Neeti Nair

Professor of History Affiliate Faculty, Women, Gender, and Sexuality

234 Nau Hall

Office Hours: Office Hours: Thursdays 2:30 - 4 pm, and by appointment

Modern South Asia, Political History, Transnational and Diplomatic History, Legal History, Intellectual History and History of Ideas

I am a professor of history at the University of Virginia. I teach survey courses on 18th-20th century South Asia as well as upper-level seminar coures and graduate courses on the Partition of the Indian subcontinent and blasphemy politics in South Asia. I am the author of two books, Hurt Sentiments:  Secularism and Belonging in South Asia (Harvard University Press, 2023) and Changing Homelands: Hindu Politics and the Partition of India (Harvard University Press and Permanent Black, 2011, pbk 2016). I have also edited two special issues of Asian Affairs: 'Ghosts from the Past? Assessing Recent Developments in Religious Freedom in South Asia' was published in 2018 and 'Citizenship, Belonging, and the Partition of India' was published in 2022.

I am currently writing a coursebook "India's Partition: Politics, Culture, Memory" that is under contract with Cambridge University Press, and will be submitted to the press in December 2023. I have also begun researching and thinking on the making of the region that is South Asia, from the perspective of capital cities in the alleged margins of the region - Dhaka, Colombo, Islamabad, and Kabul. The working title for this project is "Capitals in the Margins: South Asia Since Partition".

My research has been supported by fellowships from the American Institute of Indian Studies, the Taraknath Das Foundation, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. I am a non-residential Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC.




Hurt Sentiments: Secularism and Belonging in South AsiaCambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, March 2023

Changing Homelands: Hindu Politics and the Partition of India, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, and Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2011; Paperback 2016

  • A Washington Post WorldViews Recommended Book, 2013

  • Reviewed in The American Historical Review, Journal of Asian Studies, The Indian Economic and Social History Review, Oral History Review, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, Journal of Genocide Research, Indian Historical Review, Canadian Journal of History, H-Net Reviews, Contemporary South Asia, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, The Hindu, India International Centre Quarterly, The Daily Star (Bangladesh)The Book Review (India), Asian AffairsSocial HistoryChoiceCountercurrents.orgSouth Asian ReviewRefugee Watch Online, among other publications. Extracts are available here

Capitals in the Margins: South Asia Since Partition, in preparation 

India's Partition: Politics, Culture, Memory, in progress; under contract with Cambridge University Press

Edited Special Issues 

Citizenship, Belonging, and the Partition of India, a special issue of Asian Affairs, 53, 2, 2022

Ghosts from the Past? Assessing Recent Developments in Religious Freedom in South Asia (coedited with Michael Kugelman), Routledge, 2021; first published as a special issue of Asian Affairs, 49:2, 2018


Peer reviewed articles

'Toward Mass Education or an "Aristocracy of Talent": Nonalignment and the Making of a Strong India', in Gyan Prakash, Michael Laffan, and Nikhil Menon eds., The Postcolonial Moment in South and Southeast Asia, London: Bloomsbury, 2018, pp. 183-200

'Indo-Pak Relations: A Window of Opportunity that has Almost Closed', Economic and Political Weekly, December 20, 2014, Vol. 49, No. 51

'Beyond the "communal" 1920s: the problem of intention, legislative pragmatism, and the making of section 295A of the Indian Penal Code', The Indian Economic and Social History Review, July 2013, Vol. 50, No. 3, pp. 317-340

  •          Republished in The Law Weekly 2016-3-LW, Vol. 199, 1 JS - 20 JS and The Law Weekly (Criminal) 2016-1-LW (Crl) 48 JS - 68 JS
  •         Cited in the Law Commission of India report on Hate Speech, March 2017
  •         Cited in the International Commission of Jurists Report On Trial: The Implementation of Pakistan's Blasphemy Laws, November 2015

Articles on 'Hindu Mahasabha’, ‘Pt Madan Mohan Malaviya’, ‘Rangila Rasul’, ‘Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’, ‘Sanatan Dharm’, ‘Shuddhi’, ‘Swami Shraddhanand’ in Ayesha Jalal ed., The Oxford Companion to Pakistani History, Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2012

‘“Partition” and “minority rights” in Punjabi Hindu Debates, 1920-1947’Economic and Political Weekly, Special Articles, December 24, 2011, Vol. 46, No. 52, pp. 61-69

‘Bhagat Singh as “satyagrahi”: the limits to non-violence in late colonial India’Modern Asian Studies, May 2009, Vol. 43, No. 3, pp. 649-681

  •       Translated into Hindi by Krishna Chaitanya for Filhaal, September-October 2021, pp. 25-39