Kavita Datla's research interests include the political, social, and cultural history of modern South Asia. Her book, The Language of Secular Islam: Urdu Nationalism and Colonial India (University of Hawai'i Press; Orient BlackSwan, 2013) focuses on negotiations over language, education, and religion in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Hyderabad. She is especially interested in how these negotiations relate to national and regional political discussion.
Datla has begun research for a new project that considers questions of princely state sovereignty and politics over the course of the colonial period and at independence. Some of this research has appeared as "The Origins of Indirect Rule in India: Hyderabad and the British Imperial Order" in Law and History Review (May 2015).
Beginning with eighteenth-century British negotiations over land that belonged to the state of Hyderabad, this project seeks to understand the evolution of indirect rule as a distinct form by exploring the dilemmas Hyderabad's status posed at key historical moments. Its larger aim is to elucidate how political and legal debates in and about princely states were generative of the practices that came to characterize both the colonial and national state.
Datla's work has been published in Modern Asian Studies and has been funded by fellowships from the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) and Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad.
At Mount Holyoke, Datla teaches introductory courses on Modern South Asia and the British Empire, as well as courses on gender, religion and politics, nationalism, and the Indian Ocean World. She is affiliated with the international relations and critical social thought programs, as well as the program in Asian studies.