Department of Asian Studies
Department of Asian Studies

daniel dillon

BA Anthropology, Asian Religions and Cultures; MA Religious Studies, Western Kentucky University

PhD Candidate, South Asian Cultures & Languages
daniel dillon



Mobilities, Gender & Sexuality (especially Masculinity), Queer Theory, Asian American Studies and the Tamil Ethnoscape, Religious & Ethnic Violence, Visual & Literary Ethnography, Contemporary Sri Lanka


My dissertation research focuses on everyday practices of (im)mobility and masculinity among auto-rickshaw (auto) drivers in post-war Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Contrary to the many narratives of automobility that emphasize autonomy, freedom, and prosperity, Jaffna rickshaw drivers' (work) lives highlight the ways in which certain kinds of Tamil men are constrained and marginalized for the sake of order, development, and 'reconciliation.' These men are not without agency, of course, especially in the ways in which they creatively present themselves to potential customers. Nonetheless, their social status (as dictated by their caste, class, religious, and ethnic identities for example) draws attention to the intersectional dynamic of social and spatial mobility, which largely eludes them even as they continue to aspire to it.

In studying such a mundane subject, I contend, the contours of social space and relations are made transparent in an otherwise opaque context. Within these overarching themes, I pay particular attention to the role of auto ornamentation as a practice of self-presentation, the role of waiting, boredom and games in the social life of auto-stands, and the affects of policing among a marginalized, traumatized community. 


ANS 302K • Introduction To South Asia

31797 • Fall 2017
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM GEA 127
GC (also listed as ANT 310L)

This course is an introduction to South Asian cultures and histories, especially to areas of study pursued in the Department of Asian Studies and at UT-Austin. Students will be introduced to major thinkers, ideas, histories, issues, and movements of South Asia. While a clear set of factual information will be integral to the course, the equally important goal of the course is to learn how to engage South Asia on terms similar to other courses in the liberal arts. Stated plainly, we want to do more than learn about South Asia; we want to learn from it as well.  The institutional and traditional obstacle to this approach stems from the simple fact that most American students, whatever their ethnic origins, are taught that “our” intellectual heritage begins with the Greeks and ends with contemporary European and American thinkers. Who “we” are and what makes us a “we,” however, is not as clear as it seems. Most of us are simply not taught how and why to understand South Asian (or other area) literatures, art, religion, law, or other cultural expressions as sources for our own humanistic and ethical development. Thus, the primary goal of this course is to train students in how to “read” South Asia in such a way that it can mean something to them, rather than merely being what other people do—not to make South Asia “ours,” but to take the ideas, history, and people of South Asia seriously.

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