Vinay Lal was born in Delhi and raised in India, Indonesia, Japan, and the United States. He studied literature, history, and philosophy as an undergraduate, and earned his B.A. from the Humanities Center at Johns Hopkins University in 1982. He received a M.A. from the same institution, also in 1982, for a thesis on Emerson and Indian Philosophy. He then studied film in Australia and India on a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship before commencing his graduate studies at the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, where he was awarded his Ph.D. with Distinction in 1992. His dissertation, "Committees of Inquiry and Discourses of 'Law and Order' in Twentieth-Century British India", received the Marc Galler Award for the best dissertation in the Division of the Humanities at the University of Chicago. He was a William R. Kenan Fellow, Society of Fellows in the Humanities, and Lecturer in History, at Columbia University in 1992-93.
Vinay joined the history faculty at UCLA in Fall 1993, and has since held several fellowships, including a Senior Fellowship from the American Institute of Indian Studies, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for University Teachers, and a fellowship from the Society for the Promotion of Science/Japan Area Studies Center at the National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka. He was elected a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science in February 2000.
Vinay has written regularly on a wide variety of subjects for periodicals in the US, India, and Britain, including the Economic and Political Weekly (Mumbai), The Little Magazine (Delhi), and Social Scientist (Delhi). Lengthier scholarly articles have appeared in such journals as Diaspora, Social Text, South Asia, Genders, Journal of the History of Sexuality, Environmental Ethics, History and Theory, Studies in History, Patterns of Prejudice, Social Epistemology, Radical History Review, and Third Text. Among other subjects, he has written on various aspects of the political and legal history of colonial India, sexuality in modern India, the popular Hindi film, the Indian diaspora, Indian documentaries, the politics and history of history, dissent in the Gandhian mode, contemporary American politics, the politics of culture, genocide, and the global politics of knowledge systems.Vinay's books include the following: The History of History: Politics and Scholarship in Modern India (Delhi: Oxford UP, 2003; paperback edition with new postscript, Oxford 2005); Empire of Knowledge: Culture and Plurality in the Global Economy (London: Pluto Press, 2002; new Indian edition, forthcoming from Sage, 2005), Of Cricket, Guinness and Gandhi: Essays on Indian History and Culture (Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2003; paperback, Delhi: Viking Penguin, 2005); Introducing Hinduism (with Borin van Loon, London: Icon Books, 2005); The Future of Knowledge and Culture: A Dictonary for the Twenty-first Century, co-edited with Ashis Nandy, Delhi: Viking Penguin, 2005); and an edited work entitled Dissenting Knowledges, Open Futures: The Multiple Selves and Strange Destinations of Ashis Nandy (Delhi: Oxford, 2000). Book-length works in progress include studies of political trials in colonial India, Gandhi and the cultural politics of fasting, and the Indian career of John Stuart Mill, as well as an anthology on the Indian city and a historical study of American exceptionalism.
Vinay was formally associated as a Visiting Fellow in the summers of 1993 and 1994 with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies and the Delhi-based Committee for Cultural Choices and Global Futures. The scholars, public intellectuals, and activists who comprise the membership of the Committee describe themselves as motivated by "an intellectual concern for the ecology of plural knowledge, a normative concern with cultural survival, and a potential concern with the search for humane futures for the victims of history." Vinay shares the concerns described in the manifesto of the committee, with whose chairperson, Ashis Nandy, he has published two books (see above).
Readers can visit Vinay's scholarly web site on South Asia at http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/southasia/
For further reading, see the following short papers by Vinay:
I. Recent papers on Americal Politics
"Torture: An American Success Story"
"Witch Hunts in the Academy" [EPW, 7 May 2005, pp. 1932-34].
"The Wal-Mart Story: Big and Quintessentially
American" [EPW, 18 June 2005,
II: Papers on the Politics of Knowledge, Globalization and Civilizational Histories
1. "Enigmas of Exile: Reflections on Edward
Said" [EPW, 1 January 2005,
2. "The Politics of Time at the Cusp of the Millennium"
3. "Knowledge of the Future and the Future
of Knowledge" (originally published
4. "An Epidemic of Apologies" [Humanscape 6, no. 4 (April 1999), pp. 38-41].
5. "The Fragments of Bamiyan" [The
Little Magazine 2, no. 2 (March-April 2001),
6. "India and the War on Iraq: A Few Thoughts
on the Demise of the
7. "Home Truths and McData: The Arc of Globalising
At a Glance: