I am an historian of society, politics, and culture in second-millennium South Asia: the period between the thirteenth century and the present in northern India. I am interested in questions of long-term change and continuity—in institutions, communities, and in cultural practices.
My first book, The Many Lives of a Rajput Queen: Heroic Pasts in India, 1500–1950, started out as an enquiry into the origins of a legendary queen in northwestern India, whose memory had become very important for majoritarian, ethno-nationalists in India in the late twentieth century. As I began to discover the many versions of her story, told in different regions and languages over some five hundred years, the book ended up becoming a history of memory instead — a history of how particular aspects of the past got preserved, papered over, layered over, or forgotten.
I am currently writing a second book about the making of early modern polities in northern India between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries. The book explores how the diffusion of new technology—gunpowder and paper in particular—altered the extractive capacity of elites and states and generated new forms of politics.
I have also published about the history of the household, kinship, and slavery in early modern South Asia; and am collecting materials for a third book on the making of mass culture in mid-twentieth-century India.