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New Books in Literary Studies

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Interviews with Scholars of Literature about their New Books

602 Episodes
dWho Wrote That?: Authorship Controversies from Moses to Sholokhov (Northern Illinois University Press) is Harvard historian Donald Ostrowski’s sustained reflection on what we can learn from comparison of authorship controversies. Ostrowski covers nine different cases of disputed authorship, from the Shakespeare canon, to the letters between the Russian Prince Kurbskii and Ivan IV, to the ancient Hebrew Pentateuch. This book lays out evidence from all points of view in an even-handed way, and in doing so, Ostrowski is able to define a number of general principles that ought to animate all scholarship that attempts to answer the question: “Who wrote that?”. Aaron Weinacht is Professor of History at the University of Montana Western in Dillon, MT. He teaches courses on Russian and Soviet History, World History, and Philosophy of History. His research interests include the sociological theorist Philip Rieff and the influence of Russian nihilism on American libertarianism. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In his compelling evaluation of Cold War popular culture, Pulp Vietnam: War and Gender in Cold War Men’s Adventure Magazines (Cambridge UP, 2020), Gregory Daddis explores how men's adventure magazines helped shape the attitudes of young, working-class Americans, the same men who fought and served in the long and bitter war in Vietnam. The 'macho pulps' - boasting titles like Man's Conquest, Battle Cry, and Adventure Life - portrayed men courageously defeating their enemies in battle, while women were reduced to sexual objects, either trivialized as erotic trophies or depicted as sexualized villains using their bodies to prey on unsuspecting, innocent men. The result was the crafting and dissemination of a particular version of martial masculinity that helped establish GIs' expectations and perceptions of war in Vietnam. By examining the role that popular culture can play in normalizing wartime sexual violence and challenging readers to consider how American society should move beyond pulp conceptions of 'normal' male behavior, Daddis convincingly argues that how we construct popular tales of masculinity matters in both peace and war. Rebekah Buchanan is an Assistant Professor of English at Western Illinois University. Her work examines the role of narrative–both analog and digital–in people’s lives. She is interested in how personal narratives produced in alternative spaces create sites that challenge traditionally accepted public narratives. She researches zines, zine writers and the influence of music subcultures and fandom on writers and narratives. You can find more about her on her website, follow her on Twitter @rj_buchanan or email her at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Media portrayals of Orthodox Jewish women frequently depict powerless, silent individuals who are at best naive to live an Orthodox lifestyle, and who are at worst, coerced into it. In Women of Valor: Orthodox Jewish Troll Fighters, Crime Writers, and Rock Stars in Contemporary Literature and Culture (Rutgers University Press, 2018), Karen E. H. Skinazi delves beyond this stereotype to identify a powerful tradition of feminist literary portrayals of Orthodox women, often created by Orthodox women themselves. She examines Orthodox women as they appear in memoirs, comics, novels, and movies, and speaks with the authors, filmmakers, and musicians who create these representations. Throughout the work, Skinazi threads lines from the poem “Eshes Chayil,” the Biblical description of an Orthodox “Woman of Valor.” This proverb unites Orthodoxy and feminism in a complex relationship, where Orthodox women continuously question, challenge, and negotiate Orthodox and feminist values. Ultimately, these women create paths that unite their work, passions, and families under the framework of an “Eshes Chayil,” a woman who situates religious conviction within her own power. Dr. Karen E. H. Skinazi is a Senior Lecturer (associate professor) and the Director of Liberal Arts at the University of Bristol in the UK. She published a critical edition of the 1916 novel Marion: The Story of an Artist’s Model (McGill-Queen’s UP, 2012) by Winnifred Eaton/Onoto Watanna, the first Asian North American novelist. She is currently working on a project examining the productive interface between Muslim and Jewish women’s lives, literature, and activism. Schneur Zalman Newfield is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York, and the author of Degrees of Separation: Identity Formation While Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Judaism. Visit him online at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In World Literature, Non-Synchronism, and the Politics of Time (Palgrave Macmillan) Filippo Menozzi offers to look at literature and literary processes through the prism of non-synchronism. The book details the notion that Menozzi finds accurate and relevant not only for the analysis of current cultural and political developments, but also for the consideration of the past. Non-synchronism is suggested to subvert the boundaries of time and space that are united and organized through chronologies, imposing and supporting canonical structures. Menozzi asserts that a non-synchronism approach to how we read has political repercussions that can shape the way we navigate the network of political and economic systems. To demonstrate how the non-synchronism approach helps re-arrange different times, Menozzi draws attention to fiction from Africa and South Asia and focuses on how the change of the temporal perspective can activate textual layers, providing space for the intersection of the local and the global. Filippo Menozzi (PhD, Kent) is Lecturer in postcolonial and world literature at Liverpool John Moores University, UK.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
