Faculty

Image of people on the street and sidewalk.

Department of Anthropology

Dr. Heather M.-L. Miller, Associate Professor specializing in South Asian archaeology, pre-modern complex societies, and ancient technology.  Dr. Miller is an expert in social, political and technological aspects of the Indus Civilization (third millennium BCE).  She also co-directs the Caravanserai Networks Project, focused on travel routes and amenities in northern Pakistan and India during the Late Historic period (second millennium CE/AD), with a focus on the Mughal empire.  Recent and current PhD students additionally engage in archaeological, historical, and anthropological research on Harappan city organization; architecture of Sikh governance in Peshawar, Pakistan; and historical Hindu pilgrimage at Vijayanagara, South India.

 

Dr. Francis Cody, Associate Professor specializing in Sociocultural and Linguistic Anthropology with a focus on Southern India.  Dr. Cody’s research focuses on written language and the social dynamics of collective political action in southern India.  His book, The Light of Knowledge: Activism and Writing in India, explores literacy activism, citizenship, and social movement politics in rural Tamilnadu.  His second project is centered on the daily newspaper market, tracing the emergence of populist politics through print-mediated publicity in Tamil cities and small towns.  His work contributes to the transdisciplinary project of elaborating a critical social theory of communication in the postcolonial world.

 

Department of Historical Studies

Dr. Christoph Emmrich, Associate Professor of Buddhist Studies. Dr. Emmrich studies Newar Buddhism, Pali and Burmese literature, and Tamil Jainism. His recent work concerns Newar girls and young women in the Kathmandu Valley (Nepal), studying their involvement in Buddhist practices related to marriage, image consecration, temporary ordination and female education. His work addresses the literary representation of Buddhist monastic networks, lineage and travel between Nepal, Yangon and Mawlamyine (Burma) as well as the historiography of Tamil Digambara Jain temple ritual in North and South Arcot (Tamil Nadu, India) addressing questions of assimilation and resistance.

 

Dr. Malavika Kasturi, Associate Professor of South Asian History.  Dr. Kasturi’s research interests include women in South Asia; Hindu, colonial, and post-colonial law; and popular religion and the public sphere under colonialism. She has published a book is entitled Embattled Identities: Rajput Lineages and the Colonial State in Nineteenth Century North India (2002).

 

Dr. Luther Obrock, Assistant Professor of South Asian Religions. Dr. Obrock's research focuses on the religious, political, and intellectual history of Sanskrit literature in second-millennium South Asia. His current research focuses on Indic conceptions of kingship, politics, and religion in the centuries surrounding the stabilization of Islamic rule in the Subcontinent. He is particularly interested in the religious and social history of premodern kashmir.

 

Dr. Enrico Raffaelli, Associate Professor of Zoroastrian Studies. Dr. Raffaelli’s monograph L’oroscopo del mondo (The Horoscope of the World) published in 2001, deals with astrology in Zoroastrianism, its relation with Mesopotamian, Classical and Indian astrology, and its influence on Islamic astrology. His main research projects include the study of some astrological Zoroastrian texts, and a comparative study of Zoroastrian, Mesopotamian, Hebrew and Islamic Wisdom literature.

 

Dr. Ajay Rao, Associate Professor of South Asian Religions and Director of CSAC. Dr. Rao’s interests are in the academic studies of South Asian religions; Sanskrit intellectual history; Sanskrit literature and poetics; and religion and aesthetics. His book, Re-figuring the Ramayana as Theology: A History of Reception in Premodern India, is forthcoming from Routledge.

 

Dr. Karen RuffleAssociate Professor of History of Religions (UTM) and the Study of Religion (UTSG), specializes in the study of South Asian Shiʿism. Her research and teaching interests focus on devotional texts, ritual practice, and Shiʿi material practices in South Asia. She has conducted field research in India, Pakistan, Iran, and Syria. Her first book, Gender, Sainthood, and Everyday Practice in South Asian Shi’ism, was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2011. Ruffle’s most current research and publications focus on issues of material practices in the Deccan region of Indian, particularly role of relics and the senses in shaping Shiʿism under the Qutb Shahi sultans in the 16th and 17th centuries. She is currently working on two book projects. The first, Everyday Shiʿism, is an introductory textbook focusing on "lived Shiʿism" in South Asia. The second project, Sensational Muharram in Qutb Shahi Hyderabad, 1591-1672,  examines how one South Asian Shi’i community participates in the religious sensorium, a symbolically rich social space through which ritual practitioners engage with material objects and the body to produce sense-experiences that trigger historical memory and invoke the presence of the Imams and Ahl-e Bait.

 

Dr. Kyle Smith, Assistant Professor of Historical Studies (UTM) and Religion (St. George), studies early Christianity. His primary research focus is late ancient Syriac Christianity in Roman Mesopotamia and the Sasanian Persian Empire. Presently, he is completing a book manuscript entitled Constantine and the Captive Christians of Persia: Martyrdom and Politics in Late Ancient Syriac Christianity.

