Photo of Radha KapuriaDr Radha Kapuria

PhD (King’s College London)

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in History

social history of music in colonial Punjab, nineteenth and early twentieth-century histories of music in Punjab, musical exchange and production.

+44 (0)114 22 22556 | Jessop West 3.34

Semester One 2019/20 Office Hours: TBC



With family roots in west Punjab (current-day Pakistan), Radha grew up in the historic city of Delhi, India, where she graduated from the University of Delhi with a Masters degree in History in 2009. She then took a year off to campaign for sustainable, safe food and holistic agricultural practices. Moving from agriculture to culture, she researched north India's oldest classical music festival for her MPhil degree at the prestigious Centre for Historical Studies in New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University.

She went on to pursue her 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, she was Teaching Fellow in Higher Education at King's. She is currently 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 musicians of newly-divided Punjab.

Her 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.

Professional Roles

  • 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.

Research interests

Radha's 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. Focussed 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.

Her 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 her doctoral project, this earlier research into the nineteenth- and early twentieth- century histories of music in Punjab provides the foundational underpinning for her current postdoctoral project that is focussed on the mid-late twentieth century. Her 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.

Research Supervision

Areas of supervision for potential PhD students:

I am keen to supervise postgraduate students working on South Asian history, and particularly welcome students with interests in the social, cultural and gender histories of South Asia, as well as those exploring the impact of conflict and migration in Asian and African contexts.

PhD study in History


Recent publications

Book Manuscripts

2019 Music in Colonial Punjab: A Social History (Under review).

Journal Articles (Peer-reviewed)

'Of Music and the Maharaja: Gender, Affect and Power in Ranjit Singh's Lahore', Modern Asian Studies, published by Cambridge University Press, 29 July 2019, 1-37. DOI:

'National, Modern, Hindu?: The Post-Independence Trajectory of Jalandhar's Harballabh Music Festival', The Indian Economic and Social History Review [SAGE], Vol. 55 No. 3 (July-September, 2018), 389-418.

'Unconquerable Nemesis' in 'Postscript', Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. L, No. 51, 2015, pp. 91-92.

'Gandhi as Volunteer: A Historical Exploration', Gandhi Marg (35:2), 2013, pp. 263-282.

Book Chapters (Peer-reviewed)

'Pt. V.D. Paluskar and the Punjab: Assessing a Complex Relationship', in Anshu Malhotra (ed.), Punjabi Centuries: Histories of Punjab, New Delhi: Orient Black Swan (Forthcoming).

'Music and its Many Memories: Complicating 1947 for the Punjab', in Churnjeet Mahn and Anne Murphy (eds) Partition and the Practice of Memory, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, pp. 17-42.

Book Reviews

2016 'Peerless Playback Singer' in Biblio: A Review of Books, Vol. XXI, No. 8, 31-2.

2014: Review of Chatterjee, Guha-Thakurta and Kar (eds), New Cultural Histories of India: Materiality and Practices (New Delhi, 2014); in Journal of Punjab Studies, Vol. 21, No. 2, 201-205.

Review of Davesh Soneji, Unfinished Gestures: Devadasis, Memory, and Modernity in South India (Chicago, 2012); in Social Scientist, Vol. 42, No. 7/8, 102-105.

Web-Based Publications

2017 'The Harballabh Music Festival of Jalandhar: A Historical Overview', in Sahapedia: An Open Online Resource on the Arts, Cultures and Heritage of India (Published online at on 15 February).



Conflict, Cultures and (De)Colonisation, HST3307

Conflict, Cultures and (De)Colonisation, HST3307

This module examines the rise and fall of empires as processes that shaped the colonised and the coloniser. It considers the growth and governance of empires, and the role of decolonisation struggles, in shaping our contemporary world. The module approaches this history from multiple vantage points, and asks: who held power both during empire and after empire’s end? Drawing upon diverse historiographical traditions, and examining a wide range of time periods and places, we will question the centrality of empires in the telling of global history. In doing so, we will bring the past to bear on contemporary debates about race, globalisation, migration, and decolonisation.

The World in Connection: Themes in Global History, HST6606

The World in Connection: Themes in Global History, HST6606

This core module introduces students to some of the most important and innovative themes, debates and controversies relating to global history and its linked fields of imperial, international, transnational, transregional and world history. Through discursive seminars students will acquire an informed understanding of global forces, structures and processes that have shaped and reshaped our world, including empires, trade, technology, religion, decolonisation, migration, war, diplomacy, humanitarianism, disease and the environment. Students will thus be enabled to explore connections, comparisons and exchanges across broad geographical and chronological terrain, while also considering relationships between the global, regional and local.

Public Engagement

Public Engagement

2019 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.

2018 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.

Curation, Research and Writing for 'Culture in Pre-Partition Punjab', and 'Impact of 1947 on Punjab Musicians' for The Partition Museum, Amritsar.

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.

Administrative Duties

Administrative Duties

To follow.