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Graduate Students

Graduate Students

Andrew Amstutz is a graduate student in the History field with a focus on Modern South Asia.  His dissertation is tentatively titled “Finding a Home for Urdu: The Urdu Language Movement in 20th century South Asia” and examines the changing trans-regional contours of Urdu language politics by following the Anjuman Taraqqi Urdu, the oldest and largest Urdu scholarly promotional and publishing association in South Asia.

Kamalika Bose is an interior architect with a professional background that straddles  design education, research, heritage activism and conservation – and is currently supported by the Fulbright-Nehru Master's Fellowship in Leadership Development at the Cornell HPP program. Graduating in interior design from CEPT University, Ahmedabad, she has spent the last three years as Assistant Professor at her alma mater while actively pursuing research and writing on India's built environment – historic and contemporary. Her publications include Seeking the Lost Layers – An Inquiry into the Traditional Dwellings of the Urban Elite in North Calcutta (2008) and A History of Interior Design, Volume 1: Ahmedabad (2007), along with published articles, papers and conference presentations in India and abroad.

Vincent Burgess is a PhD candidate in the Asian Religions doctoral program of the Department of Asian Studies. He has received a 2016-17 Fulbright Student Fellowship to conduct his research over the next year in India.  His research is currently focused on discourses of renunciation and environmentalism against contemporary, north Indian religious traditions, particularly how such discourses have intersected with various conceptions and articulations of modernity.


Dambar Chemjong is a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology. His ethnographic research examines how the Limbu Adivasi  of  Nepal organize  politics of difference mainly  focusing on collective identity in relation to the territorial history. How and why the Limbu claim to and struggle for cultural and political autonomy of Limbuwan in juxtaposition to the dominant and culturally invasive State of Nepal. A few of his research questions are: how and why naming and re-naming the adivasi place names by the state impacts upon the adivasi Limbu’s culture and collective identity?  Why the Limbu political organizers challenge and question the legitimacy of the Nepalese state's policies, for example, for issuing the voter's identity card and so forth? What unique features and characteristics can we observe in the Adivasi  Limbu political movement in comparison to the national mainstream political process in Nepal

Anaar Desai-Stephens is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate. Her research focuses on gender, pedagogy, and embodiment in Hindustani music through both historical and ethnographic lenses. Anaar first began learning Hindustani music while living and teaching in Mumbai in 2005; she has subsequently continued her studies with violinist Kala Ramnath and vocalist Warren Senders. Anaar received her master's degree in ethnomusicology from Boston University (2009) and her bachelor's degree in violin performance from the Manhattan School of Music (2004). While at Cornell, she has been a member of the African Dance and Drum Ensemble, and has performed on baroque violin with Les Petit Violons. Other research interests include music and international reconciliation, Indian popular music and Hindi film, and the transcultural life of the violin. Anaar will be conducting archival and ethnographic research in Mumbai from Spring 2013 to Spring 2014.

Natalia Di Pietrantonio earned her B.A. in art history at the University California, Davis with an emphasis on Islamic South Asia. In 2011, she received her M.A. from Columbia University in South Asian Studies. Research interests include Islamic art, cross-cultural dimensions of Southeast and South Asian art, architectural marginalia, Indo-Persianate history, Urdu poetry and literature, erotica, gender & sexuality studies. Her doctoral dissertation, “Visions of Desire: The Art of Awadh’s Court, 1754-1857,” focuses on erotic miniatures such as representations of female nudes and amorous couples produced in and around the Indo-Islamic court of Awadh, India. Funding for her research has included IHR Mellon Pre-dissertation Fellowship, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellowship, and American Institute for India Studies (AIIS) Junior Research Fellowship.

Aimée Douglas Caffrey is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology. She is currently writing a dissertation based on eighteen months of ethnographic research among Sinhalese artisans in two so-called traditional craft villages in Sri Lanka's central province. Her research examines the ideological and practical nexus between caste-based identification and activities regarded as elemental to Sri Lanka's national heritage.

