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Madihah Akhter

Madihah Akhter

Modern South Asia
MA, History, Tufts University
BA, History, University of California, Los Angeles
Dissertation Title: 
In Her Own Right: Sovereignty and Gender in Princely Bhopal, 1901-1926

I am a PhD candidate specializing in the history of modern South Asia and the British empire. I am also completing a PhD minor in the Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies program. My broader research and teaching interests include modern South Asia, gender, global history, and queer and transhistoryI have designed and taught courses on modern South Asian history, gender and feminist studies, comparative partitions, the Indian Ocean, and South Asian immigration to the United States.

My current research looks at debates over sovereignty in India and throughout the British empire in the twentieth century, and is concerned with questions of territorial and legal anomalies, extralegal imperial intervention, belonging, the evolving relationship between community and nation, and histories of gender and sexuality in colonial contexts. My doctoral dissertation, titled, "In Her Own Right: Sovereignty and Gender in Princely Bhopal, 1901-1926," explores the mutual dependencies and contestations of sovereignty between Indian princely rulers and the British imperial state. Bhopal, located in central India, was the only princely state under female rule in the twentieth century and was the second largest Muslim princely state in India. In this project, I interrogate the conceptual and practical articulations of "in her own right" in Bhopal under the direction of its ruler, Sultan Jahan Begum (r. 1901-1926). Chapters focus on geographical anomalies, extralegal imperial infringement, princely anticolonialism, succession, and photographic performance.

A second project explores princely politics among India's princes in forums such as the Chamber of Princes and the League of Nations, where debates over federalism, representation, labor, and sovereignty took place against a backdrop of protracted legal repression of anticolonial politics in India. Focusing on a small group of progressive princes, the project uncovers how these princes fought to maintain princely power in post-Partition imaginations, working against imperialists and nationalists determined to paint princely India as a relic of the past.

In addition to my research and teaching efforts, I have committed myself to various service projects at Stanford. Specifically, I worked as a graduate mentor for the VPGE's Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education (EDGE) program for five years and as a Graduate Reseach and Writing Mentor, and Residential Coordinator, for the Stanford-CCNY Exchange for five years.