Anupama Rao, Professor, History and MESAAS (Columbia) 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.
She is Director, Institute for Comparative Literature and Society and the convenor of the Ambedkar Initiative, which is supported by the Provost’s Office (Barnard), the Deans of Humanities and Social Sciences (Columbia), the Office of the EVP (Columbia), Columbia University Press, and the Columbia Libraries. She served as Senior Editor, Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East from 2012-2021 and was involved in bringing the journal to be housed at Barnard and Columbia and in developing its distinctive vision and focus together with Professor Timothy Mitchell.
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. 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.
Rao is Principal Investigator for the Global Humanities Institute-CHCI (Mellon) grant, “Global Racisms, Cold War Humanism, and Just Futures,” (2022-2024); co-directs the project, “Geographies of Injustice,” hosted by Columbia’s Center for the Study of Social Difference. (An earlier iteration of this project, “Subaltern Urbanism,” ran with the support of the Heyman Center for the Humanities, and the Center for the Study of Social Difference.) She has served as co-convenor of the project on Asian Spatialities supported by the Mellon Foundation and the International Institute of Asian Studies (Leiden) from 2014-2015; as president of the Society for the Advancement of the History of South Asia (SAHSA) of the American Historical Association (2010); and as a member of the South Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies, 2010-12.
Rao has written widely on the themes of colonialism and humanitarianism, and on non-Western histories of gender and sexuality. Her book, The Caste Question (University of California Press, 2009) theorized caste subalternity, with specific focus on the role of anti-caste thought (and its thinkers) in producing alternative genealogies of political subject-formation.
She is completing Ambedkar in America: Reading Castes in India, and working on a set of essays on the political thought of B. R. Ambedkar, as well as a and project titled Dalit Bombay, which explores the relationship between caste, political culture, and everyday life in colonial and postcolonial Bombay. She is coediting The Cambridge Companion to Ambedkar (Cambridge University Press, 2023) with Shailaja Paik.
Recent publications include The Many Worlds of R. B. More: Memoir of a Dalit Communist with Wandana Sonalkar (Leftword, 2019), and the edited volume Gender, Caste, and the Imagination of Equality (Women Unlimited, 2017).
- B.A., University of Chicago
- Ph.D., University of Michigan
- South Asian history and anthropology
- Social theory and intellectual history
- Comparative urbanism
R. B. More: Memoirs of a Dalit Communist, Leftword Books and Dule University Press, late Fall 2018
(Translation and critical introduction in collaboration with Wandana Sonalkar)
Ambedkar in His Time and Ours [manuscript-length study of B. R. Ambedkar’s thought]
Cambridge Companion to Ambedkar, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020
Dalit Bombay: Stigma, Precarity, and Everyday Life
Ambedkar in America: Reading Castes in India, a manuscript-length study of B. R. Ambedkar’s early thought (forthcoming, Columbia University Press)
The Caste Question: Dalits and Politics in Modern India, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009
Cambridge Companion to Ambedkar (co-edited with Shailaja Paik), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (forthcoming 2023)
Memoirs of a Dalit Communist: The Many Worlds of R. B. More. New Delhi: Leftword, December 2019. [in collaboration with Translator, Wandana Sonalkar]
Book forum on Memoirs of a Dalit Communist, South Asia, Vol. 44, Issue 2, May 2021: 394-414 (with response by A. Rao)
Media and Utopia: History, Imagination, and Technology (co-edited with Arvind Rajagopal), New Delhi: Routledge, 2019
Gender, Caste and the Imagination of Equality, New Delhi: Women Unlimited, 2018
Crime Through Time (co-edited with Saurabh Dube), Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2013
Discipline and the Other Body: Correction, Corporeality, Colonialism (co-edited with Steven Pierce), Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, Spring 2006
Editor, “Insurgent Thought,” Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, Vol. 34, No. 1, 2014
Co-editor with Lila Abu-Lughod, “The Politics of Consent.” Papers from a workshop at the Columbia Global Center, Amman, Jordan. [Hosted on CCASD website, Columbia University: http://www.socialdifference.org/publications]
“Subaltern Urbanism. Or, ‘Dwelling’ and the Unhoused,” in House and Home, publication by RE:WORK, Berlin (forthcoming, 2018)
Afterword, “An Awkward Relationship: Men and Feminism,” in Men and Feminism. Eds. Romit Chodhary and Zaid al-Baset, London: Routledge, 2018.
