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Mobeen Hussain

Mobeen Hussain

PhD Candidate

Newnham College
University of Cambridge


I am first year PhD candidate funded by a Newnham College and Vice-Chancellor Studentship. I completed my BA in English and History and MA in Contemporary History and International Politics at the University of York. My Masters was funded by the Hampson Fund, University of York. I have previously worked in library services and research support at the University of Leeds.

Previous research projects include changing courtesan culture in nineteenth century India, which took an interdisciplinary textual approach in deconstructing the representations of the tawaif of Lucknow in historical events and in fiction, and a project on identity politics of African-Caribbean women in post-war Britain through navigations of beauty (1948-1990). This project traced how African-Caribbean women conformed, rejected and reworked European beauty ideals and practices as part of wider British Black struggles and experiences, and in creating Black British identities and spaces.

Research Interests

Research interests include empire, colonial and postcolonial identities and histories of women of colour.

My PhD project examines the concept of colourism and the beauty ideals and practices of Indian women in the late colonial and immediate post-independence period (1880-1960).  My project contextualises and historicises contemporary studies by discussing how colonial ideas about colourism, identity and beauty consumption informed and affected attitudes that have endured into the post-colonial period. The project will examine how British colonial constructions of race, femininity, and aesthetics worked in dialogue with ideas about caste, Indian cultural norms and ideals of femininity and beauty to influence expressions of self-fashioning through beauty practices and consumption of Indian women, and the ways in which practices were utilised to secure forms of power including work, privilege and status. It will do this by placing these research questions into the wider context of ‘colonial modernity’ and changes in women’s lives.  The study will also explore how these ideas and practices were woven into ideals of Indian womanhood in the interwar years and after Independence in postcolonial India and Pakistan.

Research Supervision

I am supervised by Dr. Leigh Denault.

Other Professional Activities

Co-editor and writer of Doing History in Public 

Co-convenor of the Readings in Race, Class and Gender in World History reading group 



  • International History
  • Economic, Social History
  • Imperial History

Other Publications

Conference Papers:

‘Recovering, writing, and re-writing the narrative of Lucknow’s courtesans in Nineteenth Century’. English Postgraduate Conference, University of York (May 2015)