Vinay Lal

image for Lal

Professor, Department of History and Asian American Studies

Department: Department of History
UCLA Department of History
6265 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1473
Campus Mail Code: 147303
Phone: 310-825-8276
Fax: 310-206-9630

Keywords: India, History

Vinay Lal is Professor of History and Asian American Studies at UCLA. He earned his Ph.D. with Distinction from the University of Chicago in 1992 after undergraduate and Master’s degrees in literature and philosophy from Johns Hopkins University. He writes widely on Indian history, historiography, public and popular culture in India, the Indian diaspora, colonialism, human rights, American politics, the architecture of nonviolence, Gandhi, and the global politics of knowledge systems. His 20 authored or edited books include the two-volume Oxford Anthology of the Modern Indian City (Oxford, 2013); Political Hinduism: The Religious Imagination in Public Spheres (ed., Oxford, 2009); The Future of Knowledge and Culture: A Dictionary for the Twenty-first Century, co-edited with Ashis Nandy (Viking Penguin, 2005); Of Cricket, Guinness and Gandhi: Essays on Indian History and Culture (Penguin, 2005); The History of History: Politics and Scholarship in Modern India (Oxford, 2003); Empire of Knowledge: Culture and Plurality in the Global Economy (Pluto Press, 2002); India and Civilizational Futures: Backwaters Collective on Metaphysics and Politics II (Oxford, 2019); A Passionate Life: Writings by and on Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay (Zubaan Books, 2017), co-edited with Ellen Carol DuBois; and The Fury of Covid-19: The Passions, Journeys, and Unrequited Love of the Coronavirus (Pan Macmillan, 2020). His most recent books include The Colonial State and Forms of Knowledge: The British in India (edited, 2022) and Insurgency and the Artist: The Art of the Freedom Struggle in India (Roli Books, Delhi, 2022).

His scholarly work has been translated into Hindi, Urdu, Kannada, French, German, Spanish, Finnish, Korean, and Persian, and his shorter essays and popular writings have been translated into some 40 languages. Volume 3 of The Backwaters Collective on Metaphysics and Politics, of which he is a founding member, is due from Oxford UP in mid-2023, and a book of conversations with Rev. James M. Lawson, an American architect of the civil rights movement, is presently with Orbis Books. Works in progress include a book on the history of colonial India told through stories, a study of internet Hinduism, and a book on the Indian jurist Radha Binod Pal, famous for issuing a long dissenting judgment at the Tokyo War Crimes Trial. A two-volume collection of his essays on Gandhi will be published by Orient BlackSwan in mid-2023. He also has the distinction of being listed among the “101 Most Dangerous Professors in America” in David Horowitz’s book, The Professors, quite likely the only fifteen minutes of fame he will ever have in his life. He blogs at and at and maintains an academic YouTube channel at which has over 2.5 million views.

At UCLA, Vinay teaches a cycle of undergraduate courses on the history of Indian Civilization, British India, and contemporary South Asia as well as contemporary world history (covering the period from the Industrial Revolution to the present). He also teaches a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate seminars on Indian politics and religion, history and theory, the historiography of modern India, nationalism and colonialism, Indian cinema, comparative studies in colonialism, comparative studies in structures of oppression, history and postcolonial theory, and the politics of knowledge systems.

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