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Swargajyoti Gohain

Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, Assistant Dean of Faculty, Ashoka University

Ph.D. Emory University

Swargajyoti Gohain is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology. She has a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Emory University, U.S.A., and a Bachelors and Masters in Sociology from Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University. She has held postdoctoral positions in the International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden, Netherlands, and the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi. Before joining Ashoka University, she was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur.

Swargajyoti Gohain has fieldwork experience in Northeast India and the Himalayan region. Her first monograph, Imagined Geographies in the Indo-Tibetan Borderlands (2020, Amsterdam University Press) was based on empirical and historical research on Tawang and West Kameng, two districts in west Arunachal Pradesh, bordering Bhutan and Tibet, which have been the focus of a long-drawn boundary conflict between India and China. The book concerns the new spatial imaginations that have emerged among Tibetan Buddhist communities in the Indian Himalayan region, following the closure of the Indo-Tibetan border passages. The book was awarded Honorary Mention for the James Fisher Book Prize for first book on the Himalayas by  the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies. She has been the recipient of Wenner-Gren Dissertation Fieldwork Grant, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Award, Charles Wallace India Trust award, Sir Ratan Tata Fellowship, and UGC’s Junior Research Fellowship (JRF).

 Swargajyoti Gohain’s research interests includes the anthropology of state and borders, indigenous politics, anthropology of mobilities, roads, development and infrastructure, conservation, religion, and ecology, and institutions and networks. Her current book project focuses on negotiations between Buddhist educational institutions and the Indian state in the context of national borders and geopolitical developments. She has a long-term interest in studying the relation between culture, politics, and ecology, especially in the case of Himalayan animal life, and has published papers on the yak and Himalayan wildlife species in connection with cultural identity and ecotourism. She is working on a collection of essays that undertakes a conceptual reading of contemporary social problems in Northeast India. Her work adopts an interdisciplinary approach in analysis, while remaining grounded in the disciplines of sociology and anthropology.

Books

2020. Imagined Geographies in the Indo-Tibetan Borderlands. Amsterdam University Press.

Awarded 2022 Honorary Mention for the James Fisher Book Prize for first book on the Himalayas by the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies.

Reviews of the book

“Gohain is to be commended for crafting a nuanced and erudite text about a poorly understood community living in a profoundly misrepresented region. Both humanising and very readable, Imagined Geographies is a service to Himalayan studies, a testament to the power of rigorous ethnography and most of all, I imagine, a very useful text for the Monpas of Monyul”. Mark Turin, European Bulletin of Himalayan Research 

Imagined Geographies in the Indo-Tibetan Borderlands provides us with an empirically rich and theoretically sensitive account of the contested place-making in Tawang and the wider Monyul region, located in India’s north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh… Thanks to this masterly account, we have the means to understand how such emancipatory imaginative visions emerge out of Monyul’s frequently unpromising and contested terrain”. Edward Boyle, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies

“For borderland studies scholars, this book offers a close reading of how the borderland, with its evolving relations, can be an active space where new identities, social relationships, and political stances are constantly being produced. Scholars of Tibetan studies will find this book valuable for its insights on the production, mediation, and rejection of Tibetan national identity and “civilizing projects”—both in the past and present—on the borderland of cultural Tibet in the southern Himalayas. Lastly, scholars engaged in Indigenous studies will appreciate Gohain’s examination of contested indigeneity in the “postcolonial Indian state” in Asia. Bendi Tso, Journal of Asian Studies

“Gohain’s work is groundbreaking as it does not perceive subaltern consciousness as something that has to be reclaimed but rather as that which has always, already been there. It disrupts the self/other dichotomy as both are imagined as conscious of their own subjectivities and hence, does not essentialise the native as an ‘other’”. Priya Bose, Contributions to Indian Sociology

“The book is rich with epistemic innovations in borderland studies and self-reflexive ethnography and is a good start for any student of Himalayan studies”. Noel Mariam George, Tibetscapes

