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Department of Social Anthropology



My doctoral research explores everyday life near India’s most famous heritage site, the Taj Mahal, which has recently been at the centre of fierce contestations of national narratives as they focus on contesting visions of religious and historical memory. Situating this within a broader context of Hindu fundamentalism and religious nationalism, severe environmental pollution in Agra, and the widespread criticism of state-led efforts to conserve the Taj, I plan on working in Taj Ganj, a historic neighbourhood and marketplace near the Taj Mahal to explore the relationships between contested historic sites, changes in the natural environment, and everyday urban life in north India. Much of my research will focus on people’s mundane relations with Agra’s diverse monumental remains as they relate to local people’s occupational and devotional lives, their knowledge of history and their city, and their interactions with the state. 

My doctoral project is an extension of my previous ethnographic research in Agra. In 2016-18, I read an MPhil in Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford, where my dissertation explored the politics of heritage and scale at the Taj Mahal. Prior to my Master’s, I completed the BSc in Anthropology at the University of Delhi, where I was trained in social anthropology, biological anthropology and archaeology, and conducted ethnographic fieldwork among the Bhils, an indigenous community in Rajasthan (2016) and archaeological research on Mesolithic rock art in Sonbhadra (Uttar Pradesh in 2015).


Heritage and the environment, the intersections between material culture, time, and everyday life; the state and its relationship to society, bureaucracy, memory and archaeological anthropology; conceptions of the sacred, cultural change, urban life, urban anthropology, anthropology of South Asia.

Research Title: 'Walls tell stories': The production and use of heritage in contemporary India.
Supervisor: Professor Susan Bayly
 Sarthak  Malhotra (2018)

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