On this episode of New Books in Christian Studies, we welcome Ken M. Penner, Professor of Religious Studies at St Francis Xavier University. After a career that has combined biblical studies and digital humanities, Ken has edited the second edition of The Lexham English Septuagint (Lexham Press, 2020), a fresh and historically specific translation into English of the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible. But what is the Septuagint, and why does it matter? How was it used in the writings that comprise the New Testament, and in which religious traditions does it continue to be used today? Join us to find out more. Crawford Gribben is a professor of history at Queen’s University Belfast. His research interests focus on the history of puritanism and evangelicalism, and he is the author most recently of An introduction to John Owen(Crossway, 2020). Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In Gothic Queer Culture: Marginalized Communities and the Ghosts of Insidious Trauma (University of Nebraska Press), Laura Westengard examines the intersection of queerness and the gothic. Westengard’s scope is broad enough to encompass Lady Gaga’s meat dress, lesbian pulp fiction, Dracula, queer literature, and sadomasochistic performance art. What brings these diverse cultural objects together is the way they re-appropriate tropes of the gothic that have been used to marginalize queer and gender-variant people throughout history. If mainstream culture depicts queer people as predatory, monstrous, and threatening, the artists analyzed in Gothic Queer Culture find beauty and meaning in gothic tropes: in the crypt-like undergrounds of lesbian bars, the vampiric performance art of Ron Athey, and in the Frankensteinian practice of juxtaposing conflicting genres in the same text. The gothic then becomes a way to process trauma and rewrite the often-conservative genre of the gothic as something proudly queer, unsettled, and unsettling. Laura Westengard is an associate professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, City University of New York. Andy Boyd is a playwright based in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of the playwriting MFA program at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the Arizona School for the Arts. His plays have been produced, developed, or presented at IRT, Pipeline Theatre Company, The Gingold Group, Dixon Place, Roundabout Theatre, Epic Theatre Company, Out Loud Theatre, Naked Theatre Company, Contemporary Theatre of Rhode Island, and The Trunk Space. He is currently working on a series of 50 plays about the 50 U.S. states. His website is, and he can be reached at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In the impressive volume of The Thousand and One Nights and Twentieth-Century Fiction (Brill), Richard van Leeuwen thoroughly examines an array of intricate ways in which the Thousand and One Nights shaped the developments of literatures across the world. This is a pioneering work in terms of approaching the ancient text not only as a source of inspiration for literary discoveries, but also as a carrier of literary memories and cultural experiences that are collected from a number of geographical locations. Cultural explorations intertwine with political implications which are coded in the texts that are shaped and inherently modified by delicate influences of the Thousand and One Nights. Van Leeuwen gathers references to the Thousand and One Nights from the diversity of literary texts and arranges them to demonstrate the vitality and the fluidity of the text that travels from culture to culture, from text to text, and from one time space to another, from imagination to imagination. In this respect, van Leeuwen’s book, which includes more than 800 pages, replicates to some extent the very nature of the Thousand and One Nights: an on-going journey that takes readers to one destination and invites her/him to push the borderlines and to further explore inexhaustible texts. Van Leeuwen’s book takes the readers to the world of incessant cultural overlaps and dialogues, which are carried forward by the literary text that travels through time and space. This creates a mysterious sense of something that is very familiar, and yet unfathomable. The Thousand and One Nights and Twentieth-Century Fiction invites the readers to explore the fluidity of literary texts and to delve into palimpsestic stories which emerge out of literary memories, converging and intertwining. Richard van Leeuwen, Ph.D. (1992) University of Amsterdam, is senior lecturer in Islamic Studies at that university. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
