My work engages the politics and poetics of sexuality, race and historiography, with a strong focus on comparative empires within South Asian and Indian Ocean studies.
I am primarily interested in three concepts that have increasingly become the focii of methodological debates within historical and/or literary studies: archives (what constitutes historical evidence), exemplarity (how do we read evidence) and geopolitics (where do we read from). Such methodological concerns bring genealogies of area studies to bear on Anglo-American histories of literature and culture, and ask how such an attention to “area” calibrates questions of race, gender and sexuality.Anjali Arondekar

Broadly speaking, I read and write within established disciplines (history, literature, law) and field formations (area studies, queer/sexuality studies), mobilizing South Asia through its multilingual and divergent colonial and national formations.

My first monograph, For the Record: On Sexuality and the Colonial Archive in India (winner of the Alan Bray Memorial Book Award for best book in lesbian, gay, or queer studies in literature and cultural studies, Modern Language Association, 2010) considers the relationship between sexuality and the colonial archive by posing the following questions: Why does sexuality (still) seek its truth in the historical archive? What are the spatial and racial logics that compel such a return? And conversely, what kind of “archive” does such a recuperative hermeneutics produce? Rather than render sexuality’s relationship to the colonial archive through the preferred lens of historical invisibility (which would presume that there is something about sexuality that is lost or silent and needs to “come out”), I engage sexuality’s recursive traces within the colonial archive against and through our very desire for access. 

 My second forthcoming book, Abundance: Sexuality and Historiography, marshals its archival materials from a range of multilingual historical and literary sources in English, Marathi, Konkani and Portuguese.  It extends my concerns with the connections between critical race studies and queer studies, between historical forms and literary narratives. Marginality and loss, paucity and disenfranchisement: these are the hermeneutical forms that have become the common currency of histories of sexuality. Sexuality, particularly in South Asia, is rescued from the detritus of hegemonic histories of colonialism and nationalism and placed within more liberatory narratives of reform and rights.  My book engages two key questions: What if we are to shift our attention from the reading of sexuality as loss to understanding it as a site of radical abundance – even futurity? What would it mean to let go of our attachments to absence, to unmoor ourselves, as it were, from the presence of reliable ghosts?

Ph.D., English, University of Pennsylvania
B.A., College Scholar, Cornell University

Winner of the 2010 Alan Bray Memorial Book Award for Best Book in Lesbian, Gay, or Queer Studies in Literature and Cultural Studies from the GL/Q Caucus of the Modern Language Association.