Address: 315 Knox Hall
Office Hours : Fri 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
Isabel Huacuja Alonso

Isabel Huacuja Alonso is a historian of sound media and modern South Asia. Her current book manuscript, Radio for the Millions is a transnational history of radio broadcasting in Hindi and Urdu from the late colonial period through the early post-independence era (1920-1980). It argues that the medium of radio enabled listeners and broadcasters to contest the cultural, linguistic, and political agendas of the British colonial administration and the subsequent independent Indian and Pakistani governments. In this way, Radio for the Millions unsettles long-established narratives in modern South Asian history about the making of nation-states and the hardening of national borders and identities. The book expands on her dissertation, which won the 2015 Sardar Patel Award for “the best dissertation in any aspect of modern India defended at a US institution.”

Expanding upon her work on sound media and borders in South Asia, Huacuja Alonso has pursued other related research interests that highlight the region’s pivotal role in global transformations. She is a co-editor of a forthcoming issue on WWII in India that analyzes the war’s influence in the subcontinent from an interdisciplinary perspective and argues for the centrality of war to the region and for South Asia’s crucial role in the global war. She also researched Indian anticolonial leader M.N. Roy’s sojourn in revolutionary Mexico. This essay forms parts of a larger interest in revolutionaries whose political work transgressed their societies’ intellectual and physical borders.

As part of a commitment to ensuring academic research and material reach a wider audience, Huacuja Alonso contributes to popular magazines and newspapers as well as engages in various translation projects. She, for example, translated an excerpt of a very popular Urdu-language radio travelogue on the Grand Trunk Road. Fellowships from the American Institutes of Indian and Pakistan Studies, the American Council of Learned Societies (2015 and 2020), and the Institute for Historical Studies at University of Texas at Austin (2016) have funded her research. Her publications have appeared in Public Culture, South Asia, SAGAR, and The Caravan, Scroll, and the Spanish-language magazine Algarabia, among others. At Columbia, Dr. Huacuja Alonso teaches courses on South Asian history from an interdisciplinary perspective and on sound studies and media history. She completed her PhD from University of Texas at Austin and prior to joining Columbia, she was an assistant professor at California State University, San Bernardino.

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