“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, Spring 2018.
Word and the World: Dalit Aesthetics as a Critique of Everyday Life,” Journal of Postcolonial Literature, Vol. 53. Nos. 1-2, 2017: 147-161.
“State Effect and Indian Affirmative Action,” in eds. Gregory Anderson, John Brooke, and Julia Strauss. Cambridge, Cambridge U Press volume on The State, 2018: 331-344.
“Is Caste: Race as Hierarchy: Equality? A Problem in Philosophical Anthropology,” solicited for eds. Saurabh Dube and Ishita Banerjee-Dube, Handbook of Subalterns Across History. London: Routledge (for submission end 2023)
“New Political Imaginaries,” for eds. David Gilmartin, Prasannan Parthasarathi, and Mrinalini Sinha. New Cambridge History of the Modern Indian Subcontinent. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (submission, March 2023)
“Ambedkar in America: An Archive for Our Time,” South Asia 45:2, 2022: 350-371.
“Ambedkar’s Dalit and the Problem of Caste Subalternity,” in eds. Anand Teltumbde and Suraj Yengde. Radical Ambedkar. Delhi: Penguin, 2018: 340-358.
"The Difference of Caste and the Itineraries of Equality,” in ed. Anupama Rao, Caste, Gender, and the Imagination of Equality, New Delhi: Women Unlimited, 2018: 1-36.
"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, Spring 2018: 126-146.
“Word and the World: Dalit Aesthetics as a Critique of Everyday Life,” Journal of Postcolonial Literature, Vol. 53. Nos. 1-2, 2017: 147-161.
“State Effect and Indian Affirmative Action,” in eds. Gregory Anderson, John Brooke, and Julia Strauss. Cambridge: Cambridge U Press volume on The State, 2018: 331-344.
“Ambedkar and Indian Democracy,” in ed. Sekhar Bandhyopadhyaya. Decolonization and Politics of Transition in South Asia. Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan, 2016: 279-309.
-- Revised version solicited as “B. R. Ambedkar and Indian Democracy,” in ed. Aakash Singh Rathore, Ambedkar and the Quest for Justice, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2021: 106-132
“Value, Visibility and the Demand for Justice,” Economic and Political Weekly, September 5, 2015, Vol. L, No. 36: 37-42.
To Think Otherwise (on the 10th anniversary of The Caste Question): https://bit.ly/39d3qsk
“Subaltern Urbanism. Or, ‘Dwelling’ and the Unhoused,” in To Be at Home: House, Work, and Self in the Modern World, Berlin; De Gruyter, 2018: 73-79.
Afterword, “An Awkward Relationship: Men and Feminism,” in Men and Feminism. Eds. Romit Chodhary and Zaid al-Baset, London: Routledge, 2018: 250-256.
Response to the Indian Supreme Court Ruling Banning Identity Appeals During Elections, The New York Times, January 9, 2017, https://nyti.ms/3hkQ4gw
Social Science Research Council, The Immanent Frame, “Competing Inequalities,” [a comment on Saba Mahmood’s Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report] https://bit.ly/3hldQZT
“Urban Revolutions: From Bombay to Baltimore, and Back Again,” for Raising the Bar, at Bo’s Bar, March 28, 2016. Podcast: https://bit.ly/32DVQ8U
“To Be a Glorious Thing Made of Stardust: A Note from the University of Hyderabad,” Public Books Blog, https://bit.ly/3hldQZT