Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Contemporary South Asia

Poulomi Saha — An Empire of Touch: Feminine Political Labor & The Fabrication of East Bengal a Book Adda

Friday, May 10, 2019

2:00pm – 4:00pm

Poulomi Saha is Assistant Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. She is affiliated faculty in the Programs in Critical Theory and Gender and Women’s Studies, and teaches courses in postcolonial studies, gender and sexuality theory, and ethnic American literature. Her first book, An Empire of Touch: Feminine Political Labor & The Fabrication of East Bengal, which was awarded the Helen Tartar First Book Subvention Prize by the American Comparative Literature Association in 2017, is forthcoming from Columbia University Press in February, 2019.

An Empire of Touch turns attention to East Bengal, the historical antecedent of Bangladesh, today an international exemplar of development driven by gender-targeted foreign aid. It 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.

Professor 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– with a particular investment in psychoanalysis, critical theory, and feminist studies. She is interested in developing 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.

She is currently at work on two new projects: one, which looks at conspiracy as a legal, philosophical, and political concept to understand the rise of the surveillance of racial and sexual subjects in WWI America; and the second, which is interested in “Hindu” cults in the popular American imagination.

Her work has been published in differences and The Journal of Modern Literature, among other places.

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