Science Beyond the West Team

Graduate Students

Arnav Bhattacharya is a third-year Ph.D. student at the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a historian of modern South Asia and his specific research interests pertain to the histories of sexual science, medicine, gender, and sexuality. More broadly, he is interested in exploring the impact of large-scale historical processes such as colonialism, anti-colonial nationalism, religious nationalism and post-colonialism in South Asian history. He obtained a BA from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata and an MA in History from Presidency University, Kolkata. For his dissertation, he intends to write a history of sexology between the late 19th and early 20thcenturies focusing specifically on colonial North India. Some of the themes that he intends to explore are the broader relationships that sexology had with nationalism, pre-colonial sexual knowledge traditions and social and cultural categories such as gender, caste, class, and religion. 

N.J. Dharan is a doctoral student in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania, and received his undergraduate degree in chemistry and history from Washington University in St. Louis. His research lies at the intersection of the history of chemistry, agriculture, and the environment, examining the introduction of synthetic nitrogenous fertilizers to late colonial India and the long-term impact this shift in agricultural practice had. More broadly, he is interested in the global history of nitrogen, which drew together scientists, colonial administrators, war planners, chemical manufacturers, farmers, and debt-bonded laborers over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Taylor Dysart is a third year doctoral student in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research uses medicinal plants to explore how biomedical practitioners, human scientists, and social scientists understood and engaged with historic and contemporary mestizo and Indigenous healing practices in twentieth-century Peru. Broadly speaking, she is interested in what is at stake when technical experts, from psychiatrists to anthropologists to curanderos, articulate and invoke certain notions of the past in order to make political and medico-scientific claims towards particular futures. Taylor has an MA in the History of Medicine from McGill and a BA in History and Psychology from McMaster University, where she developed a love for competitive squash.

Prashant Kumar is a sixth-year PhD student in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. His work examines a range of strategies for structuring the social order so as to produce forms of data and knowledge useful for empire in India. These included the production of ‘ancient’ cosmologies amidst strategic surveys in the Ganges Delta; the world-historical marginalization of Indian mathematics; the use of astronomy as a vehicle for wealth extraction; the organization of an underclass into a corps of telegraph signallers; and the use of solar astrophysics both to predict famines and confirm general relativity. He aims to show how the multiple and interacting scales of space and time required to run an empire were the result of ritual and hierarchical knowledge production, predicated on structures of race, caste, class, and gender.

Claire Conklin Sabel is a third year PhD Student in History and Sociology of Science at Penn, where she works on the relationship between global commerce and the earth sciences in the early modern period. Claire’s research focuses on the influence of trade in mineral commodities between Europe and Southeast Asia in shaping questions and methods for investigating the composition of the earth. Prior to her studies at Penn, Claire received a BA in History from Columbia and an MPhil in History and Philosophy of Science from Cambridge. She first got a taste for collaborative scholarship while working on Columbia’s Making & Knowing Project, and since moving to Philadelphia enjoys the fruits, veggies, and flowers of her community garden in West Powelton. 

Koyna Tomar is a second year PhD student in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on colonial and postcolonial north-east India and tracks how scientific knowledge about the region, its mountains, rivers and  inhabitants, was produced and mobilised in development thought and practice. More broadly, Koyna is interested in the global history of human sciences in twentieth-century. She received a BA (hons) in History from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi and an MPhil in World History from the University of Cambridge. When not camping out in the dusty shelves of the university library, Koyna is often found experimenting with analog cameras.


Sebastián Gil-Riaño is a historian of transnational science focusing on scientific conceptions of race, culture, and indigeneity in the twentieth century. Through multi-sited and transnational perspectives his work investigates how scientific articulations of human diversity have been used to both legitimize and confront political formations in the modern world. His research approaches these topics from the perspective of Latin America and the global South. From this southern standpoint, he challenges the conventional geographies and periodization that have long shaped historical understandings of race and racism.

Harun Küçük is something of a generalist as he works across many different sources and registers from the Ottoman medical marketplace to minting practices and, from natural philosophy to gunpowder recipes. Science without Leisure: Practical Naturalism in Istanbul, 1660-1732, his first book, will be published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. It explores the relationship between monetary inflation and natural knowledge in seventeenth-century Istanbul. His primary inspirations have been the materialist historiography of science, the emerging global history of early modern science and Pierre Bourdieu’s Pascalian Meditations.   

Andi Johnson specializes in the anthropology and history of science. Her dissertation, Human Performance: An Ethnographic and Historical Account of Exercise Physiology, tracked the rise of exercise physiology in the U.S. from the 1920s and explores the transnational networks and practices through which it travels today. Andi is currently working on a book manuscript, One Day in Chepkoilel, about different ways of knowing in science and sport. Andi has graduate degrees in Anthropology and in the History and Sociology of Science.

Trained as a socio-cultural and medical anthropologist, Ramah McKay’s research focuses on the politics of health in Mozambique. Her first book, Medicine in the Meantime: The work of care in Mozambique (2018), traces the lives and afterlives of two transnational medical projects — projects that enacted deeply divergent understandings of what care means, what it does, and who does it. Her ongoing research in and beyond Mozambique focuses on the making of transnational medical economies between Africa and India, and on the forms of knowledge production that they entail. These interests also inform her teaching, which focuses on NGOs, humanitarianism and global health; health and healing in Africa; health, development, and environment; and transnational medicine. 

Projit Bihari Mukharji’s training was firmly within the Subaltern Studies tradition and I continue to work within that tradition of scholarship. He is therefore interested in issues of marginality and marginalization both within and through science. People and knowledges who are disempowered are the main subject of my studies. His twin ambition is to write histories of science that are anti-colonial without being nationalist or identitarian. Currently, he is working on a history of human difference and race in 20th century South Asia. This touches on the histories of physical anthropology, evolutionary biology, human genetics and archeogenetics. His dual aim is to both recover the repressed stories of Indian pioneers of genetics as well as to uncover how the politics of race, indigeneity and biocolonialism play out in the South Asian context. 

Ian Petrie is a Senior Associate Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. His primary work at CTL is with programs for graduate students and he directs both graduate student TA training as well as the CTL Graduate Fellows Program. He took a B.A. in History from Queen’s University and an M.A. in Chinese history from the University of British Columbia. He completed his doctorate in South Asian history at the University of Pennsylvania in 2004. From 2004 to 2009 he taught Western Civilization, South Asian History, Islamic History, and African History at Saint Joseph’s University. His current research concerns the history of technology and labor history as viewed through the study of multinationals in late colonial India. With students, he also has researched the history of a ship which transported indentured laborers from India to Guyana. He teaches courses on the global history of technology for the History and Sociology of Science department and on the Indian Ocean for South Asian Studies.