My Story

I am an Associate Professor of Linguistic Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at New York University, and affiliated with the Department of Linguistics, the Institute of French Studies, and South Asia @ NYU. Previous positions include Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and Visiting Professor in Linguistics and South Asian Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. I received a M.A. and Ph.D. in Linguistic Anthropology and Graduate Certificate in South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan, and B.A. and B.S. with Honors in Anthropology and Biological Sciences from Stanford University. I am Co-Editor-in-Chief of the flagship Journal of Linguistic Anthropology and a Junior Fellow in the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography. I have received grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation, Association for Canadian Studies in the United States, Foreign Language and Area Studies Program, and University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School.

With roots in francophone Canada, the United States, South Asian diasporas, and the maritime world, my research explores the political economy of language to investigate contemporary experiences and colonial histories of inequality and precarity. I have conducted research on heritage language education; migration and mobility; multilingualism; linguistic nationalism; language standardization; performance and narrative; colonial language policy; printing presses and technologies; religious movements; gender; race and white supremacy; urbanism and global cities; free speech and hate speech; law enforcement; artificial intelligence; neoliberalism; commercial seafaring; and ethnic conflict and violence. My early research discusses the challenges in learning heritage languages faced by the children of Indian Tamil immigrants and Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Montréal, Québec and of Indian Tamil indentured laborers in 19th century French Guiana. More recently, I have examined the social injustices faced by Asian seafarers working under increasingly unsociable conditions aboard commercial cargo ships docking at Port Newark and the Port of Montreal. My current project on police-civilian interactions in a mid-sized U.S. city draws on research on court trials, police patrols, and police academy trainings; interviews with former criminal defendants, attorneys, clerks, and judges; and the analysis of bodycam and dashcam video footage of traffic stops. My NYU laboratory uses this corpus data to teach students the methods of multimodal transcription and discourse analysis.​

My first monograph, Linguistic Rivalries: Tamil Migrants and Anglo-Franco Conflicts, published in 2016 in the Oxford Studies in the Anthropology of Language series, won Honorable Mention for the Edward Sapir Book Prize by the Society for Linguistic Anthropology. My work is published in American Anthropologist, American Ethnologist, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, Signs and Society, Studies in Ethnicity and NationalismAnthropologie et Sociétés, and The International Encyclopedia of Linguistic Anthropology.  New work will soon appear in Research Methods in Linguistic Anthropology.

Having been trained in four-field anthropology and taught classes in linguistic, cultural, and biological anthropology, I am committed to four-field discussions examining how the study of biology, culture, language, and material remains can both challenge and reproduce the structural inequalities giving rise to racism. I founded the Anthropology Diversity Initiative at the University of Michigan, was a core member of the Committee on Language and Social Justice under the American Anthropological Association, and am an active member of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committees at the department and university levels at New York University.

Born in Montréal, I emigrated at a young age to a Philadelphia suburb of New Jersey where I grew up immersed in the local Bengali diasporic community. In my household I spoke Québécois French with my mother and English with my father. I later studied Swahili, Tamil, and Hindi in school. At Stanford University I helped to found Saheli, a feminist collective for South Asian and South Asian American women. I am a former Teach For America South Louisiana corps member and teacher of chemistry and physical science, an advisor to student interns working for the Healthy Climate Initiative, and a certified domestic violence hotline counselor.