Southern Asia

David Boyk | Assistant Professor of Instruction, Department of Asian Languages and Cultures

Program Area(s):  Southern Asia

David Boyk teaches courses in Hindi-Urdu language, literature, and film. He received his Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2015. His research interests include the history of Hindi and Urdu language and literature, as well as urban and regional history in South Asia. His dissertation, “Provincial Urbanity: Intellectuals and Public Life in Patna, 1880-1930,” examined Patna, a city in the north Indian region of Bihar, and showed how it retained its vitality, particularly in Urdu literary culture, even as it was increasingly seen as a part of the “mofussil,” or provinces. Before coming to Northwestern in 2016, Boyk taught in the History department at the University of California, Berkeley.

Laura Brueck

Program Area(s):  Southern Asia

I learned that the power of narrative is not only to describe experience and inspire feeling, but also to challenge and upend social stagnation and injustice”

I did not start my study of Hindi and South Asian literatures and cultures in earnest until graduate school, but my path there was shaped by courses I took as an undergraduate in both religion and comparative literature.  In those courses – some explicitly about South Asia and others not – I learned that the power of narrative is not only to describe experience and inspire feeling, but also to challenge and upend social stagnation and injustice.  I experienced this power reading literary narratives of the life of Muhammad, Latin American testimonios, 19th century French farcical theatre, and 20th century African American novels.  Without question, however, I came to understand this power most intensely in an introductory South Asian Civ course while reading translated Marathi language Dalit (formerly “untouchable”) poetry that rages against a casteist hierarchy in wincingly stark and violent language that compels its audience to contend with the difficult realities of social inequality.  We covered this literature in just two classes, over one week of one semester in one of my courses.  Yet it has shaped my course of academic inquiry ever since.

I began to pursue Dalit literature in earnest while studying intensive Hindi language in India one summer in graduate school, and making the happy discovery that one of the Dalit authors I was reading lived in the same small town in Rajasthan where I was staying.  I immediately took an autorickshaw to her house and introduced myself.  I asked about her novels, her activism, and her family.  Over the course of many conversations and cups of chai with her, I discovered that I was most deeply engaged with questions about literature whose contemporary social context I took could investigate. A few years later I expanded my research to the literary hub of Delhi, immersing myself in the vibrant world of Dalit literature and social activism.  It is here I have continued to work and make deep personal connections and lasting friendships with many of Dalit literature’s authors and purveyors.  I am particularly proud of the recent publication of my English translations of the Hindi short stories by Ajay Navaria (Unclaimed Terrain, Navayana, 2013), a particularly innovative and challenging contemporary author and good friend.  In producing these translations, I feel I have begun to contribute in some small way to a community of intellectuals and activists whose work and words have inspired me since those first, brief engagements with them as an undergraduate.

Brannon Ingram | Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies

Program Area(s):  Southern Asia

Brannon Ingram is a specialist in Islamic Studies, with a focus on Sufism and modern South Asia. He received his B.A. from Reed College, his M.A. in Islamic Studies from Leiden University, and his Ph.D. in Religious Studies (2011) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Brannon’s research engages with transnational and translocal flows of people, texts and ideas in the global Muslim South (particularly between South Asia and Southern Africa), and how these flows have upended traditional forms and structures of authority in Islam. His current research examines how the global Deobandi network of Islamic seminaries (madrasas) have shaped debates about Sufism and Islamic ethics, how Deobandi scholars sought to implement their reformist vision of Islam in the colonial Indian public sphere via popular texts written for a lay Muslim audience, and how the Tablighi Jama`at (now the world’s largest Muslim revivalist organization) emerged out of Deoband’s reformist project. Other research interests include the history of Western representations of the ‘mystical’ in Islam, particularly via European engagements with Islam in colonial India. His research has been supported by the Fulbright program, the Social Science Research Council, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.His teaching interests include the introduction to Islam, Sufism, the Qur’an, Islamic Reform and Revivalism, and Islamic South Asia.

Sarah Jacoby | Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies

Program Area(s):  Southern Asia; Central, Western and Inner Asia

Sarah Jacoby studies Asian Religions with a specialization in Tibetan Buddhism. She received her B.A. from Yale University, majoring in women's studies, and her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Virginia's Department of Religious Studies. She joined Northwestern University in 2009 after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at Columbia University. Her research interests include Indo-Tibetan Buddhist doctrine and ritual in practice, studies in gender and sexuality, Tibetan literature, autobiography studies, Buddhist revelation, the history of emotions, Buddhism in contemporary Tibet, and eastern Tibetan area studies. She is the co-chair of the Tibetan and Himalayan Religions Group at the American Academy of Religion. She is the author of Love and Liberation: Autobiographical Writings of the Tibetan Buddhist Visionary Sera Khandro (Columbia UP, 2014). She is the co-author of Buddhism: Introducing the Buddhist Experience (Oxford UP, 2014) and the co-editor of Buddhism Beyond the Monastery: Tantric Practices and Their Performers in Tibet and Himalayas (Brill, 2009).