Karlie Fox-Knudtsen is a PhD. student in the Department of Socio-cultural Anthropology. There she focuses on India religions, sovereignty, reform movements, temporality, and psycho-analysis. She has completed her Masters of Theological Studies (MTS) Degree at Harvard University Divinity School in the anthropology of South Asian Religions and Sanskrit Literature. Most recently she looked at futurity and sustainability discourses in Western Odisha, mining development and slumification in northwestern Odisha State, and religion and regional sovereignties. Her present research in Odisha (Orissa) focuses on the intersections of local goddess traditions and the politic of power. Currently she works at a temple site in Odisha researching how present and historical regional nationalisms operationalize local goddess traditions.

Triveni Gandhi is a Ph.D candidate in the Government Department. Her dissertation work is focused on the effect of affirmative action for subordinate groups in India, particularly women and caste minorities. In 2013-2014 she completed 10 months of fieldwork in various districts of Rajasthan, which resulted in both rich interview and large-n survey data.

Soumya Gupta is a PhD Candidate at the Dyson School of Applied Economics & Management. Her research interests lie at the intersection of food security, rural livelihoods and child & maternal nutrition. For her dissertation Soumya has looked at the effect of farming systems on women's iron status & empowerment levels in agriculture. As a research scholar with the Tata-Cornell Initiative for Agriculture & Nutrition, she designed, implemented and managed a household survey of 1,980 individuals in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, India. This survey collected information on household economics, agriculture, maternal health & dietary intake (24-hour diet diversity, 30-day semi-quantitative food frequency), empowerment in agriculture and anthropometry. The survey also involved collection of a 5ml sample from women that was tested for 5 assays specific to iron-deficiency. Her research explores agriculture-nutrition linkages through an interdisciplinary lens. It also uses IFPRI’s women’s empowerment in agriculture index for the first time in the Indian context, and in contrast to most peer review literature goes beyond the use of just hemoglobin in assessing iron status of women. Soumya has been associated with the NSF-IGERT program on Food systems & poverty reduction. She has extensive research and teaching experience in India prior to coming to Cornell. 

Carter Higgins' ethnographic and cultural-historical research—funded from Aug. 2012-Aug. 2013 by the Social Science Research Council’s International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF)—asks how multi-sensory perceptions of gods articulate with, mediate, or problematize neoliberal development, nationalism, and secularism. He is tracking efforts to develop the pilgrimage economy and infrastructure in the village of Gogameri, India, and Hindu-Muslim competition over the right to perform pilgrimage rituals in the tomb of the god/saint Gogaji in the village. He looks at how networks of priests, monks, government and NGO officials, and local scholars draw from circulating discourses, objects, practices, and capital in order to garner pilgrims’ support for their projects.

Samantha Huey is a PhD student in International Nutrition, in the division of Nutritional Sciences. Her research focuses on nutritional, immunologic, and microbiological outcomes in children in Mumbai, India. She is particularly interested in how vitamin D status may predict immune function and the gut microbiome composition. Currently, she is in Mumbai, India and is conducting preliminary work for a large randomized biofortification trial among children living in urban slums. 

Hayden Kantor is a post-field doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology. His dissertation, “‘We Earn Less than We Eat:’ Food, Farming, and the Caring Family in Bihar, India,” was funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the American Institute for Indian Studies. This project examines food and farming practices to show how rural people in the North Indian state of Bihar articulate an ethics of care in the face of precarious conditions. Although the recent intensification of Green Revolution agricultural practices has boosted rural incomes, small-scale farming families nevertheless struggle to maintain their livelihoods. As such well-being in rural Bihar is increasingly framed not in terms of agricultural output, but off-farm income. Yet even as they prepare for a future beyond agriculture, they uphold an ethos of resourcefulness in their food practices that they consider a defining characteristic of life in rural Bihar, and one essential for sustaining the family. His ethnography of eating and labor describes a situated ethics of care in rural Bihar and contributes to a broader debates about agrarian futures in South Asia.

