UCL Anthropology


Urmila Mohan

Urmila Mohan

Email: u.mohan.11@ucl.ac.uk

Website: www.urmilamohan.com;
The Jugaad Project: Material Religion in Context

Urmila Mohan is an anthropologist and curator of material culture and religion with a focus on textiles and Hinduism in India and Indonesia. She is the co-founder and editor of The Jugaad Project: Material Religion in Context, and has published articles and chapters on materiality, praxis and aesthetics in the context of religion. Urmila earned her doctorate in Anthropology (material and visual culture) at University College London (2015) where she is also a Research Associate. She is adjunct faculty at the Dept. of Anthropology, New York University. Her postdoctoral fellowship in museum anthropology at Bard Graduate Center (2016-18), led to the curation of an exhibit on the ceremonial uses of textiles collected by Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson in 1930s Bali, Indonesia, and the monograph Fabricating Power with Balinese Textiles (University of Chicago Press/BGC). Urmila’ research has been funded at various times by New York University; University College London; Victoria and Albert Museum (Nehru Trust for Indian Collections), London; Asian Cultural Council, New York; Coby Foundation Ltd., New York, and Rotary International. 

Research interests

  • Art, Craft and Design
  • Religion
  • Embodiment
  • Praxeology

Academic Background/Education

    • AMNH-BGC Postdoctoral Fellowship, Museum Anthropology, Bard Graduate Center, 2016-18.
    • PhD, Anthropology (Material and Visual Culture), University College London, 2015.
    • MFA Studio Art, Penn State University (PSU), State College, Pennsylvania, 2009.
    • BA (Hons) Anthropology, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand, 2000.
    • BFA, Communication Design, National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India, 1998.

    Honours and Awards

    • 2019-20 Adjunct Research Fund, Dept. of Anthropology, NYU
    • 2018-19 Asian Cultural Council Individual Fellowship for comparative research on textiles in Bali, Java and other parts of Indonesia.
    • 2018 Coby Foundation grant for BGC exhibit on Balinese textiles.
    • 2016-18 Postdoctoral Fellow in Museum Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History and Bard Graduate Center, New York.
    • 2013, Conference Bursary, British Association for the Study of Religions (BASR), Liverpool, UK.
    • 2012-13, India Travel Award, Nehru Trust for the Indian Collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
    • 2011, UCL Anthropology Departmental Bursary.
    • 2010, Rotary International District 7510 Ambassadorial Scholarship 2011-12.
    • 2009, Solo Exhibition 2010, Hunterdon Art Museum, Clinton, NJ.
    • 2008, Penn State Graduate Research Show, Penn State University.
    • 2007 - 08, Graduate Scholarship, Penn State University.