John Barton is no stranger to Holy Scripture. Having spent much of his academic career as a chaplain and professor of theology at the University of Oxford, his latest book is an attempt to shed light on one of the world’s most influential texts – the Bible. In A History of the Bible: The Story of the World's Most Influential Book (Viking, 2019), John demonstrates that the Bible, while often thought of as monolithic, is anything but. He paints a vivid picture of the historical backdrop against which the books of the Bible were written, injecting a dose of depth and character to the stories, psalms, prophecies, and letters it comprises. He then turns to how the book was compiled, assembled, and disseminated before finally discussing the plethora of interpretations of the Bible, and its place in the world we live in today. Joshua Tham is an undergraduate reading History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His research interests include economic history, sociolinguistics, and the "linguistic turn" in historiography. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The Hindu tradition has held conflicting views on womanhood from its earliest texts—holding women aloft as goddesses to be worshipped on the one hand and remaining deeply suspicious about women’s sexuality on the other. In Woman as Fire, Woman as Sage: Sexual Ideology in the Mahabharata (SUNY Press, 2008), Arti Dhand examines the religious premises upon which Hindu ideas of sexuality and women are constructed. The work focuses on the great Hindu epic, the Mahābhārata, a text that not only reflects the cogitations of a momentous period in Hindu history, but also was critical in shaping the future of Hinduism. Dhand proposes that the epic’s understanding of womanhood cannot be isolated from the broader religious questions that were debated at the time, and that the formation of a sexual ideology is one element in crafting a coherent religious framework for Hinduism. Today we speak with Arti Dhand on her teaching, her research on the Hindu epics and her exciting new podcast on the Mahābhārata! For information on your host Raj Balkaran’s background, see Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
There is no eating in the archive. This is not only a practical admonition to any would-be researcher but also a methodological challenge, in that there is no eating—or, at least, no food—preserved among the printed records of the early United States. Synthesizing a range of textual artifacts with accounts (both real and imagined) of foods harvested, dishes prepared, and meals consumed, An Archive of Taste: Race and Eating in the Early United States (University of Minnesota Press, 2020) reveals how a focus on eating allows us to rethink the nature and significance of aesthetics in early America, as well as of its archive. Klein considers eating and early American aesthetics together, reframing the philosophical work of food and its meaning for the people who prepare, serve, and consume it. She tells the story of how eating emerged as an aesthetic activity over the course of the eighteenth century and how it subsequently transformed into a means of expressing both allegiance and resistance to the dominant Enlightenment worldview. Klein offers richly layered accounts of the enslaved men and women who cooked the meals of the nation’s founders and, in doing so, directly affected the development of our national culture—from Thomas Jefferson’s emancipation agreement with his enslaved chef to Malinda Russell’s Domestic Cookbook, the first African American–authored culinary text. The first book to examine the gustatory origins of aesthetic taste in early American literature, An Archive of Taste shows how thinking about eating can help to tell new stories about the range of people who worked to establish a cultural foundation for the United States. Diana DePasquale is an Associate Teaching Professor at Bowling Green State University. She teaches courses on race, gender, sexuality, and American culture. Diana has been published in Studies in American Humor, and online at In Media Res. She is also a proud winner of The Moth Story Slam in Detroit.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
On this episode of New Books in History, Jana Byars talks with Guy Raffa, Associate Professor of Italian Studies at UT Austin, about his new book, Dante’s Bones: How a Poet Invented Italy (Harvard University Press, 2020). Dante’s Bones is an academic mystery story, the “graveyard history” of Dante Alighieri, the master poet of what has come to be called The Divine Comedy. This book is about Dante’s literal remains and the where and how they’ve been kept. But in tracing that story, Guy Raffa tells a much broader tale about what Dante comes to mean over the past 700 years. Interview topics include thieving Franciscans, Lord Byron, Mussolini, and Longfellow, as we consider Dante the father of Italy and the Italian language, Dante the liberator, and Dante the secular saint. Discussion covers the author’s personal digital accompaniment to the Comedy, Danteworlds. Jana Byars is the Academic Director of Netherlands: International Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Women’s Labour and the History of the Book in Early Modern England (Bloomsbury, 2020) reveals the valuable work that women achieved in publishing, printing, writing and reading early modern English books, from those who worked in the book trade to those who composed, selected, collected and annotated books. Women gathered rags for paper production, invested in books and oversaw the presses that printed them. Their writing and reading had an impact on their contemporaries and the developing literary canon. A focus on women's work enables these essays to recognize the various forms of labour -- textual and social as well as material and commercial -- that women of different social classes engaged in. Those considered include the very poor, the middling sort who were active in the book trade, and the elite women authors and readers who participated in literary communities. Taken together, these essays convey the impressive work