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The Australian National University

Dr Debjani Ganguly

Dr Debjani Ganguly
Head, Humanities Research Centre, RSHA, CASS
T: ( 02 ) 612 59877
F: ( 02 ) 612 51285

Room 3.33, SRWB #120, ANU


Short biography:
Debjani Ganguly is Head of the Humanities Research Centre. Apart from directing the HRC, she convenes EResearch programs and projects for ANU’s Digital Humanities Hub ( Previously she was Director, Research Development, at the Centre for Cross Cultural Research, ANU, a special research centre funded by the Australian Research Council. Debjani completed a PhD in English and Postcolonial Studies in 2002 from ANU where she subsequently held a postdoctoral fellowship from 2002-2004. Prior to taking up her doctoral studies in Australia, she completed a Masters and an MPhil in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Bombay and was a university lecturer in English in Bombay. Debjani is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Chair of the Freilich Foundation Board and a Member on the International Advisory Boards of the Consortium of Humanities Centres and Institutes (CHCI), Duke University, and CLARINS (Common Language Resources and Technology Infrastructure), Utrecht University. She is a member of the Steering Council of Project Bamboo, a cyberinfrastructure project in the Humanities led by the University of California, Berkeley. She also serves on the Steering Committee of the Australian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres (ACHRC).

Research Interests:
Postcolonial literary and cultural studies
Novel Studies
Theories of World Literature
Global Anglophone Writing
Digital Humanities
Critical Theories of the (post) Human
Indian Literatures and Languages
Dalit Literature
Colonial and Postcolonial Indian History

Debjani's current work focuses on literary globalism in the new millennium and in particular on the post-1989 Anglophone world novel and its mediation of distant suffering in our hyperconnected information age. She is completing a book for Duke University Press on the post-1989 world Anglophone novel with a focus on transnational works dealing with the global immanence of terror, warfare and genocide.

Entitled The World Novel after 1989: Suffering Multitudes, Spectatorial Mediations, the book reprises the novel’s historical links with distant suffering and technologies of mediation - the staple of debates on the sentimental novel and the rise of Abolitionism in the late 18th century - in the context of the emergence of a critical mass of world novels written against the backdrop of post-1989 sites of geopolitical carnage. New media technologies and multiple visual regimes have been critical in mediating these deathworlds for diverse publics around the world. Her book addresses the ways in which these contemporary novels manifest the impact of this spectatorial capitalism (as opposed to print capitalism) in their points of view, their space-time configurations, their modes of addressing the reader and their moral imagination. Works on the Palestinian crisis, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Kashmir issue, post-9/11 America, the Rwanda genocide and post-apartheid South Africa, feature as case studies.

Her previous monograph, Caste, Colonialism and Counter-Modernity (Routledge 2005), is both an intellectual history and a revisionist ethnography of caste and untouchability in India from the point of view of theoretical developments in the field of postcolonial studies. Spanning a period from the 18th century to the present, the book traces the discursive horizons of 'caste' from early colonial histories and anthropological tracts to contemporary dalit literature and postcolonial historiographical projects such as Subaltern Studies. It argues that caste is not so much an essence responsible for India's 'backwardness' as a constellation of variegated social practices that are in a constant state of flux and that cannot be completely contained in a narrative of nation-building, modernisation and development. The book also turns its archival and analytical focus on both caste Hindu and dalit literary, mythographic and spiritual texts, and in the process, illustrates the importance of reading caste as an assemblage of secular and non-secular practices that generate everyday life in India. What is offered in this analysis is not an endorsement of either the caste-system or casteism, but a resistance to the reified ways in which caste continues to figure in social scientific and nation-building discourses.

Debjani has also edited and written for two other volumes: Edward Said: The Legacy of a Public Intellectual (Melbourne UP, 2007) in which leading Australian and overseas scholars analyze the ways in which humanities and literary studies in particular can engage with the oeuvre of this leading postcolonial humanist in the twenty-first century; the second volume, Rethinking Gandhi and Nonviolent Relationality: Global Perspectives (Routledge, 2007),is a study of the eclectic cosmopolitanism of Gandhian thought and its refractory legacies.

She has recently contributed essays to The Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literatures and The Cambridge Companion to Modern Indian Culture. She is currently editing a special issue of the Routledge journal in theoretical humanities, Angelaki with Fiona Jenkins on the theme, ‘Limits of the Human’. This volume offers a range of critical perspectives on the ‘human’ as a limit case against the backdrop of catastrophic climate change, large-scale mediatization of geopolitical carnage and the materialist informatics of our digital worlds.

Her other areas of research and publication include the language question in colonial/postcolonial India, dalit life stories, South Asian diasporic fiction, cultural histories of mixed race, and the globalization of Bollywood, the popular cinema from Bombay/Mumbai as creative industry.

Current Research Projects:
1. 'The World Novel, Distant Suffering and the Humanitarian Imagination After 1989', an Australian Research Council funded project (2011-2014) on global Anglophone writing in the post-Cold War period with a focus on transnational works dealing with the immanence of terror, warfare and genocide. This project will: theorize the momentous transformations undergone by the novel form in our information age; offer a new optic on the traditional relationship between the novel and the humanitarian imagination, and contribute to emerging world literature scholarship on the 'human' and 'distant suffering'.

