Douglas Ober is a Research Associate in the Centre for India and South Asia Research, part of the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, and an occassional Sessional Lecturer in the Department of History, and Department of Asian Studies.
He received his PhD in Asian Studies in 2017 with specialites in the history of South Asia, colonialism and religion. He has more than a decade of archival and ethnographic research experience in northern India, the Himalayas (India, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan), and Tibetan areas of China. His research interests include the history of colonialism in Asia, transnational movements, Buddhist studies, religious nationalism, Indian historiography, and Dalit studies. Broadly speaking, his research explores how colonialism shaped and continues to shape social, political and intellectual transformations in South Asia. Religion, and in particular, Buddhism, is the primary lens through which he theorizes these transformations. His work has been supported by a Fulbright – Nehru Fellowship, Tina and Morris Wagner Foundation Fellowship, the Templeman Foundation, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Nitartha Institute, and the University of Chicago’s Neubauer Collegium.
He has written for public media on various Asia-related issues including self-immolation in Tibet, cultural heritage in Afghanistan, and Hindu art exhibitions in the US. His current research includes a SSHRC funded research project with Dr. David Geary (UBC-O) and Dr. Sraman Mukherjee (Ashoka University) on “The Pathways and Politics of Return: Trans-Regional Perspectives on a Buddhist Homeland” and the 3 year “Entanglements of the Indian Past” research project at the University of Chicago with Dipesh Chakrabarty, Whitney Cox, Andrew Ollett, Sarah Pierce Taylor, and Anand Venkatkrishnan. Currently, Doug is in the process of co-editing two Special Issues on discourses of homeland and the politics of citizenship and belonging in South Asia, one which is set to appear in South Asian History and Culture in late 2022 and the second in Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (forthcoming May 2023). His book-length study on the revival of Buddhism in colonial and early postcolonial India will be co-published by Stanford University Press and Navayana (Delhi) in 2023. The work engages the literature on public culture, colonialism, transnational mobilities, religious modernities, Orientalism, Dalit activism, and Hindu nationalism.
Recent academic publications, arranged by year, include:
in press “Temple Architecture and Modern Hindu Appropriations of Buddhism,” with Padma Dorje Maitland, in Special Issue of Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (forthcoming May 2023)
in press “Placing the Past, Envisioning the Future: Memory, Material Traces and the Politics of Reinvention in Modern India,” with David Geary, in Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (forthcoming May 2023).
in press “Citizenship, Memory and the Politics of Belonging in South Asia,” with David Geary, in Special Issue of South Asian History and Culture (forthcoming fall 2022).
2021. “Translating the Buddha: Edwin Arnold’s Light of Asia and its Indian Publics.” Humanities, Special Issue on “Postcolonial Approaches to Religion, Literature and the Arts,” Vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 1 – 18. [Open Access: https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010003]
2020. “Socialism, Russia, and India’s Revolutionary Dharma.” In Buddhism in the Global Eye: Beyond East and West, edited by John Harding, Victor Sogen Hori and Alexander Soucy. London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 71 – 86. [https://doi.org/10.5040/9781350140660.0013]
2019. “From Buddha Bones to Bo Trees: Nehruvian India and the Poetics of Power, 1947-1956.” Modern Asian Studies Vol. 53, no. 4: pp. 1312 – 1350. [https://doi.org/10.1017/S0026749X17000907]
2019. “Buddhism in Colonial Contexts.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press: pp. 1 – 35. [http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199340378.013.565]
Visiting Fellow, Neubauer Collegium, University of Chicago, 2021 – 22
Fulbright – Nehru Fellow, India, 2014 – 15
Nehru Humanitarian Award in Indian Studies, 2013
National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Fellow at the Summer Institute for “Buddhist Traditions of Tibet and the Himalayas,” 2009