Professor Kama Maclean

Professor Kama Maclean

Honorary Professor

BA PhD La Trobe, Grad Dip L & T UNSW

Arts, Design & Architecture
School of Humanities & Languages

Dr Kama Maclean is an Honorary Professor in the School of Humanities and Languages. From 2003 to 2020, she taught South Asian and World History at UNSW. She is currently based at the University of Heidelberg, in Germany, where she holds the Chair of History in the South Asia Institute. 

Professor Maclean’s first book, Pilgrimage and Power (OUP, 2008), examined the history of the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, and was awarded an honourable mention in the AAS’s Coomaraswamy Book Prize in 2009. Her second book, A Revolutionary History of Interwar India (OUP 2015), demonstrated that the oft-averred dominance of Gandhian nonviolence in the historiography of the nationalist movement was not supported by a close examination of a range of oral, material and visual culture sources. A Revolutionary History is currently being translated into Hindi. 

Her third book, British India, White Australia: Overseas Indians, Intercolonial Relations and the Empire, 1901-1947 (UNSW Press, 2020), makes interventions into South Asian, Australian and imperial histories by demonstrating the triangular relationship between Australia, India and Britain in the early twentieth century. The book shows how this imperial dynamic impacted on British Indian settlers in Australia, with reference to debates about colonialism, independence and dominionhood. British India White Australia was shortlisted for several prizes, including the ICAS Prize for Humanities, and was highly commended for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.

Kama Maclean is also the author of several other articles, and was from 2010-2023 the Editor of South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies.

Her current research and teaching activities at the South Asia Institute work towards and urge the importance of a multisensory historical methodology for South Asian Studies. She is currently working on a DFG-funded research project on Sonic Aspects of Anticolonialism in Interwar India. She is available for co-supervision at UNSW. Further information about the Department of History in the South Asia Institute can be found here

