History Book Club Presents Pritipuspa Mishra (PhD ‘08)

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A conversation with Pritipuspa Mishra (PhD ‘08), associate professor of history at University of Southampton and Ajay Skaria, UMN professor of history and director of graduate studies.

About the book

Language and the Making of Modern India: Nationalism and the Vernacular in Colonial Odisha, 1803–1956

Cambridge University Press, January 2020

Through an examination of the creation of the first linguistically organized province in India, Odisha, Pritipuspa Mishra explores the ways regional languages came to serve as the most acceptable registers of difference in post-colonial India. She argues that rather than disrupting the rise and spread of All-India nationalism, regional linguistic nationalism enabled and deepened the reach of nationalism in provincial India. Yet this positive narrative of the resolution of Indian multilingualism ignores the cost of linguistic division. 

Examining the case of the Adivasis of Odisha, Mishra shows how regional languages in India have come to occupy a curiously hegemonic position. Her study pushes us to rethink our understanding of the vernacular in India as a powerless medium and acknowledges the institutional power of language, contributing to global debates about linguistic justice and the governance of multilingualism. This title is also available as Open Access. 

About the Discussants

Pritipuspa Mishra

Pritipuspa Mishra (PhD ‘08, history) is an associate professor of history at the University of Southampton, with research interests in the Indian state of Orissa and linguistics. Before moving to the UK to join the University of Southampton, Priti was a tenure-track assistant professor at Texas A&M University. In 2013-2014, she held a Fung Postdoctoral Fellowship at Princeton University.  She served as the secretary of the British Association of South Asian Studies from 2016 to 2021.

Ajay Skaria

Ajay Skaria is a professor of South Asian and environmental history at the University of Minnesota, specializing in the 19th- and 20th-century political movements.  Many of his recent articles have focused on Gandhi and his lasting impact. He also currently serves as the director of graduate studies for the department. 

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