Philomathia Post-doctoral Research Associate
University of Cambridge
Core: Power, Identity and Resistance
Poornima Paidipaty completed her PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University in 2009. Her dissertation, entitled, "Tribal Nation: Politics and the Making of Modern Anthropology in India" explores the entangled histories of social science, colonial militarism, frontier politics, and tribal governance in India, starting in the nineteenth century. Her thesis examines the agonistic relationship between anthropology as a formal discipline and contemporary tribal movements, which share common histories, archives, and conceptual formations that trace back to colonial policies of frontier pacification. Her research shows that anthropology, in both its colonial and nationalist formulations, was deeply invested in the management of tribal areas, and therefore, as a modern techno-science, its history must be written in conjunction with the political moments and social challenges that shape its disciplinary practices, theories, methods, and conceptual frameworks. As such, her work provides a new historical frame for analyzing state failure in India’s tribal regions, which have witnessed decades of development-related displacement, poverty, and armed insurgency. Poornima is currently revising her manuscript for publication. She is broadly interested in the history of anthropology and its relationship to decolonization; mercenaries, insurgents, and the problem of sovereignty in contemporary South Asia; and the impact of extractive activities, such as coal mining and timber logging, on India's democracy.