Sahana Ghosh wins 2019 Sardar Patel Dissertation Award

Daevan Mangalmurti
November 7, 2022

Sahana Ghosh GRD ‘18, a social anthropologist who examines borders, mobility, and militarization of borders and territory in South Asia, was announced on September 16th as the winner of the 2019 Sardar Patel Dissertation Award for her dissertation “Borderland orders: Gendered economies of mobility and security across the India-Bangladesh border.”

The Sardar Patel Dissertation Award was established in 1999 “to honor the best doctoral dissertation on any aspect of modern India” by a doctoral student at a U.S. educational institution. The prestigious award honors Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s first Home Minister, and is awarded annually by the Center for India and South Asia (CISA) at UCLA. The award is accompanied by a cash prize endowed by the Friends of the Sardar Patel Association and is awarded at an in-person gala in Los Angeles. Yale, with three winners of the Prize (in 2019, 2016, and 2013), has the most of any institution.

In the announcement of the award, CISA emphasized the way in which “Borderland orders shows how the life of regional geopolitics advances as nations are gendered and bodies on the move sexualized in particular expressions of threat and vulnerability within, at, and across their shared borders.” The dissertation was built on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in India and Bangladesh during which Ghosh studied border security, migrant flows, and the concept of “illegality” at the border.

Ghosh, who is now an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the National University of Singapore, told the SASC, “I’m so honored to receive the Sardar Patel Prize, which is really one-of-its kind in North America. Being a community-funded Award, the opportunity to speak to the South Asian diaspora about my research on cross-border mobilities, increasing militarization, and struggles over citizenship in the borderlands of India and Bangladesh is precious.

Ghosh’s forthcoming book, A Thousand Tiny Cuts: Mobility and Security Across the India-Bangladesh Borderlands, is forthcoming with the University of California Press. The book builds on her dissertation to chronicle “the slow transformation of a connected region into national borderlands and shows the foundational place of gender and sexuality in the meaning and management of threat and security in relation to mobility.” Ghosh’s current research, she said, studies the “historical ethnography of soldiering in postcolonial India through a focus on the Indian Border Security Force. Approaching soldiering as a form of gendered labor is allowing me to trace the development of postcolonial security institutions as employers as well as explore what this kind of work means for families and communities of soldiers, often agrarian, in terms of the promises of citizenship.”

Ghosh received her PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology and a certificate in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Yale, an MPhil in Migration Studies from the University of Oxford, an MA in English Literature from Jadavpur University, and a BA in English Literature from Delhi University. Her dissertation advisers were Inderpal Grewal, Professor Emeritus of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and of American Studies, and K. Sivaramakrishnan, Dinakar Singh Professor of Anthropology.