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Sandria Freitag

Assoc Teaching Professor

Department of History

Withers Hall 366

View CV 


SANDRIA B. FREITAG has long explored a range of source materials used to answer new questions about ordinary people in Indian society (ranging from criminality to public-space activities), and tracing change from the British period through the 20th century.  The project she is completing now deals with the first two ‘mass’-produced and -consumed forms of visual culture – posters and photography – and what they reveal about the intersection of everyday life with participation in the larger patterns of public life in modern India. Her new work focuses on NGOs, as another aspect of public life, especially those dealing with the twin goals of craft perpetuation and social uplift.


1)  Visual Culture Narrative Lines database:  Relational database project supported by NC State History Dept, constructing visual narratives that work out from images; these narrative lines have the capacity to intersect and thus develop networks of three-dimensional analyses:  useful for both teaching/learning and scholarly communication and collaboration.

2)  Critical Events project (being developed within the Visual Narrative Cluster, which brings together faculty in ECE/Image Analytics, Computer Science, History and Design):  designing new approaches to the ‘reading’ of large-scale collections of photographs documenting critical events of the 20th century.  The project is beginning with photographic archives of four such ‘Events’  — the US Civil Rights movement; partition of British India into India and Pakistan; Algerian Revolution; and the Chinese Great Leap Forward — to combine machine reading and historians’ qualitative  analyses to examine the feasibility of treating photographic evidence as ‘big data’ to identify larger patterns and significance in historical and cultural terms.

Office Hours

  • Mon: 3:30 p.m. – 4:20 p.m.
Or By Appointment

Research Publications

Guest Editor, Special issue of South Asia, “The Visual Turn in South Asian Studies” Vol. 37, No. 3, Sept 2014 (and freestanding volume by the same name, Routledge, 2015).

“A Visual History of Three Lucknows”, and “The Visual Turn:  Approaching South Asia across the Disciplines”, essays in South Asia (see above).

“Short Cultural History of Lucknow” essay for The Other Lucknow:  An Ethnographic Portrait of a City of Undying Memories and Nostalgia, by Nadeem Husain (Delhi: Vani Prakashan & Ayodhya Research Institute, 2016).

“Postscript:  Interdisciplinarity and Lucknow’s Cultural System” in R. Susewind & C. Taylor (guest editors), SAMAJ, special issue on “Contemporary Lucknow:  Life with ‘too much history’”, 2015.

“Postscript:  Exploring aspects of ‘the public’ from 1991 to 2014” in special issue of South Asia, Imagining the Public in Modern South Asia, September 2015, guest-edited by J. Barton Scott, Brannon Ingram & SherAli Tareen,  (and freestanding volume by the same name, Routledge 2016).

“Sufi Shrines and Built Environments in Visual Culture” visual essay in new e-site, Visual Pilgrim,  mounted by Heidelberg University’s Cluster of Excellence on ‘Asia and Europe in a Global Context:  Shifting Asymmetries in Cultural Flows’,

“Picturing Place in Popular Visual Culture” keynote article in new e-journal, imagenaama, created by CIViC ( ) in India, July 2013.  

“Consumption and Identity:  Imagining ‘Everyday life’ through Visual Culture”  Image-essay peer-reviewed and posted on Tasveer Ghar, a website analyzing popular visual culture in India (and beyond): (April, 2010)  Print Tasveer Ghar version expected Feb 2014 (ed’s Sumathi Ramaswamy, Yousuf Saeed, Christiane Brosius, Yoda Press).

Thinking about Authority:  Introduction” in Muslim Voices essay collection edited by Usha Sanyal, David Gilmartin and Sandria Freitag,  essay collection, Yoda Press, Nov, 2013.

“South Asian Ways of Seeing; Muslim Ways of Knowing:  The Indian Muslim niche market in posters” in Indian Economic and Social History Review, 44:3 (2007):297-331.

“More Than Meets the (Hindu) Eye:  The Public Sphere as a Space for Alternative Visions” essay for Richard Davis (ed), Picturing the Nation… (Orient Longman, 2007), 92-116.

“Visual Vocabularies in 20th C. India:  Negotiating the Imperial and the Local Through the Freitag – 3 Treatment of Place,” in Durba Ghosh and Dane Kennedy (eds), Decentering Empire (Delhi:  Orient Longmans, 2006), pp. 314-350.

“Visualizing Cities By Modern Citizens: Benares Compared To Jaipur And Lucknow” essay for Martin Gaenszle  and Jorg Gengnagel (ed)s Visualizing Space in Benares (Weisbaden:  Harrassowitz Verlag, 2006), pp. 233-251.

“Power and Patronage:  Banaras in the 18th and 19th Century” in George Michell and Rana Singh (eds), Banaras, the City Revealed (New Delhi:  Marg Publications, 2005), pp. 30-41.

