Asif Siddiqi


Ph.D., History, Carnegie Mellon University, 2004.

Supervisors: David Hounshell and Wendy Goldman.


Broadly speaking, I am interested in the history and ontology of scientific communities under intense social, economic, and political stress. This focus is reflected in two current projects supported by my recent Guggenheim Fellowship, one on postcolonial science in modern India and the other on expert communities in the Stalinist Gulag. In these and other projects, I seek to identify the sinews of knowledge production across nations, communities, and disciplines.  My scholarship draws from a diverse and interdisciplinary range of knowledge systems, including postcolonial thought, and has been shaped by a multi-sited approach to the history of science and technology.

My early writings focused on the intersection between science and technology and modern Russian history, specifically, the history of Russian/Soviet science and technology. In my first two books, I explored the intellectual, political, cultural, and social dimensions of Russian interest in the cosmos. More recently, my interests have gravitated in a number of different directions. These include:

  1. science, technology, and modernities in the colonial and postcolonial contexts, particularly in South Asia

  2. “global” histories of science and technology

  3. the political economy and social history of the Soviet Union

  4. medieval technology

  5. the history of popular science

  6. technology and rock’n’roll

I am currently working on a number of different projects, some of which may eventually end up as books. These include:

  1. A book project, under contract with Oxford University Press, provisionally entitled Science and Expertise in Stalin’s Gulag. The study explores the vast network of expertise necessary to create and maintain the Gulag prison camp system. Experts from many scientific, medical, social scientific, and technical disciplines were involved in what the state saw as a rational and efficient model of economic work. Many of these experts were incarcerated and coerced into intellectual labor, while others who were ‘free’ citizens were invited to work to ‘improve’ the functioning of the Gulag. As a whole, the project reconnects the history of science and technology with the history of state-sponsored violence in the 20th century.

  1. A second book project on the history of the Indian space program that situates its development in three broad and interconnected settings: the instrumentalization of science as a force for nation-building in the postcolonial context; global and transnational networks of science in the late 20th century; and local and global exigencies of the Cold War

  1. A project, funded by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation entitled “Departure Gates: Histories of Spaceflight on Earth.” The project is a cultural investigation of the more than two dozen places on Earth where humans created communities and infrastructure to launch objects off the planet. The idea is to focus on the material, social, and cultural interactions of the global scientific elites who were enacting what they believed was a universalist vision of modern science that was often at odds with local understandings of scientific authority, seen as an instrument to reproduce unequal social orders. The outcome of the project will be a book, an online archive, and (hopefully) an exhibition.

  1. A long-term project on the history of secrecy in modern societies. My initial work on this project involves the history of censorship around the production and circulation of knowledge in Soviet culture. Using a grant from the Graham Foundation, I have been looking at phenomena such as the “closed cities” (ZATOs) of the former Soviet Union and the spatial and epistemological contours of the regulation of knowledge during the Cold War.


I teach courses on modern European history, the history of science and technology, Russian/Soviet history, and South Asian history

Undergraduate Introductory Courses:

  1. HSRU 1000    The West: Enlightenment to the Present

  2. HSRF 1000     Freshman Seminar: The West: Enlightenment to the Present

  3. HIST 1000      Understanding Historical Change: Modern Europe

Undergraduate Electives

  1. HPRU 2053    Honors Seminar: Contemporary History

  2. HIST 3633      The Cold War Space Race

  3. HIST 3635      Science in Popular Culture

  4. HIST 3636      Social History of Technology

  5. HIST 3637      Stalinism: Making the Soviet State

  6. HIST 3638      Technology from Antiquity to the Middle Ages

  7. HSRU 4571    Senior Seminar: Technology and Society in the Modern World

  8. HIST 4572      Senior Seminar: Making of Modern South Asia

  9. HIST 4933      Senior Seminar: Cold War Science and Technology

Graduate Courses

  1. HIST 5566      Technology and Empire

  2. HIST 5567      Science and Power

  3. HIST 5568      Stalinism

  4. HSGA 6205    Teaching History/Pedagogy


Department of History

Fordham University

New York

Recent honors:

-- John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow (2015-2016)

On Leave in 2015-16:

-- Joint appointment as the Eleanor Searle Visiting Professor of History at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Huntington Library, both in Southern California

Recent Visiting Appointments:

-- Charles A. Lindbergh Chair in Aerospace History at the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum, Washington, DC in 2013-2014.

-- Member (2012-2014) of the National Research Council’s Committee on Human Spaceflight, tasked by Congress to review the long-term goals of the U.S. human spaceflight program and make recommendations to enable a sustainable U.S. human spaceflight program.

Address (at Fordham):

Dealy 624

Dept. of History

441 E. Fordham Road

Fordham University

Bronx, NY 10458

phone: 718.817.3939

email: siddiqi at fordham dot edu

Social Media:

Twitter: @historyasif

Instagram: @seeingspacenyc