Academic Articles

Below is a selection of articles and book reviews that I have written for academic journals and edited volumes.


“The Transnational Career of the ‘Indian Edison’: Shankar Abaji Bhisey and the Nationalist Promotion of Scientific Talent,” in Prashant Kidambi, Rachel Dwyer, and Manjiri Kamat, eds., Bombay Before Mumbai: Essays in Honour of Jim Masselos, London: Hurst and New York: Oxford University Press, 2019, pp. 239-62 (peer reviewed).

Abstract: Shankar Abaji Bhisey or S.A. Bhise (1867-1935), who grew up in Bombay and died in the United States, was a genius inventor whose career unfolded in three different continents. In his lifetime, he was known as the ‘Indian Edison’ and the ‘Pioneer Indian Inventor’. He was best known for producing the Bhisotype, a typecasting machine that was poised to transform the printing industry. As a struggling young inventor, Bhisey required significant financial support for his experiments and research. In Bombay and abroad, he found such support amongst leaders of the early nationalist movement, many of whom enjoyed close business connections or possessed substantial business experience. Eventually, several Indian nationalist leaders and their British allies—most notably Dadabhai Naoroji, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, and Henry Hyndman—provided Bhisey with the financial resources necessary to continue with his inventions.

“Beyond Hindu-Muslim Unity: Gandhi, the Parsis, and the Prince of Wales Riots of 1921,” Indian Economic and Social History Review, vol. 55, no. 2, 2018, pp. 221-47 (peer reviewed).

Abstract: Between 17-20 November 1921, Bombay was convulsed by the Prince of Wales Riots, which coincided with the arrival of the future King Edward VIII in the city. The riots constituted an extremely important moment in the Non-Cooperation Movement, the political transformation of Bombay, and the development of M.K. Gandhi’s political thought. Additionally, the riots upturned familiar notions of communalism: angry at repeated violations of a hartal Gandhi declared for the day of the Prince’s arrival, Muslim and Hindu supporters of the Non-Cooperation and Khilafat movements joined together to attack supposedly loyalist minorities, especially Parsis. Herein lay the riots’ broader significance. During the Non-Cooperation Movement, Gandhi had been keen to recruit the active support of the Parsi community. He was well aware of their financial and political clout, and their leadership roles in liberal nationalist circles. Most Parsis, however, expressed strong reservations about Gandhi’s tactics, believing that a mass political movement under the banner of ‘Hindu-Muslim unity’ would be injurious to smaller minority communities. The riots, therefore, confirmed Parsis’ worst fears about Gandhi’s politics and their majoritarian implications. Gandhi, for his part, worked tirelessly to repair his relationships with the Parsis and reassure them of the Congress’ commitments towards minority rights. He reconsidered how smaller communities fit into India’s communal dynamics. By December 1921, Gandhi even unfurled a new slogan that was used towards the end of the Non-Cooperation Movement: ‘Hindu-Muslim-Sikh-Parsi-Christian-Jew unity’.

“Our Own Religion in Ancient Persia: Dadabhai Naoroji and Orientalist Scholarship on Zoroastrianism,” Global Intellectual History, vol. 2, no. 3, 2017, pp. 311-28 (peer reviewed).

Abstract: Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917) is today best known as an economic thinker and an early leader in the Indian nationalist movement. Between the 1860s and 1890s, however, he was also recognised as a scholar of Zoroastrianism, sharing his ideas on Parsi religious reform and ‘authentic’ Zoroastrian belief and practice. Aside from corresponding with some of the leading European Orientalists of his day, Naoroji authored papers on Parsi religious belief and religious reform that were widely distributed and cited in Europe and North America. Over time, he began to function as an interlocutor between European Orientalists and the Parsis in India, disseminating European scholarship amongst his co-religionists while also facilitating scholars’ patronage of the wealthy Parsi community. Naoroji’s correspondence with the Oxford philologist Lawrence H. Mills, in particular, demonstrates this dynamic at work. These activities point to the oftentimes complex and collaborative relationships that existed between non-Europeans and European Orientalists, illustrating the degree to which European scholars could be dependent on the intellectual, financial, and logistical assistance of their objects of study.

“The Banaji and Mehta Families: Forging the Parsi Community in Calcutta,”  in Almut Hintze and Alan Williams, eds., Holy Wealth: Accounting for this World and the Next in Religious Belief and Practice (Festschrift for John R. Hinnells), Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2016, pp. 211-30.

Abstract: The Calcutta Parsi community was unique in many ways: it was one of the earliest and largest settlements outside of western India and it produced numerous individuals who exercised great political and economic influence on Bengal, eastern India, and the subcontinent in general. This paper traces the evolution of the community by examining two of its most prominent families, the Banajis and the Mehtas, paying special attention to Rustomji Cowasji Banaji and Rustomji Dhanjibhai Mehta, both who established fire temples in Calcutta. Peering into the histories of these two families helps us understand the intertwined relationships between commercial success, political influence, and community leadership. Examination of the often-fractious relationship between the Banajis and the Mehtas might also help us answer why Calcutta had two functioning fire temples for several decades.

“Dadabhai Naoroji and the Evolution of the Demand for Swaraj,” Nehru Memorial Museum and Library Occasional Paper Series, History and Society, no. 25, 2013.

“1942: The United States, Great Britain, and the Indian Nationalist Movement,” Herodotus, vol. XIV, Spring 2004, pp. 1-16.

Book Reviews

Review of Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent by Priyamvada Gopal (Verso), South Asia, vol. 43, no. 4, September 2020, pp. 798-800.

Review of The Chaos of Empire: The British Raj and the Conquest of India by Jon Wilson (PublicAffairs), South Asia, vol. 41, no. 1, March 2018, pp. 240-42.

Review of The Calling of History: Sir Jadunath Sarkar and His Empire of Truth by Dipesh Chakrabarty (University of Chicago Press), South Asia, vol. 39, no. 3, August 2016, pp. 703-05.

Review of Mumbai: Theatre of Conflict, City of Hope by Mariam Dossal (Oxford University Press), Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. 22, no. 2, April 2012, pp. 477-79.

“The Importance of Ancient Iran,” review of Sasanian Iran by Touraj Daryaee (I.B. Tauris), Economic and Political Weekly, vol. XLV, no. 15, 10 April 2010, pp. 30-32.