioner. Her last major project was to initiate an archive of oral history on women in social movements in different parts of India in the 1970s. This project was commissioned by the Indian Association of Women Studies and Zubaan Books. Her PhD research addresses the history of Tamil Nadu in Southern India (1950–70), studying the formation of publics from a feminist perspective.

Oana Baboi

Oana Baboi’s doctoral project explores how 17th century European missionaries in Asia constructed medical knowledge. The focus of her research is Breve Compenio de Varias Receitas da Medicina, a compendium which belonged to the Fleming Jesuit François de Rougemont (Belgium, 1624-China, 1676). The manuscript contains an extraordinarily rich collection of botanical notes, healing recipes, diagnostic techniques and treatments gathered in his peregrinations from Portugal to Goa (India) and Macao (China), providing insights into the cross-cultural interactions with local networks through which missionaries acquired, reconfigured, and constructed knowledge of Indian and Chinese remedies and therapeutics.


Kalpesh Bhatt

In his doctoral project, Kalpesh Bhatt will examine how modern Hindu communities reinterpret pre-modern texts, such as the Bhagavad Gītā, and consequently create new meaning-making structures to grapple with their religious beliefs and practices on the one hand and everyday socioeconomic struggles on the other. Engaging with a recent methodological shift of synthesizing theology and anthropology in order to understand lived religion, Kalpesh will address two interwoven questions: 1) how an empirical Hindu theology provides a tensile structure for subjective interpretation and creative agency that engender multifaceted ways in which its neoliberal adherents continually reshape both their interior and exterior worlds; and 2) how subjective frameworks of these religious practitioners influence and are influenced by secular concerns of their daily life, especially in the context of increasing transnationalism.

Prasanta Dhar

In the conversations on global intellectual history, Prasanta Dhar‘s research foregrounds questions concerning the role of media in the circulation of ideas. He examines the global circulation of Marxism, one of the most circulated ideas of the twentieth century, seen from one of its most debated and highly charged sites, Calcutta, India. Dhar’s dissertation charts out the shift in media – from print to theater to cinema – used in the Marxist cultural movements, such as the IPTA. Apropos to the claims that media determines our life, arts and politics, his work shows how the way media functioned in public life was also shaped by the politics of the public.

Anwesha Ghosh

Anwesha Ghosh‘s research seeks to offer a new analytical framework to understand how governance works at the local level. Her work looks at the making of the modern municipality in colonial Calcutta. This work tells a story about local government practices of administration as a centrepiece amongst a broader set of stories about the idea of modernity — spatial and political — and throws light on urban life and ‘the city’ in India, historicizing gentrification, sanitization, tying them to the idea of economic governance.


Candis Haak

Candis Haak is a PhD candidate from the Department of Anthropology and she is studying the experiences that constitute sacred geographies. She examines the archaeological remains of the medieval Hindu empire of Vijaynagara, India, to investigate how the institution of pilgrimage engendered these social and sacred processes through interpretive GIS analysis.


Sean Hillman

Sean Hillman is a third year PhD student in the Department for the Study of Religion, with collaborative programs in Bioethics and South Asian Studies. His BA in East Asian Studies and MA in Buddhist Studies/Bioethics were also done at the University of Toronto. Sean spent over a decade as a hospital caregiver and Buddhist monk, ordained novice and full by H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama. In his 5 years in India so far he has studied at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, and the International School for Jain Studies. Sean’s research straddles Religious Studies and Medical Anthropology, with a strong interest in the interaction between religion and biomedicine in end-of-life decision making. His doctoral field-work will focus on Hindus, Jains, and Tibetan Buddhists in contemporary India. He is also developing a project in collaboration with a particular Pacific Coastal Aboriginal community where he has recently spent some time living with his wife Alex who has been nursing on the remote reserve. He hopes to contribute to existing health ethics guidelines to improve healthcare delivery to minority patient populations such as South Asians in diaspora and Canadian Aboriginals.

Prasad Khanolkar

Prasad Khanolkar’s doctoral research titled Slums as Urban Constellations; Tales from Toba Tek Nagar, Mumbai, asks three questions: What are the everyday practices through which slum residents assemble common urban spaces and infrastructures in a slum locality? What do these practices tell us about the ways in which religious and class-based minorities part-take in urban politics? And lastly, how can these practices help us rethink cities and city planning differently than the present hegemonic discourses of urbanization? Based on a year-long ethnographic study of local histories and everyday life in a Muslim dominated slum locality, this dissertation re-theorizes slums as an urban constellation. A constellation, it posits, is a montage of anachronistic fragments that coexist in a common space without necessarily identifying with a totality or being homogeneous. Through an ethnographic study of ‘common spaces’, where people wait, gather, argue, fight, discuss, vent, strike deals and plan their environment, Khanolkar shows how these contradictory spaces and the practices through which they get assembled point towards possible ways of doing away with the ends and partitions imposed onto slums in Indian cities today.