 

Dr. Victoria Tahmasebi-Birgani, Assistant Professor of Women and Gender Studies, in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga and Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto. Dr. Tahmasebi is an interdisciplinary scholar whose areas of specialization encompass feminist theories in relation to continental and transnational contexts; critical theories of women’s movements in the Middle East; digital activism; gender and ethics of non-violence; contemporary history of social and political thought. She holds an Honours B.A. in Sociology and Women’s Studies from the University of Toronto, and M.A. and Ph.D. in Social and Political Thought from York University, Toronto, Canada. 

 

Dr. Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, Professor of History and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations. Dr. Tavakoli-Targhi is the editor of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. His areas of specialization encompass History, Modernity, Nationalism, Gender Studies, Orientalism, and Occidentalism.  He is the author of numerous articles and two books.  He is the owner of one of the premier collections of early edition books in Urdu and Persian.

 

Dr. Shafique N. Virani, Associate Professor of History, Religion, and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations. Dr. Virani’s research and publications focus on Islamic history, philosophy, Sufism, Bhakti literature, Shi‘ism (both Twelver and Ismaili), and Islamic literatures in Arabic, Persian and South Asian languages.

 

Department of Language Studies

Dr. Azita Taleghani, Senior Lecturer of Persian.  Dr. Taleghani teaches Persian language and literature, as well as linguistic studies, at the Department of Language Studies at UTM and the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at UTSG.  She is the Chief Book Review Editor for the journal Irannameh and serves as Program Coordinator for the Language Section of the Department of Language Studies.

 

Dr. Arsalan Kahnemuyipour,  Assistant Professor received his PhD in Linguistics from the Department of Linguistics at the University of Toronto in 2004. He taught at Syracuse University (Upstate New York) from 2004 to 2010. He joined the Department of Language Studies at U of T Mississauga in 2010. His areas of expertise are syntax (sentence structure), morphology (word structure) and the interface between syntax and phonology (the sound system). He has worked on a number of languages including his native Persian, as well as English, Armenian, Turkish, Niuean, among others. He has published a book with Oxford University Press and articles in top ranked journals such as Natural Language and Linguistic 
Theory and Linguistic Inquiry. He is currently the Book Review Editor of the Canadian Journal of Linguistics.

 

Department of Political Science

Dr. Shivaji Mukherjee, Assistant Professor research interests lie at the intersection of state formation, civil conflict, and political economy of development. He worked as a Research Assistant at the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, and then did an MA in Political Science at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a PhD in political science at Yale University. His dissertation is on the Maoist insurgency in India, and uses data gathered during field work, archival data and quantitative analysis of sub national datasets to demonstrate that colonial institutions  of indirect rule selected by the British set up the structural conditions for post-colonial insurgency through path dependent mechanisms. Dr. Mukherjee hopes to work in the future on state formation, the use of different kinds of counter insurgency strategy by the Indian state, and also various aspects of the Maoist insurgency, and other ethnic insurgencies in India.

 

Department of Sociology

Dr. Zaheer Baber, is a general sociologist whose broad research interests include social theory, sociology of science and technology, comparative and historical sociology, race, ethnicity and racialization, visual sociology, South Asia etc. He is currently engaged in a SSHRC funded project on the role colonial rivalries and botanical gardens played in the emergence of Botany as a science. His books include The Science of Empire: Scientific Knowledge, Civilization and Colonial Rule in India (1996; 1998), Secularism, Communalism and the Intellectuals (2006), CyberAsia (editor, 2005) and Society, History and the Global Human Condition (co-editor with Joseph M. Bryant, 2010). In addition to a number of articles to journals such as the British Journal of Sociology, Theory and Society, International Sociology, Current Sociology, Critical Sociology, Journal of Contemporary Asia etc. he is also a frequent contributor of essays to the Times Literary Supplement and Nature. His previous institutional affiliations include University of Victoria, National University of Singapore, Tokyo University as the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellow, and the University of Saskatchewan as the Canada Research Chair. 

 

Dr. Kristen Plys, Assistant Professor of Sociology. Dr. Plys' research sits at the intersection of political economy, postcolonial theory, sociology of development, labour and labour movements, historical sociology, and global area studies. The greater part of her intellectual work analyses the historical trajectory of global capitalism as seen from working class and anti-colonial movements in the Global South. This research program has led her to take a particular interest in “Third World” political economy in the mid-20th century, shifts in the global trade balance between Early Modern Europe and Asia, the theories of political economy that help to analyse these historical phenomena, along with temporality and historical method in the historical social sciences.

 

Department of Visual Studies

Dr. Kajri Jain, Associate Professor specializes in how the efficacies, affects, and values associated with images arise not only from what goes on within the picture-frame but also from the production, circulation and deployments of images as material objects. She is primarily interested in popular images in modern India (such as the bazaar icons known as calendar art, or monumental statues and theme parks) and has largely focused on a vernacular business ethos where religion has been the primary site for adopting new media and expressive techniques. Sr. Jain’s current research focuses on the emergence of gigantic iconic statues in India after the neoliberal economic reforms of the 1990s extends Dr. Jain’s research interests focus on the efficacies of circulation, the aesthetics of modern religion, and vernacular capitalism to their interface with material infrastructures (highways, the automotive industry, dams), domestic tourism, landscape/“nature”, governmentality, and democracy (particularly the politics of caste).