3406 Sterling Hall
I conduct three streams of active research constellating around feminist politics, performance, art, and activism. I work primarily with grassroots feminist activists in India and the U.S. who re-envision vernacular culture for political purposes and explore how care, as a political concept, can contribute to contexts of social change:
- For over twenty years, I have worked in Gujarat, India with grassroots feminist groups who use street plays, poster work, and oral narratives to address exigencies in their local communities, from domestic abuse to economic inequity. This research has been published in journals such as Quarterly Journal of Speech, Journal of American Folklore, and Women’s Studies in Communication. Devoting funds from a Vilas Associates Grant, I also worked to develop the South Asian Feminist Activism Archive (SAFAA) – a digital archive dedicated to the preservation and public availability of rare feminist protest posters from India. These detail an important history of grassroots feminist activism regarding social issues such as sexual violence, female infanticide, dowry deaths, and legal inequities. (http://uwdc.library.wisc.edu/collections/GenderStudies)
- In the United States, I have worked with feminist groups who develop public performances to make claims about issues of social justice and human rights. My research addressing South Asian American feminist performance can be found in texts such as Desi Devas: Activism in South Asian American Cultural Performance and the Journal of American Folklore or the edited book The Political Aesthetics of Global Protest: The Arab Spring and Beyond.
- In addition, I have written about political and philosophical issues at the intersection of feminist ethics of care, acknowledgment and recognition studies. My new book project, Caring Folk: Progressive Politics in an Age of Populism. seeks to engage a broad audience of readers in discussions of pressing contemporary issues: (1) identity politics in global Women’s Marches, (2) safe space discourses, call-out culture, allyship, and deliberation in Gender and Women’s Studies classrooms, (3) the acknowledgment of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women through performance art, and (4) the rise of far-right men’s organizations, like the Proud Boys, who thrive on public spectacle. In doing so, the book seeks to unpack the concept of care from a variety of angles. How might the tensions between scholarship on feminist ethics of care and scholarship on “politics of love” help us understand performances in the public sphere characterized by rhetorics of “righteous anger?” How might intersections between ethics of care, rhetoric, and folklore scholarship help us comprehend performances of community belonging or gender based identity politics in political marches? What are the conceptual similarities and differences between care and acknowledgment and how this might inform feminist performance projects committed to dialogue within restorative justice work? In addition, I explore the significant role “wonder” plays in performances of care and its pedagogical potential. All of these questions are explored through multi-sited ethnographic and archival accounts.
I have served as Gender and Women’s Studies Associate Chair and Director of Graduate Studies, as well as Director, Center for South Asia. Currently, I serve as Unit Head, for the Folklore Program, housed in the Department of German, Nordic and Slavic, University of Wisconsin- Madison.
I also am a co-organizer of a new Mellon-Borghesi Workshop titled Care: Politics, Performances, Publics, Practices. This workshop provides:
1) a reading group, in which we share the new and emerging care theories and projects
2) publicly oriented dialogues by leading care thinkers and practitioners
3) workshops on specific aspects of care
4) two community fora on care featuring transformative local organizations.
See our UW-Madison Center for Humanities website for an up-to-date schedule of events.
Courses Taught – University of Wisconsin – Madison
Department of Gender and Women’s Studies:
GWS 950, Gender, Performance and Performativity
GWS 880, Graduate Seminar in Gender and Women’s Studies Theory
GWS 640, Gender and Women’s Studies Senior Capstone
GWS 468, Feminism, Folklore and Comparative Literature
GWS 428, Gender and Expressive Cultures
GWS 426, Women, Culture and Grassroots Politics Across the Globe
GWS 414, Gender, Performance and Sexuality
GWS 310, Care and Feminist Politics
GWS 102, Gender, Women, and Society in a Global Perspective
Interdisciplinary Theater Studies and Folklore Program:
Fl 530, Women, Folklore, and Feminist Theory
FL 530, Folklore and Political Engagement
FL 467, Women and Politics in Popular Culture and Folklore
FL 100, Introduction to Folklore