“The Realm of the Visual: Agency and Modern Civil Society” in Sumathi Ramaswamy. (ed) Beyond Appearances? Visual Practices and Ideologies in Modern India (Sage 2003) and as a special issue of Contributions to Indian Sociology 2002, pp. 365-397.

“Visions of the Nation:  Theorizing the Nexus between Creation, Consumption, and Participation in the Public Sphere,” in Rachel Dwyer and Christopher Pinney (eds), Pleasure and the Nation:  The History, Politics, and Consumption of Public Culture in India (Oxford University Press, 2001), pp.35-75.

Funded Research

2016-17 NCSU Faculty Research and Development Award, “Narrating Critical Events Through Visual Culture”

2014 NCSU CHASS Dean’s Office Award for “Visual Narratives” strategic planning and Cluster Hire organization and proposal (won one of 6 Cluster Awards from Provost’s Office for History dept)

2013 NCSU Fellow in ACE program, “At Home in the World”

2012 NCSU Award for Internationalizing the Curriculum

2008 I.M. Meyer Fellowship, National University of Singapore

1998-99, ’99-00 Scholar-in-Residence, Center for Cultural Studies, UCSC

1997 Short-term Fellow, Max Planck Institut Fur Geschichte

1996 AIIS Senior Short-term Fellowship

1992 AIIS Senior Short-term Fellowship

1990 AIIS Senior Short-term Fellowship

1983-4 Social Science Research Council Senior Fellowship

1983 NEH Summer Fellowship

1982 AIIS Postdoctoral Study Tour


“Crafting Social Uplift and Cultural Preservation:  Seeing larger historical patterns through craft in Modern India”, paper presented to the AAS-in-Asia conference, Kyoto Japan July 28, 2016.

Sufi Shrines and Built Environments in Muslim Visual Culture” presented to UNC Conference on Asia, February 25, 2016 at UNC Chapel Hill.

“Pathway to Visual History” paper presented to CA Bayly festschrift conference, Banaras, January 2015.

“Crafts and NGOs” paper presented IIAS workshop on Crafts Considered Comparatively, Jaipur, 3/2015.

“TERI and All-India Women’s Conference:  differing NGO approaches to Solar Lanterns” presented to “Environment Across the Disciplines :  Perspectives from India and Beyond” conference, NC State Univ, April 19-20, 2013.

Historians and the ‘Anthropology of Art’ – new ‘evidence’, new methods, new theorizing”  Presentation to the Department of Anthropology,University ofLucknow, May 6, 2012.

“Picturing Place”  at Conference on Conquest of the World as Picture, Delhi, 25-26 March 2011.  Related versions presented at the Assn for Asian Studies meetings, April 2011 and Conference on Visual Culture & Identity-Narratives, UNC-CH & NCSU, April 2011.

 “Interacting With Ram” Conference on the Ramayana atAsian Civilizations Museum,Singapore, July 2010.

“Sufi Shrines and Built Environments in Visual Culture” Workshop on Transnational Flows of Muslim Visual Culture, Heidelberg, June 2010.

“Imagination and ‘identity’:  Picturing Everyday Life from Posters” Conference on “Narrating the Visual, Visualizing the Narrative” at NCSU, March 5-6, 2010.

“Narrating Good Rule:  Visual Stories from Ram to Ambedkar” Madison Annual Conference on South Asia, October 2009.

“Place and ‘the Visual” I. M. Mayer Fellow presentation at National University of Singapore, February 6, 2008.

“Thick Description:  Experimenting With Popular Posters,” public lecture at NUS Art Museum, February 13, 2008.

“Experimenting with Popular Posters” paper presented at the panel on “Repackaging South Asia’s Visual Culture,” Association for Asian Studies, April 2006.

“Drawing on the Stories of Ram” Roundtable on the South Asia Visual-Culture Reservoir,  Madison Conference, October 2005

“Situating the Self:  South Asian Visual Culture and Muslim Identity”,Amsterdam, Conference on “Invisible Histories” sponsored by ISIM, September 2005.

“Visual Vocabularies In 20th C. India: Negotiating The Imperial And The Local Through The Treatment Of Place” Ann Arbor, Michigan January 2005 and Berkeley, March 2006.

“Stories of Ram and the Visual-Cultural Reservoir” paper presented at South Asian Studies annual meeting, Madison Wisconsin, October 2005.


B.A. Comp Relig w/ Honors Mills College 1967

M.A. History Mod South Asia University of California, Berkeley 1971

Ph.D. History Mod South Asia University of California, Berkeley 1980

Area(s) of Expertise

Modern South Asian history; Visual History; Social and cultural history of non-Governmental Organizations, both within South Asia and comparatively; Applications of new technologies to explore new directions/potential of visual history