Shefali Chandra

Associate Professor of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies

Professor Chandra’s research focuses on the racial regimes spawned by South Asian globalization. She works to elicit the quiet but tenacious manner by which race undergirds the relationship between South Asian and colonial/ globalizing power over the twentieth century. Chandra’s first book, The Sexual Life of English: Languages of Caste and Desire in Colonial India (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012) revealed the caste and sexual history of the English language in India. English is an Indian language, Chandra argues, and the cultural histories of sexuality and caste are interwoven through its every aspect. Working against the widespread assumption that Indian English was imposed by colonial power, she shows instead how Indian regimes of caste and sexuality interrupted and came to control the power of the most potent colonial cultural system — the English language. Upper-caste cultures thwarted the power of the English language and in that way they “domesticated” English to make it an Indian language. In her current research project she looks at the intersections of caste with race, specifically upper-caste power with whiteness, what she calls the mutuality and interdependence of racial regimes under global capitalism. Chandra’s current book project follows the history of upper-caste power as it has morphed and adapted to American centered globalization.

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