Courses she teaches include “Introduction to Buddhism,” “Buddhism and Gender,” “Buddhist Auto/biography,” “Tibetan Religion and Culture,” “Theory and Methods in the Study of Religion,” “Religion, Sexuality, and Celibacy,” and “Feminist Theory and the Study of Religion.”

Rajeev Kinra | Associate Professor, Department of History

Program Area(s):  Southern Asia; Central, Western and Inner Asia

Rajeev Kinra specializes in South Asian intellectual history, particularly in early modern north India. His research draws on several linguistic traditions (including Persian, Hindi-Urdu, and Sanskrit), and speaks to a number of related themes: literary and political culture; modes of cultural translation and religious dialogue; memory and historiography; literary periodization and canonicity; Orientalist constructions of the past; and the South Asian imperial imagination, from antiquity to the present. Many of these themes are explored in his dissertation, “Secretary-Poets in Mughal India and the Ethos of Persian: The Case of Chandar Bhan ‘Brahman’”, which examines the life, Persian writings, and cultural-historical milieu of the celebrated Mughal litterateur, Chandar Bhan ‘Brahman’—who rose from a provincial clerkship in seventeenth-century Punjab all the way to the rank of imperial Chief Secretary (mir munshi) during the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan (the famous builder of the Taj Mahal, r. 1628-58). Each chapter treats some facet of Chandar Bhan’s writings and related historical or literary materials as a focal point from which to address matters of more general concern for our understanding of the long trajectory of Indo-Persian literary culture and history. In addition to review articles and opinion pieces, his current publications include “The World the Mughals Made,” an instructional manual chapter for the Longman’s Anthology of World Literature (edited by Sheldon Pollock), and he has three articles in preparation: on Dara Shukoh’s eclectic 17th-century cultural circle; on the framework of literary-historical periodicity in the Mughal poetics of taza-gu’i (“speaking the fresh/new”); and on the deep history of virtue and ethics as articulated in Indo-Persian secretarial culture.

Ashish Koul | Assistant Professor, Department of History

Program Area(s):  Southern Asia

Ashish Koul specializes in the history of South Asia from the eighteenth century to the present. Her research investigates the historical processes through which collective identities take shape and transform in colonial and post-colonial contexts. Her current book project, provisionally entitled “The Politics of Muslim Caste: Arains in Twentieth Century South Asia,” examines the intertwining of caste, religion, and politics in the historical trajectory of a South Asian Muslim community called the Arains. Paying attention to changing ideas about history and genealogy, religious practice, and political representation, her book analyzes articulations of Arain identity during a period when this community, and South Asia as a region, witnessed the transition from British colonial rule to post-colonial nationhood.

Robert Linrothe | Associate Professor, Department of Art History

Program Area(s):  Eastern/Southeastern Asia; Southern Asia; Central, Western and Inner Asia

Robert Linrothe received a Ph. D. in Art History from the University of Chicago. In 2008-2009 he was a Scholar-in-Residence at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. Through his field work, Prof. Linrothe has become a specialist in the Buddhist art of the Himalayas. He has concentrated on the pre-modern mural painting of Ladakh and Zangskar (Indian Himalayas) and the contemporary revival of monastic painting in Amdo (China, northeastern cultural Tibet).From 2002 – 2004, Prof. Linrothe served as the inaugural curator of Himalayan art at the Rubin Museum of Art [RMA] which opened to the public in October of 2004. During his tenure at RMA, Prof. Linrothe authored two catalogs to coincide with the museum's opening exhibitions: Paradise & Plumage: Chinese Connections in Tibetan Arhat Painting; and, with Jeff Watt, Demonic Divine: Himalayan Art and Beyond. A third, Holy Madness: Portraits of Tantric Siddhas was published in 2006. Recently, an essay on the early 17th century Central Tibetan paintings directed by Taranatha was published in Artibus Asiae, an article entitled "Skirting the Bodhisattva: Fabricating Visionary Art," appeared in the on-line journal, Etudes mongoles et siberiennes, centrasiatiques et tibetaines; an article on murals in Ladakh and Zangskar will be in the forthcoming (fall 2013) Archives of Asian Art, and an article on early photography in western Tibet will appear in summer of 2013 in Photography's Orientalism: New Essays on colonial Representations published by the Getty Research Institute. 

In February 2013, he presented a paper on petroglyphs in the western Himalaya, "Montane Metonyms: Ibex in/as Landscape" at the College Art Association annual conference in New York, and in April 2013 he presented research on an illuminated manuscript of 17th century Zangskar at the International Association of Ladakh Studies conference in Heidelberg. He is currently working with the Block Museum of Art and Rubin Museum of Art (New York) on an exhibition titled "Collecting Kashmir: its Buddhist Art and Legacy in Western Tibet and the West" opening in January 2015.

