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Kalyani Ramnath






Kalyani Ramnath is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Georgia and Assistant Professor (by courtesy) at the School of Law. She is a historian of modern South Asia, interested in researching and teaching legal history, histories of migration and displacement, transnational and global history, and questions of archival method. Ramnath received her Ph.D. in history from Princeton University in 2018, and was a Prize Fellow in Economics, History, and Politics at the Center for History and Economics from 2018 - 2021. She also holds a bachelor's degree in arts and law (B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) (JD equivalent) from the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) and a master's degree in law (LL.M.) from the Yale Law School. 

Her first book, Boats in a Storm: Law, Migration, and Decolonization in South and Southeast Asia 1942 - 1962 is forthcoming with Stanford University Press in August 2023. For more than century before World War II, traders, merchants, financiers, and laborers steadily moved between places on the Indian Ocean, trading goods, supplying credit, and seeking work. This all changed with the war and as India, Burma, Ceylon, and Malaya wrested independence from the British empire. Set against the tumult of the postwar period, Boats in a Storm centers on the legal struggles of migrants to retain their traditional rhythms and patterns of life, illustrating how they experienced citizenship and decolonization. Even as nascent citizenship regimes and divergent political trajectories of decolonization papered over migrations between South and Southeast Asia, migrants continued to recount cross-border histories in encounters with the law. These accounts, often obscured by national and international political developments, unsettle the notion that static national identities and loyalties had emerged, fully formed and unblemished by migrant pasts, in the aftermath of empires.Drawing on archival research conducted in India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, London, and Singapore, Boats in a Storm narrates how former migrants battled legal requirements to revive prewar circulations of credit, capital, and labor, in a postwar context of rising ethno-nationalisms that accused migrants of stealing jobs and hoarding land. Ultimately, the book shows how decolonization was marked not only by shipwrecked empires and nation-states assembled and ordered from the debris of imperial collapse, but also by these forgotten stories of wartime displacements, their unintended consequences, and long afterlives.

Ramnath's essay, "Intertwined Itineraries: Debt, Decolonization, and International Law in Post-WWII South Asia" won both the Jane Burbank Global Legal History Prize and the Surrency Prize from the American Society for Legal History. She has also written for ItinerarioIndian Economic and Social History Review, in law reviews and for public-facing academic outlets. Follow her on Twitter @kalramnath.