Dr. Rasika Ajotikar


Dr Rasika Ajotikar received her doctorate in ethnomusicology from SOAS University of London, UK. Her dissertation titled Music and the politics of caste and gender: women’s voices of liberation in western India is an ethnographic study of an anti-caste and Ambedkarite movement. It explores the ways in which Dalit (formerly untouchable caste) women voice resistance against caste, class, patriarchy and the state through song and performance. Through an examination of musical genres, sonic and performance aesthetics shaped by caste and gender, this research revises extant historiographies of music in modern India and provides critical new perspectives on contemporary ethnomusicologies of the region. As a performer, Ajotikar has collaborated extensively with activists and musicians from an anti-caste movement in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. It involves translating a book (Consciousness of a caste-ending cultural revolution) and an anthology of songs from the movement into English. She is currently co-designing a performance project about caste-critical voices of women composers in Marathi secular traditions in medieval and modern times. Ajotikar has also given live performances based on her research and collaborations featured at several events including Music Unbound: South Asia Beyond Borders (London, 2017) and Dalit History Month (Berlin, 2018).

DFG-Project "Materiality and Knowledge. The Aesthetics of the Music Archive as an Institution"

2017–2020, Ajotikar worked on the DFG funded project “Materiality and Knowledge. The Aesthetics of the Music Archive as an Institution.” As part of this project, she examinined the sound archive of Felix van Lamsweerde which contains music, dance and theatre traditions from India recorded between 1963 and 2005, through perspectives from social history, critical archival studies as well as decolonial frameworks of archival research. She contributed extensively to the technical and analytical aspects of this project which has led to digitisation of about 850 items at the Berliner Phonogramm-Archiv and an online database. In addition, she also examined recordings and notes of Marathi theatre, religious and hereditary musical traditions, particularly of Dalit and Muslim communities to trace the impact of nationalist modernity in postcolonial archives of India.
More about Felix van Lamsweerde...


  • Music, Race, Caste
  • Music and socio-political movements: Feminisms and caste politics in contemporary India
  • Hindi film Music
  • The Study of Popular Music: Perspectives from India
  • The Study of Popular music in post-independence India through the Felix van Lamsweerde archive

Research Interests

  • Music, Race and Caste
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Women’s studies
  • Sound and affect
  • Social movements
  • Nationalism and modernity
  • Music, state and citizenship


  • Ajotikar R. (2019). Reflections on the epistemic foundations of music in modern India through the lens of caste: a case from Maharashtra, India, Ethnomusicology Matters. Influencing social and political realities. Ursula Hemetek, Marko Kölbl and Hande Sağlam (eds.) Vienna, Cologne, Weimar: Böhlau
  • Ajotikar R. (2019). Dalit Women’s Music Performances as a Lens to Study Feminism in India. Voicing the Unheard: Music as Windows for Minorities proceedings of ICTM Study group on Music and Minorities (Rennes, France 4-8 July 2016), eds. Yves Defrance. Anthropologie Et Musiques Collection. Paris: L'Harmattan
  • Ajotikar R. (2019). Dwelling in Musical Movement: An Interview with Barbara Titus (guest editor). The World of Music. Vol 8:1 insideWOM (http://www.journaltheworldofmusic.com/2019/05/10/interview-with-barbara-titus/)
  • Ajotikar R. (2018). ‘Our song impure, our voice polluted’: conversations with activist and musician Shital Sathe. Feminist Review. Vol 119: 1 (154–162)
  • Ajotikar R. (2017). Book Review: Best of isaScience 2013-2016 An Interdisciplinary Collection of Essays on Music and Arts. Ursula Hemetek and Cornelia Szabo-Knotik (eds), Hollitzer. MDW – Webmagazin. (MDW: The University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna)

Events and public talks organised as part of the DFG project

  • Archiving the lineages of Indian nationalism through dance, dancers and performance (1920-1950), a public lecture by feminist historian Professor Uma Chakravarti (2019)
  • Analysing Kuchipudi and Sangeetnatak in the Felix van Lamsweerde Collection: Caste, Gender and Modernity in Postcolonial Archives of Indian Music, a colloquium talk by Dr Rumya Putcha and Dr Rasika Ajotikar at the Musicology department (2019)
  • A summer fellowship with Dr Rumya Putcha (2019)
  • An archive lab with Dr Rumya Putcha: Domesticating Dance: The Affective Economies of the Film Songbooklet in Independence era South India (2018)