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PhD projects

South Asian History; Imperial History; Global History; History of Political Thought.

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1 Last updated 12 October 2020.


Dr Vikram Visana is Senior Lecturer in South Asian and Global History. He was awarded his PhD in the history of Indian Political Thought under the supervision of Chris Bayly at the University of Cambridge in 2016. He has since taught at the University of Edinburgh and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Global History, Freie Universität Berlin.

Research Expertise and Interests

  • Indian Political Thought
  • Global Political Thought

Vikram's research focuses on Indian political thought from the nineteenth century to the present with a particular focus on liberalism, republicanism and conservatism. Within these broad ideologies, Vikram has also examined Indian iterations of soveriengty, populism, and political economy. 

Vikram's first book, Uncivil Liberalism: Labour, Capital and Commercial Society in Dadabhai Naoroji's Political Thought is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press in 2022.

Uncivil Liberalism radically reinterprets the political thought of Dadabhai Naoroji, the Indian reformer, founder of the Indian National Congress, and first non-white Member of the House of Commons. Eschewing the appropriation of Naoroji’s ideas by a subsequent methodological nationalism, this book uses personal and institutional archives in India, Britain and Ireland in order to situate Naoroji’s intellectual production within the framework of nineteenth-century global capitalism and migration. Naoroji connected and intervened in debates from India, Britain, Ireland, and Africa which voiced transnational anxieties about communal conflict and the hobbling impact of economic dependence on individual freedom. These intersecting discussions were reinterpreted through Naoroji’s local experiences as a businessman and activist, living between Bombay and London, before being systematised in his famous Drain Theory.

The book argues that the Drain is a misunderstood paradigm which was not just a polemic against colonial exploitation, but also a much more generalisable and sophisticated critique of capitalist monopoly across the wider British world. I also show that Naoroji produced original ideas which addressed the political and economic controversies of the day and pioneered a theory of labour republicanism which tied the ideals of liberal cosmopolitanism and social interdependence to a universal theory of labour rights. The book also concludes with the first reception history of Naoroji’s ideas in India after his death, examining the variety of thinkers who made modern India by adapting his labour republicanism to their own diverse political programs.

On going research, funded by a British Academy/Leverhulme Small Grant, reconsiders Indian right-wing thought in its global context. Treating Hindu conservatism and Hindu nationalism as distinct ideologies, this project recovers concepts of secularism, republican liberty, and pluralism from two traditions that have reckoned with these goals through religious categories. A parallel but related project also investigates the relationship between Indian conceptions of republican liberty and the non-human.

Vikram is currently supervising postgraduate projects on:

Indian Political Thought

Histories of BAME migration to the UK and British multiculturalism

Research Expertise and Interests

  • World History
  • Imperial History
  • South Asia
  • Political Thought
  • Intellectual History
  • India
  • Global History
  • 19th Century
  • 20th century
  • Liberalism
  • Conservatism
  • Hindu Nationalism
  • Ecology


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