that women accomplished and their frequent collaborations with others in the making, marking, and marketing of early modern English books. Valerie Wayne is Professor Emerita of English at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in Honolulu. She was associate general editor for Thomas Middleton: The Collected Works (Oxford UP, 2007) and editor of Cymbeline for the Arden Shakespeare, third series (Bloomsbury, 2017). She has edited three collections of essays and is Past President of the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women and Gender. Dr Alexandra Ortolja-Baird is a visiting researcher at the British Museum and teaches Digital Humanities at University College London Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The way that we talk about living beings can raise or lower their perceived value. On this episode of the New Books Network, Dr. Lee Pierce (s/t) interviews Dr. Allison L. Rowland (s) about zoetropes and zoerhetorics or ways of talking about living beings that promote (#blacklivesmatter) or demote (“collateral damage”) lives and groups of lives. Zoetropes and the Politics of Humanhood (Ohio State University Press, 2020)looks at a variety of these zoerhetorics and the zoetropes or rhetorical devices those discourses contain, and how they build on the necropolitical concept that we are constantly parsing populations into worthy lives, subhuman lives, and lives sentenced to death. Through a series of case studies, including microbial life (at the American Gut Project), fetal life (at the National Memorial for the Unborn), and vital human life (at two of the nation’s premier fitness centers)—and in conversation with cutting-edge theories of race, gender, sexuality, and disability—this book brings to light the discursive practices that set the terms for inclusion into humanhood and make us who we are. We hope you enjoyed listening as much as we enjoyed chatting about this fascinating book. Connect with your host, Lee Pierce, on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for interview previews, the best book selfies, and new episode alerts. Thanks to Allison L. Rowland for joining us today on New Books Network. Dr. Rowland is Maurer Associate Professor of Performance and Communication Arts at St. Lawrence University and invites “arguments, discourses, responses, and feedback” (her words) at Thanks also to artist Sarah Knobel for the book’s cover art. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
As much of the world’s population is currently discovering, living through a historical cataclysm is a more common fact of human existence than one might think. Perhaps one reason why this is easily forgotten is the fact that it is hard to make the empathetic leap between oneself and other people from other times and cultures. For this and many other reasons, Xiaoqiao Ling’s Feeling the Past in Seventeenth-Century China (Harvard University Asia Center) offers readers a richly revealing window into sensory worlds at a particularly cataclysmic time, showing how Chinese literati dealt with the traumatic transition from the Ming to the Qing dynasty, and the Manchu conquest of the Han world which brought this about. Exploring writing in numerous genres from plays to memoirs and erotic novels, and translating extensively from these captivating works, Ling demonstrates the striking level of embodied intimacy that these men professed as they wrestled with commitments to community, family and selfhood in their own era of political and social upheaval. Xiaoqiao Ling is Associate Professor of Chinese at Arizona State University. Ed Pulford is a Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Manchester. His research focuses on friendships and histories between the Chinese, Korean and Russian worlds, and northeast Asian indigenous groups. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In this this interview, Carrie Tippen talks Kara Keeling and Scott Pollard about their new book, Table Lands: Food in Children's Literature, published June 2020 by University of Mississippi Press. Table Lands contributes to a growing body of scholarship in the subfield of literary food studies, which combines the methods of literary analysis with the interdisciplinary theories of food, culture, and identity. Keeling and Pollard explain that they were first interested in food in children’s literature as symbols or metaphors, but in Table Lands, they have complicated their understanding of these moments as important cultural work. The didactic nature of children’s literature makes the genre a unique window into processes of cultural and identity creation as children learn manners, morals, food taboos, and appropriate behavior through the rewards and punishments doled out to fictional characters. Arranged roughly chronologically, the chapters explore food as a cultural signifier in familiar texts for children like Winnie the Pooh, Peter Rabbit, and Little House on the Prairie, along with some less canonical texts like 19th century cookbooks for children and Alice Waters’ books about her daughter Fanny. They range from the edgy YA series of Weetzie Bat novels to Maurice Sendak’s picture book In the Night Kitchen and the hit animated Disney-Pixar film Ratatouille. The book also attempts to represent the diversity of children’s literature in the US. The authors argue that Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark novels actively write against The Little House books which devalue, misunderstand, and erase indigenous culture to offer a counternarrative of the American West focused on Native American experiences of land stewardship and relationships to food. Similarly, the final chapter devoted to Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out and Back Again argues that Lai is writing against the representation of the refugee experience written by non-Vietnamese authors for non-Vietnamese audiences, revising and refuting what they call the “gratitude narrative” expected of refugees. Throughout Table Lands, Keeling and Pollard contextualize literary characters’ experiences with food into relevant literature on how food shapes the practice and performance of identity in everyday life.  