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Pinky Hota earned a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. She is an anthropologist of South Asia, and her research interests lie in understanding interactions between various forms of "politics of recognition," modes of citizenship and democratic politics in contemporary India.
Hota's current manuscript advances a critique of Indian secularism through an analysis of ethnic identity politics. Funded by the Wenner-Gren and Charlotte W. Newcombe foundations, the research examines how affirmative action and religious politics interact to produce ethnoreligious violence among the Kandha tribals (identified as indigenous) and the Panas (a scheduled caste) in Orissa, India. Her research argues that the Indian state's constitutional mandates for affirmative action and religious conversion laws have opened up hostilities between the two rival ethnic minority groups, which are harnessed through an "intimate politics" by Hindu nationalists to fuel violence against Christians. This illustrates how the juridical and affective processes of the secular Indian state are, in fact, uneasily implicated in Hindu nationalist religious politics and lay bare what scholars have long speculated may be the "dark side of indigeneity" in India. Hota examines how the formation of new statehoods provides new modes of articulating rights and entitlements involving ethnic place making as well as the processes that have enabled the formation of a pan-Indian Dalit identity within the contemporary Indian polity.
At Smith, Hota teaches a section of Introduction to Cultural Anthropology and classes on religion, focusing on canonical social theory approaches to the study of religion, as well as understanding the role of religion in the public sphere from Enlightenment to the present day. She also explores contemporary South Asia.
Hota teaches two upper-level seminars. The first, titled Body, pairs theoretical pieces by thinkers such as Mauss, Bourdieu, Foucault and Butler, with ethnographic works informed by their scholarship. The second, titled Madness, examines how the study of psychiatric deviance is central, rather than peripheral, to understanding societies, and she encourages students to query whether psychiatric illness is biomedical fact or social construction.
She also teaches History of Anthropological Theory.
Hota serves as a faculty member for Smith's South Asia concentration. In the spring of 2013, she organized a Five-College panel on sexual violence against women and political change in South Asia.