• James B. Duke Associate Professor of Asian Studies and History
  • 864.294.3332
  • Furman Hall 200K
  • savita.nair@furman.edu

Trained as a historian of South Asia, Dr. Nair has conducted archival and oral historical research in India (Maharashtra and Gujarat) since 1996. She has also worked with Indian communities in East Africa, England, and the United States.

She joined Furman in 2003 after teaching at Mount Holyoke College and the University of Pennsylvania. In 2008, she co-founded, with Dr. Kailash Khandke, Furman’s India study abroad program and has co-directed multiple trips. She has served as co-chair of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Minor, as the Local Arrangements Chair for Furman's hosting of the Southeastern Conference of the Association of Asian Studies (SEC-AAS), and has been part of the Executive Committee of SEC-AAS. With Asian Studies’ faculty, she participated in a Mellon-funded faculty seminar in Japan. With History faculty members, she participated in a two-week study seminar in Mexico.

Dr. Nair's research focuses on the South Asian diaspora, in particular 19th-20th century migrant networks between India and eastern Africa. She teaches students about the historical depth and contemporary significance of the world's second most populous country and world's largest democracy. Her courses focus on critical histories of ancient and modern India, gender, nationalism, food as social history, and globalization.

Name Title Description



The course allows majors to investigate Asia" as a conceptual and geopolitical space and to critically investigate the discipline. Preparation for upper-level courses across the geographic and disciplinary distributions."


Seminar in Asian Studies

Capstone experience for majors in the discipline. Varied topics.


Sugar and Spice

Imagine your day without sugar and spice. Unsweet cappuccino. Cinnamon-free apple pie. An omelet without pepper. This seminar traces the history of common staples, sugar and spices, that became highly desirable items for European dining tables. With a focus global food history that connected Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, we explore the movement of people, goods, tastes, and desires that continue to shape our social and culinary worlds. Tastings included. 4 credits.


Ancient and Early South Asia

Introduction to South Asia from prehistory to the early 16th century. Focus on the transformations of human environments in the Indian subcontinent, such as river-valley settlements, urban development, early state formation, long-distance trade, and mobility. Major themes include: interaction and integration, and diversity of ritual and cultural practices.


Modern South Asia

The history of South Asia from the 16th century to present. Focus on Mughal dynasties and Indo-Islamic cultures, European traders and the British imperial projects, multiple resistors to imperial rule, and the creation of and challenges facing postcolonial South Asia.


Gender History of South Asia

Questions of gender in colonial and postcolonial South Asia, and its diaspora. Topics include tradition" and "modernity"


Senior Seminar in History

A required course for all majors. Discussion-based meetings will explore a specific historical topic and the related historiography. Students will conceive, design, and execute their own research project connected to the main topic of the seminar. All seminars include an assignment encouraging students to integrate and to reflect upon their varied classroom, travel study, and internship experiences over the course of the major.


Furman Advantage Adv & Mntr


Issues in Women & Gender Stds

Focus on both classical and contemporary issues in Women's and Gender Studies. Survey of feminist theory and historical developments in the women's movement, it provides a foundation for the understanding of contemporary women's issues, including education, family, health, religion, economics and politics.

  • Alester G. Furman Jr. and Janie Earle Furman Meritorius Advising Award (2009)
  • Furman University’s Research and Professional Growth Grants (2006, 2011, 2012)
  • Andrew W. Mellon funded Tri-Consortial Project, with Associated Colleges of the South,
  • Global Partners in East Africa Travel Grant: Uganda (2005)
  • Chimicles Teaching of Writing Fellowship, The University of Pennsylavia (1997-8)
  • Annenberg Foundation Research Fellowship, The University of Pennsylvania (1996-7)
  • Andrew Mellon Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, The University of Pennsylvania (1994-6)

Dr. Nair’s research focuses on Indian overseas migration, in particular 19th-20th century migrant networks between western India and eastern Africa. 

Trained as a historian, she seeks to unravel national history writing agendas and provide a methodological shift for comparative research from various sites to demonstrate a global cultural landscape transformed by movement.

Her research focuses on South Asia, the British empire, and the Indian Ocean region in order to challenge the sanctity of borders, myths of a common past and shared origin, and territorial sovereignty. 

Multiple sites of research include Mumbai, Porbandar, Ahmedabad, Kampala, Nairobi, and London. 

University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania
Carnegie Mellon University

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