Nika Kuchuk

Nika Kuchuk is a doctoral student at the Department for the Study of Religion, affiliated with the Centre for South Asian Studies, and she holds a BA Honours in Psychology and an MA in Religious Studies from the University of Ottawa. Her research interests follow a trajectory of a multilingual, expatriate upbringing and a long-standing interest in intellectual histories, philosophy, modernity, and theories of the self, leading her to focus on transnational religion, particularly in the context of the intellectual and socio-political exchange between India and Europe/ North America. Her dissertation project investigates a fecund yet little-explored chapter of this exchange, by examining the role of three Western women who had become prominent religious figures in modern Vedantic movements (1870-1940), and whose life and works at the confluence of empire, counter-culture, activism, and mysticism continue to shape religious and socio-political realities even today. Focusing on Helena Blavatsky, Margaret Noble (Sister Nivedita), and Mirra Alfassa (The Mother, collaborator of Sri Aurobindo), this project will query the ways in which the legacies of their influence expose complex structures of translation and appropriation, the formation of religious and political identities, and networks of power and knowledge-production.


Elsie Lewison

Elsie Lewison is a third-year PhD student in geography. Her background is in critical development studies and she is currently pursuing research about her favourite food item, the apple, in one of her favourite places, Nepal. Her academic interests include agrarian studies working in, and out of, a gramscian tradition, cyborgs and feminist science and technology studies and governmental assemblages. Her research is concerned with agricultural development programs and their articulation in a volatile, post-conflict political landscape.

Jaby Mathew

Jaby Mathew is a PhD candidate in Department of Political Science. His research interests are Modern Indian political thought and intellectual history, Comparative Political Theory, theories of democracy, multiculturalism and secularism. His doctoral dissertation examines the different conceptions of political representation articulated by various actors and maps the debates among them during the colonial period in India and in the Constituent Assembly. In particular, he asks how these historical debates can provide insights into the issue of persistent under-representation of Muslims in Indian legislatures in the contemporary, and more broadly theories of group representation.

Victoria Sheldon

Victoria Sheldon is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology and Centre for South Asian Studies. She completed her MA in Anthropology and Centre for South Asian Studies from the University of Toronto, and her BA in Philosophy and Anthropology from the University of Alberta. Her research project investigates changing narratives of responsibility, the mind-body relationship, and ecology within the context of Nature Cure (prakrti jeevanam) treatments for rapidly-rising lifestyle illnesses in post-Development Kerala, south India. Her analysis of ‘natural’ practices and philosophies of care extends from the health-care domain to investigate the larger role of changing state-social relations, transnational Gandhian and popular science imagery, precarious kinship practices and migration patterns, discourses of corruption and environmental decay, and the rise of the consumer citizen.


Dalbir Singh

Dalbir Singh is a playwright and PhD candidate at the Centre for South Asian Studies as well as the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto. His publications have appeared in journals and anthologies such as “Canadian Theatre Review,” “Critical Perspectives on Canadian Theatre,” “Red Light,” and “She Speaks.” His plays have been performed at such venues as the Harbourfront Centre, Factory Theatre, and CBC Radio. He has previously co-edited an anthology of critical essays entitled “World Without Walls: Being Human, Being Tamil” (Tsar, 2011). He will serve as editor for two forthcoming anthologies from Playwright’s Canada Press, the first being a collection of post-colonial themed plays and the second a focus on Indo-Canadian theatre. His research interests are centred on questions of hybridity, nostalgia, and memory in contemporary South Asian Canadian theatre.


Stephanie Southmayd

Stephanie Southmayd is currently in her second year of the English doctoral program at the University of Toronto after completing a BA at the University of Toronto and an MA at Concordia University. Following a stint as an editor in Delhi, where she worked in the Indian outsourcing industry, she grew interested in the intersections of globalization, culture, and outsourced labour in recent Indo-Anglian literary and popular fiction.


Sundhya Walther

Sundhya Walther is a PhD candidate in English and South Asian Studies. Her research focuses on representations of animals in contemporary Indian fiction; she is specifically interested in the political and theoretical implications of the presence of multispecies living spaces in literature. More broadly, she explores the productive intersections of animal theory, posthumanism, and postcolonial studies.


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