Kara Keeling and Scott Pollard are Professors of English at Christopher Newport University. Kara is Director of the Childhood Studies Minor and teaches courses on Children’s and Young Adult literature. Scott teaches courses in World Literature and Food in Literature. Together they have authored a number of articles on the subject and edited the 2011 essay collection Critical Approaches to Food in Children’s Literature from Routledge. Carrie Helms Tippen is Assistant Professor of English at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA, where she teaches courses in American Literature. Her 2018 book, Inventing Authenticity: How Cookbook Writers Redefine Southern Identity (University of Arkansas Press), examines the rhetorical strategies that writers use to prove the authenticity of their recipes in the narrative headnotes of contemporary cookbooks. Her academic work has been published in Gastronomica, Food and Foodways, American Studies, Southern Quarterly, and Food, Culture, and Society.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Naomi Appleton's new book Many Buddhas, One Buddha: A Study and Translation of Avadānaśataka 1-40 (Equinox Publishing, 2020) introduces a significant section of the important early Indian Buddhist text known as the Avadānaśataka, or “One Hundred Stories”, and explores some of its perspectives on buddhahood. This text, composed in Sanskrit and dating to perhaps the third to fifth centuries of the Common Era, is affiliated with the Sarvāstivāda or Mūlasarvāstivāda, and thus provides important evidence of the ideas and literatures of lost non-Mahāyāna schools of Indian Buddhism. The text is a rich literary composition, in mixed prose and verse, and includes some elaborate devotional passages that illuminate early Indian perspectives on the Buddha and on the role of avadāna texts. The book introduces the first four chapters of the Avadānaśataka through key themes of these stories, such as predictions and vows, preparations for buddhahood, the relationship between Śākyamuni and other buddhas, and the relationship between full buddhahood and pratyekabuddhahood. The study of these stories closes with an argument about the structural design of the text, and what this tells us about attitudes towards different forms of awakening. The second part of the book then presents a full English translation of stories 1-40. From tax-dodging merchants, to monks fretting about their sewing skills, the stories offer a rich and entertaining slice of Indian Buddhist literature and teaching. Olivia Porter is a PhD candidate at Kings College London. Her research focuses on Tai Theravada Buddhism in Myanmar and its borders. She can be contacted at: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
From Red-Baiting to Blacklisting: The Labor Plays of Manny Fried (SIU Press 2020) collects three plays by Manny Fried alongside a thorough explanation of his work and life by theatre scholar Barry Witham. Witham traces Fried’s long career as a labor organizer and Communist Party militant, as well as the obsessive lengths the FBI went to in order to suppress his activism. Fried is unique among American playwrights in his intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the labor movement, and this knowledge is fully evident in the plays. Issues of red-baiting, deindustrialization, and religious bigotry take center stage in his work, which carries the radical tradition of Clifford Odets and the Federal Theatre Project into the long decline of labor beginning in the 1960s and continuing to this day. From Red-Baiting to Blacklisting is a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of theatre and the labor movement. Andy Boyd is a playwright based in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of the playwriting MFA program at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the Arizona School for the Arts. His plays have been produced, developed, or presented at IRT, Pipeline Theatre Company, The Gingold Group, Dixon Place, Roundabout Theatre, Epic Theatre Company, Out Loud Theatre, Naked Theatre Company, Contemporary Theatre of Rhode Island, and The Trunk Space. He is currently working on a series of 50 plays about the 50 U.S. states. His website is, and he can be reached at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In 2009, a novel was released in Norway with a fairly simple premise; the author would simply write about himself, his life and his attempts to write. The autobiographical novel would be the first in a 6-volume series that would eventually total over 3,500 pages written in just 3 short years. The frenzied pace at which it was produced would only be matched by the frenzied pace at which it was consumed, with each volume hitting the bestseller list, and it would all eventually be translated into over 30 languages. The author was Karl Ove Knausgaard, and the novel was called ​My Struggle​. With the dust finally settling in the wake of the enormous controversy the book stirred up, many people are starting to move in