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Sumathi Ramaswamy

James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of History
Box 90719, Duke University, Department of History, Durham, NC 27701
Dept of History, 325 Classroom Bldg, Durham, NC 27708


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 three edited volumes, Barefoot Across the Nation: Maqbool Fida Husain and the Idea of India (Routledge, 2010),  Empires of Vision (co-edited with Martin Jay, Duke University Press, 2014), and Motherland: Pushpamala N.'s Woman and Nation  (co-edited with Monica Juneja, 2022). 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 also led me in 2006 to co-establish Tasveerghar: A Digital Network of South Asian Popular Visual Culture.   For a number of years, I have also been working on a project on Gandhi and visual culture funded by the Humboldt Foundation which honored me in 2016 with the Annaliese Maier Research Award. In the sphere of public visual humanities, I published two works in 2020: Gandhi in the Gallery: The Art of Disobedience, and a digital project titled B is for Bapu: Gandhi in the Art of the Child in Modern India

I am also pursuing a research agenda on the cultures of learning in colonial and postcolonial India. As part of this agenda, I 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.

Current Appointments & Affiliations

James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of History · 2018 - Present History, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
Professor of History · 2007 - Present History, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
Chair of the Department of History · 2023 - Present History, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

Education, Training & Certifications

University of California, Berkeley · 1992 Ph.D.
University of Pennsylvania · 1986 M.A.
Jawaharlal Nehru University (India) · 1982 M.A.
University of Delhi (India) · 1980 B.A.