Zoë Woodbury High

Zoë Woodbury High
Cohort Year: 2017
Subject Area: Urdu
Research Interests: Early modern South Asia; Indian Ocean history; history of emotions; Persian, Urdu, Sanskrit, and Kannada language and literature.
Education: MA, University of Chicago Divinity School, 2017. BA, Barnard College, 2015.


Zoë Woodbury High is a cultural and intellectual historian of the early modern Deccan, South Asia, and the Indian Ocean World. Her dissertation, Making a New Taste: Aesthetics and Sensory Knowledge in the Early Modern Deccan, centers on the uptake of the analytic of taste (rasa) by a group of scholars associated with the Bijapur court during the reign of Ibrahim ‘Adil Shah II. They belonged to diverse social communities and wrote in the Dakkani, Persian, Sanskrit, and Kannada languages. Through addressing the myriad adoptions of this concept across languages and genres—history, poetry, musicology, and medicine—her dissertation explores translation; cultural and religious interaction; precolonial identities and forms of social belonging; multilingual literary and manuscript cultures; and relationships between literary style and sensory experience: music, scent, gustatory taste, and the visual arts.

Zoë works in Hindi-Urdu (including Dakkani, Awadhi, and Braj Bhasha), Persian, Sanskrit, Kannada, German, French, and Tamil.

She is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including the Fulbright-Hays DDRA Fellowship; the Martin Marty Junior Fellowship at the University of Chicago Divinity School; the American Institute of Indian Studies Junior Research Fellowship; the Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship; and the Beinecke Scholarship. In 2021, she was a predoctoral fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she contributed to the European Research Council project “New Ecologies of Expressive Modes in Early Modern South India" led by Professor David Shulman.

Zoë has broader interests in the history of emotions in the Persian-literate world (especially the histories of friendship and correspondence); the formation of religious communities in the precolonial Deccan; connected mobilities across the Indian Ocean; the roles of African courtiers and poets in the Deccan Sultanates; and the legacy of the Dakkani language in colonial Hyderabad.

Research Interests

Early modern South Asia; Indian Ocean history; history of emotions; Persian, Urdu, Sanskrit, and Kannada language and literature.

Teaching Experience

Instructor of Record:

  • Global Connections before Globalization: Sufis and Seafarers across the Indian Ocean

Teaching Assistant:

  • India before Colonialism: Histories of Place
  • Literature and Religion in South Asia
  • India after Globalization
  • Elementary Sanskrit

Graduate Assistant:

  • University of Chicago Study Abroad Program, Pune, India


University of Chicago Divinity School, M.A., 2017 (fully funded by Visiting Committee Fellowship)

Barnard College of Columbia University, B.A., 2015