Journal Articles and Book Chapters

  • (Forthcoming) “Everyday Geopolitics and Cross-border Lives in the Himalayas” In The Oxford Handbook of the Himalayas, Amy Holmes-Tagchungdarpa (ed). Oxford University Press.
  • 2023. “Toponymic Tales: Myth, Memory, and Place-Making in Monyul” In Myths and Places: New Perspectives in Indian Cultural Geography, Shonaleeka Kaul (ed). Routledge
  • 2023. “Buddhism, Animal Ethics, and Environmentalism” In Capital and Ecology: Developmentalism, Subjectivity and Alternative Life-Worlds, Rakhee Bhattacharya and G. Amarjit Sharma (ed.). Routledge
  • 2022 “Cultural Citizenship” In The Routledge Companion to Northeast India, J.P Wouters and Tanka B Subba (ed). Routledge
  • 2021. “Himalayan Environmentalism: Buddhism and Beyond”, New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies 24 (2): 69-90.
  • 2022. “Development as Subsistence, Subsisting with Development”, Nilima: A Journal of Law and Policy, Guwahati, 5 (1), January 2022: 34-46
  • 2021 “Dhabas, Highways and Exclusion” In Highways and Hierarchies: Ethnographies of Mobility from the Himalaya to the Indian Ocean, Luke Heslop and Galen Murton (ed). Amsterdam University Press.
  • 2021 “Monks and Minority Politics” In Vernacular Politics in Northeast India: Tribal Democracies, Ethno-Talk, and Political Prophecy, J.P Wouters (ed). University Press.
  • 2021 “Redrawing Boundaries of Belonging among Indian Himalayan Buddhists”, In special journal issue, Buddhist Homeland(s), Citizenship and the Politics of Belonging in South Asia, David Geary and Douglas Ober (ed), South Asian History and Culture
  • 2021. “Pandemic of Inequality and the State: A Response to Maitrayee Chaudhuri’s ‘COVID-19 and Structural Inequalities: Some Reflections on the Practice of Sociology’”, Sociological Bulletin 70 (2): 264-268.
  • 2021. “Relative Indigeneity in Northeast India”. Seminar 740
  • 2020. Producing Monyul as Buffer: Spatial Politics in a Colonial Frontier”. Modern Asian Studies, 54 (2): 432-470.
  • 2019. “Selective Access or How States Make Remoteness”. Social Anthropology/ Anthropologie Sociale 27 (2): 204-220.
  • 2018. “Bordered Spaces: Spatial Strategies in a Disputed Border” In Routledge Handbook of Asian Borderlands, Alexander Horstmann, Martin Saxer, Alessandro Rippa (ed), 445-453. Routledge.
  • 2017. “Embattled Frontiers and Emerging Spaces: Transformation of the Tawang Border”. Economic and Political Weekly 52(15): 87-94
  • 2017. “Robes, Rivers, and Ruptured Spaces” In A Place of Relations, Yasmin Saikia and Amit Baishya (ed), 262-276. Cambridge University Press.
  • 2017. “Monks, Elections, and Foreign Travels: Democracy and the Monastic Order in Western Arunachal Pradesh, Northeast India” In Democratization and Cultural Politics in the Himalayas, Vibha Arora and N. Jayaram (ed), 117-134. Delhi, India: Routledge.
  • 2017. “Militarized Borderlands in Asia”, IIAS Newsletter, Leiden, Volume 71, Summer 2015. https://iias.asia/sites/default/files/IIAS_NL71_212223.pdf
  • 2015. with Kerstin Grothmann. “Renaming as Integration” IIAS Newsletter, Leiden, Volume 71, Summer 2015. https://iias.asia/sites/default/files/IIAS_NL71_3233.pdf
  • 2012. “Mobilizing Language, Identifying Region: Use of Bhoti in West Arunachal Pradesh,” Contributions to Indian Sociology 46 (3): 337-363.

