Zamindar Joins Brown History Department

10/11/05: While working in Pakistan in the early 1990s, Assistant History Professor Vazira Zamindar attended a lecture by Romila Thapar, considered by many to be India’s most distinguished historian. “I remember just being completely taken by her,” Zamindar said in a University profile published upon her appointment at Brown.

“Thapar was a renowned historian of ancient India, but more importantly was so politically engaged through her historical scholarship, and was a beautiful and powerful speaker. Thus I initially went to graduate school to study ancient Indian history.”
Zamindar’s graduate work first took her to the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, where she received her MA in history in 1997, and then to Columbia University, where she received her doctorate in anthropology in 2003.
Her research explored histories on the margins and marginalized histories, “for they allow one to critically examine relationships of power in the ordering of society,” Zamindar said. “In the case of South Asia, I am also deeply invested in border-crossing as a research method, one which challenges the nation-state as the decisive frame for the study of history.”
Zamindar’s doctoral project focused on north Indian Muslim families that were divided between Delhi, India, and Karachi, Pakistan, after the Partition of 1947. Zamindar tracked the making of the Indo-Pak border in the midst of the partition’s violence and displacements. Her dissertation, Divided Families and the Making of Nationhood in India and Pakistan 1947-65, was considered for the Sardar Patel Award for best dissertation on modern India in 2002-03.
Although Zamindar continues to be interested in questions of familial memories, violence, and nationhood, she also is engaged in a new research project on a substantially different theme. “It centers on a World Heritage Gandharan Buddhist site in northern Pakistan and traces the transformation of a local ruin into an archaeological site embodying colonial science and history of India, and then into world heritage in a post-colonial national order,” she said. She is particularly interested in exploring relationships between archaeological authority and imagination, civilization, nationalism, and notions of “Islamic intolerance,” and has been propelled by the Taliban destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001.
Zamindar, who at the time of the 2005 interview was in The Netherlands completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World, was to arrive on campus in the spring. “Brown has a reputation of being a university with a difference, drawing upon students who are open to being challenged as well as challenging any received wisdom about the world we live in,” she said. “This is just the kind of university I would have loved to have gone to as an undergraduate and in any case consider myself fortunate to be able to teach here instead.”