2. 'Mediated Mobility: India's Low Caste Revolution in the Media Age', an Australian Research Council funded project (2009-2012) that is the first comparative and interdisciplinary history of multiple media - print, literary, visual, digital - through which the lower castes have transformed public spheres in late modern India. It compares two regions, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, where lower caste mobilization has historically been most intense. This collective history will: recast the story of Indian democracy in terms of the entry of lower castes into the nation's information age; advance global understanding of new media forms in politicization of the oppressed.

3. 'Project Bamboo', a Mellon funded Project (2009-2013) on Digital Humanities led by University of California, Berkeley and eight other universities across the US and the UK. Debjani is the Principal Investigator on behalf of ANU. The key goals of this project are: i) connecting digital collections globally; ii)building digital workspaces for researchers through mixes and mashups of existing software; iii)championing digital scholarship and reframing of peer-review protocols.

4. 'Extending Humanities Networks', a Mellon funded project for the Consortium of Humanities Centres and Institutes (CHCI)- 2011-2012. Led by Duke University, this initiative aims to produce a blue print for building global humanities networks in three areas: Humanities for the Environment, Digital Humanities and Public Humanities. Debjani is a member of the Project Committee on behalf of ANU.

Selected Publications:
Books and Monographs
2008 Caste and Dalit Lifeworlds: Postcolonial Perspectives, New Delhi: Orient Longman, 2008
2007 Edward Said: The Legacy of a Public Intellectual, co-editor, Melbourne University Press
2007 Rethinking Gandhi and Nonviolent Relationality: Global Perspectives, co-editor, London: Routledge
2005 Caste, Colonialism and Counter-Modernity: Notes on a Postcolonial Hermeneutics of Caste, London: Routledge.

Edited volumes
2007   'Pigments of the Imagination: Theorizing, Performing and Historicizing Mixed Race', coedited with Penny Edwards and Jacqueline Lo, Journal of Intercultural Studies, Vol. 28, No.1
2005 “Gandhi Nonviolence and Modernity”, co-edited with John Docker, Borderlands, December
2004 “Cultural Politics and Iconography” co-edited with Mandy Thomas, Humanities Research, Vol. 11, No.2, October-November

Chapters in books
2010   'Dalit Life Stories', Cambridge Companion to Modern Indian Culture, Cambridge University Press, (in press)
2010   'Orbits of Desire: Bollywood as Creative Industry', in Bollywood in Australia, ed. Andrew Hassam, Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 2009
2010   'The Language Question in India', Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature, ed. Ato Quayson, Cambridge University Press (in press)
Frontiers of Life and Death: Critical Humanism and World Literary Sensibilities]’, in Liam Semler, Bob Hodge and Philippa Kelly, eds. ‘The Human in the Humanities’, Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing, forthcoming.
2007 “Global State of War and Moral Vernaculars of Nonviolence: Reading Gandhi in a New World Order”, Rethinking Gandhi and Nonviolent Relationality: Global Perspectives, Co-editor, London: Routledge and New Delhi: Orient Longman
2007 “Said, World Literature and Global Comparatism”, Edward Said: The Legacy of a Public Intellectual, eds. D.Ganguly and Ned Curthoys, Melbourne University Press
2007 “Vernacular Cosmopolitans: Gandhi and Ambedkar”, Rethinking Gandhi and Nonviolent Relationality; Global Perspectives, eds. D.Ganguly and John Docker, London: Routledge
2004 "Velutha, Ammu, Death: The Aporia of the Aesthetic", Words for their own Sake: Literature in The Age of Economic Rationalism, eds. Jan Lloyd Jones and Kathie Barnes, Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing.
2001 "Between Marx and Foucault, Or 'Whither Subaltern?': Perspectives from South Asian Historiography", in Lim Chee Seng, et al.(eds) Sharing a Commonwealth. Kuala Lampur: ACLALS in Association With The Department of English, University of Malaya.
2000 "The Subaltern in Shadow: Reading Aboriginal Women's Life-Stories" in Adrian Mitchell and Cynthia Vanden Driesen (eds), New Directions in Australian Studies, New Delhi: Prestige Publications.
2000 "Transgressing Sacred Visions: Taslima, Rushdie and the Indian Subcontinent", in Ralph Crane and Radhika Mohanram (eds), Shifting Continents/Colliding Cultures: Diaspora Writing of the Indian Subcontinent, Amsterdam: Rodophi.
1998 G.N. Devy: The Nativist as Postcolonial", in Makarand Paranjape (ed.) The Nativist Tradition in Indian Literary Criticism, New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi.
1996 Of Dreams, Digressions and Dislocations: The Surreal Fiction of Sunetra Gupta", in Viney Kirpal (ed.), The Postmodern Indian English Novel, Bombay: Allied Publishers.

