A native New Englander, Abby McGowan joined the UVM faculty in the fall of 2004 after spending the 2003-2004 academic year as a visiting lecturer at the University of Virginia. She received her B.A. from Carleton College in 1993, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1999 and 2003. A specialist in modern South Asian history, she teaches courses on early and modern South Asia, the cultural aspects of colonial rule, the Himalayas, South Asian visual and material culture, and historiography.
McGowan’s research explores the intersection of material culture, politics, and everyday life. Her first book, Crafting the Nation in Colonial India (Palgrave, 2009), examines the politics of craft development in colonial western India, demonstrating why and how crafts became so important during a period of nationalist development. Her second, a co-edited book called Towards a History of Consumption in India (Oxford University Press, 2010), turns to the question of consumption in late colonial India, assembling a variety of articles from scholars around the world to explore new goods and strategies available to consumers in this period, as well as some of the anxieties those opportunities elicited. She has also published articles on late nineteenth century revivals of traditional Indian design, artisanal education, and feminized consumption in colonial India.
McGowan’s current research project examines changing ideas of home in mid-twentieth century India, as expressed in material objects and domestic space. During the 2010-2011 academic year, she was a research fellow at the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) in Ahmedabad, India, allowing her to work in archives across western India on materials relating to changing architectural ideas, cooperative housing movements, agitation for industrial housing, new furnishing options, and town planning schemes. The first published results of that research appeared in March 2010, in the article “Modernity at Home: Leisure, Autonomy and the New Woman in India” in the online visual culture journal Tasveer Ghar. A revised and expanded version of that essay will appear in 2012 in the edited book Houseful? Image Essays on South Asian Popular Culture from Tasveer Ghar.