Dr Radha Kapuria
Department of History
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in History
+44 114 22 22556
Full contact details
Department of History
1 Upper Hanover Street
With family roots in west Punjab (current-day Pakistan), I grew up in the historic city of Delhi, India, where I graduated from the University of Delhi with a Masters degree in History in 2009. I then took a gap year, campaigning for sustainable food production and holistic agricultural practices.
Moving from agriculture to culture, I researched north India's oldest classical music festival for my MPhil degree at the prestigious Centre for Historical Studies in New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University.
I pursued my PhD at King's College London in 2018, as Commonwealth Scholar from India (2014-17), and later as Isobel Thornley Doctoral Fellow at the IHR in London (2017-18). During 2018-2019, I was Teaching Fellow in Higher Education at King's.
Currently I am the Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in History at Sheffield, 2019-2022, on the project 'Subverting Borders: Musicians, Nationalism and Memory in Punjab, 1947–1991', which maps the impact of South Asia's Partition in 1947 on the social history of musicians and performing artistes in newly-divided Punjab.
My main research interests are in South Asian social, cultural and gender history; migration, displacement and borderlands; conflict, decolonisation and culture; and the political and historical contexts of cultural expression more generally.
- Research interests
My PhD offers the first social history of music in colonial Punjab (1849-1947), to show the adaptability of its musical traditions, and their intrinsic role in shaping multiple identities among performers, patrons and listeners across different communities.
Focused on the lesser-known history of art or classical music in Punjab, it maps the tension between courtly and middle-class patronage; between folk and classical traditions; and between cosmopolitan and devotional contexts for music making.
It was passed without corrections and was shortlisted for the Bayly Prize 2019.
My M.Phil dissertation, defended at the Centre for Historical Studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University, was a micro-history of the oldest Hindustani music festival of north India, in Jalandhar, east Punjab.
Combined with my doctoral project, this earlier research into the nineteenth- and early twentieth- century histories of music in Punjab provides the foundational underpinning for my current postdoctoral project that is focused on the mid-late twentieth century.
My Leverhulme project maps the history of musical exchange across the Indo-Pak border, by surveying how Punjabi musicians’ life-stories, musical production and national identities developed in radically different - if connected - ways in India, Pakistan and the British diaspora after, and in great measure because of, the cataclysm that was 1947.
- Teaching interests
South Asia, Cultural History, Social History, Gender, Migration.
- Teaching activities
- HST3307 - Conflict, Cultures and (De)Colonisation
- HST6606- The World in Connection: Themes in Global History
- Professional activities
- Member, European Association of South Asian Studies.
- Member, British Association of South Asian Studies.
- Member, American Council for Southern Asian Art.
- Member, British Forum for Ethnomusicology.
- Member, Indian History Congress.
- Public engagement
- Invited speaker at the Shiv Nadar University in Dadri, near New Delhi, January 9 and at the Ambedkar University Delhi, India, January 20.
- Invited speaker at the University of Manchester for the Postgraduate Students’ Forum titled Manchester Progressive, March 6.
- Online lectures and events:
- Lyallpur Young Historians Club, Pakistan: Invited Public Lecture on Musical Citizenship and Custodianship and Punjab’s Musicians (May 14, Facebook Live).
- Manchester Museum and British Council-led South Asian Heritage Month (SAHM): In conversation with Dr Priya Atwal about female performers at Ranjit Singh’s court (July 22, Zoom).
- SAHM: In conversation with the Grewal Twins on Partition and Music (August 13, Instagram Live).
- UK Punjab Heritage Association (UKPHA): Invited public lecture on nineteenth century musicians and dancers as part of the UKPHA’s Virtual Book Club (September 21, Zoom).
- Invited speaker on 'Mirasis, Music and Modernity' at Forman Christian College University, Lahore, Pakistan, September 20.
- Invited speaker at Ashoka University, Sonepat, India, April 10.
- Invited speaker at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, April 24.
- Public lecture at SOAS on ‘Musicians and Dancers in 19th Century Punjab’, as part of the Empire of the Sikhs Exhibition, Brunei Gallery, London, September 9.
- 2017 Invited speaker at the South Asia Seminar Series, The British Library, London, June 5; available on Soundcloud.
- Invited speaker for Decolonising Narratives panel at The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry, 10 November; available on Youtube.
- Curation, Research and Writing for 'Culture in Pre-Partition Punjab', and 'Impact of 1947 on Punjab Musicians' for The Partition Museum, Amritsar.
- Assessor, King's Enterprise Awards, King's College London. Evaluated undergraduate students' entrepreneurial project proposals, and engagements with the King's Entrepreneurship Institute.
- 2014-17: Volunteer and organizer for monthly sessions of Sangat: Dialog Punjab, a forum exploring the poetry, music, politics, philosophy, faith and culture of Punjabis across the world, hosted by the SOAS South Asia Institute, London.