Professor Shruti Kapila

Professor of History and Politics
Fellow and Director of Studies, Corpus Christi College
Co-Director, Global Humanities Initiative

I was born, educated and made in India. I graduated from Panjab University Chandigarh with top honours followed by a Master's in Modern History at JNU, Delhi and received my doctorate from SOAS, London University. My professional life has been international and prior to Cambridge, I held a research position at the University of Oxford and was Assistant Professor, in conjunction with a University Chair for Career Development, at Tufts University, Mass., USA. 

I work on Modern and Contemporary India (c.1770 to the present) and Global Political Thought. Predating recent calls to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum by more than a decade, my academic life has been defined by centring the importance of India for the remaking of global political languages. 

My new book focuses on twentieth century political thought and theory and the Indian rewriting of modern political languages notably sovereignty, democracy, violence and republicanism. Highlighted as a ‘featured book’ of the year by its publisher  Violent Fraternity: Indian Political Thought in the Global Age (Princeton University Press, 2021 and Penguin Random House India, 2021) has received praise as a ‘ground-breaking’ book that is tipped to ‘globalise’ the field of political thought.

New research work focuses on Indian democracy and its constitution, conservatism and global anti-imperialism. I also have a long standing interest in the history of the modern subject, psychoanalysis and psychiatry in colonial India and the present day. I also research and write on the history of modern science and race, gender and political violence.

As Co-Director of the Global Humanities Initiative at the School of Arts and Humanities, I work with seven universities across the global south in partnership with Cambridge for the creation of new curriculum and new institutional capabilities.

I consider my political commentary and opinion as an extension of my work on India and global politics and I do so including for the the Financial Times, Prospect Magazine, BBC (radio and television), Al Jazeera, Monocle Radio, Times Radio, and Bloomberg TV and across Indian newspapers, magazines and television and write a fortnightly column for the The Print India.

Finally and beyond the university, I co-convened (2014-18) a closed-door seminar at the House of Lords, UK Parliament that put Indian leaders and key voices in dialogue with their British counterparts. I also occasionally advise and consult with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Indian institutions including most recently, the National Commission for Women the highest policy body for women in India.

My other pursuits include the training to be a psychoanalyst.



My scholarship has emerged in dialogue with my teaching. In my fifteen years of full-time teaching, I have only taken one and a half years of research leave. This was equally due to necessity (as the field of global political thought did not exist at Cambridge) as much as a commitment to ensuring that such new and urgent scholarship would have an institutional context. To this end, I have mentored a generation of graduate students who research global and/or Indian political thought and are now in tenure-track jobs in London (Queen Mary) Oxford, Manchester, Leiden University and Hong Kong University to name a handful.

I also instituted a new faculty research Seminar on Global Intellectual History that showcases pioneering research on this new but important field.

I currently convene the undergraduate joint degree in History and Politics and I was part of the team that set up this new degree in 2016. I currently co-convene the compulsory first year-paper Evidence and Argument for this degree.

I convene a Part II Special Subject on Indian Democracy and based on primary source material. I co-convene the Part II paper on the 'History of the Indian Subcontinent' and lecture and supervise on Part I paper on Empires in World History and Twentieth Century in World History and have previously convened the compulsory paper Historical Argument and Practice.

I currently offer a graduate seminar course entitled Global Thinkers for the M.Phil in Political Thought and Intellectual History and co-convene the core methods paper for the M.Phil in World History.

I have taught new graduate courses on Global Intellectual HistoryViolence and Non-Violence in South Asia and Foucault Effects.


Violent Fraternity in the Indian Age Princeton University Press, Spring 2021 and Penguin Random House South Asia edition

Co- Editor, Political Thought in Action: The Bhagavad Gita and Modern Indian Thought (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2012) 

Editor, An Intellectual History for India (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2010)


 'Ambedkar’s Agonism: Sovereign Violence and Pakistan as Peace’ in Comparative Studies in the Study of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 39:1 (2019) 184-95

‘The Majority of Democracy’ Special Issue on the Indian General Elections of 2014, Social Text, February 2015

‘Global Intellectual History’ in Samuel Moyn and Darrin McMahon, Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History (Oxford University Press, New York, 2013), 253-74

‘Gandhi before Mahatma: The Foundations of Political Truth’ Public Culture, 23:2 (2011), pp. 431-48

‘A History of Violence’ Modern Intellectual History, 7:2 (2010), pp. 437-57

'The Enchantment of Science in India’ Isis, 101:1, (2010) pp. 120-32

‘Self, Spencer and Swaraj: Nationalist Thought and Critiques of Liberalism 1890-1920’, Modern Intellectual History(April 2007), pp. 109-127

‘Race Matters: Religion and Orientalism, India and Beyond, c. 1770-1880’ Modern Asian Studies, 41:3 (2007), pp. 471-513

‘Freud and his Indian Friends: Religion, Selfhood and Psychoanalysis in Late Colonial India’ in Megan Vaughan and Sloan Mahone (eds.) Psychiatry and Empire (Palgrave, London, 2007, pp. 124-52

‘Masculinity and Madness: Princely Personhood and Colonial Sciences of the Mind, Western India, 1870-1940’ Past and Present, No. 187, May 2005, pp. 121-56


'Genocide and Global/World History’ Journal of Genocide Research 201:1 (2017)

On David Armitage’s ‘Civil Wars: A History in Ideas’ Global Intellectual History, 4:3 (2019) 318-21

On Pankaj Mishra’s Age of Anger: A History of the Present in H-Diplo online (2019)


‘Modi and the Rise of the Personality Cult’ in Making Sense of Modi’s India (Harper Collins, New Delhi, 2016) 46-61


‘Sexual Violence and Social Contract:  A History of Violence from Sati to Gang-Rape in India’ , under review

'1984, Militant Sikhism and the Sacred Ends of Indian Sovereignty’ 

‘Subodh Gupta, Steel and the Subject of India’, commissioned for a volume on Arts of Independence (Harvard University Press, date tbc), conference proceedings held for 70th year celebrations of Indian independence jointly at the Courtauld (London) and Ashmolean (Oxford) Museums

‘Indian Constitution and Indian Democracy: A Divergent History’ in Samuel Zeitlin and Greg Conti (eds.) Constitutionalism and Political Thought for Proceedings of the British Academy


On Hindu Nationalism, Financial Times podcast questions by Gideon Rachman

On the Trials of Narendra Modi, Prospect Magazine Podcast with Lord Andrew Adonis and Tom Clark

On the Bombay Plague 1896, History of Now with Professor Sir Christopher Clark

On Conservatism with Indian Express podcast questions by Patrick French

On Terror and the Twentieth Century, Hay Festival, public lecture

On Nihilism and global legacy of the Enlightenment  with the University of Oxford with Pankaj Mishra