Thank you for visiting! My name is Sudev Sheth, and I am currently Senior Lecturer at the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. I also hold an appointment in the Department of History in the School of Arts and Sciences. Previously, I was the Harvard-Newcomen Fellow in Business History at Harvard Business School (2018-19).
I earned my PhD in South Asian Studies & History, with Distinction, from the University of Pennsylvania in June 2018. My academic work can be found here.
A little about my research. My current in-progress book manuscript draws on a range of unpublished sources from India and Europe in rethinking the relationship between elite banking households, financial capital, & the rise and fall of multiple bureaucratized nodes of political authority between the seventeenth-nineteenth centuries. To put it briefly, how should we characterize the changing relationship between aspirants to political power and the family banking firms that supplied them with money, jewelry, local personnel, and critical administrative services? How did wealth and information circulate across territories during this time, and in what ways can we see remnants of this past in our own present, i.e., in twenty-first century South Asia where transnational finance has been forging new relationships with state power across India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka?
What motivates me? I believe that the social sciences are underpinned by the assumption that human beings progress over time. This lends false credence to the idea that past products of human ingenuity and social relationships of the bygone were less sophisticated than contemporary ones. My research, writing, and teaching centers on empirically assessing such teleological views by analyzing new and unconventional sources, and by identifying, learning, and implementing promising techniques & technologies for humanistic inquiry. I am also committed to finding and working with materials in several languages including Gujarati, Hindi, Urdu, Persian, Marathi, Bengali, Sanskrit, English, & French.
My music. I’ve been a student of Indian classical music since I was eight years old. I have studied with Nirmala Godhwani, Arshad Syed, Ravi Gutala, and Swapan Chaudhuri. In 2004, I became a disciple of the Bombay-based composer, writer, and ace performer Dr. Aneesh Pradhan. I have inherited repertoire in the Lucknow and Farrukhabad styles of tabla playing, and have had the privilege of accompanying some of India’s finest musicians. In 2006, I began working with Underscore Records to produce original audio-visual content related to Indian performing traditions. These videos are my humble attempt to properly document and widely share aspects of music making across audiences.
My background. I completed my M.A. in History at the Centre for Historical Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi) in 2011. Before moving to India for my Masters in 2009, I was a full-time employee at the Center for South Asia Studies at UC Berkeley. I received my B.A. in Political Science and South Asian Studies from UC Berkeley in 2007. My senior thesis, advised by the wonderful Professor Bonnie Wade of the Music Department, was on the subject of hereditary caste musicians of Delhi. I conducted detailed fieldwork for this project during my study abroad year in Delhi in 2006. The thesis was awarded the Chair’s Prize for Best Honors Thesis in 2007. The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley also featured me in their publication Fiat Lux after I won the 2007 Hill-Shumate Book Collecting Prize for my bibliography on Indian music.
I was born in Calgary, Alberta and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. For the last several years, I’ve been shuttling between Philadelphia, London, New Delhi, Bombay, Ahmedabad, Baroda, San Francisco, and most recently, Cambridge/Boston. The continued support of my parents, sisters, and friends has enabled me to pursue my academic work, music training & performance, and far travels in all the ways I imagined growing up.
Areas of Interest
South Asia, social & cultural studies, business history, global history, ethnography, archiving, museum & manuscript collections, city & urban planning, music, languages and literature, performing arts, computational data science