Tulasi Srinivas

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Tulasi Srinivas
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Alma mater
  • B.M. Srinvasaiah college of Engineering
  • University of Southern California
  • Author
  • anthropologist
  • documentary film maker
  • scholar-activist
  • M.N. Srinivas (father)
  • Rukmini Srinivas (mother)
RelativesLakshmi Srinivas

Tulasi Srinivas is an author, anthropologist, documentary film maker and scholar-activist. She is currently Professor of Anthropology, Religion and Transnational Studies at the Marlboro Institute of Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies at , Boston. Srinivas studies the cultural and spatial politics of religion in urban India.

Srinivas' work has been supported by grants from the Pew Charitable Trust, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Association of Indian Studies and by prestigious fellowships including at the Center for Religious Study at the Kate Hamburger Kolleg] at the Ruhr Universitat, Bochum, Germany (2013), the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University (2016-17) and the Luce-ACLS fellowship (2018-19). She is an “expert” on religion with the World Economic Forum, Geneva and was one of the key group of 100 advisors for the Davos Summit (2012-2017).

Education and Early life

Srinivas is the younger daughter of the legendary Indian social anthropologist M.N. Srinivas and his wife, the cultural geographer and cookbook author, Rukmini Srinivas. Her sister, Lakshmi Srinivas is a professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She has stated that she found her father's death "unfair" as he was fit a few days prior, and working until his death.[1]

Though born in Delhi due to her parents being academics at the university, Srinivas grew up in Bangalore, now Bangalore|Bengaluru, India. Most of her anthropological work is situated in Bengaluru and she has spoken about her love for the city.[2]

She completed a BA in Architecture from the B.M. Srinvasaiah college of Engineering in Bangalore University in 1989, an MA in Urban planning and Architecture from the University of Southern California in 1992, and PhD in Anthropology and Sociology with a focus on Religion at the prestigious University Professors Program Boston University in 2002. Her advisors for her dissertation included Peter L. Berger, Nur Yalman and Michael M. J. Fischer. According to her own writings, her dissertation fieldwork advisor was her father M.N. Srinivas.[3]

Academic career/Research

Srinivas first taught at the Departments of Sociology and Religion at Boston University as a post doctoral fellow in 2001-2002. She then was a Visiting Assistant professor in the department of Anthropology and Sociology at Wheaton College in Norton, MA, during which she also held a fellowship at the Center For the Study of World Religions at Harvard_Divinity_School|Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University in 2002-2006. In 2006 she was a senior fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. She has been an Assistant Professor from 2006-2009, then Associate professor from 2009-2014 and Professor since 2016 at the Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies at Emerson College.

Srinivas first book on the global Sathya Sai Movement, titled Winged Faith: Rethinking Religious Pluralism and Cultural Globalization Through the Sathya Sai Movement was published in 2010 with Columbia university press and became an "instant" classic. It was controversial among Sai devotees and former devotees. Unlike previous scholarly studies of the Sathya Sai movement it included disaffected devotees' allegations of sexual abuse against the godman. Devotees and former devotees clashed over the book. Disaffected devotees took account that Srinivas was the first academic to include their point of view. Sathya Sai Baba passed away some six months after the book was published, making the book the last word on the movement. Srinivas's work was a significant part of the studies of contemporary guruship within the fields of Anthropology, Hinduism and Religious Studies.[4]

Her next significant work titled The Cow in the Elevator: An Anthropology of Wonder was published by Duke University press in 2018, and it dealt with ritual creativity and wonder in Hindu temples in the neighborhood of Malleshwaram in Bengaluru. In it she argued that wonder, which had long been ignored by theorists of religion, was central to an understanding of successful ritual change/ creativity in temples in Bangalore. And that the pursuit of wonder allowed for "radical social hope."