9385 3665
366 Morven Brown
  • Books | 2020
    Maclean K, 2020, British India, White Australia Overseas Indians, Intercolonial Relations and the Empire, 1901-1947
    Books | 2015
    Maclean K; Elam JD, 2015, Revolutionary Lives in South Asia: Acts and Afterlives of Anticolonial Political Action, Maclean KK; Elam JD, (ed.), Routledge, London,
    Books | 2015
    Maclean K, 2015, A Revolutionary History of Interwar India: Violence, Image, Voice and Text, Hurst & Co; Oxford University Press, London/New York,
    Books | 2008
    Maclean K, 2008, Pilgrimage and Power: the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, 1765-1954, Oxford University Press, New York,
  • Book Chapters | 2020
    Maclean K; Zachariah B, 2020, 'Violence, Non-Violence, the State and the Nation: India, 1858–1958', in The Cambridge World History of Violence, Cambridge University Press, pp. 68 - 87,
    Book Chapters | 2018
    Maclean K, 2018, 'Naming Charlie: Inscribing British Indian Identities in White Australia, 1901-1940', in Bandyopadhyay S; Buckingham J (ed.), Indian and the Antipodes Networks, Boundaries and Circulation, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, pp. 94 - 128
    Book Chapters | 2017
    Maclean K, 2017, 'On the Art of Panicking Quietly: British Expatriate Responses to “Terrorist Outrages” in India, 1912-33'', in Fischer-Tine H (ed.), Anxieties, Fear and Panic in Colonial Settings Empires on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, edn. Cambridge Imperial and Postcolonial Studies Series, Springer, pp. 135 - 166,
    Book Chapters | 2016
    Maclean K, 2016, 'The Art of Panicking Quietly: British Expatriate Responses to ‘Terrorist Outrages’ in India, 1912–33', in FischerTine H (ed.), Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies, edn. Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series, SPRINGER INTERNATIONAL PUBLISHING AG, pp. 135 - 167,
    Book Chapters | 2013
    Maclean K, 2013, 'Situating the Role of Religion in the Rebellion: The Case of the Prayagwals in the Allahabad Uprising', in Bates C (ed.), Mutiny at the Margins: New Perspectives on the Indian Uprising of 1857, edn. 1st, Sage Publications, New Delhi, pp. 149 - 168,
    Book Chapters | 2012
    Maclean K, 2012, 'India in Australia: A recent history of a very long engagement', in Hosking R; Sarwal A (ed.), Wanderings in India: Australian Perceptions, edn. 1st, Monash Asia Publishing, Clayton, Victoria, pp. 20 - 35
    Book Chapters | 2008
    Maclean K, 2008, 'Hybrid Nationalist or Hindu Nationalist? The Life of Madan Mohan Malaviya (1861-1946)', in Tall Tales and True: India, historiography and British Imperial Imaginings, edn. Original, Monash Asia Institute, Clayton, pp. 107 - 124
    Book Chapters | 2007
    Maclean K, 2007, 'On the Modern Kumbh Mela', in Mehrota AK (ed.), The Last Bungalow: writings on Allahabad, edn. Original, Penguin Books, New Dehli, pp. 285 - 306
  • Edited Books | 2017
    Maclean K; Moffat C; Elam JD, (eds.), 2017, Writing Revolution in South Asia History, Practice, Politics, Routledge, London,
  • Journal articles | 2020
    Maclean K, 2020, 'Returning insurgency to the archive: The dissemination of the ‘Philosophy of the Bomb’', History Workshop Journal, 89, pp. 155 - 168,
    Journal articles | 2019
    Amstutz A; Elam D; Choudhury R; Banerjee M; De R; Silvestri M; Maclean K; Ghosh D, 2019, 'New histories of political violence and revolutionary terrorism in modern South Asia', South Asian History and Culture, 10, pp. 340 - 360,
    Journal articles | 2019
    Maclean K, 2019, 'Comrade Ryan, International Trade Unionism and White Australia: Global Communism, Trade Unionism and Empire in Interwar India', Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 47, pp. 1125 - 1152,
    Journal articles | 2018
    Maclean K, 2018, 'Gentlemanly Terrorists: Political Violence and the Colonial State in India, 1919–1947', The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 49, pp. 186 - 188,
    Journal articles | 2018
    Maclean K, 2018, '‘A Colonial in the Colonies: Casey, Gandhi, and the Endgame of Empire’,', Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, 19,
    Journal articles | 2017
    Maclean K, 2017, 'The Fundamental Rights Resolution Nationalism, Internationalism, and Cosmopolitanism in an Interwar Moment', Comparative studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 37, pp. 213 - 219,
    Journal articles | 2016
    Maclean K, 2016, 'Revolution and Revelation, or, When is History Too Soon?', South Asia: Journal of South Asia Studies, 39, pp. 678 - 694,
    Journal articles | 2015
    Maclean K, 2015, 'Examinations, access, and inequity within the empire: Britain, Australia and India, 1890–1910', Postcolonial Studies, 18, pp. 115 - 132,
    Journal articles | 2014
    Maclean K, 2014, 'Imagining the Indian nationalist movement: Revolutionary metaphors in imagery of the freedom struggle', Journal of Material Culture, 19, pp. 7 - 34,
    Journal articles | 2013
    Maclean K; Daniel Elam J, 2013, 'Reading revolutionaries: Texts, acts, and afterlives of political action in late colonial South Asia: Who is a revolutionary?', Postcolonial Studies, 16, pp. 113 - 123,
    Journal articles | 2013
    Maclean K, 2013, 'What Durga Bhabhi Did Next: or, Was there a Gendered Agenda in Revolutionary Circles?', South Asian History and Culture, 4, pp. 1 - 20,
    Journal articles | 2012
    Maclean K, 2012, 'Australia India Relations and the Economy of Ideas', East Asia Forum Quarterly, 4, pp. 20 - 22
    Journal articles | 2012
    Maclean K, 2012, 'The History of a Legend: Accounting for Popular Histories of Revolutionary Nationalism', Modern Asian Studies, 46, pp. 1540 - 1571,
    Journal articles | 2011
    Maclean K, 2011, 'The Portrait's Journey: The Image, Social Communication and Martyr Making in Colonial India', Journal of Asian Studies, 70, pp. 1 - 32,
    Journal articles | 2009
    Maclean K, 2009, 'Seeing, Being Seen, and Not Being Seen: Pilgrimage, Tourism and Layers of Looking at the Kumbh Mela', Cross Currents, 59, pp. 319 - 341,
    Journal articles | 2003
    Maclean K, 2003, '‘Making the Colonial State Work for You: the Modern Beginnings of the Ancient Kumbh Mela’', Journal of Asian Studies, 62, pp. 873 - 906,
    Journal articles | 2001
    Maclean K, 2001, 'Conflicting Spaces: The Fort of Allahabad and the Kumbh Mela, 1801-1860’', South Asia - Journal of South Asian Studies, 24, pp. 135 - 159
    Journal articles | 2001
    Maclean K, 2001, 'Conflicting spaces: The KumbhMelaand the fort of Allahabad', South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 24, pp. 135 - 159,

