Rupa Pillai


Senior Lecturer

Rupa Pillai is a senior lecturer of Asian American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Trained as a cultural anthropologist, she is interested in the intersection of race, religion, and migration. Her dissertation, Caribbean Hinduism on the Move, is the culmination of 15 months of ethnographic fieldwork with the growing Indo-Caribbean American community in New York City. Through this research, she explores how this community adapts and mobilizes Hinduism in this second migration, first from the Indian subcontinent and second from the Caribbean, to carve a space for themselves within the social landscape of New York City. Before joining ASAM, she taught at Brandeis University and Tufts University.


B.A., University of Texas at Austin, Asian Studies and Anthropology

M.A., University of Chicago, Social Sciences

Ph.D., University of Oregon, Anthropology

Research Interests

Race & Ethnicity; Religion; Diaspora, Transnationalism, & Migration; Asian American Studies; Colonialism & Postcolonialism; Indenture; Gender & Sexuality; Urban Studies; Feminist & Queer Theory

Courses Taught

Introduction to Asian American Studies

Asian American Religions

The Asian Caribbean

Asian American Gender and Sexualities

The Asian American Entrepreneur

Selected Publications

Using Geographical Information System (GIS): Mapping Jhandis in Little Guyana” in The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Cities (2020)


“A Hinduism of their Own: Emerging Guyanese Hindu Reading Practices in New York City” in The Journal of Hindu Studies (2020)


“Representing American Hinduism For Whom?” for Religion, Race, and “Never Have I Ever”: A Roundtable Discussion (2020)


“A Question of Voice: Indo-Caribbean American Feminism through Music in New York City” in WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly (2019)


“Subaltern Studies: Curated Collection” for Cultural Anthropology (2012)


American Academy of Religion (Steering Committee Member, Asian North American Religion, Culture, and Society Unit; Co-Chair, Religion and Cities Unit)

American Anthropological Association

Association for Asian American Studies

Caribbean Studies Association

Center for the Study of Religion and the City (Advisory Board Member)