Ashish Koul

Ashish Koul is a historian of modern South Asia with interests in the history of Islam, caste, and politics. She completed her graduate work from Vanderbilt University in 2017, after which she spent a year as the Singh Visiting Fellow at Yale during 2017-18. She is now Assistant Professor of South Asian history at Northwestern University.

Her current book project investigates the production of an ‘Islamic caste’ identity among the Arain community of Punjab during the twentieth century. Reading genealogical histories produced by the community alongside institutional papers, private correspondence, and official records, her book unravels the processes through which the Arains rearticulated their caste identity in Islamic terms, enabling a creative re-interpretation of prominent reformist tropes as well as their participation in partisan politics first in colonial Punjab and later in independent Pakistan. Focusing on the relationship between caste and religion in the case of South Asian Muslims, her book demonstrates that assertions of Islamic belonging can be put to work for the consolidation of caste boundaries. 

On the Dr. Malathy Singh Visiting Fellowship at Yale University:

Singh fellowship at Yale University was an invaluable experience for me. I started the fellowship in August 2017, weeks after submitting my dissertation. The vibrant intellectual environment at the South Asian Studies Council enabled me to step away from the dissertation, and begin conceptualizing my book project. Conversations with faculty, visiting speakers, and graduate students offered unique opportunities for intellectual exchange. More importantly, the Singh fellowship gave me a chance to interact with South Asia scholars outside my discipline and delve into a diverse array of research subjects and methodologies related to South Asia.

In addition to research, I taught my first courses at Yale. I worked as a graduate teaching assistant at Vanderbilt, but I taught classes of my own design for the first time at Yale. Having the intellectual freedom to choose specialized topics for my classes was an invaluable asset. I was able to offer courses that intersected with my research interests, which brought home to me the value of connecting my pedagogical and scholarly work, instead of seeing them as two separate domains. I hope to build on my experiences as a teacher at Yale in the rest of my academic career.