Educated in India and the United States, Neeti Nair is an associate professor at the University of Virginia, where she teaches courses on modern South Asian history and politics. She is the author of Changing Homelands: Hindu Politics and the Partition of India (Harvard University Press and Permanent Black, 2011). Her articles have appeared in leading scholarly journals, including Modern Asian Studies, Indian Economic and Social History Review, and the Economic and Political Weekly, as well as the Indian Express and India Today. Nair has held fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Institute of Indian Studies, and the Mellon Foundation. She will be spending 2017-18 at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars working on her next book project, Blasphemy: A South Asian History, which is to be published with Harvard University Press.

Project Summary

Neeti Nair is working on a history of laws in the Indian Penal Code that were instituted to punish those who sought to insult religious beliefs, broadly construed. Part of the British-created Indian Penal Code of 1860, these laws have been amended and reinterpreted to suit the changing politics of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The recent rise of religious extremism in these countries has also been reflected in the ways these laws have been applied, especially to religious minorities. Nair’s project underscores the importance of the historical context for these laws as she traces their unforeseen consequences in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The recent targeting of Indian Muslims over allegations of cow slaughter, and of minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh charged with blasphemy, owe their origins, in some measure, to these “blasphemy” laws.

Major Publications