Smita Lahiri

Office: Anthropology, Huddleston Hall, Durham, NH 03824

I study the nation as the product of collective cultural imagination and local action in South and Southeast Asia. My primary approach is ethnographic (i.e. based on fieldwork and personal immersion), and is informed by historical research and social theory. I have conducted long-term fieldwork in a community at the foot of Mt. Banahaw in the Philippines, where, for the past two centuries, people have built and circulated associations between the local landscape and Biblical places such as Christ’s road to Calvary. My writings on this subject comprise several essays and a book (in progress) that brings together a number of themes, from the role played by place-based attachments and identities in motivating citizen mobilization to the utopian resonances of a Philippine Holy Land assembled across local, national, and transnational scales. Currently, I’m expanding my contributions to the study of “everyday nationalism” to new topics and settings in the context of urban India. My ongoing projects include investigations of multilingual media, financial inclusion, and everyday money management amongst low and middle income residents of Delhi.

Courses Taught

  • ANTH 411: Hon/Global Perspec:Intro Anth
  • ANTH 500: Peoples & Cultures/SE Asia
  • ANTH 511: Core Concepts in Anthropology
  • IA 401: International Perspectives
  • IA 501: Global Issues Intrntnl Affairs
  • IA 701: Exploring Intl Challenges


  • Ph.D., Anthropology, Cornell University
  • M.A., Cornell University
  • B.A., Bryn Mawr College

Research Interests

  • Asian Studies
  • Citizenship
  • Cultural geography
  • International/Global Development
  • Religious Studies
  • Sociolinguistics

Selected Publications

  • Lahiri, S., & de la Cruz, D. (2013). The Philippines. In J. Barker, E. Harms, & J. Lindquist (Eds.), Figures of Southeast Asian Modernity (pp. 19-45). University of Hawaii Press.

  • Lahiri, S. (2012). Winged Faith: Rethinking Globalization and Religious Pluralism through the Sathya Sai Movement. AMERICAN ETHNOLOGIST, 39(2), 465-467. doi:10.1111/j.1548-1425.2012.01374_22.x

  • Lahiri, S. (2007). Guru english: South Asian religion in a Cosmopolitan language. JOURNAL OF ASIAN STUDIES, 66(3), 859-861. doi:10.1017/S0021911807001155

  • Lahiri, S. (2007). Rhetorical Indios: Propagandists and their publics in the Spanish Philippines. COMPARATIVE STUDIES IN SOCIETY AND HISTORY, 49(2), 243-275. doi:10.1017/S0010417507000485

  • Lahiri, S. (2005). The Politician and the Priestess: Enunciating Filipino Cultural Nationalism at Mt. Banahaw. In A. Willford, & K. George (Eds.), Spirited Politics: Religion and Public Life in Contemporary Southeast Asia (pp. 20-41). Cornell University Press.

  • Most Cited Publications