 

Book Reviews

  • 2023. Book review of Lachlan Fleetwood, Science on the Roof of the World: Empire and the Remaking of the Himalaya. 2022, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • 2022. Book review of Mona Chettri and Michael Eilenberg (eds.), Development Zones in Asian Borderlands, Amsterdam University Press, 2021, Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies.
  • 2021. Book review of Sienna Craig, Ends of Kinship: Connecting Himalayan Lives Between Nepal and New York, University of Washington Press, Journal of Asian Studies, 80 (3), August 2021
  • 2021. Book review of Sara Smith, Intimate Geopolitics: Love, Territory, and the Future on India’s Northern Threshold, 2020, Rutgers University Press, Journal of Asian Studies 80 (3), August 2021
  • 2020. Book review of Ashild Kolås (ed). Women, Peace, and Security in Northeast India, 2017. Delhi: Zubaan, Peace Prints, WISCOMP, Delhi
  • 2020. Book review of Dolly Kikon, Living with Coal and Oil: Resource Politics and Militarization in Northeast India, 2019, University of Washington Press, Contributions to Indian Sociology 54(2) 333–337.
  • 2019. Book review of Nikhil Anand,  Hydraulic City: Water and the Infrastructures of Citizenship in Mumbai, 2019, Contributions to Indian Sociology 53, 1 (2019): 217–246
  • 2007. Book review of Pramod K. Nayar, Reading Culture, 2006, New Delhi: Sage Publications, Contributions to Indian Sociology 41(3): 435-438, 2007.
  • 2005. Book review of Yasmin Saikia, Assam and India, 2005, New Delhi: Permanent Black, and Sanjib Baruah, Durable Disorder, 2005, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, Contributions to Indian Sociology 39 (3): 438-442, 2005.
  • 2005. Book review of Stuart Corbridge et al, Jharkhand: Environment, Development, Ethnicity, 2004, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, Contributions to Indian Sociology 39 (3): 445-447, 2005. 2002.

Papers in Progress (selected)

  • “From Monastic Governmentality to Monastic Visibility: Buddhism, Tourism and Nationalism in the Himalaya”
  • “An Environment of one’s choice: Community, Ecology, and Tourism in Arunachal Pradesh”
  • “Arunachal as Gateway and Arunachal as Frontier”

Undergraduate courses

  • Introduction to Anthropology
  • Sociology and the Making of Concepts
  • Social Theories
  • States, Stateless Societies, and the Problems of Power
  • Research Methods
  • Borders and Crossings
  • Travel, Mobility, and Identity
  • Urban Anthropology 
  • Tibetan Studies in India
  • Anthropology of the Himalayas

Graduate Courses

  • Power, Resistance, Legitimacy
  • Research Methodology                            

2002. Honorary Mention for the James Fisher Book Prize for first book on the Himalayas by the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies

2016-2018. Research Associate (non-residential), Department of Anthropology and Sociology, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

2015. Charles Wallace India Trust Fellowship, British Council, India, London. 30 June – 22 July 2015.

2013 -2015. Sir Ratan Tata Fellowship, Sociology unit, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, India (Position held for 6 months).

2013. German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Research Grant; Institute of Asian and African Studies, Humboldt University, Germany, January – April 2013.

2013. Emory Women’s Club Research Award, 2012-2013, Emory University, U.S.A.

2013. Charles R. Jenkins Award, Certificate for Distinguished Achievement. Lamda Alpha Society, Georgia.

2013. Graduate Fellowship 2007-2008, Institute of Critical International Studies, Emory University, U.S.A.

2009. Dissertation Fieldwork Grant, Wenner-Gren Foundation, U.S.A.

2002-2004. Junior Research Fellowship, University Grants Commission, India.

2000. University Ranker’s Prize – 1st position, B.A. (Hons.) Sociology, University of Delhi.

2000. M.N Srinivas Award for highest score, B.A. Sociology, Miranda House College, University of Delhi.

Study at Ashoka

Study at Ashoka

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