Viranjini P Munasinghe

Associate Professor


I am an historical anthropologist working in the Caribbean (Trinidad) and the Asian Diaspora in the Americas. My initial research focused on the relation between ethnicity and nationalism and the politics of exclusion in nation building projects.  My research specifically focuses on Indo Caribbeans who were brought as indentured labor to the New World when slavery was abolished in the British Caribbean. The New World context of the Caribbean allow for intriguing formulations of modernity and nationalism.  I am particularly interested in a comparative understanding of how narratives of mixture, like creolization or multiculturalism operate to exclude citizens from the nation despite their overt promise of inclusion. Theoretically, I am also interested in epistemological issues having to do with the articulation of certain "theoretical concepts" like race, ethnicity and nation with their lay and political discursive forms and the implications of such entanglements for disciplines, theory and politics. My current research explores how nations are constituted through projects of comparison in different empirical settings that include the Americas and Asia.

Research Focus

  • the relation between ethnicity and nationalism
  • the symbolics of moral and cultural orthodoxies governing the politics of exclusion in nation building projects
  • the viability of an alternative space for a postcolonial national imaginary that is independent of Europe.
  • the disruptive/enabling and conservative possibilities embodied in ideologies of mixture such as creolization especially as they relate to those of South Asian descent in the Caribbean
  • epistemological issues having to do with the articulation of "theoretical concepts" with lay and political discursive forms a
  • the specifics of my New World empirical field location and the epistemologies and methodologies governing the discipline of anthropology itself especially in relation to its master trope, culture and to its conventions of evidence.
  • the articulation of ethnic studies with postcolonial studies
  • the symbolics of the "dougla" (those of mixed African and Indian ancestry in Trinidad) in the national imaginary in Trinidad


Academic Articles

2007 Dougla logics and nation building in Trinidad. South Asian Review. Special issue on “Empire and Racial Hybridity”. Edited by Deepika Bhari. 27(1):182-204.

2006 Claims to purity in theory and culture: Pitfalls and promises. American Ethnologist 33(4): 588-592.

2006 Theorizing World Culture through the New World: East Indians and Creolization. American Ethnologist 33(4): 549-562.

2005 Narrating a Nation through Mixed Bloods. Social Analysis 49(2): 155-163.

2002 Nationalism in Hybrid Spaces: The Production of Impurity out of Purity. American Ethnologist 29(3): 663-692.

2001 Redefining the Nation: The East Indian Struggle in Trinidad. Journal of Asian American Studies 4(1):1-34.

1997 Culture Creators and Culture Bearers: The Interface Between Race and Ethnicity in Trinidad. Transforming Anthropology 6(1):72-86.


2001 Callaloo or Tossed Salad?: East Indians and the Cultural Politics of Identity in Trinidad. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press (CUP).


2009 Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad: The Post Emancipation Labor Problem. In Clio/Anthropos: Exploring the Boundaries between History and Anthropology. Eric Tagliacozzo and Andrew Willford, eds. Pp 139-186. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

2008 Rescuing Theory from the Nation. In Knowing How to Know: Fieldwork and the Ethnographic Present. Narmala Halstead, Eric Hirsch and Judith Okely, eds. Oxford: Berghahn Books.


AAS Courses - Spring 2024

AAS Courses - Fall 2024