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Neeti Nair

Global Fellow


June 3, 2019 — December 31, 2024

Professional affiliation

Professor of History, University of Virginia

Wilson Center Projects

Hurt Sentiments and Blasphemy in South Asia

Full Biography

Neeti Nair is Professor in the Department of History at the University of Virginia. She is the author of Changing Homelands: Hindu Politics and the Partition of India (Harvard University Press, 2011) and, most recently, Hurt Sentiments: Secularism and Belonging in South Asia (Harvard University Press, 2023). She is also the co-editor of Ghosts from the Past? Assessing Recent Developments in Religious Freedom in South Asia (Routledge, 2021) and editor of Citizenship, Belonging, and the Partition of India (Routledge, 2024). Her articles have appeared in leading scholarly journals, including Modern Asian StudiesIndian Economic and Social History Review, and the Economic and Political Weekly, as well as in media outlets such as Indian ExpressThe HinduThe Print, India Today, and Newslaundry. Her research has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Institute of Indian Studies, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. 

Major Publications


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

  • Interviewed in Open MagazinePublic AnthropologistSocio-Legal Review
  • Featured in Hindustan TimesThe WireThe Print, Financial ExpressFrontline
  • Essays on related themes: Current History, The Daily Star (Bangladesh), The Hindu, The Indian Express, Newslaundry, The Print
  • Reviews in Asian Affairs, Biblio: A Review of Books, Business StandardDoing SociologyFrontline, Journal of Church and State, Reading Religion, South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal, South Asian Review, The Book Review (India), The Friday Times (Pakistan), The Indian Economic and Social History Review, The Indian Express, The News (Pakistan), The Telegraph (India), The Tribune (India). Extracts of reviews are available here and here 

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
  • Invited essays on related themes: India Today, SeminarPage 99 Test
  • Media Mention: Indian ExpressHindustan TimesDhaka Tribune
  • Reviews in American Historical Review, Contemporary South Asia, Indian Economic and Social History Review, Journal of Asian Studies, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Social History, Asian Affairs, Journal of Genocide Research, India International Centre Quarterly, The Book Review, The Hindu, South Asian Review, Oral History Review, Indian Historical Review, H-Net Reviews, Journal of World History, Canadian Journal of History, Asian Journal of Social Science. Extracts of reviews are available here 

Edited Volumes

Citizenship, Belonging, and the Partition of India, Routledge, 2024. Originally published as a special issue of Asian Affairs, 53:2, 2022 
Reviewed in The News (Pakistan)

Ghosts from the Past? Assessing Recent Developments in Religious Freedom in South Asia, coedited with Michael Kugelman, Routledge 2022, paperback 2023. Originally published as a special issue of Asian Affairs, 49:2, 2018

Special Journal Issue

Guest Editor (with Michael Kugelman), Ghosts from the Past? Assessing Recent Developments in Religious Freedom in South Asia, a special issue of Asian Affairs, 49:2, 2018

Peer reviewed articles

‘Towards mass education or “an aristocracy of talent”: non-alignment and the making of a strong India’, in Gyan Prakash, Michael Laffan, and Nikhil Menon eds., The Postcolonial Moment in South and Southeast Asia, Bloomsbury, 2018, pp. 183-200

‘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

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

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, 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

Recent Opeds and Popular Writing

A death on the altar of inclusive India: Remembering Gandhi in 2024’, Newslaundry, January 30, 2024

A brief history of India’s present’, The Hindu, August 15, 2023 [pdf]

1976 and 1993 – the two moments in Indian history that show secularism’s fall from grace,’ ThePrint, April 5, 2023

A Discussion from the Indian Parliament in 1970: Who Begins A Riot?’ The Wire, March 18, 2023

1971 and the case for secularism in Bangladesh and India, The Daily Star, September 12, 2022 
Republished in The Print, September 13, 2022

What might Gandhi have done today?The Hindu, May 2, 2022

The will to secular practiceThe Indian Express, December  30, 2021

A Historian’s FearsThe Indian Express, June 12, 2021

For Congress, A History LessonThe Indian Express, August 29, 2020

Haksar’s advice to Indira Gandhi can help Sonia steer Congress in the right directionThe Print, March 13, 2020

Missing Rahul in Delhi’ The Indian Express, March 3, 2020

For the first time, India is seeing secularism go from a top-down decree to a street sloganThePrint, January 3, 2020

Modi’s Kashmir move is biggest test for Indian democracyThe Print, August 5, 2019

Previous Terms

Sep 05, 2017 — Jul 27, 2018: Blasphemy: A South Asian History