Examining coloniality, occupation and anticolonial feminist possibilities: a Q&A with Niharika Pandit

Niharika Pandit is an LSE Fellow in the Department of Gender Studies

I am interested in examining the complex forms and logics of violence, militarism and coloniality in contemporary times to understand their seepage in the ordinariness of our lives.
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Niharika Pandit

What are you currently researching?

I am currently working on a few projects linked to my doctoral research, which is an anticolonial feminist analysis of everyday politics of living under military occupation in Kashmir, and my broader interests in transnational decolonial, feminist and queer knowledges.

Firstly, I have begun working on my book ‘On the Politics of Living: Gender, Coloniality and Occupation in Kashmir’. It offers a careful theoretical account of the ongoing occupation in Kashmir and how it structures everyday living – the routine, the banal, the ordinary worlds – of Kashmiri Muslim subjects that are structured through the complexities of gender, racialisation and coloniality.

Secondly, I am working with my friend Dr Priya Raghavan and some brilliant thinkers on a special issue ‘Against Violence: Anticolonial Feminist Methodologies, Pedagogies and Archival Interventions’ that takes up the unresolved questions around how to study and research violence.

Broadly, I am interested in examining the complex forms and logics of violence, militarism and coloniality in contemporary times to understand their seepage in the ordinariness of our lives. In exploring these, I work with creative/decolonial methodologies (like everyday and ‘ephemeral’ archives), grounded frameworks and their implications on how we produce counter-hegemonic, anticolonial knowledges.

Why did you choose this area of study?

I have always been interested in understanding how oppressive power structures the mundanities of our everyday lives, which is often an overlooked site of analysis.

Together with rising right-wing authoritarianism globally, it is frustrating to see how state control over knowledge, discourses, and an espousal of violent nationalism shapes ‘thinkability’ about peoples and regions, especially those reeling under the violence of postcoloniality.

I thus became interested in mapping how colonial logics of governmentality and control persist in contemporary postcolonial states/spaces which are colonising other regions. I have also been drawn to the many revolutionary lines of feminist and anti/decolonial thinking which re-envision the worlds we inhabit in radically different ways. This propelled my interest in examining contemporary coloniality (and resisting it), and my teaching and research remains centred on these questions.

How will your research have a wider impact on society? Can you give some real-world examples of the impact your research will have?

I hope that my research is able to shine light upon how violent state projects are not simply confined to large-scale politics but deeply alter the minutiae of everyday life in violent ways.

I hope my work is able to destabilise ideas about nationalism/nation-states that many have come to accept as ‘normal’ to offer a strong critique of these structures by mapping their violent control on colonised communities. In doing this, I have always engaged with organisers, activists and students, and believe that the work of pedagogy, research and organising goes hand in hand.

What have been the highlights of your research work so far?

As a feminist theorist who works with ethnographic methods, I am grateful to have formed bonds of trust with my research communities. Research can often be a solitary process but I cannot highlight enough the incredible role that my fellow thinkers, mentors, students, organisers, colleagues, interlocutors and friends have played in engaging with my research and sharpening my thinking.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

Broadly speaking, sustaining hope in these difficult times of heightened global violence. Research wise, this has added more urgency to why feminist, critical, anticolonial knowledges are necessary to counter the exclusionary effects of power. But how to do this work without replicating extractivist, capitalist, colonial logics is an ongoing commitment.

What advice would you give to prospective students on the most effective way to approach research and keep stress levels down?

Read a lot, write a lot, be curious, be attentive!

In a few words, what is the best thing about studying at LSE?

The amazing Gender Department colleagues, and my wonderful and kind students.