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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. Reimagining Indian Ocean Worlds (2020) breaks new ground by bringing together multidisciplinary approaches to examine contemporary Indian Ocean worlds. It reconfigures the Indian Ocean as a space for conceptual and theoretical relationality based on social science and humanities scholarship, thus moving away from an area-based and geographical approach. 

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, the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, and the Mellon Research Initiative, among others.  She currently serves on the advisory board of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Studies and the editorial board of Contemporary South Asia. She is Series Editor, Routledge Series on the Indian Ocean and Trans-Asia:  https://www.routledge.com/asianstudies/series/RSIO.

Research Focus

Professor Srinivas’ research interests include cities and urban cultures, religion, the body, South Asia within a comparative context and Indian Ocean worlds. 

Selected Publications


  • Srinivas, S. (2020) Reimagining Indian Ocean Worlds. (edited with Bettina Ng'weno and Neelima Jeychandran). NY/London: Routledge. (Special South Asia edition published by Routledge (Delhi), 2021). 
  • Srinivas, S. (2015) A Place for Utopia: Urban Designs from South Asia. Seattle: University of Washington Press; South Asian edition, 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. (2022)  “Beyond the Rim: Centering Cities in Indian Ocean Worlds.” Verge: Studies in Global Asias, 8.1: Indian Ocean Studies, Afro-Asian Affinities, pp. 3-11. 
  • Srinivas, S. (2021) “Timelines and Lifelines: Landscape Practices and Religious Refabulations from South Asia” In Istvan Keul, ed. Spaces of Religion in Urban South Asia. London/New York: Routledge, pp. 128-143.
  • Srinivas, S. (2019) “Gardens, Cities and Timescapes in South Asia.” In Keith Jacobs and Jeff Malpas, edited Philosophy and the City. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, pp. 133-145.
  • Srinivas, S. (2019) “The Challenge of Urban Space.” In Sanjay Srivastava, Yasmeen Arif, and Janaki Abraham, edited Critical Themes in Indian Sociology. New Delhi: Sage Publishers, pp. 402-418.
  • Srinivas, S. (2018) Spirited Topographies: Religion and Urban Place-Making. Edited roundtable (with Mary Hancock) for Journal for the American Academy of Religion, https://doi.org/10.1093/jaarel.
  • Srinivas, S. (2018) “Ordinary Cities and Milieus of Innovation.” (With Mary Hancock). In Mary Hancock and Smriti Srinivas, edited Roundtable on Spirited Topographies: Religion and Urban Place-Making, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, lfx066, https://doi.org/10.1093/jaarel/lfx066.
  • Srinivas, S. (2018) “Highways for Healing: Contemporaneous ‘Temples’ and Religious Movements in an Indian City” In Mary Hancock and Smriti Srinivas, edited Roundtable on Spirited Topographies: Religion and Urban Place-Making, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, lfx058, https://doi.org/10.1093/jaarel/lfx058.
  • Srinivas, S. (2016) “Roadside Shrines, Storefront Saints, and Twenty-First Century Lifestyles: The Cultural and Spatial Thresholds of Indian Urbanism.” In Place/No Place: Spatial Aspects of Urban Asian Religiosity, Joanne Waghorne, ed. Singapore: Asia Research Institute-Springer Asia Series, pp: 131-147.
  • 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



  • 2020 Graduate Studies Distinguished Graduate and Postdoctoral Mentoring Award for 2020, University of Califonia, Davis
  • 2017-2018 Global Affairs Regional Faculty Grant, University of California, Davis
  • 2015-2018 Mellon Research Initiative-Davis Humanities Institute Grant, University of California, Davis.
  • 2016 Social Sciences Dean's Leadership Award for 2016, University of California, Davis
  • 2014-2015 Davis Humanities Institute Research Cluster Funding, University of California,Davis.
  • 2013-2015 UCHRI Multi-Campus Research Group Award, University of California.