Journal articles
2009   'Pain, Personhood and the Collective: Dalit Lifestories', Asian Studies Review, Vo. 33, no. 4, 2009
2008   'Global Literary Refractions: Reading Pascale Casanova's The World Republic of Letters', English Academy Review: Southern African Journal of Literary Studies, Vol. 25, No.1, June
2008   'Literary Globalism in the New Millennium', Postcolonial Studies, Vol.11, No.1
2008   'Tryst with Postcolonial Destiny', Economic and Political Weekly, Vol.43, No.7, February
2007   'From Empire to Empire: Writing the Transnational Anglo-Indian Self in Australia', Journal of Intercultural Studies, Vol. 28, No.1
2007 '100 Days in Rwanda: Trauma Aesthetics and Humanist Ethics in an Age of Terror', Humanities Research, Vol. 15, No. 2  
2005  'Yet Another English Gift: The Role of English Bhikkus in Indian Dalit Buddhist Conversions, 1970-1990', JSL: Journal of the School of Languages and Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, No. 4, Autumn
2004   'Buddha, Bhakti and Superstition: A Post-Secular Reading of Dalit Conversion', Postcolonial Studies, Vol.7, No.1
2002   'History's Implosions: A Benjaminian Reading of Ambedkar', Journal of Narrative Theory, Vol.32, No.3, Fall
2000   'Can the Dalit Speak: Caste, Postcoloniality and the New Humanities', South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, Vol. 23, Special Issue 

English and Comparative Literature, Postolonial Studies

PhD Supervision:

1. Genna Burrows, 'Dialogues with Arabic: Cross-Cultural Communication and    Contemporary Arab Design', Chair of Supervisory Panel.
2. Shelini Harris, 'Discourse on the Right to Proselytize: Human Rights as the Problem or Solution?', Chair of supervisory panel
3. Elen Turner, 'Women's Publishing in South Asia and Australasia', Chair of Supervisory panel
4. Jonathan O'Neill, 'New Media, Globalization and Irish Ethnicity', Chair of Supervisory panel
5. Ida Nursoo, ‘In the Waiting Room of Humanity: The Consequence of Kant for Cosmopolitan Futures after Derrida’, Chair of Supervisory panel
6. Diah Agung Esfandari, ‘Javanese Mystical Folklores and Horror Urban Legend Movies’, Chair of Supervisory panel
7. Leigh Toop, ‘Form, Materiality and Meaning in the Work of Three Thai Installation Artists’ – Chair of Supervisory Panel
8. Visakesa Chandrasekaram, “Confessions of Tigers: Documenting the impact of Counter-Terrorism Laws and Human Rights Violations in Sri Lanka Through Creative writing”, - Chair
9. Josh Wodak, “Interrogating Interactive Interfaces: New Media Art” – Chair
10. Hamish Daley, 'The Historical novel in Australia, New Zealand and Nigeria', Supervisor
11. Susan Laganza, “Ethnopoetics of Death and Mourning” – Supervisor
12. Dawn Mirapuri, English, Faculty of Arts, “Anglophone Arab Women Writers: Voices from the Mashriq and El-Mahjar” – Supervisor, PhD Completed, February 2009.
13. Usha Natarajan, College of Law, “Postcolonial Readings of International Law in the Context of Iraq” – Advisor, PhD completed 2008
14. Simon Choo, “Malaysian and Australian Food Identities: Migration, Tradition, authenticity and Change” – Chair, PhD completed, 2008
15. Gokcen Karanfil, “Transnational Media and Diasporic Communities: Reflections on Turkish-Australian Lives” – Supervisor, PhD completed, 2007
16. Timothy Amos, RSPAS, “The Burakumin in Pre-Modern Japan, 1600-1868” – Supervisor, PhD completed, 2006.

Professional societies:

Fellow, The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland

Member, Advisory Board, The Consortium of Humanities Centres and Institutes (CHCI), Duke University.

Member, Advisory Board, CLARINS (Common Language Resources and Technology Infrastructure), Utrecht University, Netherlands.

Member, Steering Council, Project Bamboo, University of Californmia, Berkeley

Member, Modern Languages Association (MLA)

Member, the Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (ACLALS)
Member, International PEN (Sydney Chapter)

Indian Representative on the International P.E.N Women Writers' Committee (IPWWC)-1994–2000

Life Member, The Royal Asiatic Society, Bombay, India

Media Attention:

3 July, 2007, ABC Radio Interview on British bombings, Muslim protests against Salman Rushdie’s knighthood and the controversy surrounding The Satanic Verses
19 April, 2007, ABC Radio Interview on Bollywood poster art exhibitions at NGV, Melbourne and Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, and the impact of Bollywood in Australia
18 November, 2006, ABC Radio Interview on Indian film Festival in Perth and ANU-Monash workshop on Bollywood
26 October 2006, ABC Radio Interview on ANU-Monash Bollywood workshop, in the context of the Indian film festival then running.
2 Feb, 2005, Breakfast Radio interview on 3CR Community Radio (Melbourne), topic: "The tsunami and Dalit aid disbursement

Updated: 26 September 2011/ Responsible Officer:  Head, HRC / Page Contact:  HRC administration