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Susan Snow Wadley

Susan Snow Wadley

Contact Information:

Susan Snow Wadley

Professor Emeritus, Anthropology Department

Ford-Maxwell Professor of South Asian Studies

Senior Research Associate, South Asia Center


Currently, I teach the introductory course, ANT 185, Global Encounters where my focus is on such global encounters as war, using SU Alum Mai Lan Gustaffson's War and Shadows as a primary text; organ transfers, surrogate mothers, global tourism and food as it travels the globe.

I also teach Magic and Religion with one focus on religion and gender/sexuality (tied to the work of students Faris A. Khan (transgenders in Pakistan), Kwame Otu (effeminate men in Ghana) and Jonanthan Jackson (Reformed Jewish attitudes toward homosexuality) and another on the intersection of religion and medical traditions, in addition to attention to religion and the media and religion and the state.

Language, Culture and Society has been in my repertoire since I arrived at SU.

Keeping up with global changes, I have added a course on the Cultures and Politics of Afghanistan and Pakistan, taught in alternate years. This led to my officiating at a marriage between one of my Afghani students and his American bride. 

Quilts and Community shares my love of quilt making through exploring its history and role in communities around the globe, with a practicum with Hendricks Chapel Quilters. 

Folk Arts and Oral Tradition of India links my many interests-gender roles, globalization, folk arts, community and social movements.

Highest degree earned

Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1973


My research interests currently focus on three rather disparate topics. The first is an examination of culture change in rural India as it responds to 'globalization' and various aspects of culture. This relates to my work on popular religion, oral traditions, and public culture. See my books,       

More recently, I have edited an introductory textbook on South Asia titled South Asia in the Modern World, published by M.E. Sharpe, and due out in December, 2013. This endeavor demanded that I deal with globalization in a variety of ways as faculty and students connected to SU produced case studies for inclusion in the text.

Related to these interests is a web page that emerged from the two National Endowment for the Humanities institutes for high school teachers that I taught in 1994 and 1997. These four week institutes focused on the Ramayana - its history, its relationships to changing social and cultural norms, its presentation in art and drama. Teachers at the institutes created lesson plans and instructional materials that have been added to: these are found at

Second, I am concerned with women's changing roles and the relationship of social change to patterns of education, fertility and women's status more generally.  This also relates to what anthropologists are now calling 'companionate' marriage, that is new patterns of marriage found in many non Euro-American societies in which marriage is now see as something closer to the Euro-American 'love' marriage.

Most of my work is based in the village known as Karimpur, made famous by William and Charlotte Wiser in "Behind Mud Walls." In the late 1990s, I wrote a new chapter for "Behind Mud Walls" that takes readers up to the late 20th century. I have also published a book on social change over the past sixty years in the village known as Karimpur in rural Uttar Pradesh, India ("Struggling with Destiny in Karimpur, 1925-1984"). This community sees the old paradigm of control by landlords and family heads being challenged by education, urban employment, migration, and changes in family relationships. Using the voices of men and women, rich and poor, high caste and low caste, I examine the different constructions given to Karimpur history.

I have also been interested in clothing styles as related to changes in women's lives in Karimpur, including the shift from a sari at age 12 to only when married, even if in the 20s.

Karimpur has also made it to the WEB. Using a slide show designed by Don Johnson of NYU who visited the village regularly in the 1960s and 1970s and who was a friend of Charlotte Wiser, co-author of "Behind Mud Walls," we have designed a WEB page that reflects life and change in this community  A new web page on Karimpur connected to the 2010 case study found in South Asia in the Modern World can be found at

Third, I have recently worked in Madhubani, Bihar where I worked with Tula Goenka on a documentary film (not yet fully edited) on Mithila art traditions as they change in the 21st century.  I have been presenting papers on Mithila art and have one in press in South Asia in the Modern World (December, 2013).

Areas of Expertise

Social change, religion, folklore, gender issues, folk art traditions, India, Upstate New York

Research Grant Awards and Projects


2011                            Mithila folk art, Madhubani, Bihar, India

2010                            Mithila folk art, Madhubani, Bihar, India  social change in rural U.P., India

2005                            Rural-urban connections, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, India

2002                             Social change and oral epics in rural Uttar Pradesh, India

1998                            Social Change and Globalization in rural Uttar Pradesh, India

1989, 1990, 1994        The North Indian Epic Dhola

1983-1984                   Changing Lives: Karimpur Villagers 1925-1984

1974-1975                   The modernization and standardization of Hindu religious practices
                                     in Hindi-speaking North India

1967-1969                    Religious Ideologies and practices in Karimpur, U.P., India

1963-1964                    Attitudes towards girls' education in a village near Delhi, India

 My more recent grants include:

2004                Faculty Research Grant, American Institute of Indian Studies

1998                 NEH  University Professor's Fellowship

1995                 NEH  Humanities Summer Stipend for Humanists

1994                 Small Travel Grant for International Conference, ACLS

1994                 American Institute of Indian Studies, Short Term Faculty Research Grant                      

1989                 Post Doctoral Fellowship, Social Science Research Council

1989-1990        Faculty Research Fellowship, American Institute of Indian Studies

Selected Publications

Articles and  Chapters -Since 1993

2011. "Raja Nal's purana and the Jat Kingdoms of Braj". In Wadley, ed.,  Damayaniti and Nala: The Many Lives of a Story. New Delhi: Chronicle Books.

2009  "Exploring the Meaning of Genre in two Indian Performance Traditions.", Journal of the Institute of Ethnology, Taipei, Taiwan.

2008 In search of the Hindu "Peasants'" Subjectivity".  India Review.  Vol. 7 (4): 320-348

2007:  "Anthropology 300. Creating a Quilt Community at Syracuse University."  Voices: New York State Folklore Journal 33: 3-11.

