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Davesh Soneji

Associate Professor

Williams Hall Room 815


Davesh Soneji is Associate Professor in the Department of South Asia Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He holds a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from McGill University, and his research interests lie at the intersections of social and cultural history, religion, and anthropology. For the past two decades, Prof. Soneji has produced research that focuses primarily on religion and the performing arts in South India, but also includes work on gender, class, caste, and colonialism. He is best known for his work on the social history of professional female artists in Tamil and Telugu-speaking South India and is author of Unfinished Gestures: Devadāsīs, Memory, and Modernity in South India (University of Chicago Press, 2012), which was awarded the 2013 Bernard S. Cohn Book Prize from The Association for Asian Studies (AAS). He is also editor of Bharatanāṭyam: A Reader (Oxford University Press, 2010; 2012) and co-editor, with Indira Viswanathan Peterson, of Performing Pasts: Reinventing the Arts in Modern South India (Oxford University Press, 2008). Prof. Soneji has recently held positions as Visiting Professor at the Central University of Hyderabad in India, as well as Le Centre d'Études de l'Inde et de l'Asie du Sud (CEIAS) in Paris. Prior to coming to the University of Pennsylvania, Prof. Soneji taught at McGill University in Montreal, Canada for over twelve years. 

Prof. Soneji’s more recent research spans a wide range of subjects related to the history of music in modern South India, including occluded traditions of Tamil Islamic music, Tamil Catholic music, Marathi kirtan in the Tamil-speaking regions, the music of the Tamil theatre, and transoceanic sonic histories of the Tamil diaspora. Attentive to caste-based hierarchies of taste, Dalit sonicscapes, musical migration, musical dispossession, and the question of “secular music,” this new work is forthcoming in a monograph tentatively titled Infinite Tunes: Genealogies of Musical Pluralism in Modern South India.