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. Unsweetened cappuccino? Cinnamon-free apple pie? This seminar traces the history of the globalization/localization of food. By considering the networks that connect Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, students will study and write about the movement of goods and people that shape our social and culinary worlds. What are we eating and why? Through a series of guided writing assignments, peer critiques, and individual writing consultations, students will develop writing skills appropriate for college-level work. 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.


Women and Gender in India

Examination of gender categories and relations in India through writings and visual materials by/about men and women. Concepts such as agency, class, religion, colonial powers, patriarchy, and resistance are traced through nineteenth to twenty-first century Indian/South Asian history. Topics include veiling, sexuality, activism, nationalism, third gender


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.

Selected Publications and Presentations

  • "Letters from Africa: Indian Diaspora and Historical Space, c. 1880-1920," invited presenter on panel "Writing India and the Indian Ocean World" at Connected Histories of the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia, Alliance to Advance Liberal Arts College/Mellon Foundation, Pomona College, Claremont, CA, February 2012.
  • "Despite the Odds: Uganda Indians Remaking Home and Nation" in panel "Negotiating Nationhood: The South Asian Diaspora in Post-Colonial East Africa," Annual Meeting of the Association of Asian Studies, Honolulu, HI, April 2011.
  • "Indian Emigration to Africa, Trinidad, Guyana, and the Pacific, 1750-1914" and "Cultural Integration in Eastern Africa" in World History Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO, March 2011.
  • "Understanding East Africa: Gujaratis in Indian History" in panel "Asia through the Lens of Geography" at the Southeast Conference of the Association of Asian Studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, January 2011.
  • "Shops and Stations: Rethinking Privilege and Power in British/Indian East Africa" in Africa in India, India in Africa: Indian Ocean Cosmopolitanisms, edited by John C. Hawley, 77-93 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008).
  • "Diaspora: Africa" in South Asian Folklore, edited by Peter Claus and Margaret Mills (New York: Routledge, 2003).
  • Awarded the James B. Duke Chair in Asian Studies, 2014
  • Alester G. Jr. and Janie Earle Furman Meritorious Teaching Award, 2014.
  • Alester G. Jr. and Janie Earle Furman Meritorious Advising Award, 2009.
  • Furman University Research and Professional Growth Grants (Uganda-2005, India-2006, Hawaii-2011, California-2012).
  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Cluster Grant Proposal, contributor, "Visual Cultures in India," with Denison University, Summer 2009.
  • Furman/Mellon Career Advance Planning Grant, Fall 2006.
  • Furman Advantage Teaching Fellow 2005, 2012, 2013.
  • Furman Advantage Research Fellowship Program, Student Research Assistant, Summer 2006.
  • Andrew W. Mellon funded Tri-Consortial Project (with Associated Colleges of the South), Global Partners in East Africa Travel Grant, fully funded 2005.
University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania
Carnegie Mellon University

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