Peterson, Gulati Win Guggenheim Fellowships

Friday, April 12, 2013 - 10:04

Two Mount Holyoke women – Professor Indira Peterson and award-winning filmmaker Sonali Gulati '96 – have joined the prestigious ranks of Guggenheim Fellows this week, a recognition of their distinguished achievement in their respective fields and the exceptional promise they demonstrate for future accomplishments.

Peterson (pictured), David B. Truman Professor of Asian Studies, was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to support work on her latest book, Drama, the Court, and the Public in Early Modern South India, which she plans to write in the 2013–2014 academic year.

“I feel honored to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship, since it is one of the few major awards given to creative intellectuals in all fields—writers and artists as well academic scholars,” said Peterson. “It feels particularly special to me, for I take it to be a recognition of many years of scholarship in the field. I am delighted, and I am grateful.”

Peterson and Gulati, an associate professor of photography and film at Virginia Commonwealth University, are among 175 new Guggenheim Fellows, who include artists, scholars, and scientists selected from more than 3,000 applicants by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation on the basis of achievement and promise.

“We are so very proud of Indira and thrilled that her extraordinary scholarship is being recognized with a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship,” said MHC President Lynn Pasquerella. “We look forward to her upcoming book and its contributions to South Asian studies.”

"We are equally proud of Sonali Gulati, an extraordinary alumna who exemplifies the College's mission of using liberal learning for purposeful engagement in the world through her work in film and videography." 

In Drama, the Court, and the Public in Early Modern South India, Peterson will explore the rise of musical drama in eighteenth-century South Indian royal courts. The book is the culmination of Peterson’s 14 years of pioneering research on the topic.

“Court drama, cast in many local and trans-regional languages and linked with music and dance, as well as with communities outside the court, constitutes a key development in the region’s cosmopolitan literary and social history,” said Peterson.

By examining new genres and texts in four languages, and in historical and performative contexts, Peterson contends that drama functioned for the South Indian courts as a major instrument for representing themselves to a wider public in an era of intensified social and global circulation. Through comparison with European court drama and opera, she also situates the South Indian phenomenon in the broader context of court drama and public culture in the early modern period.

Peterson has extensive expertise in the languages, literatures, and cultural history of South India and the Thanjavur Maratha kingdom in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. In addition to several articles on these subjects, she has completed a monograph, Scholar-King of Tanjore: Serfoji II and the Shaping of Indian Modernity, a cultural and intellectual biography of a pioneer of Indian modernity, the polymath King Serfoji II of Tanjore.

The Guggenheim Fellowship has previously been won by Mount Holyoke faculty members Christopher Benfey, Mellon Professor of English, Debbora Battaglia, professor of anthropology, Michael Penn, associate professor of religion, Valerie Martin, professor of English, and Martha A. Ackmann, senior lecturer in gender studies.