Savita Nair

Savita Nair

Gordon Poteat Professor of Asian Studies and History

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Trained as a historian of South Asia, Dr. Nair has conducted archival and oral historical research in India (Maharashtra and Gujarat) since 1996. She has also worked with Indian communities in East Africa, England, and the United States.

She joined Furman in 2003 after teaching at Mount Holyoke College and the University of Pennsylvania. In 2008, she co-founded, with Dr. Kailash Khandke, Furman’s India study abroad program and has co-directed multiple trips. She has served as co-chair of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Minor, as the Local Arrangements Chair for Furman's hosting of the Southeastern Conference of the Association of Asian Studies (SEC-AAS), and has been part of the Executive Committee of SEC-AAS. With Asian Studies’ faculty, she participated in a Mellon-funded faculty seminar in Japan. With History faculty members, she participated in a two-week study seminar in Mexico.


  • James B. Duke Endowed Chair in Asian Studies in “Excellence in Asian Studies,” 3-year term, 2014-2017
  • Alester G. Jr. and Janie Earle Furman Meritorious Teaching Award, 2014
  • Alester G. Jr. and Janie Earle Furman Meritorious Advising Award, 2009


  • Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
  • M.A., University of Pennsylvania
  • B.S., Carnegie Mellon University

Savita Nair’s research focuses on Indian overseas migration, in particular 19th-20th century migrant networks between western India and eastern Africa. Her work on Indian communities demonstrates a global cultural landscape transformed by movement. Focused on South Asia, the British empire, and the Indian Ocean region, her research challenges the sanctity of borders, myths of a common past and shared origin, and territorial sovereignty. Multiple sites of research include Mumbai, Porbandar, Ahmedabad, Kampala, Nairobi, and London. More recently, she has started to write a social history of the Indian community in Ireland.


  • “Despite Dislocations: Uganda’s Indians Remaking Home,” Migration Memories and Diasporic Practices, Special Issue for Africa, The Journal of the International African Institute, Cambridge University Press, 88 (3) 2018: 492-517
  • “At Home, At Work: Indian Immigrant Women in Colonial East Africa, c. 1920-1940,” Wagadu: Journal of Transnational Women’s and Gender Studies, SUNY Cortland, vol. 10, 2012
  • “Indian Emigration to Africa, Trinidad, Guyana, and the Pacific, 1750-1914” and “Cultural Integration in eastern Africa” in World History Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO, March 2011
  • “Shops and Stations: Rethinking Privilege and Power in British/Indian East Africa” in John C. Hawley (ed.) India in Africa, Africa in India: Indian Ocean Cosmopolitanisms, Indiana University Press, 2008