Shailaja Paik

Shailaja D Paik


Taft Distinguished Professor of History and Affiliate Faculty in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and Asian Studies

Professional Summary

I am Charles Phelphs Taft Distinguished Research Professor of History and Affiliate in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Asian Studies. My research, writing, and teaching interests lie at the intersection of a number of fields: Modern South Asia; Dalit studies; women's, gender, and sexuality studies; social and political movements; oral history; human rights and humanitarianism. As a historian, I specialize in the social, intellectual, and cultural history of Modern India. My first book Dalit Women's Education in Modern India: Double Discrimination (Routledge, 2014 ) examines the nexus between caste, class, gender, and state pedagogical practices among Dalit ("Untouchable") women in urban India. My second book The Vulgarity of Caste: Dalits, Sexuality, and Humanity in Modern India (Stanford University Press, 2022 analyzes the politics of caste, class, gender, sexuality, and popular culture in modern Maharashtra. The book won the American Historical Association's 2023 John F. Richards Prize for "the most distinguished work of scholarship on South Asia" ( and the Association of Asian Studies 2024 Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Prize ( I am working on several new book projects: Becoming "Vulgar": Caste Domination and Normative Sexuality in Modern India, Caste, Race, and Indigeneity in and beyond South Asia, and the Cambridge Companion to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. My research is funded by the American Council of Learned Societies, Stanford Humanities Center, National Endowment for the Humanities, American Institute of Indian Studies, Yale University, Emory University, the Ford Foundation, and the Charles Phelps Taft Research Center, among others. I have published several articles on a variety of themes, including the politics of naming, Dalit and African American women, Dalit women’s education, new Dalit womanhood, and kissing and nationalism in prestigious international journals. My scholarship and research interests focus on anti-colonial struggles, transnational women’s history, women-of-color feminisms, and particularly on gendering caste and subaltern history. I co-organized the "Fifth International Conference on the Unfinished Legacy of Dr. Ambedkar" at the New School of Social Research and I direct the "Ambedkar-King Justice Initiative" at the University of Cincinnati.
Cover of The Vulgarity of Caste by Shailaja Paik

Courses Developed and Taught

  • Gender, Sexuality, and Society
  • Caste and Race
  • Global Racisms
  • Women in South Asia
  • Gender and Empire
  • World History
  • Ambedkar and Gandhi
  • South Asian Civilizations
  • The Making of Modern India
  • Indian Nationalism and Anti-colonialism
  • Film and Empire
  • Caste, Gender, and Nation
  • Caste and Identity in India
  • India on Film


Ph.D.: University of Warwick U.K., 2007 (Modern Indian History)

Research and Practice Interests

Modern South Asia, Dalit Studies, Women, Gender and Feminism, Social and Political movements, Oral history, Caste, Race and Human Rights.

Positions and Work Experience

2012 -2013 Post-Doctoral Associate and Visiting Assistant Professor, Yale University, New Haven, CT

Research Support

2016 -2017 American Institute of Indian Studies-National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Long-term Fellowship Type:Fellowship Level:National

2016 -2017 Charles Phelps Taft Center Fellowship Type:Fellowship Level:University

2022 -2023 American Council of Learned Societies Frederick Burkhardt Fellowship Type:Fellowship Level:National

2020 -2021 Stanford University Stanford Humanities Center Fellowship Type:Fellowship Level:International

2020 The Henry Luce Foundation “Toward Equal Dignity and Equal Rights: Global Dalit Change-Makers,” Role:Co-PI Type:Grant Level:International

Abbreviated Publications

Peer Reviewed Publications

"Chhadi lage chham chham, vidya yeyi gham gham (The harder the stick beats, the faster the flow of knowledge): Dalit Women’s Struggle for Education." Indian Journal of Gender Studies, 16.2 (2009), 175-204.

"Amchya Jalmachi Chittarkatha (The Bioscope of Our Lives): Who is Our Ally?." The Economic and Political Weekly, xliv.40 (2009), 39-47.

“Mahar-Dalit-Buddhist: The history and politics of naming in Maharashtra.” Contributions to Indian Sociology, 45.2 (2011), 217-241.

Bey eka bey, bey doni char (Two times One is Two, Two times Two is Four): Dalit Women’s Schooling,” In Claiming Power From Below: Dalits and the Subaltern Question in India. Eds. Manu Bhagavan and Anne Feldhaus, Oxford University Press, June 2008.

"Kamala: the story of a dancer” [Abstract]. All India Women's Studies Centre, 2005.

"Building Bridges: Articulating Dalit and African American Women's Solidarity" Women's Studies Quarterly (Feminist Press at the City University of New York). 42: 3&4. Fall/Winter 2014.

"Forging a New Dalit Womanhood in Colonial Western India: Discourse on Modernity, Rights, Education, and Emancipation." Journal of Women's History, 28:4, 2016, pp. 14-40.

"Mangala Bansode and The Social Life of Tamasha," Biography, 40:1, Winter 2017.

The Rise of New Dalit Women in Indian Historiography, History Compass, 2018 (Wiley).

"Dr. Ambedkar and the 'Prostitute': Caste, Sexuality, and Humanity in Modern India," Gender and History. Fall 2021.

"Dalit Feminist Thought," Economic and Political Weekly, 56:25, June 2021 and re-printed in Leela Fernandes ed. Routledge Handbook on Gender in South Asia.

"To kiss or not to kiss? Cinema, Vulgarity, and Marathi Manus in 1960s and 1970s Maharashtra" South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, June 2023.

In Press

Shailaja Paik. "Health, Hygiene, and Sustainability among Valmiki (Sweeper) Women in Maharashtra." In Imraana Qadeer (Eds.), Dalit Women: Health and Human Rights India: Kali for Women. The Hindi version was out in June 2012.

