Research Expertise and Interest

postcolonial studies, Asian American, South Asian, critical theory, gender and sexuality, cultural studies

Research Description

Poulomi Saha's research and teaching agenda spans eastward and forward from the late 19th century decline of British colonial rule in the Indian Ocean through to the Pacific and the rise of American global power and domestic race relations in the 20th century. Engaging postcolonial studies, ethnic American literature, and gender and sexuality theory, Saha hopes to map an expansive view of empire and of what constitutes Anglophone literature routed not primarily through Great Britain and Western Europe but rather through circuits of affiliation and encounter between Asia and the Americas.

Her first book, An Empire of Touch: Women's Political Labor & The Fabrication of East Bengal (Columbia University Press, 2019) was awarded the Harry Levin Prize for outstanding first book by the American Comparative Literature Association  (2020) and the Helen Tartar First Book Subvention Prize (2017). It turns attention to East Bengal, the historical antecedent of Bangladesh, today an international exemplar of development driven by gender-targeted foreign aid. An Empire of Touch recounts a new narrative of female political labor under empire, spanning from anticolonial nationalism to neoliberal globalization, through text and textile. It follows the historical traces of how women have claimed their labor, making what has been customarily seen as “merely” intimate and domestic into appreciable political acts.

Poulomi Saha is currently at work on two new projects. The first is a book entitled Fascination: America’s “Hindu” Cults which considers the allure and scandal of so-called “Hindu cults” in America. From the Transcendentalists to the countercultural 1960s, spiritual practices and texts coded as Indic or Vedic have captivated an American imagination.  Fascination enquires into the figures, ideas, and social forms seemingly imported from India, but in fact homegrown, that so enthrall an America public and that continue to shape its racial and spiritual self-conception.

The second book project, Bengal to Berkeley, examines conspiracy as a legal, philosophical, and political concept to understand the rise of the surveillance of racial and sexual subjects in WWI America.

She earned her BA in International Relations and English from Mount Holyoke College and her PhD in English from the University of Pennsylvania. 

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