2007.   "William and Charlotte Wiser: Missionaries as scholars and development officiers" In L. Plotnicov, Paula Brown, and Vinson Sutlive, eds.  Anthropology's Debt to Missionaries. Pittsburgh: Ethnology Monographs No. 20, pp. 86-101.  

2006.  "Uttar Pradesh". In  William M. Clements, ed. Greenwood Encyclopedia of World Folklore and Folklife. . Vol, 2: 88-94.

2004.  Assessing the Public Sphere: Dhola and Transformations over Time. In MD. Muthukumaraswamy and Molly Kaushal, eds. Folklore, Public Sphere and Civil Society.  Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi and National Folklore Support Centre, Chennai. pp  211-224.

2004 , "Grama" in The Hindu World, edited by Sushil Mittal and Gene Thursby, New York Routledge:  pp 429-445.

2004  Clothing, Identity, and Social Change in South Asia" In Donald Johnson and Jean Johnson, eds., India: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives: Teachers Guide. New York: Asia Society. pp.8.1-8.10.

2004  "Grama" in The Hindu World, edited by Sushil Mittal and Gene Thursby, Routledge.

2003, "Barahmasa", South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia  (Special Reference) Routledge ,p. 52.

2003, "Guga"  South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia  (Special Reference) Routledge, p. 270.

2003, "Women's Songs" South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia  (Special Reference) Routledge, pp. 640-641.

2003, "Sitala" South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia  (Special Reference) Routledge, p. 561-562.

2003.  "Dhola" South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia  (Special Reference) Routledge, pp147-148.

2003, "Nala and Damyanti" South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia  (Special Reference) Routledge, pp 429-430.

2003, "Vrat Katha" South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia  (Special Reference) Routledge , p. 631.

2003, "Folk Stories" South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia  (Special Reference) Routledge, pp 218-220.

2003.  "Gender and Folklore." South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia  (Special Reference) Routledge, pp 241-246.

2003    "Uttar Pradesh."  South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia  (Special Reference) Routledge, pp. 622-624.

2003  " Folk Literature"  South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia  (Special Reference) Routledge, pp 205-7.

2002   "Raja Nal and the Rajputs: Seeking Status in the Oral Epic Dhola" In Culture, Communities, and Change. Varsha Joshi, ed. Jaipur: Rawat Publications, pp. 104-132.

2002   "The domination of Indira."  In The Village in India,  Vandana Madan, ed. Delhi: Oxford University Press. 373-390.

2002   "One Straw from a Broom Cannot Sweep: The Ideology and Practice of the Joint Family in Rural North India." In Everyday Life in South Asia,  Sarah Lamb and Diane Mines, eds. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 11-22.

2002   "Mithila Paintings."  In Beneath the Banyan Tree: Ritual, Remembrance, and Storytelling in Performed North Indian Folk Arts. Joe and Emily Lowe Art Gallery, VPA, Syracuse University, pp 12-20.

2001 "The Village in 1998." In Behind Mud Walls: Seventy Five Years in a North Indian Village. Updated and expanded edition. With new chapters by Susan S.Wadley, Foreward by David G. Mandelbaum. By William and Charlotte Wiser. Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 319-364.

2001   "Popular Culture and the North Indian Oral Epic Dhola." Indian Folklore Research Journal, 1: 13-24.

2001    "Behind Mud Walls, 75 Years Later", General Anthropology 8:1, 7-10.

2000. "From Sacred Cow Dung to Cow 'shit': Globalization and Local Religious Practices in Rural North India." Journal of the Japanese Association for South Asian Studies 12: 1-28.

2000. "Hindu Women's Family and Household Rites in a North Indian Village." In Nancy Auer Falk and Rita M. Gross, eds.  Unspoken Worlds: Women's Religious Lives. Stamford, CN: Wadsworth/Thomson,  pp. 103-113.

2000 "Negotiating New Rules and Values: Four Generations of Rural North Indian Women." Economic Development and the Quality of Life in South Asia. Publication of Scientific Research Results no. 5,  Institutions, Networks and Forces of Change in Contemporary South Asia. Japanese Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture. pp.189-210.

1999. A Bhakti rendition of Nala-Damayanti: Todarmal's Nectar of Life." International Journal of Hindu Studies 3: 1-29.

1999    "Dhola".  Merriam Webster's Encyclopedia of  World Religions. Springfield MA: Merriam Webster, pp. 292-293.

1998   "Creating a Modern Epic: Oral and Written Versions of the Hindi Epic Dhola" In Lauri Honko, Jawarharlal Handoo, John Miles Foley, eds. The Epic: Oral and Written. Mysore: Central Institute of Indian Languages, pp. 151-162.

1998    "Raja Nal's Humanity: Understanding the North Indian Epic Dhola as a Native Anthropology." In Jawaharlal Handoo, ed. Folklore in Modern India. Mysore:Central Institute of Indian Languages, pp.163-174.

1998    "From Village to City to World: Changing the Paradigm of  Anthropological Research in India."   In Joseph Elder, ed., After Fifty Years: American Studies of India.  Manohar Books,  New Delhi, pp. 111-138.

1998   "Women to Woman: Charlotte Wiser's Srimati."  Manushi, no. 107, pp. 16-23.

1998  Reprint:  "No Longer a Wife: Widows in Rural North India" in Sexual Ethics, Pilgrim Press.

1995   "No Longer a Wife: Widows in Rural North India."   In Lindsay Harlan & PaulCourtright, eds.,  From the Margins of Hindu Marriage: Essays on Gender, Religion and  Culture.   New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 92-118.

1993   "Family Composition Strategies in Rural North India."   Social Science and Medicine 37: 1367-1376.