South Asia


Capture 1Julia Stephens, Assistant Professor

Ph.D, Harvard University

RESEARCH INTERESTS:How law has shaped religion, family, and economy in colonial and post-colonial South Asia and in the wider Indian diaspora.

I am currently completing a book manuscript entitled Governing Islam: Law, Empire, and Secularism in South Asia (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). The book moves between official archives of colonial law and wider spheres of public debates, bringing into conversation vernacular pamphlets and newspapers, Urdu fatwas, colonial legal cases, and legislative deliberations. Drawing on these wide-ranging legal archives, Governing Islam explores how colonial law constructed a new religious/secular binary that was deeply influential, and vibrantly contested inside and outside colonial courts.

Alongside my book manuscript, I am working on a new project on inheritance and diasporic Indian families, tentatively entitled Worldly Afterlives: Death and Diaspora in the Indian Ocean. The project traces the lives of Indian migrants—sailors, petty moneylenders, female merchants, and even circus performers—by looking at the assets they left behind after their deaths. These estates ranged from mercantile fortunes to a few treasured personal effects, including letters, jewelry, or a pocketful of receipts for small debts owed by fellow travelers. Relatives in India and abroad struggled to navigate complex international bureaucracies in order to track down information about long-lost relatives and the property they left behind. This archive provides a window into the intersecting histories of diasporic families and the formation of state bureaucracies for managing global flows of labor and capital. In the coming years this research will take me to India, South Africa, Zanzibar, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.My teaching includes surveys on modern South Asia and political Islam, and more specialized seminars on Islamic law, postcolonial and subaltern theory, and diasporic family histories. Before coming to Rutgers, I taught at Yale, Cambridge, and Harvard.

CaptureJohan Mathew, Assistant Professor

 Ph.D, Harvard University

RESEARCH INTERESTS: Crime and illicit commerce and how they shape capitalist markets.

I am an economic historian with a particular interest in crime and illicit commerce and how they shape capitalist markets. Geographically, I have focused on the western Indian Ocean but I study and teach transnational and global history more generally. Before joining Rutgers I was jointly appointed in the Departments of History and Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

My first book, Margins of the Market: Trafficking and Capitalism across the Arabian Sea, was published by the University of California Press in May 2016. The book traces the hidden networks that trafficked slaves, guns and gold across the Arabian Sea in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. I argue that labor, property and capital – the conceptual foundations of capitalist ideology – were reframed by the interplay between trafficking networks and colonial regulations. Connected to this project I have several published and forthcoming pieces on violence, fraud and diaspora in the Indian Ocean world. I have now turned my attention to narcotics and their relationship with labor. This new project is tentatively entitled, “Opiates of the Masses: Labor, Narcotics and Global Capitalism.” This research explores the consumption of cannabis, opium and other narcotics with particular concern for how and why they are consumed by the working classes in Asia and Africa. Initial forays suggest that the physical and psychological strains of capitalist labor regimes were made tolerable through the consumption of narcotics.

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