Kavita Philip


Research Classification

Research Interests

Colonial and Postcolonial Science and Technology Studies
History of Science and Technology
Cold War Science

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Research Options

I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.

Research Methodology

Archival work, Oral histories, Critical & Comparative Studies in Gender, Race, and Law


Master's students
Doctoral students
Any time / year round

I cannot reply to generic inquiries.

If you are thinking about applying for a Ph.D. program at UBC, you are interested in pursuing research in STS, South Asian studies, Science Fiction studies, Environmental studies, and related areas, and you wish to request my research supervision, please send me an email explaining your background and interest with a 1000 word response to any of my publications that you've read, or talks that you've heard. I recommend using a library database; if you do not have access to a library, you may try google scholar or academia for public access options.

I support public scholarship, e.g. through the Public Scholars Initiative, and am available to supervise students and Postdocs interested in collaborating with external partners as part of their research.

Complete these steps before you reach out to a faculty member!

Check requirements
  • Familiarize yourself with program requirements. You want to learn as much as possible from the information available to you before you reach out to a faculty member. Be sure to visit the graduate degree program listing and program-specific websites.
  • Check whether the program requires you to seek commitment from a supervisor prior to submitting an application. For some programs this is an essential step while others match successful applicants with faculty members within the first year of study. This is either indicated in the program profile under "Admission Information & Requirements" - "Prepare Application" - "Supervision" or on the program website.
Focus your search
  • Identify specific faculty members who are conducting research in your specific area of interest.
  • Establish that your research interests align with the faculty member’s research interests.
    • Read up on the faculty members in the program and the research being conducted in the department.
    • Familiarize yourself with their work, read their recent publications and past theses/dissertations that they supervised. Be certain that their research is indeed what you are hoping to study.
Make a good impression
  • Compose an error-free and grammatically correct email addressed to your specifically targeted faculty member, and remember to use their correct titles.
    • Do not send non-specific, mass emails to everyone in the department hoping for a match.
    • Address the faculty members by name. Your contact should be genuine rather than generic.
  • Include a brief outline of your academic background, why you are interested in working with the faculty member, and what experience you could bring to the department. The supervision enquiry form guides you with targeted questions. Ensure to craft compelling answers to these questions.
  • Highlight your achievements and why you are a top student. Faculty members receive dozens of requests from prospective students and you may have less than 30 seconds to pique someone’s interest.
  • Demonstrate that you are familiar with their research:
    • Convey the specific ways you are a good fit for the program.
    • Convey the specific ways the program/lab/faculty member is a good fit for the research you are interested in/already conducting.
  • Be enthusiastic, but don’t overdo it.
Attend an information session

G+PS regularly provides virtual sessions that focus on admission requirements and procedures and tips how to improve your application.



These videos contain some general advice from faculty across UBC on finding and reaching out to a potential thesis supervisor.

Graduate Student Supervision

Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Information as politics in turbulent times : colonial government and the councils of trade and plantations, 1660-1696 (2023)

In contrast to human judgement, which is fallible and inscrutable, numbers claim to speak for themselves and therefore reduce the potential for disagreement and conflict. Scholars have argued that quantification, as a method for achieving objectivity, emerges most often in situations of distance and distrust. In addition to distance and distrust, this thesis examines the use of quantification in the councils of trade and plantations in seventeenth century England to argue that the desire for economic stability also facilitates the emergence of objectivity. By the middle of the seventeenth century, England’s continuing civil wars were proving to be an impediment to England’s nascent commercial empire. As a result, colonial merchants and statesmen such as Thomas Povey and Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, proposed that a separate government based on the use of quantification and information be established for the colonies to keep both domestic and colonial politics from disrupting the seamless management of trade for the wealth and welfare of England. I argue that this body of government represents the emergence of a regime of quantification based on the desire to stabilize the economic domain and shelter it from the value-ridden and unpredictable domain of politics. I first show how the councils for trade and plantations were set up in the tradition of information collection and analysis, specifically that of political arithmetic, that had developed amongst English scientific and social reformers. I argue that the nature of information, as developed by reformers like Francis Bacon and Samuel Hartlib, allowed for the separation of the act of collection from the act of analysis and reserved judgement for those at the top of the information hierarchy. Using the example of Barbados, I show how this ‘objective’ information, as deployed by the councils for trade and plantations, became a tool for effacing political judgement and for transforming political problems into administrative ones. Ultimately, I argue that the regime of quantification and information that allowed for the separation of politics from economic management in colonial government prefigures the separation between economy and society that defines our contemporary political-economy.

View record

Trans liberation beyond comparison : the influence of metahistorical thinking on imaginations of bodily modification (2023)

This thesis explores the political and intellectual context of Hayden White’s theory of metahistory. I situate metahistory as developing parallel to identity politics and postmodernist frameworks, particularly in their application to theorizations of trans and queer liberation. Despite White’s wide-reaching and long-lasting reception, he is rarely considered in light of the socio-politics of the 1970s. I read him alongside the rethinking of marginalized identity in academia which was necessitated by the mass liberation movements of the 1960s and foreshadowed the economic crises of the 80s. This thesis contends that White’s criticism of “radical historiography” renaturalizes liberalism as non-ideological and ahistorical. By analyzing White, I aim to show the ideological meaning of comparative historical thinking even as it understands itself to be non-ideological, and I advocate for a non-comparative historicism in analyzing oppression. Extending this analysis, this thesis reveals the dominance of a transhistorical mode of analyzing oppression across schools, including in popular currents in feminism, queer theory, trans theory, and identity politics. These trends which reject objective knowledge and historical truth in favor of subjective historicity join White in renegotiating the familiar territory of liberal universalism into the language of social justice. To develop this analysis, I foreground two contemporary science fiction texts: Jeanette Winterson’s FranKissStein and David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future. I read the politics of queer liberation and bodily modification as they appear in each of these fictions. Ultimately, this thesis is a materialist interpretation of the imaginations of gender-based liberation in contemporary SF, which I see as abiding to a transhistorical mode co-emergent with that which White develops in his Metahistory.

View record

Current Students & Alumni

This is a small sample of students and/or alumni that have been supervised by this researcher. It is not meant as a comprehensive list.

If this is your researcher profile you can log in to the Faculty & Staff portal to update your details and provide recruitment preferences.


Planning to do a research degree? Use our expert search to find a potential supervisor!