Indian Sex Life: Sexuality and the Colonial Origins of Modern Social Thought

Durba Mitra

Moderated by Yasmine Ergas, Director of the Specialization on Gender and Public Policy, Columbia University

Tuesday, March 16, 2021 | 12:30 PM to 1:30 PM ET

The Committee on Global Thought (CGT) Lunchtime Seminars are a forum for Columbia University faculty and visiting scholars to present current research characterizing and assessing issues of global importance. Learn more about the CGT Lunchtime Seminars by clicking here.

Join Professor Durba Mitra of Harvard University for a discussion of her work Indian Sex Life: Sexuality and the Colonial Origins of Modern Social Thought. CGT member Yasmine Ergas will moderate the seminar. Bringing together vast archival materials from diverse disciplines, Mitra reveals that deviant female sexuality was critical to debates about social progress and exclusion, caste domination, marriage, widowhood and inheritance, women’s performance, the trafficking of girls, abortion and infanticide, industrial and domestic labor, indentured servitude, and ideologies about the dangers of Muslim sexuality.

Thank you to our outreach partners:

The South Asia Institute at Columbia University

The Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Columbia University

About the Speaker

Durba Mitra is Assistant Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality and Carol K. Pforzheimer Assistant Professor at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University. Mitra works at the intersection of feminist and queer studies. Her research and teaching focus on the history of sexuality, the history of science and epistemology, and gender and feminist thought in South Asia and the colonial and postcolonial world. Mitra’s book, Indian Sex Life: Sexuality and the Colonial Origins of Modern Social Thought (Princeton University Press, 2020), demonstrates how ideas of deviant female sexuality became foundational to modern social thought. Her current research explores the history of Third World feminist theory and South-South solidarity movements. Mitra is a faculty associate of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and is on the Asia Center Council at Harvard. She is a member of the editorial board of the journal Signs, incoming editor of “Books in Brief” for GLQ: Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies, and a contributing editor for Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

Mitra is a recipient of the 2019 Roslyn Abramson Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at Harvard, which recognizes teachers for “excellence and sensitivity in teaching undergraduates,” and the 2020 Star Family Prize for Excellence in Faculty Advising.

Mitra is a founding member of xpMethod: Group for Experimental Methods in Humanistic Research, where she is the moderator for the GenderSex Collective. She co-organizes the “Architectures of Knowledge” workshops, which has led to collaborative research projects on digital archives in Mumbai, India and Lahore, Pakistan.

Read more about Durba Mitra.