Ahona Panda, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of History




I am a historian of modern South Asia, the British empire, and decolonization. My main areas of interest are nationalism (religious and linguistic) and mass political movements in twentieth- century South Asia. I received my PhD from the University of Chicago in 2019.

I am currently working on my book manuscript, titled Bengal Undivided: Language and the Limits of Nationalism, in which I rewrite the Hindu Muslim relationship in South Asia by considering language as an axis of political and moral identity. Beginning with the rise of competing Hindu and Muslim religious nationalisms at the end of the nineteenth century, it examines how language intersected with religious and political articulations of self and community in the twentieth century. Denying neither the territorial demands of religious nationalism, nor the trajectory of divergent nation-states of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, Bengal Undivided traces a history of mutuality through the Bengali language and its political destiny across the lines of a range of political parties in the twentieth century. The book is based on my dissertation that won the 2020 Sardar Patel Award, awarded by the Centre of India and South Asia at UCLA, for best doctoral dissertation on any aspect of modern India. My second book will explore how members of the Communist Party of India conceived their roles, against the backdrop of a global left in the late-colonial period. I intend to study microhistories of grassroots organizers alongside a vanguard invested in creating cultural idioms (music, literature, film) for mass mobilization especially through translation from Russian and European languages. Thus, the project will situate how the global threat of fascism in the 1930s and 40s turned into a local, South Asian concern, with the rise of polarizing religious politics in the 1940s.

I teach both broad survey and specialised seminars on South Asian history at the Claremont colleges. My courses encompass colonialism and nationalism, gender in South Asian civilizational history, legal regimes and censorship, and the intertwined histories of race, labour, migration, and capitalism in the modern period.


Courses Offered:

Makers of Modern India and Pakistan (Seminar)

Sex and Censorship in South Asia (Special Topics/Research Seminar)

Caste, Race and Equality (First-year Humanities Seminar)

Gender and History in South Asia (Seminar) 


PhD in South Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago, 2019

BA and MA in English literature (with Film Studies and History), Jadavpur University, 2011.

Awards and Affiliations

2022                2020 Sardar Patel Award for best dissertation on modern India in the humanities, education, fine arts, or social sciences, UCLA Center for India and South Asia.  

2022-2023        Selected as one of six “Emerging scholars in Political Theology”, Political Theology Network and Center for Political Theology, Villanova University.

2020                 Mellon PATHS grant for “Digital Scholarship for South Asian Studies”, Regenstein Library, University of Chicago

Research and Publications

‘From fascism to famine: Complicity, conscience, and the narrative of “peasant passivity” in Bengal, 1941–1945’. Modern Asian Studies 57(5), pp. 1551-1584. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0026749X2200021X

“How to Be Political without Being Polemical: The Debate between Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay and Rabindranath Tagore over the Krsnacaritra,” in Many Mahābhāratas, eds. Nell Shapiro Hawley and Sohini Sarah Pillai (SUNY Press, 2021), 279-304.

By appointment (zoom)
Tuesday/Thursday: 4-5pm