Bakirathi Mani

Wednesday, October 26th

Bakirathi Mani is Professor in the Department of English Literature at at Swarthmore College, and a founder and director of the Tri-College Asian American Studies Program. Born in Bombay (now Mumbai), raised in Tokyo, and educated in Japan, the U.S. and in India, Bakirathi Mani earned her Ph.D. in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University, her M.A. in Modern Indian History from Jawaharlal Nehru University, and her B.S.F.S. in Non-Western History and Diplomacy from Georgetown University.   A scholar of Asian American Studies, Postcolonial Studies, and Transnational Feminist/Queer Studies, Mani is also a curator of South Asian diasporic visual cultures, and regularly collaborates and consults with with artists and non-profit arts organizations in the U.S. and South Asia. Her most recent book, Unseeing Empire: Photography, Representation, South Asian America (Duke University Press, 2020) earned an Honorable Mention Book Award from the Association of Asian American Studies in 2022.  Unseeing Empire considers how empire continues to haunt contemporary photographic representations of South Asians in America, shaping both the form of racial representation as well as how diasporic viewers claim and identify with these images. Weaving ethnographic work at museums and galleries across North America and in South Asia together with her own experience as a curator, Mani examines the limits of visibility and visuality for Asian American representation. Her first book, Aspiring to Home: South Asians in America (Stanford University Press, 2012), establishes the spatial terrain of South Asian America in relation to narratives of neoliberal multiculturalism in the United States and regimes of postcolonial nationhood in South Asia.  Working across ethnographic, literary, historical and visual archives of South Asians in diaspora,  Mani’s essays have been published in American Quarterly, Social Text, The Journal of Asian American Studies, Diaspora, Positions, and Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas, among other venues.