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Indiana University Bloomington

Ranu Samantrai

Ranu Samantrai

Email | 812-855-6550

Associate Professor

Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1990
A.B., Smith College, 1984

My field of research is England in the second half of the twentieth century. I am interested particularly in the ways that England has been transformed by the presence of postcolonial diasporas, and I study the arts of Black/Asian Britain using the tools of cultural as well as literary analysis. My book, AlterNatives: Black Feminism in the Post-Imperial Nation (Stanford 2002) takes as its occasion the Black British feminist movement in London in the 1970s and ’80s. I use moments of conflict between, for instance, anti-racist and feminist politics to articulate a theory of the radical potential of a democratic community that thrives on heterogeneity, conflict and dissent. My current project, Country People: Diaspora Aesthetics and Postcolonial Theory, investigates the modernist investments of postcolonial and diaspora theory to ask how viable a frame they provide for the visual and literary arts of post-settler generations.

I teach widely from the literature of contemporary Britain and the intellectual history of the twentieth century at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. At the undergraduate level, for instance, I have taught courses that focus on the major aesthetic developments of the period, from social realism to postmodernism, and from the advent of the postcolonial novel to the new, ironic historiographic metafiction. At the graduate level I have also taught numerous courses from my interests in post-structuralism, cultural studies, and feminist theory.

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Recent Courses

L649: Post-WWII British Literature
L680/C601: Introduction to Cultural Studies
W795: Dissertation Prospectus Writing Workshop

L346: Twentieth-Century British Fiction
L383: Studies in British or Commonwealth Culture
E204: Literatures in English, 1900-Present
L202: Literary Interpretation

Select Publications


AlterNatives: Black Feminism in the Postimperial NationAlterNatives: Black Feminism in the Postimperial Nation (Stanford University Press, Cultural Sitings series, 2002).

Country People: Diaspora Aesthetics and Postcolonial Theory (in progress).

Interdisciplinarity and Social Justice, co-edited with Joe Parker and Mary Romero (forthcoming, SUNY Press).

Special Issues of Journals:

Callaloo, special issue on Octavia Butler, co-edited with De Witt Douglas Kilgore (in progress).


“The Aesthetics of Postcolonial Theory” (forthcoming).

“Who Needs the Subaltern?” Scriptures: A Complex Social-Cultural Phenomenon, ed. Vincent Wimbush (Rutgers University Press, 2008).

“Cosmopolitan Cartographies: Art in a Divided World,” Meridians: Feminism Race, Transnationalism 4.2 (Fall 2004): 164-91.

“Continuity or Rupture? An Argument for Secular Britain,” Social Text 64 (Fall 2000): 105-21. To be reprinted in World Secularism after the Millenium, ed. Janet Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini (Duke University Press, forthcoming 2008).

“Claiming the Burden: Naipaul’s Africa,” Research in African Literatures 31.1 (Spring 2000): 50-62.

“The Conditions of Democracy: Pluralism, Conflict and Crisis,” Studies in International Relations XXIV (Vienna, 1999): 49-58.

“Weapons of Culture: Collective Identity and Cultural Production,” REAL: Yearbook of Research in English and American Literature 14 (Tübingen, 1998): 131-48.

“States of Belonging: Pluralism, Migrancy, Literature,” Essays on Canadian Writing 56 (1995): 33-50. Reprinted in Writing Ethnicity: Multiple Geographies and Cross-Cultural Consciousness in Canadian and Québécois Literature, ed. Winfried Siemerling (Toronto: ECW Press, 1996), 33-50.

“‘Caught at the Confluence of History’: Ama Ata Aidoo’s Necessary Nationalism,” Research in African Literatures 26.2 (1995): 140-57.

Samples of Recent Talks

“Justice without Truth: The Problem of Disciplinary Uncertainty,” California Center for Cultural and Social Issues and the International and Intercultural Studies Program, Pitzer College, February 2005.

“Policing Community in the Diaspora,” Conference on “Materializing India: Media, Globalization and Gender,” Indiana University, February 2005.

“Who needs the Subaltern?” Symposium on “Theorizing Scriptures,” Institute for Signifying Scriptures, the Claremont Graduate University, February 2004.

“An Aesthetic of Conflict: The Subject of Collectivity,” Symposium on “Other Europes/Europe’s Others,” the Kahn Institute, Smith College, March 2002.

Round Table on “Religious Violence, Secular Violence,” American Studies Association, Hartford, October 2003.

“Blackness as Communal Allegory,” International Crossroads in Cultural Studies Conference, Birmingham University, England, June 2000.

“The Conditions of Democracy: Pluralism, Conflicts and Crisis,” International Roundtable on “Civilizations: Conflict or Dialogue?” University of Innsbruck, Austria, June 1998.

Selected Honors and Awards

Center for the Arts and Humanities, Indiana University, 2005-06.
George and Romy Kozmentsky Faculty Fellow, Claremont Graduate University, 2002-03.
Rockefeller Fellowship, Center for Cultural Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1994-95.