    Events, Publications and Presentations

    • The Material Subject: Rethinking Objects and Bodies in Motion, Urmila Mohan and Laurence Douny, eds., Bloomsbury, 2021
    • Clothing as Devotion in Contemporary Hinduism, 2019, Brill Research Perspectives in Religion and the Arts
    • Mohan, Urmila. "Religion and Ritual: The Modern Religio-colorscape" In Anders Steinvall and Sarah Street, eds. A Cultural History of Color in the Modern Age, London: Bloomsbury, 2021
    • The Material Subject: Rethinking Objects and Bodies in Motion, Urmila Mohan and Laurence Douny, eds., Bloomsbury (forthcoming).
    • “Balinese Religio-cultural Imaginaries and Rituals of Digital Materiality”, chapter in Emily S. Clark and Rachel M. Lindsey, eds. Material Religion, De Gruyter series on Religion and Digital Humanities (forthcoming).
    • Mohan, Urmila. 2019. “The Power of Fabrication: Reflections on Curating Balinese Textiles.” Material Religion 15(1).
    • Mohan, Urmila and Courtney O’Dell-Chaib. 2018. “Curatorial Authority in Digital Scholarship: A Review of ‘Materializing the Bible’.” American Anthropologist (Multimodal Anthropologies) 120(2).
    • Mohan, Urmila. Fabricating Power in Balinese Textiles. University of Chicago Press/BGC, 2018.
    • Mohan, Urmila. "Objecthood" In Hillary Callan, ed. The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology, 1-6, Oxford: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., 2018.
    • Mohan, Urmila, and Jean-Pierre Warnier. "Editorial: Marching the Devotional Subject. The Bodily-and-Material Cultures of Religion." Journal of Material Culture 22, No. 4 (2017): 1-16.
    • Review of Lamak. Ritual Objects in Bali, by Francine Brinkgreve. Anthropos, 112.2017/2.
    • Mohan, Urmila. "Clothing as a Technology of Enchantment: Gaze and Glaze in Hindu Garments." Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft 12, No. 1(2017): 225-244.
    • "­When Krishna Wore a Kimono: Deity Clothing as Rupture and Inefficacy", Chapter in Carroll, Jeevendrampillai, Parkhurst and Shackelford (eds.) When Things Do Wrong: Anthropologies of Material Failure, Bloomsbury, London, 2017.
    • "From Prayer Beads to the Mechanical Counter: The Negotiation of Chanting Practices Within a Hindu Group", Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions, No. 174, pp. 191-212.
    • "Colour, Religion and Modernity", talk at workshop on Material and Sensual Religion, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK, November, 2015.
    • "Ornament as a Technology of Devotional 'Gaze' and 'Glaze' in Hindu Deity Garments", paper presented at panel titled Efficacious Objects, Conference on Material Religion: Embodiment, Materiality and Technology, Duke University, Durham, US, September 2015.
    • "New Directions in Material Religion: A Discussion with David Morgan", Online workshop organised with Rose Wellman, 11 August 2015.
    • "Productive (Dis)orientation: Being Made and Unmade in the Field", Anthropology News, Society for Humanistic Anthropology, AAA, May 2015.
    • "Dressing God: Clothing as Material of Religious Subjectivity in a Hindu Group", chapter in Kuchler and Drazin (eds.) The Social Life of Materials: Studies in Materials and Society, Bloomsbury, 2015.
    • "Preformed or Performed? Embroidery as Devotion in Iskcon", paper presented at panel titled Devotion to and with Books, American Academy of Religion-Eastern International Region, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, May 2015.
    • "Devotional Agency and the Technological Enchantment of Deity Garments", The Florida State University Department of Religion 14th Annual Graduate Student Symposium, Tallahassee, FL, U.S., February, 2015.
    • "Hindu Prayer Beads as Efficacious Aids in Devotion", paper presented at conference on Materialites Religieuses, Musee du Quai Branly, Paris, January 2015.
    • "Devotional Agency and the Technological Enchantment of Deity Garments", paper presented at panel titled Material and Sensory Attachment: Intimate Engagement in Religion and Politics, American Anthropological Association, Washington, D.C., U.S., December 2014.
    • Co-founder of Material Religions Blog, Editor September 2014-present.
    • Commentaries on Tobert India Collection, Horniman Museum and Gardens, June-August 2014.
    • "Hindu Prayer Beads as Efficacious Aids in Devotion", paper presented at conference on The Bodily AND Material Cultures of Religious Subjectivation, UCL, London, June 2014.
    • "The Bodily AND Material Cultures of Religious Subjectivation", Conference convened with Prof. Jean-Pierre Warnier, UCL, London, U.K., June 2014.
    • "When Krishna Wore a Kimono: A Case of Clothing Failure", paper presented at panel titled When Things Do Wrong: The Material Culture of Failure, American Anthropological Association, Chicago, U.S., November 2013.
    • "The Mundanity of Transcendence: Materialising Religion in Iskcon India", paper presented at panel titled Bodies of Veneration, EASR/BASR Conference, Liverpool, U.K., September 2013.
    • 'Making' and 'Doing' Fieldwork, Presentation, Presidency University, Kolkata, India, April 2013.
    • Workshop on the study of techniques in Communication Design, National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India, March 2013. http://whatimagesdo.wordpress.com/
    • "Iskcon's 'Temple of the Vedic Planetarium' as a Space for Mission, Monument and Memorialisation", paper presented at panel for Mediating Modernities, conference organised by Srishti College of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore, India, and School of Arts & Communication, University of Malmo, Sweden, January 25th, 2013.
    • "India: A Veneration Nation?", Conference convened with Jill Reese, UCL, London, U.K., June 2012.
    • "Dressing (for) God: Cloth as Substance of Hindu Consciousness", paper presented at panel for Anthropology in the World, RAI conference, British Museum, London, U.K., June 2012.


    • 2011-12, UCL Anthropology Departmental Bursary.
    • 2011-12, Rotary International District 7510 Ambassadorial Scholarship.
    • 2012, UCL Graduate Research Projects Fund.