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, ‘A sonic approach to Interwar India’, 2023. 

Australian Research Council, Future Fellowship Grant, ‘A sonic approach to Interwar India’, 2021, $1,011,852. (declined, due to appointment at the University of Heidelberg)

Australian Research Council (ARC), Discovery Grant, ‘Imagining India in White Australia: Intercolonial relations and the empire: 1901-1950’, (2012-15) $150, 000.

Australia India Institute Grant, ‘People to People: Australia-India Relationships in the Twentieth Century’, 2011, $20 000.

Prizes, Awards and Fellowships

2021    Highly Commended, Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards; Shortlisted for the Ernest Scott Prize; and the Humanities ICAS Book Prize, for British India, White Australia

2020    Shortlisted for the Australian History Prize in the NSW Premier's History Awards 2020 for British India, White Australia

2019    Global Scholarly Impact Award, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences UNSW, for A Revolutionary History of Interwar India

2019    Fellow, National Library of Australia

2018    Book Subvention, Australian Academy of Humanities

2018    Inducted into the Australian Academy of Humanities

2009    Honourable Mention, The Kentish Anand Coomaraswamy Book Prize (AAS), for Pilgrimage and Power

2009    Professorial Research Fellow, United Arab Emirates University

2004   Australian Academy of the Humanities Fieldwork Fellowship

2003    ASSA Presidents’ Prize for Best Doctorial Thesis in Asian Studies

2007    Association of Asian Studies (AAS) First Book Subvention

2005    Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Post-Doctoral Writing Award

1998    La Trobe University Postgraduate Scholarship

1998    La Trobe Politics Department Postgraduate Award


Kama Maclean's current project aims to apply the methods of Sound Studies to a study of the history of anticolonialism in India. Extending on her earlier work, which draws extensively on visual archives to construct historical narratives, this project aims to explicitly trace the reverberations of sound - especially mediated speech, slogans and songs - in anticolonial mobilisation in the interwar period. Orality was a critical element of political communication, which, partly due to the difficulties in capturing the spoken word, has not yet been studied in detail. Yet the archives are full of sound.

The deeply affective qualities inherent in sounds, and the growth of technologies to amplify and record them in the period under investigation, renders this a rich approach to understanding anticolonial politics beyond the widely-acknowledged constraints of the colonial archive. The key objectives are to locate sonic traces in the archive, drawing on audio recordings, texts, visual and oral histories to discern their impact; to develop an understanding of the potency of sounds in creating communities and communicating nationalist messages, while evading censorship; and to trace the impact of early recording and sound projection technologies on nationalist mobilisation, to demonstrate how such technologies disrupted prevailing soundscapes and shifted political dynamics, in the context of the civil disobedience movement. Further information on the project, which is funded by the Deutsche Forshungsgemeinschaft, is available here.

My Teaching

Kama Maclean coordinates and teaches two courses, Modern India: British Raj to Bollywood (second year) and Powerful India (third year). She also teaches History and Asian Studies Honours.