Associate Professor of History
Anupama Rao has research and teaching interests in gender and sexuality studies; caste and race; historical anthropology; social theory,; comparative urbanism; and colonial genealogies of human rights and humanitarianism.
Her book, The Caste Question (University of California Press, 2009) theorizes caste subalternity, with specific focus on the role of anti-caste thought (and its thinkers) in producing alternative genealogies of political subject-formation. She has also written on the themes of colonialism and humanitarianism, and on non-Western histories of gender and sexuality. Recent publications include: Discipline and the Other Body (Duke University Press, 2006); "Death of a Kotwal: Injury and the Politics of Recognition," Subaltern Studies XII; Violence, Vulnerability and Embodiment (co-editor, special issues of Gender and History, 2004), and Gender and Caste: Issues in Indian Feminism (Kali for Women, 2003).
Professor Rao is currently working on a book on the political thought of B. R. Ambedkar; and a project titled Dalit Bombay, which explores the relationship between caste, political culture, and everyday life in colonial and postcolonial Bombay.
Rao received her BA, with honors, from the University of Chicago, and her Ph.D. from the Interdepartmental Program in Anthropology and History at the University of Michigan.
Rao has served as president of the Society for the Advancement of the History of South Asia (SAHSA) of the American Historical Association (2010); director of the project on “Liberalism and its Others,” at the Center for the Critical Analysis of Social Difference at Columbia University; and as a member of the South Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies, 2010-12. Her work has been supported by grants from the ACLS; the American Institute for Indian Studies; the Mellon Foundation; the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the SSRC. She was a Fellow-in-Residence at the National Humanities Center from 2008-09, and a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford during 2010-11. She was a Fellow at REWORK (Humboldt University, Berlin) in 2014-2015.
She is co-convenor of a project on “Subaltern Urbanism,” supported by the Heyman Center for the Humanities, and by the project on “Women Creating Change,” hosted by Columbia’s Center for the Study of Social Difference. She was also co-convenor of the project on Asian Spatialities supported by the Mellon Foundation and the International Institute of Asian Studies (Leiden).
She is Senior Edit, Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East; and Associate Director, Instittute for Comparative Literature and Society
Ambedkar in His Time and Ours
R. B. More: Memoirs of a Dalit Communist (Translation of autobiography with critical introduction with Prof. Wandana Sonalkar )
Dalit Bombay: Stigma, Precarity, and Everyday Life
The Caste Question: Dalits and Politics in Modern India (University of
California Press, 2009)
“Anticaste Thought and Conceptual De-Provincialization: A Genealogy of Ambedkar’s Dalit,” in Postcolonial Horizons. Eds. Gary Wilder and Jini Kim Watson (New York: Fordham University Press, forthcoming )
Word and the World: Dalit Aesthetics as a Critique of Everyday Life,” Journal of Postcolonial Literature (special double issue on Bombay Poetry), eds. Anjali Nerlekar and Laetitia Zecchini (forthcoming)
“State Effect and Indian Affirmative Action,” in eds. Gregory Anderson, John Brooke, and Julia Strauss. The State (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming)
“Ambedkar and Indian Democracy,” in ed. Sekhar Bandhyopadhyaya Decolonization and Politics of Transition in South Asia. Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan, 2016
“Revisiting Interwar Thought: Stigma, Labor, and the Immanence of Caste-Class,” in ed. Cosimo Zene, The Political Philosophies of Antonio Gramsci and B. R. Ambedkar: Subalterns and Dalits. London: Routledge, 2013: 43-58
“Labour and Stigma: Remembering Dalit Marxism,” Seminar special issue, Caste Matters, May 2012
“Violence and Humanity” or, Vulnerability as Political Subjectivity,” Social Research [special issue on “Body and the State”] Vol. 78, No. 2, Summer 2011: 607-632.
"Who is the Dalit? The Emergence of a New Political Subject," in Claiming
Power from Below: Dalits and the Subaltern Question in India [for a
festschrift in honor of Eleanor Zelliot] Oxford University Press, 2008:
Discipline and the Other Body: Correction, Corporeality, Colonialism, ed.
with S. Pierce (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006)
"Death of a Kotwal: Injury and the Politics of Recognition," in Subaltern
Studies XIII (New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2005)
Gender and Caste: Contemporary Issues in Indian Feminism, part of a series on Indian feminism, ed. R. S. Rajan (New Delhi: Kali for Women, 2003
South Asian history and anthropology
Social theory and intellectual history
In the News
Barnard history professor came to the College in 2001 after completing three years of post-doctoral study at N.Y.U. A South Asian historian, Rao became interested in critiques of South Asian history and anthropology as an undergrad at the University of Chicago, a noted center for such studies.
This innovative work of historical anthropology explores how India's Dalits, or ex-untouchables, transformed themselves from stigmatized subjects into citizens.