Daniel Majchrowicz | Assistant Professor, Department of Asian Languages and Cultures

Program Area(s):  Southern Asia

Daniel Majchrowicz joined the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures as Assistant Professor of South Asian Literature and Culture in 2015. He received his  Ph.D. in the Histories and Cultures of Muslim Societies in South Asia from Harvard University in the same year. His research interests include Urdu literature, travel writing, the history of Islam in South Asia, sociolinguistics and language politics, and comparative literature. His current project is a history of the idea of travel in South Asia as it found expression in Urdu, Hindi and Indo-Persian travel writing of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This work, tentatively titled “’The Means to Victory’: Travel Writing and Aspiration in Modern South Asia” examines how the travel account become an independent genre of literature even as it took up an increasingly visible role in the intellectual and political life in India and Pakistan. 

This Fall, Daniel Majchrowicz will begin a three-year project entitled “Veiled Voyagers: Muslim Women Travelers from Asia and the Middle East” with the support of the Leverhulme Trust. The project is lead by Siobhan Lambert-Hurley (Sheffield University, UK) and Sunil Sharma (Boston University). Veiled Voyagers will recover, translate and analyze Muslim women’s travel writing from a range of languages in order to draw out the gendered relationships that inhere between travel and Muslim identities, nationalism, and the shaping of global power. The project’s final output will include an annotated book edition, as well as an online repository of Muslim women’s travel texts in both the original and translation. Majchrowicz’s own contribution to the project will focus particularly on accounts from South Asia. ​

Mark McClish | Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies

Program Area(s):  Southern Asia

Mark McClish specializes in classical Hinduism, with a focus on early legal and political literature (dharmaśāstra and arthaśāstra). He holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Indiana University and an M.A. and Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin in Asian Cultures and Languages with a specialization in Sanskrit and Indian Religions.

His research uses a close reading of text to explore the intersection of the religious, legal, and political in classical Sanskrit literature. He is particularly interested in the relationship between royal and religious authority in classical South Asia, the development of Hindu law, and the political dimensions of Brahmanical orthodoxy in the period. McClish’s current research uses a diachronic analysis of the Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya, a first century Sanskrit treatise on statecraft, as a means of understanding how the text bears witness to the appropriation and transformation of legal and political discourses as cornerstones of a newly resurgent Brahmanical orthodoxy in the period. Other research interests include textual criticism, explorations of the religious and the political in South Asian history, and the relationship between Hinduism and law.

He is the co-author of The Arthaśāstra: Selections from the Classic Indian Work on Statecraft (Hackett, 2012) and is currently completing a manuscript examining the textual history of the Arthaśāstra. In addition to other projects, he is co-translating the Mitākara of Vijñāneśvara, a 12th century Sanskrit legal commentary. His research has been supported by the European Research Council (SAW-ERC) and Fulbright, among other organizations.

His areas of teaching include Hinduism, religion in classical India, Hindu law, and politics and religion.

Selected Works:

‘The Four Feet of Legal Procedure and the Origins of Jurisprudence in Ancient India.’ (w/ Patrick Olivelle) Journal of the American Oriental Society 135.1 (2015): 33-47.

‘The Dependence of Manu’s Seventh Chapter on Kauṭilya’s Arthaśāstra’ Journal of the American Oriental Society134.2 (2014): 241-262.

The Arthaśāstra: Selections from the Classic Indian Work on Statecraft. Tr. with introduction and notes by Mark McClish and Patrick Olivelle. Cambridge: Hackett Publishing, 2012.

‘Is the Arthaśāstra a Mauryan Document’ in Reimagining Aśoka. Patrick Olivelle, Janice Leoshko, and Himanshu Ray, eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012: 280-309.

Jock McLane | Professor Emeritus, Department of History

Program Area(s):  Southern Asia

Jock McLane retired from the History department in 2011, but he continues to engage in various Northwestern activities. He has lived and traveled extensively in India. He has visited Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. He has published books on pre-Gandhian Indian nationalism and agrarian social change in eastern India in the 18th and 19th centuries. His recent research focuses on how Hindu nationalists employ cultural differences in forming national identities. He is currently writing a chapter on 18th C zamindars for a new History of Bengal to be published in Calcutta.

Rami Nair | Distinguished Senior Lecturer, Asian Languages and Cultures

Program Area(s):  Southern Asia

Rami Nair grew up as a multilingual in India and Poland. She completed her high school education in New Delhi, India. She then proceeded to pursue a five year integrated M.A. degree in Applied Linguistics at the University of Warsaw in Poland, which she received in 1992. In 1998 she completed her Ph.D. in Linguistics at Northwestern University, the same year that she started the Hindi language program within PAAL at NU. Nair currently teaches first and second-year Hindi classes, and has developed a "true beginners" and "accelerated" version of the first-year course. She teaches the “accelerated” section every other academic year. Her research interests include language pedagogy, second language acquisition, phonetics and phonology.