Other Publication

"For Dignity and Rights of Dalit Women," Report Submitted to UN CERD Treaty Body. 2007.

Education and Exclusion of Dalits: A History of Hurt and Humiliation. 2016. the

"Tamasgir" Mangala Bansode and the "Tamasha" of her Life. 2017. the


2014. Review of "A History of Prejudice: Race, Caste, and Difference in India and the United States". Social History. 39:1, 141-143.

June 2015. Review of Rupa Viswanath's The Pariah Problem: Caste, Religion,
and the Social in Modern India
 (Columbia University Press, 2014). American Historical Review. June 2015.

January 2015. Review of Aishwary Kumar's Radical Equality: Ambedkar, Gandhi, and the Risk of Democracy (Stanford, 2014). H-Asia. 

2017. Review of The Gender of Caste, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies.

2018. Review of Dalit Studies (Duke, 2016). Histoire-Sociale/Social History 

2018. Review of S. Anandhi and Karin Kapadia ed. Dalit Women: Vanguard of an Alternative Politics in India (Routledge, 2017). The Economic and Political Weekly of India.

Practicing Caste: On Touching and Not Touching. H-Asia.

Ground Down by Growth: Tribe, Caste, Class and Inequality in Twenty-First Century India. Journal of Anthropological Research.

Dalit Women: Vanguard of an Alternative Politics. Economic and Political Weekly of India.

Dalit Studies, in Histoire Sociale-Social History. January.

The Gender of Caste: Representation of Dalits in Print in South Asia: Journal of South Asia. November.


2014. Dalit Women's Education in Modern India: Double Discrimination (Routledge: London and New York)

Book Chapter

"Refashioning Futures: Dalit Women’s Education and Empowerment in Maharashtra" in The Impact of Education in South Asia: Perspectives from Sri Lanka to Nepal, ed. Helen Ullrich. Anthropological Studies of Education. (Springer & Palgrave Macmillan).

"Education, Self-respect, and Rise of the New Dalit Woman" in Gender, Caste, and the Imagination of Equality ed. Anupama Rao (Women Unlimited: New Delhi)

Health, Hygiene, and Sustainability among Valmiki (Sweeper) Women in Maharashtra, in Dalit Women’s Rights and Health: A Glimpse of Awakening ed. Imrana Qadeer (Panos Institute India: New Delhi) Hindi Version.

Bey eka bey, bey doni char (Two times One is Two, Two times Two is Four): Dalit Women’s Schooling, in Claiming Power From Below: Dalits and the Subaltern Question in India eds. Manu Bhagavan and Anne Feldhaus (Oxford University Press: New Delhi).

"The Flood" in Joel L. Lee and K. Satyanarayana, ed. Concealing Caste (Oxford University Press, 2023).


Invited Presentations

(2013. ) Dr. Ambedkar and the Empowerment of Dalit Women .Columbia University, NY. Level:International

(2013. ) The Reform of Women and Exclusion of Dalits .Amherst College, MA.

(2013. ) The Reform of Women and Exclusions of Caste .Institute for Research on Women and Gender, Columbia University, NY.

(2013. ) Fashioning Feminism in Colonial Western India .Bowdoin College, ME.

(2013. ) Rights, Education, and Dalit Women's Empowerment: Jotirao Phule and B.R. Ambedkar's Fashioning of "Feminist" Technologies .South Asia Colloquium Series, Spring, Yale University.

(2012. ) Deva Amhala laya livhana yeoode (God, let us learn to write a lot): Investigating the social and educational history of Dalit women in twentieth century western India .South Asia Brown Bag, Yale University.

(2012. ) Education and Dignity: Examining the social and educational history of Dalit women in Maharashtra .Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

(2012. ) Daughters of the Lesser God: Investigating Dalit women's education and empowerment .History Department, Montana State University.

(2012. ) Caste and Patriarchy .University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Workshop. .

(2011. ) "To Re-shape and Re-organize Our Worlds: Dalit Women's Education and Emancipation" .Dartmouth College, NH. Level:National

(2011. ) Caste and Gender, Anti-caste and Anti-race struggles, Dalits and Education .University of Iowa, Iowa city, IA.

(2011. ) Caste and Democracy in India .University of Iowa, Workshop. . Level:International

(2009. ) "Untouched Colors: Caste in India and Race in the US" .Union College, NY. Level:College

(2009. ) What are you going to do with this math training? The Burden of Educating Dalit Girls,” .George Mason University, DC. Level:National

(2009. ) Amchya jalmachi chittarkatha (The narrative depiction of our lives): Contesting mainstream feminism and Dalit patriarchy .University of Pennsylvania. Level:National

(2014. ) Dalit Women's Education in Modern India .University of Pune.

(2016. ) The Social Life of Dance .Dartmouth College, NH. Other Institution. . Level:College

Paper Presentations

(2013. ) Building Bridges: Forging an African-American and Dalit Women's Coalition .Cincinnati, OH. Professional Meeting. Level:National

(2013. ) Reform of women and exclusion of Dalits .University of Wisconsin, Madison. Professional Meeting. Level:International

(2013. ) "Deviant Sexuality" and the struggle for survival: Investigating caste-based sexual labor and everyday living of tamasgirs (folk performers) in Maharashtra .New Orleans, US. Professional Meeting. Level:International

Honors and Awards

2012 Malathy Singh Visiting Assistant Professor of South Asian History at the South Asian Studies Council, Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University, CT Status:Recipient Level:International Type:Fellowship

American Institute of Indian Studies-National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Long-term Fellowship Status:Recipient Level:National Type:Fellowship