Srinivas has an added research interest in Indian food and its global circulation. Her essay on the rise of Indian packaged food and Indian women's surreptitious use of it titled `As Mother made it': The Cosmopolitan Indian Family, `Authentic' Food And The Construction of Cultural Utopia' has become required reading in many food courses and commentary on food blogs.[5]Srinivas edited the award winning volume (with Krishnendu Ray) Curried Cultures: Globalization, Food and South Asia published by University of California press and by Aleph press in India.[6] Srinivas has also written several "expert" articles on food and identity in Asia.[7]

Recently, Srinivas work on Religion and the Environment, citing urgent concerns regarding the pollution of water bodies, drought and water scarcity in Bengaluru city, and the effect on sacred bodies of water.[8]

Awards and Fellowships

Srinivas has been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, a senior Fellow at CERES, Kate Hamburger Kolleg, Ruhr Universitat, Bochum, a senior fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University, the Rockefeller Center- Bellagio, The University of Cape Town], South Africa, a fellow of the Luce- ACLS program on Religion and International Affairs, and the American Institute of Indian Studies.

She has held visiting positions at the National Institute of Advanced Studies at Bengaluru a premier research institution, at the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru and Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

At Emerson College, Srinivas won the highest award for outstanding teaching, The Helaine and Stanley Miller teaching award presented during the Golden Apple ceremony.[9]

Srinivas was a coeditor of the Contemporary Anthropology of Religion book series with Palgrave Macmillan, and she serves on the boards of several academic journals and institutions. During 2012-2017 she was part of the 100 individuals on the for the World Economic Forum where she focused on the moral question of financial and gender equity. Subsequently, she has written articles on financial equity and ethics for the World Economic Forum blog.[10]

Selected Publications

.1. Srinivas, Tulasi. The Cow in the Elevator: An Anthropology of Wonder. (Duke University press 2018 Spring) •Oxford University press, Indian edition, Spring 2019

2. Srinivas, Tulasi. Winged Faith: Rethinking Globalization and Religious Pluralism. Columbia University Press. June 2010.

3. Srinivas, T. and Ray, K.(co-edited) Curried Cultures: Globalization, Food and South Asia. California University Press. Food and Culture series. 2012.

4. Srinivas, Tulasi. “India’s Goddesses of Contagion: Just don’t make them angry” The Conversation. April 15, 2020. ( 17,500 unique views)

5. Srinivas, Tulasi. “Bathing the gods in Bottled water.” The Revealer. February 7, 2020.

6. Srinivas, Tulasi. Walking Amid Wonder: Tulasi Srinivas and Namita Dharia in Conversation. Podcast and paper. Cultural Anthropology 2019 Spring. https://culanth.org/fieldsights/walking-amid-wonder-tulasi-srinivas-and-namita-dharia-in-conversation

7. Srinivas, Tulasi. Why We need an Anthropology of Wonder. Scroll.in. Spring 2019 https://scroll.in/article/914889/why-we-need-an-anthropology-of-wonder-which-allows-for-social-hope-to-grow-in-communities

8. Tulasi Srinivas. “Artful Living: New Religious Movements.” 50th anniversary issue of Contributions to Indian Sociology. Invited contribution by Sanjay Srivastava, Editor. (Fall 2018)

In the media



  1. Bearer, Barry. "M. N. Srinivas Is Dead at 83; Studied India's Caste System". The New York Times. The New York Times Corp,3 December 1999. Accessed on 10 October 2020.
  2. "Worlds of Wonder". Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University. Harvard University. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  3. Srinivas, Tulasi (May 2018). The Cow in the Elevator: An Anthropology of Wonder. Durham, N. Carolina: Duke University Press. pp. 296 pages. ISBN 0822370794. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  4. Copeman, Jacob and Aye Ikegame (February 2014). The Guru in South Asia New Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Routledge press. p. 272. ISBN 9781138785229.
  5. FoodComa, Tiffany. "Changing Food Cultures with Pre-packaged Foods?". Awakening of the Food Coma. wordpress.com. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
  6. Dasgupta, Kaushik. "Food For Thought Curried Cultures". The Indian Express. The Indian Express Group. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
  7. Srinivas, Tulasi. "Exploring Indian Culture through Food". Education About Asia: Online Archives. The Association for Asian Studies. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
  8. Srinivas, Tulasi. "Religion, Media, Climate Change: What's the Story?". Vimeo. Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, Arizona State University. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
  9. "Helaine and Stanley Miller Awards for Outstanding Teaching". Academic Affairs, Emerson College. Emerson College. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  10. Srinivas, Tulasi. "What's the link between money and happiness?". World Economic Forum. World Economic Forum. Retrieved 11 October 2020.

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