Sitara Thobani, an assistant professor in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University, has established herself as a respected researcher of the performance arts in colonial and postcolonial South Asia and its diasporas, for which she has now received a Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Award.
Thobani focuses her research on representations of the Indian dancer in both Euro-American and Indian sources in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Fulbright award allows Thobani to conduct archival research in the Indian cities of Dehli, Pune, Benares and Lucknow over the next year.
Research gained from these trips will build on the exhibition she presented at the LookOut! Art Gallery at the beginning of the 2018-2019 academic year and will lead to the publication of her second book. Thobani’s first book, “Indian Classical Dance and the Making of Postcolonial National Identities: Dancing on Empire’s Stage,” was based on her ethnographic fieldwork in the United Kingdom and India, which demonstrated how performances of Indian classical dance serve as a critical site for the mutual constitution of deeply entangled Indian, diasporic, and British national identities.
“I’m delighted to have received this Fulbright,” Thobani said. “I really look forward to undertaking my research on representations of the Indian dancer and the role these play in constructing ideas about race, gender and religion in the 19th and 20th centuries.”
The Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Fellowships aim to facilitate exchanges between faculty, researchers and professionals in India and the United States. These fellowships provide the opportunity to teach, conduct research, or carry out a combination of teaching and research.
Thobani plans to begin her archival research in India this summer and will return for further research the following spring. Each city she plans to visit offers different dimensions of her research, she said.
She also expressed how crucial grants like the Fulbright-Nehru are in providing support to scholars in the social sciences and humanities realm.
“Such fields of study help us understand how ideas about power and difference are grounded in, and shape, everyday cross-cultural practices,” Thobani said.