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Smriti Srinivas


  • Ph.D., Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University, India, 1995
  • M.Phil., Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University, India, 1989
  • M.A., Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University, India, 1988
  • B.A., Economics, Madras Christian College, Madras, India, 1986


Smriti Srinivas’ doctoral dissertation (published as The Mouths of People, the Voice of God: Buddhists and Muslims in a Frontier Community of Ladakh, 1998) was a study of two Himalayan villages on the geopolitical boundaries between India, China, and Pakistan. It embeds constructions of cultural identity and cases of spirit possession within the context of borderland political economy. Her next major research project focused on Bangalore city, described as India’s “Silicon Valley.” The outcome of this research, Landscapes of Urban Memory: The Sacred and the Civic in India’s High Tech City (2001), examines the various pathways that memory and the body take in a city inserted within global processes. In the Presence of Sai Baba (2008) studies a transnational religious movement centered on the Indian guru, Sathya Sai Baba (1926-2011), who attracts a global following from Japan to South Africa. It analyzes the movement in three cities – Bangalore, Nairobi, and Atlanta – linking regimes of spatial, somatic, and symbolic production. A Place for Utopia: Urban Designs from South Asia (2015) – based on ethnographic and archival research – explores novel designs for utopian place-making from the early twentieth century to the present that link South Asia with Europe and North America. It shows how a history of transcultural cross-fertilization, in which South Asia plays a critical part, has provided a reservoir of hopes and imaginings for the creation of potential futures.

Her research has been supported over the years by a Mellon fellowship, a Rockefeller Humanities fellowship, a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, a Delhi University National Fellowship, UC Humanities Network Multi-Campus Working Group and Multi-Campus Research Group Awards, the American Academy of Religion, the Davis Humanities Institute, the Indian Foundation for the Arts, and the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, among others. Her most recent grant is from the Mellon Foundation for a three-year collaborative project (2015-2018) on "Reimagining Indian Ocean Worlds." She is co-founder of "Nagara," a site for urban studies, history, and culture, based in Bangalore. She currently serves on the advisory board of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Studies and the editorial board of Contemporary South Asia.

Research Focus

Professor Srinivas’ research interests include South Asia and Indian Ocean worlds; religion; cities and urbanism; utopias; cultures of performance; the body.

Selected Publications


  • Srinivas, S. (2015) A Place for Utopia: Urban Designs from South Asia. Seattle: University of Washington Press and Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan.
  • Srinivas, S. (2008) In the Presence of Sai Baba: Body, City, and Memory in a Global Religious Movement. Leiden/Boston: Brill; South Asian paperback edition, Hyderabad: Orient Longman.
  • Srinivas, S. (2001) Landscapes of Urban Memory: The Sacred and the Civic in India’s High-Tech City. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. (Revised Indian edition published in 2004 by Orient Blackswan, Hyderabad).
  • Srinivas, S. (1998) The Mouths of People, the Voice of God: Buddhists and Muslims in a Frontier Community of Ladakh. Delhi: Oxford University Press.  


  • Srinivas, S. (2014) Sathya Sai Baba and the repertoire of yoga. In Gurus of Modern Yoga, Ellen Goldberg and Mark Singleton (Eds.), Oxford/NY: Oxford University Press, pp. 261-279.
  • Srinivas, S. (2012) Urban forms of religious practice. In Vasudha Dalmia and Rashmi Sadana (Eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Modern Indian Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 67-79.
  • Srinivas, S., & Hancock, M. (2008) Spaces of modernity: Religion and the urban in Asia and Africa. In Mary Hancock and Smriti Srinivas (Eds.) Symposium on Religion and the Formation of Modern Urban Space in Asia and Africa, pp. 617-709. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Vol. 32 (3): 617-630.
  • Srinivas, S., & Heitzman, J. (2005) Warrior goddess versus bipedal cow: Sport, space, performance and planning in an Indian city. In James Mills (Ed.) Subaltern Sports: Politics and Sport in South Asia. London: Anthem Press: 139-171.
  • Srinivas, S. (2002) Cities of the past and cities of the future: Theorizing the Indian metropolis of Bangalore. In John Eade and Christopher Mele (Eds.) Understanding the City: Contemporary and Future Perspectives. Oxford: Blackwell: 247-277.
  • Srinivas, S. (2001) The advent of the avatar: The urban following of Sathya Sai Baba and its construction of tradition. In Vasudha Dalmia, Angelika Malinar, and Martin Christof (Eds.) Charisma and Canon: Essays on the Religious History of the Indian Subcontinent. Delhi: Oxford University Press: 293-309.


Undergraduate courses: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology; Religion in Society and Culture; Performance, Embodiment, and Space in South Asia; Resistance, Rebellion, and Popular Movements; Politics, Culture, and Embodiment in South Asia; Comparative Cultures; Urban Anthropology; Metropolitan Cultures in Asia; Introduction to Comparative Religions; Approaches to the Study of Religion; City and Culture; Global Cultures; Contemporary Religious Movements in Global Perspective; Women and Religion

Graduate courses: Ethnographic Practices; Research Design and Methodology in Social Anthropology; Exploring (E)utopias; On Place-Making; Spaces of Modernity; Introduction to Sociological and Anthropological Methods; Theorizing India; Bodies and Modernities; Theories of Language: M.M. Bakhtin and Pierre Bourdieu; Approaches to Comparative Cultural Studies; Body and Society: Focus on South Asian Religious and Cultural Traditions



  • 2015-2018 Mellon Research Initiative-Davis Humanities Institute Grant, University of California, Davis.
  • 2015-2016 Small Grants in Aid of Research, University of California, Davis.
  • 2014-2015 Davis Humanities Institute Research Cluster Funding, University of California,Davis.
  • 2014-2015 Small Grants in Aid of Research, University of California, Davis.
  • 2013-2015 UCHRI Multi-Campus Research Group Award, University of California.