Commencement 2019

Dr. Mira U. Kamdar ’80

photo of Mira Kamdar

A longtime resident of France who was born to a Gujarati father raised in Burma and India and a Danish-American mother who grew up on a farm in Oregon, Mira Kamdar has navigated between different localities and identities her whole life. As a four-year-old, she asked her mother, “Which way am I half? Up and down? Or sideways?” She is still trying to find the answer to this question.

After graduating from Reed College in 1980 with a BA in French, Mira spent a glorious year supported by a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship studying folk fiddling in the Massif Central. A Danforth Graduate Fellowship supported further study at the University of California at Berkeley, where she earned a PhD in 1988. She was a Fulbright Senior Scholar in France in 2010–2011.

Mira is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Motiba’s Tattoos: A Granddaughter’s Journey from America into her Indian Family’s Past (PublicAffairs 2000; Plume 2001), Planet India: The Turbulent Rise of the World’s Largest Democracy and the Future of our World (Scribner, 2008) and India in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press, 2018). In November 2018, she published 80 mots de l’Inde (L’Asiathèque), a collection of columns inspired by Hindi words that she wrote for the French newsweekly Courrier International. She is now working on a book on the Paris banlieue, where she lives.

A former Senior Fellow and Acting Director of World Policy Institute in New York, Mira was a member of the Editorial Board of the The New York Times from 2013 to 2017, where she wrote on international affairs. Her work has also appeared in the New York Review of BooksSlateWashington PostLos Angeles TimesForeign PolicyForeign AffairsYaleGlobal, and Le Monde Diplomatique.