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Susan Visvanathan

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Susan Visvanathan

Susan Visvanathan (born 1957) is an Indian sociologist, social anthropologist and a fiction writer. She is well known for her writings on religious dialogue and sociology of religion. Her first book Christians of Kerala: History, Belief and Ritual among the Yakoba(Oxford University Press) is a pathbreaking work in the field of sociology of religion.

She is Chairperson and Professor of Sociology, Centre for the Study of Social Systems at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).[1]

Early life and background

Susan Visvanathan studied at Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University. After finished M.A in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, she did her M.Phil and PhD in Sociology at the Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. Susan completed her PhD under the supervision of the eminent Sociologist and Social Anthropologist, Veena Das.


Susan started her career as Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Hindu College, University of Delhi in 1983. She was Head of the Department of Sociology there from 1989 to 1997. She joined the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in 1997, where she is now a Professor. She teaches Sociology of Religion, Historical Anthropology, Classical Social Theory and gender studies. She was Chairperson of the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University from 2010 to 2012.[1]

She was Honorary Fellow, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla 1990–1995, and Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi 1989–92. She was a Charles Wallace Fellow to Queens University Belfast 1997. She has been a visiting professor to Maison des Sciences de L'Hommes, Paris (2004), Paris 13 University (2011) and Guest Professor to the Free University of Berlin (2011). She has been a Honorary Consultant to the World Council of Churches, Geneva 1987–89, Consultant to the Oxford University Press, New Delhi 1994 to 1999 and from 2009 onwards and Consultant to Free University, Berlin,2011.

She also writes fiction during winter and summer breaks from the university, extending sociological and theoretical concerns in the more vivid prose of literary fiction including short stories and novels.[2]


  • The Christians of Kerala: History, Belief and Ritual among the Yakoba. Oxford University Press, Madras 1993. Reprinted 7th time as paperback from OUP Delhi in 2010
  • Missionary Styles and the Problem of Dialogue. Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla,1993
  • An Ethnography of Mysticism: The journeys of a French Monk in India. Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla 1998
  • Structure and Transformation: Theory and Society in India. Oxford University Press. Delhi, 2000.
  • Friendship, Interiority and Mysticism: Essays in Dialogue, Orient Longman, (Black Orient Swan) 2007.
  • Children of Nature: The Life and Legacy of Ramana Maharshi, (Roli Books, 2010)
  • Reading Marx, Weber and Durkheim Today, ( Palm Leaf Publications,2012)
  • Culture and Society ( Readings in Indian sociology,Vol.IX), (Sage, 2014)


  • Something Barely Remembered: short stories. Flamingo 2000 and Roli IndiaInk, 2000
  • The Visiting Moon, Roli IndiaInk 2002
  • Phosphorus and Stone, Penguin and Zubaaan,2007
  • Seine at Noon, Roli IndiaInk, 2007
  • Nelycinda and Other Stories, Roli Books,2012

Selected Articles (Journals)

  • Reconstructions of the Past Among the Syrian Christians of Kerala, Contributions to Indian Sociology (Sage), July 1986
  • Marriage, Birth and Death: Property Rights and Domestic Relationships of the Orthodox/Jacobite Syrian Christians of Kerala, Economic and Political Weekly,Vol-XXIV No. 24, 17 June 1989
  • Women and Work – From Housewifization to Androgyny, Economic and Political Weekly,Vol XXXI Nos 45 and 46 November 9–16, 1996.
  • The Homogeneity of Fundamentalism: British Colonialism and Mission in India in the 19th Century, Studies in History(Sage),16 (2)2000
  • Hannah Arendt and the Problem of Our Age, Economic and political Weekly, Vol XXXVI,No. 16, 21 April 2001.
  • S.K. Rudra, C.F Andrews and M.K. Gandhi: Friendship, Dialogue and Interiority in the Question of Indian Nationalism,Economic and Political Weekly, Vol XXXVII, No. 34, 24 August 2002
  • Medieval Music and Shakespeare's Sonnets,Think India Quarterly,12(2),2009

Selected Articles (Edited Books)

  • "Interpretations of the City",in 'Structure and Transformation: Theory and Society in India',edited by Susan Visvanathan,New Delhi: Oxford University Press,2001
  • "The Eucharist in a Syrian Christian Church",in 'India's Religions:Perspectives from Sociology and History',edited by T.N Madan, New Delhi: Oxford University Press,2004
  • "Ringeltaube in the Midst of the Natives-1813 and the Narratives of Distress",in 'Halle and the beginning of Protestant Christianity in India : Vol 2- Christian mission in the Indian context',edited by Andreas Gross et al.,Halle: Franckesche Stiftungen,2006
  • "Reconstructions of the Past",in 'Historical Anthropology',edited by Saurabh Dube, New Delhi: Oxford University Press,2007
  • "The Status of Christian Women in Kerala",in 'World Christianity:Critical Concepts in Religious Studies',edited by Elizabeth Koepping,London:Routledge,2010
  • “A Cast of Characters,” in 'Remembered Childhood:Essays in Honour of Andre Beteille',edited by Malvika Karlekar,New Delhi: Oxford University Press,2010


  1. ^ a b "Prof Susan Visvanathan". JNU. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  2. ^ "Bookshelf: Susan Visvanathan". SAWNET. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 

External links

  • http://articles/Ethnography#Notable_ethnographers
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