Nikhil Pandhi

Graduate Prize Fellow
Aaron Burr Hall, Room 116

Nikhil Pandhi is a sixth-year doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology. His research is situated at the critical intersections of postcolonial caste, race, ethnicity and sexuality studies in the Global South, with a specific focus on India. Ideologically rooted in the urgency and vitality of cross-pollinating Dalit-feminist, Black-feminist and queer-feminist epistemologies, Nikhil’s dissertation ethnographically chronicles how global ideas about anti-racism, radical humanism and transformative justice get capaciously fertilized, fabulated and translated with(in) everyday geographies and lineages of anti-casteism in northern India (particularly inspired by the work and legacy of BR Ambedkar). Through long-term fieldwork and interviews with subaltern collectives of Hindi Dalit writers, poets and creatives of the Dalit Lekhak Sangha (Dalit Writers Association) and twenty-four months of participant observations in low-income drug rehabilitation centres, pain management clinics and sexual health facilities with Dalit-Bahujan doctors, public health agents and patients, Nikhil’s research qualitatively maps the affective and aesthetic lifeworlds of embodied inequalities in urban India to critically understand how caste and race “get under the skin”. By further drawing on what Michel Rolph-Trouillot calls “radical archives” of livingness from literature, translation and everyday existence, Nikhil analyses how anti-colonial horizons of abolition are made and mediated through the fugitive braiding of reparative grammars and queer gestures of worlding amid racialized structures of caste terror and negation. Nikhil received a prestigious grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for anthropological research for his dissertation fieldwork in India (2021-23). He is also an award-winning literary translator, and recently won the inaugural PEN Presents award (2022) from English PEN, for his translations (from Hindi to English) of the short stories of Indian Dalit-feminist writer Anita Bharti. Nikhil is also the editor of Love in the Time of Caste, a pathbreaking anthology of selected anti-caste love stories ethnographically assembled and translated by him (Hindi-English) and forthcoming (2024) from Zubaan, India’s leading feminist press. Before Princeton, Nikhil was a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, where he obtained an MPhil with distinction and also completed a BA in History from the University of Delhi (St Stephen’s College). He has previously also worked as a multi-media investigative journalist in India and speaks Hindi, Punjabi, Portuguese and English.