Mahishan studies the social, political, and intellectual histories of South Asian migrants across the Indian Ocean during the 19th and 20th centuries. He is particularly interested in the conjoined historical trajectories of industrial capitalism and social reform movements in the Madras Presidency, Sri Lanka, and other parts of the Tamil-speaking world. Mahishan draws primarily from the archives of migrant Dalit laborers in reassessing dominant histories of international relations amidst decolonization.
Prior to Stanford, Mahishan’s research in the United Kingdom and India examined the histories of Up-Country Tamil laborers in Sri Lanka and postcolonial political movements in Madras/Tamil Nadu. He has ancillary interests in public history, 20th century Tamil literature, legal theory, religious studies, and the history of art.