Research

I study social movements in the United States and India. I focus on transnational struggles against racism and imperialism.

My first book, Colored Cosmopolitanism: The Shared Struggle for Freedom in the United States and India (Harvard University Press, 2012), argues that South Asians and African Americans learned from each other in ways that not only advanced their respective struggles for freedom, but also helped define what freedom could and should mean.

My second book, The Prism of Race: W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, and the Colored World of Cedric Dover (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), examines the intellectual and cultural history of colored cosmopolitanism. By exploring the relationships that the Calcutta-born “mixed-race” scholar, Cedric Dover, developed with three influential African American artists and activists, The Prism of Race probes the connection between racially-defined scholarly communities, the production of knowledge concerning race and ethnicity, and anti-racist social movements.

I am the editor of Black Power Beyond Borders (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), a collected volume on the global dimensions of the Black Power movement. In Black Power Beyond Borders, famous figures like Stevie Wonder and the Black Panthers emerge in a new light alongside lesser known organizations like the Polynesian Panthers. From Harlem and Oakland to India and Israel, Black Power inspired movements that challenged boundaries throughout the world.

I am currently conducting research on four topics: 1) the long history of connections between India and the United States, 2) the history of Gandhi’s diet, 3) race and immigration in Los Angeles since 1965, and 4) the global history of radical education. At the heart of my work is the question of how social movements have flowed across racial, national, and ideological borders. I study the relationship between global interconnectedness, ethnic diversity, and civic engagement. I have pursued my interests through scholarly articles and online essays, including the following:

 

Responses to Colored Cosmopolitanism:

Colored Cosmopolitanism is a testament to a solidarity that thrived despite painful contradictions. A detailed, compelling history that is also an example of effortless storytelling.
–Amitava Kumar, author of A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb

Deeply researched, subtly argued, and written with verve and clarity, Colored Cosmopolitanism demonstrates the porousness of national borders–and the importance of international connections for social justice movements. This is superior transnational history.
–Thomas Borstelmann, author of The Cold War and the Color Line

Nico Slate’s important book reveals how African Americans and Indians framed a fluid ‘colored cosmopolitanism,’ embracing an anti-imperial and anti-racist conception of freedom.
–Mary L. Dudziak, author of Exporting American Dreams

Nico Slate provides a wide-ranging tour of the interactions that knit together the African American and South Asian freedom movements, as intellectuals and activists fashioned new ideas of freedom and justice, pushing against each others’ worlds to find more generous renderings of social practice and political strategy.
–Vijay Prashad, author of The Karma of Brown Folk and The Darker Nations

An original, thorough, and elegant consideration of the connections between the Indian and American freedom struggles–and a persuasive reconsideration of the ways in which activists conducted those struggles and conceived of their freedom.
–Stephen Tuck, author of We Ain’t What We Ought To Be

Slate exhaustively charts the liberation movements of the world’s two largest democracies from the 19th century to the 1960s. There’s more to this connection than the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s debt to Mahatma Gandhi, and Slate tells this fascinating tale better than anyone ever has.
–Tony Norman (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

 

At Carnegie Mellon, I have been fortunate to teach several courses that closely relate to my research:

“Global Histories: The Civil Rights Movement and the World” explores the relationship between the civil rights movement in the United States and social and political struggles in other parts of the world.

“India/America: Democracy, Diversity, and Development” examines how India and the United States, two of the world’s largest democracies, have been historically interconnected—culturally, economically, and politically.

“Barack Obama and the History of Race in America” uses President Obama’s writings and speeches, as well as a range of historical works, to examine key dimensions of the history of race and the struggle against racism within the United States.

“Gandhi and King: Nonviolent Leadership in a Globalized World” explores the relationship between the lives and careers of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and probes how ideas and social movements have flowed across national borders.

“India and the World” examines the history of modern India by probing the many linkages that have connected South Asia and the world over time.

“Sustainable Social Change: History and Practice,” explores the history of efforts to create sustainable social change through nonviolent means. As part of this course, students design and implement creative, student-driven service projects.