- (812) 855-6756
- IU Bloomington
My first body of research centers on the Bengali Vaishnava community of northeastern India. My project Reconstructing Tradition: Advaita Acarya and Gaudiya Vaisnavism at the Cusp of the Twentieth Century (Columbia University Press, 2005), explores the use of the hagiographical corpus treating Advaita Acharya, one of the early leaders of Bengali Vaishnavism. Controversy surrounding dates of composition of several of these works led to my discovery of how western education of certain elite Bengalis impacted the nineteenth-century reformation of the entire Vaishnava movement, and led to the production of an entirely new, self-conscious type of hagiography. My second book, The Fading Light of Advaita Acarya (Oxford University Press, 2011), is a translation of three of these hagiographies . My work to ensure the preservation of the Sukumar Sen manuscript collection grew out of that research. Sukumar Sen, perhaps this century's leading scholar of Bengali literature, and the individual most responsible for the spread of interest in that literature outside of the region, amassed an impressive manuscript collection during his lifetime. Our preserving his collection in toto now allows scholars a glimpse of what, in the eyes of that prominent scholar, constitutes Bengali literature. I've produced a catalogue of the collection (Resources for Scholarship on Asia, published by the Association for Asian Studies, Inc., 2006), and the IU library now owns one copy of the microfilm of the manuscripts.
My next book project is a translation of Rupram Chakravarty’s 17th century Middle Bengali epic, the Dharma Mangala. This is a wonderful multi-generational tale of adventure in eastern India that gives us a sense of how ordinary people – not just those at the top of the social hierarchy – lived and thought about their lives. And eventually I hope to return to my project on sectarian Sanskrit grammars. Scholars in various religious traditions around South Asia developed such grammars, often modelled on Panini's masterful work but using sectarian tropes to illustrate each grammatical issue raised. Like the hagiographies, these grammars were intended not just to instruct, but to serve definite political purposes. In this project I am studying the grammar Jiva Gosvami developed for Bengali Vaishnava scholars.
I teach courses in Sanskrit, women in South Asian religious traditions, religion in South Asian cinema, and literatures of India in translation. 50% of my appointment is in the Dhar India Studies Program, and I am an adjunct member of the Comparative Literature Department.