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Ravina Aggarwal graduated from St. Xavier's College in Bombay and received her Ph.D. from Indiana University at Bloomington in 1994.
Aggarwal's research interests include postcolonial studies, border cultures, anthropology of media, performance studies, narrative ethnography, gender, politics of travel, and community organization. Her scholarship is based on extensive field research in the trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh. In her book, Beyond Lines of Control: Performance and Politics on the Disputed Borders of Ladakh, India (Duke University Press 2004), she examines how cultural performances, such as state festivals, popular films and rites of passage ceremonies, become sites for shaping political identity and border subjectivity in Ladakh. Her work illustrates the complexity and importance of including decentralized frameworks in Indo"Pakistani boundary negotiations over the status of Jammu and Kashmir, where Ladakh is located.
Among Aggarwal's publications are articles on feminist theory and practice. Through archival and ethnographic research, she studied the changing role of women in the expanding marketplace of Leh, Ladakh's capital, and documented oral histories of laborers, refugees, politicians and storytellers in the region. She is one of the founding editors of the journal Meridians: Race, Feminism, and Transnationalism.
Aggarwal has also edited and translated an anthology of stories, Forsaking Paradise (2001) by the Ladakhi historian and writer Abdul Ghani Sheikh. The narratives in this volume deal with situations that affect contemporary Ladakhi society such as religious discord, border tensions, tourism and social stratification. Building on her interest in literature, she edited Into the High Ranges (2002) for Penguin India, a collection of contemporary writings by environmentalists, journalists, poets and anthropologists on the mountainous regions in India.
Her ongoing projects include editing a book on Kargil (Seagull Press), articles on militarization and peace in Ladakh, and an ethnography, My Life on AIR: Broadcasting Nation and Region in the Ladakh Himalayas, where she analyses the life and works of Morup Namgyal, Ladakhi radio's chief music composer, interviewer and playwright, to assess how local producers and performers use the medium of radio to negotiate their relationship with the Indian state and re-inscribe national agendas to create a regional identity based on local struggles around language, religion and political economy.
At Smith, Aggarwal teaches Introduction to Cultural Anthropology; Culture and Conflict in the Himalayas; Borderlands, Gender, Media and Culture in India; Performing Culture, Writing Lives, Representing Culture; and Travel, Tourism and Anthropology.