South Asian Anthropology  

UIC’s sociocultural anthropology program has a very strong concentration of both faculty and students with long-term research interests in South Asia and South Asian diasporas. This makes us unique amongst departments of our size at a public research university.  Our South Asianists work on a very wide range of research areas such as class and consumption, gender and sexuality, queer anthropology, politics, medical anthropology, development, cultural history, political economy and labor, infrastructures, mobilities, and migration. 

This is collage of Thamel in Kathmandu by graduate student Ben Linder


Collectively, our faculty group has a particularly strong focus on urban South Asia and all of us engage with the connections between South Asia and other regions of the world in our research. Students with South Asia interests also regularly take courses with and work with South Asianists in other departments such as History, Art History, Gender and Women’s Studies, Global Asian Studies, Urban Planning, and English.

This is a picture of Dr. Tarini Bedi

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Tarini Bedi is an urban and political anthropologist who conducts her research in India and Singapore. Her research areas are broadly concerned with the relationships between urbanization and globalization, and the accompanying shifts in politics, gender, economic livelihoods, and transport infrastructures in cities of the global South. She teaches courses on and advises students on topics related to urban anthropology, labor and work, gender and social movements, urban politics, and the anthropology of transport, infrastructure, and mobilities. She welcomes inquiries and applications from graduate students interested in these areas. Prospective students are encouraged to visit Professor Bedi’s detailed website or to contact Professor Bedi with questions. 

 This is a picture of Dr. Mark Liechty
Professor of Anthropology and Professor of History
Mark Liechty has been a student of Nepali history and society for almost three decades. His early work focused on the history and contemporary dynamics of class and social organization in Kathmandu and how these developments were related to trends in mass media, consumerism, and youth culture. This work is represented in his first three books: Suitably Modern (Princeton, 2003), Out Here in Kathmandu (Kathmandu, 2010), and The Global Middle Classes (edited with Rachel Heiman and Carla Freeman, Santa Fe, 2012). He recently published a major book on Western countercultural longing and the history of tourism entitled Far Out: Countercultural Seekers and the Tourism Encounter in Nepal (Chicago, 2017). Liechty is currently working on a research/book project on the cultural history of hydropower generation in Nepal that examines how different approaches to “development” have yielded dramatically different results in terms of “capacity building” and local economic impact. 
This is a picture of Dr. Gayatri Reddy
Associate Professor of Anthropology and Gender and Women's Studies
 Gayatri Reddy is a sociocultural anthropologist and her research and teaching interests lie at the intersections of sexuality, gender, health, and the politics of subject and community-formation in India, as well as within the immigrant South Asian queer community in the U.S. Broadly, her work interrogates the contours of cultural belonging through the paradoxical dialectic of “alienation and intimacy.”

Graduate Students

 This is a picture of graduate student Aditi Aggarwal
Aditi Aggarwal's research interests span urban anthropology, embodiment, gendered labour, and economic anthropology. She focuses on the ways in which labor is embodied, experienced, and performed, in gendered and mobile economies in Mumbai city. 
Ben Linder
Ben Linder

Ben's research explores the intersection of urban space, transnational mobilities, and cultural transformation. The cosmopolitan enclave of Thamel (in Kathmandu, Nepal) facilitates and reinforces particular practices of consumption, experimentation, and transgression among young, middle-class Nepalis. Through a street-corner ethnography of Thamel (and related research in London and Hong Kong), his dissertation charts the global co-production of place and identity, both within the city and across other sites of the Nepali diaspora.

This is a picture of graduate student Zoey Martin-Lockhart
Zoey Martin-Lockhart
Zoey is a cultural anthropology student, interested in medical anthropology, and focusing on the interface of queer/lgbtia+ communities and the mental health system in metropolitan cities in India. Her work draws on queer, feminist, post-colonial, and disability theory.
 This is a picture of graduate student Shilpa Menon
Shilpa Menon

Shilpa Menon's research interests include queer anthropology, queer cultures and networks, postcolonialisms and South Asia studies with a regional focus on south India.  She has worked with queer individuals and communities in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, and Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. She aims to continue her work in Kerala as a site of non-metropolitan and regional formations of non-normative sexual and gender identity and politics.

This is a picture of graduate student Sarah Manandhar
Sarah Shepherd Manandhar
Sarah's research interests include the anthropology of cloth, identity, globalization, popular culture in Nepal. 
 Dipti Sherchan
Dipti Sherchan
Dipti is interested in the intersections of arts and anthropology, expressions and experiences. She looks at how the young generation make use of artistic expressions and mediums to display, perform, and curate their lived, cultural and political experiences. Her region of interest is South Asia, specifically, Nepal. 

Our PhDs

Dr. Dylan Lott (Ph.D 2016) 
Dissertation Topic: From Interiority to Inner Territory: Tibetan Buddhism, Neuroscience and the Politics of Representation 
Current Position: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Center for Healthy Minds at University of Wisconsin-Madison
In his dissertation he examined the continuing dialogue between Buddhists and Western scientists and how this encounter has helped shape contemplative research, Tibetan Buddhist monastic education, and the unfolding collaboration between them.  

Dr. Rahul Chandrashekar Oka (Ph.D 2008)
Dissertation Topic:  Resilience and Adaptation of Trade Networks in East African and South Asian Port Polities, 1500-1800 C.E.
Current Position: Ford Family Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame 

Scholars with a focus on South Asia in Other Departments at UIC

Catherine Becker, Department of Art and Art History

Rama Mantena, Department of History

Sunil Agnani, Department of History and Department of English

Nasser Mufti, Department of English

Sanjeev Vidyarthi, College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs

Ronak Kapadia, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies

Radha Modi, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Global Asian Studies

Useful Resources

Language Training Programs

American Institute of Indian Studies 
Critical Language Studies 
University of Chicago 
SASLI at University of Wisconsin-Madison

Grants for Research in South Asia 
AIIS Fellowships
Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies
AISLS Grants