Brinda Kumar’s research area is South Asian art. She is interested in the collection and exhibition of Indian art in the 20th century in India and abroad. In her research she addresses issues of historiography, museology, aesthetics and the art market in the formation of the discipline of Indian art history.

Jennifer Koester is a second year M.A. student in Asian Studies. Her research explores the intersections of nationalism, gender, women's bodies, sartorial choices and discourses of security and violence in North India. She received her B.A. in 2012 from Dartmouth College in Anthropology and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. 

Thibaud Marcesse

Thibaud Marcesse is a PhD candidate in the Government Department at Cornell University. His dissertation investigates the impact of institutional change in the field of poverty alleviation on the strategies pursued by political parties in rural India. He focuses specifically on the ways brokers interact with citizens and party elites. His broader research interests include the political economy of development, institutions, political parties, ethnicity and the politics of foreign aid. His PhD research in rural Uttar Pradesh has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Graduate School and the Government Department at Cornell. Prior to beginning his PhD, he also worked with the United Nations, the National Democratic Institute and Chemonics International, a USAID contractor.

Kasia Paprocki is a Ph.D. candidate in Development Sociology. She is currently writing her dissertation, which examines the politics of climate change adaptation in Bangladesh, and the political ecology of development and agrarian change in the coastal region.


Maryam Rabi is a graduate student in the field of Historic Preservation Planning at Cornell University and has a professional background in Architecture from Beaconhouse National University in Lahore, Pakistan. She is currently supported by the Aga Khan Foundation International Scholarship Programme. After completing her undergraduate degree in 2010, Maryam has worked in the area of preservation with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Historic Cities Programme in Lahore. She was involved in the Conservation of the Shahi Hammam project – which was recently granted the award of merit at the UNESCO Asia-­‐Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.         

Rumela Sen is a PhD candidate in the department of Government. Her dissertation is titled “From Bullets to Ballots: Maoists and the Lure of Democracy in India”. Her research employs a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate how, when and why insurgents bid farewell to arms and embrace the same political system they had once vehemently rejected. This fits into her broader research interests in political violence, social movements, revolution, agrarian studies, democratic decentralization and insurgency/counterinsurgency (COIN). Rumela was awarded the FLAS fellowship in 2012-2013 to learn Nepali. Her 11 months dissertation fieldwork in Telangana, Jharkhand and West Bengal in India through 2013-2014 was funded by the Junior Research Fellowship awarded by American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS). 

Divya Sharma is a PhD candidate in the Department of Development Sociology. Her research interests include the historical sociology of development, agrarian political ecology, resistance and social movements, with a regional focus on India. In her dissertation research, she examines the relationship among the transformation of farming practices, knowledge and the experience of labour, and how these transformations are shaping the rural political landscape in the Indian state of Punjab, particularly in the context of emerging environmental concerns, after decades of chemical driven agricultural intensification. 

Scott Sorrell is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology with interests in queer theory, embodiment, urban space, and the relationship between the global and the local. His dissertation research focuses on the ongoing urban transformation of Bangalore, India from the perspective of its queer communities. Prior to undertaking graduate study at Cornell, Scott lived in Nepal, working with the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University on a project about Bhutanese refugee resettlement and with The Carter Center as a political observer. 

Eloisa Stuparich is a doctoral student in the field of Asian Literature, Religion, and Culture, researching the formation of Hindu identities in recent South Asian history. She is particularly interested in the use of Hinduness as an identitarian category in cross-cultural encounters and academic debates, with special attention to the case-study of the Nath Sampraday.

Elaine Yu focuses on the effects of vitamin D supplementation among adult patients with tuberculosis (as well as a subset living with human immunodeficiency virus co-infection) in southern India. In a double-blinded randomized control trial, study participants will be randomly assigned to receive different dosages of vitamin D or placebo; biological, immunological, and health indicators will be assessed during the one year follow up period. Her broad research interests include the intersection between tuberculosis, diabetes mellitus, and malnutrition, particularly in resource-limited contexts. Elaine is currently a doctoral candidate in the field of Nutritional Sciences.