Quick Links

Davesh Soneji

Associate Professor, South Asian Religions


B.A. (Manitoba)
Ph.D. (McGill)

Field(s) of specialization

Religion in Modern India; Religion and Colonialism; Gender and Sexuality in South Asia; History of the Performing Arts in South India


Davesh Soneji is Associate Professor of South Asian Religions in the Faculty of Religious Studies. He is also Associate Director of McGill's Centre for Research on Religion (CREOR), and is also a member of the Women's Studies Advisory Committee at McGill's Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (IGSF). His research interests lie at the intersections of social and cultural history, religion, and anthropology. For the past two decades, he has produced research that focuses primarily on religion and the performing arts in South India, but also includes work on gender, class, caste, and colonialism. He is best known for his work on the social history of professional female artists in Tamil and Telugu-speaking South India and is author of Unfinished Gestures: Devadāsīs, Memory, and Modernity in South India (University of Chicago Press, 2012), which was awarded the 2013 Bernard S. Cohn Book Prize from The Association for Asian Studies (AAS). He is also editor of Bharatanatyam: A Reader (Oxford University Press, 2010; 2012) and co-editor, with Indira Viswanathan Peterson, of Performing Pasts: Reinventing the Arts in Modern South India (Oxford University Press, 2008 ). He is presently co-editing another volume entitled Dance and the Early South Indian Cinema (forthcoming). Prof. Soneji is also the co-founder and director of The Mangala Initiative, a non-profit organization centred on social justice issues for hereditary performing artists in South India. Having just completed a project on the eighteenth and nineteenth-century traditions of Marathi kīrtan in Tamilnadu and their influence on the making of Karṇāṭak music, he is currently working on another monograph on the politics of writing feminist biography in South Asia, tentatively titled Afterlives: Eight Women Speak to their Pasts and Futures.

Major publications

  • Unfinished Gestures: Devadasis, Memory, and Modernity in South India 
  • Bharatanatyam: A Reader 
  • Performing Pasts: Reinventing the Arts in Modern South India


Birks Building
3520 rue University, Montreal, Quebec, H3A 2A7
DAVESH [dot] SONEJI [at] MCGILL [dot] CA (Email)