to analyze the work with a more critical lens, trying to examine what the work actually achieves, what it’s place might be in the larger canon of literature, and elements of it we should be skeptical of. One of those critical examiners is Kim Adrian in her book ​Dear Knausgaard: Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle (Fiction Advocate, 2020)​, a collection of short letters written to the man himself where she wrestles with his work. While Adrian is herself a fan of Knausgaard, she is not uncritical of him, and even finds herself frustrated at various moments with his views on writing, literature, politics, gender and identity, but this dynamic gives the book an interesting back-and-forth as it helps her wrestle with these topics. Kim Adrian is a visiting lecturer in English at Brown University, and is the author of the memoir The 27th Letter of the Alphabet and ​Sock​. She has had both fiction and nonfiction appear in a number of outlets, including ​Tin House,​ ​The Gettysburg Review​, and ​The Seneca Review​. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Gaurav Desai’s Commerce with the Universe: Africa, India, and the Afrasian Imagination (Columbia University Press, 2013), offers an alternative history of East Africa in the Indian Ocean world. Reading the life narratives and literary texts of South Asians writing in and about East Africa, Gaurav Desai highlights many complexities in the history of Africa's experience with slavery, migration, colonialism, nationalism, and globalization. Consulting Afrasian texts that are literary and nonfictional, political and private, he broadens the scope of African and South Asian scholarship and inspires a more nuanced understanding of the Indian Ocean's fertile routes of exchange. Desai shows how the Indian Ocean engendered a number of syncretic identities and shaped the medieval trade routes of the Islamicate empire, the early independence movements galvanized in part by Gandhi's southern African experiences, the invention of new ethnic nationalisms, and the rise of plural, multiethnic African nations. Calling attention to lives and literatures long neglected by traditional scholars, Desai introduces rich, interdisciplinary ways of thinking not only about this specific region but also about the very nature of ethnic history and identity. Traveling from the twelfth century to today, he concludes with a look at contemporary Asian populations in East Africa and their struggle to decide how best to participate in the development and modernization of their postcolonial nations without sacrificing their political autonomy. Gaurav Desai is Professor of English at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Micheal Rumore is a PhD candidate at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. His work focuses on the Indian Ocean as an African diasporic site. He can be reached at Ahmed Yaqoub AlMaazmi is a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University. His research focuses on the intersection of law and the environment across the western Indian Ocean. He can be reached by email at or on Twitter @Ahmed_Yaqoub. Listeners’ feedback, questions, and book suggestions are most welcome. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Vanita Reddy, in her book Fashioning Diaspora: Beauty, Femininity and South Asian American Culture (Duke University Press, 2016), locates diasporic transnationality, affiliations and intimacies through the analytic of beauty. Through her analysis of Asian American literary fiction and performance artwork and installations, Reddy lingers on moments, objects and subjective positions that reveal the potentiality of beauty. Not just a site for neoliberal complicity, beauty, in its presence as well as absence, also emerges as something subversive.  The re-articulation of the bindi and the saree, objects that are otherwise imbued with upper-caste, Hindu hetero-reproductive symbolisms, in the works of performance artists, offer queer queer subversion of power structures. Beauty also becomes the site of not just physical but also social (im)mobility as Reddy presents the complicated ways in which beauty relates to aspiration. Central to her project is upending the male-centric understanding of the relationship between the diaspora and the “nation”. Focussing not only on female narratives of movement and mobility but also interrogating the vulnerability and queer-ness of male subject positions, Reddy provides a nuanced interrogation of how “frivolous” beauty becomes the site of transformative transnational journeys.  In the first three chapters, she looks at the literary fiction that either centrally or marginally deploys beauty as the site of narrating stories about the diaspora. Chapter 4 and 5 look at feminist performances and cyber representations of objects like the bindi and saree that deliberately challenge the essentialization of these objects and destabilizes them not just to narrate stories of movement but emphasize potential for mobilization through seemingly non-serious, beautiful artifacts. Vanita Reddy is an Assistant Professor of English at Texas A&M University.                      Lakshita Malik is a doctoral student in the department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her work focuses on questions of intimacies, class, gender, and beauty in South Asia. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Comments (1)

Martin Hasani Di Maggio

I’m not sure it’s right to claim that the patriarchal nature of Balkan cultures is a result of the ottomans

Nov 29th
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