Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, The New School

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2013
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, The New School
Inhabiting One’s Skin: An Ethnography of Skin Color and Appearance in a North Indian City

This project sets out to examine the lived experience of bodily appearance and skin color in the South Asian cultural context. Scholarship on South Asia has extensively investigated forms of social difference and hierarchy in the region, producing a substantial corpus of literature on caste, class, and gender. Surprisingly, however, this dense body of writing has not significantly addressed the question of skin color, and how it might also relate to practices of social differentiation and hierarchizing. This project proposes to investigate how color, as a central social preoccupation in South Asia, relates to formal social classifications (caste, class, race, gender) without entirely mapping on to any of them. As such, it draws from research on the varying formulations of race and color in different world regions, and seeks to identify the specificities of the discourses and experiences of bodily difference and color in the South Asian situation. It will investigate this problem through focusing on three kinds of sites –the matrimonial photography studio, the Unani skin clinic and the more informal site of the neighborhood and home – in Lucknow, a North Indian city considered to have its own specific history of emphasis on bodily aesthetics.