Dr Shruti Kapila

Shruti Kapila is an intellectual historian and political thinker, currently University Lecturer in History and Convenor, History and Politics Tripos in the Faculty of History, and Fellow at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University. Born, educated, and made in India, Kapila graduated from Panjab University Chandigarh with top honours, before reading for a Master’s in Modern History at JNU, and a doctorate from SOAS, London University. Her professional life has been international. Prior to Cambridge, she has held a research position at the University of Oxford and was Assistant Professor (in conjunction with a University Chair for Career Development) at Tufts University, Mass., USA.

Her principal fields of scholarship and publications are Modern and Contemporary India (c.1770 to the present) and Global Political Thought. She also writes on the History of Modern Science and Race, Gender and Political Violence. Predating recent calls to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum by more than a decade, her academic life has been defined by centring the importance of India for the remaking of global political languages. 

Her recent work focuses on twentieth century political thought and theory, and the Indian rewriting of modern political languages, notably sovereignty, democracy, violence and republicanism. Highlighted as a ‘featured book’ of the year by its publisher Princeton University Press, her forthcoming book Violent Fraternity in the Indian Age (Autumn, 2021) has received advanced praise as a ‘ground-breaking’ book that is tipped to ‘globalise’ the field of political thought. There will also be a South Asia edition with Penguin Random House, New Delhi. For a full list of publications and podcasts, see below for the link to her faculty website at Cambridge University.

She also has a long standing interest in the history of the modern subject (or ‘self’) as understood through disciplines of the psyche and mind notably psychoanalysis and psychiatry and public debates on ethics and politics in colonial India from the late eighteenth to the late twentieth centuries.

She has two new ongoing research projects: a long-term project entitled The Passions and Pursuit of Indian Democracy focusing on the last 40 years of multi-party democracy. Focused the depth and fate of the ‘agonistic’ foundations of India’s democracy, the role of unparliamentary power, primarily the Supreme Court, and the political currencies of authority, populism and majoritarianism. She also has a smaller-scale project on the distinctive nature of Indian Conservatism in relation to mid to late twentieth century debates on global conservatism and ‘neoliberalism’.

Beyond scholarship and research, she has worked on international strategy for the Office of the Vice-Chancellor focussing on India and the Humanities, and has served the full-range of college, university, and faculty committees.

Beyond the walls of academia, she engages in political commentary and opinion on India and global politics for the international media including the Financial Times, Prospect Magazine, BBC (radio and television), Al Jazeera, Monocle Radio, Times Radio, and Bloomberg TV and across Indian newspapers, magazines and television. She now writes a fortnightly column for The Print, India. Since 2013, she has also co-convened a closed-door seminar at the House of Lords, UK Parliament that puts Indian leaders and key voices in dialogue with their British counterparts on pressing issues of the day. Occasionally, she advises and consults with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Indian institutions including most recently, the National Commission for Women the highest policy body for women in India.

"You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty."

– Mahatma Gandhi