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Prof Richa Nagar

Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies 425 FordH 224 Church Street SE


Professor of the College
Bennett Chair in Excellence and Fink Professor in Liberal Arts

I was born and raised in the lanes of Chowk in the old city of Lucknow in India, in a lower-middle class joint family of storytellers, theatre workers, house wives and school teachers. I grew up breathing a blend of working- and middle class Hindu and Muslim cultures, and became the first person in my family to learn English in an elite Protestant school of European origin, La Martiniere Girls' School. While the stark contrasts between my school environment and my neighborhood streets made me acutely aware of class, caste, and social location, my home environment instilled in me a passion for popular forms of music, dance, drama and poetry. I began to publish short stories, poems, children's plays and journalistic reviews in Hindi in 1982, and it was around the same time that my geography teacher, Ms. McClure, convinced me that the only way to combine everything I felt passionately about in my life was by becoming a geographer. Shortly thereafter, with my father's encouragement, I began voluntary work with performance artists and activists and received my first lessons in people's theatre and politics of memory and orality. And it was the activists I met while at Awadh College in Lucknow and at the University of Poona, whose voices against dowry, rape, communalism, and casteism sowed the seeds of feminism inside me. From there, I traveled to Minnesota in 1989 to seek a doctoral degree in Geography -- an intense intellectual, political and personal journey that took me to Tanzania to study race and community politics from a feminist perspective. Upon completion of my Ph.D., I taught for two years in the Geography Department at the University of Colorado at Boulder, before returning in 1997 to my new interdisciplinary home in (what was then) Women's Studies at the University of Minnesota.

The influences that I grew up with profoundly shaped my intellectual and creative journey in and outside of the academy. My anti-disciplinary work in English and Hindi pushes for multi-genre and multi-sited research, pedagogies, and creative engagements that insist on crossing difficult borders. My early work focused on questions of identity and the politics of space and place among South Asian communities in postcolonial Tanzania. My subsequent research, mainly with activists in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, has centered on the discursive practices and institutional politics associated with the idea of “empowering the poor;” the ways in which collaborations across socioeconomic, geographical, and institutional borders might help us create alternative interpretive communities; and the deep challenges and negotiations involved in such projects. In commuting and communicating across disciplinary fields and the fields on which my coauthors live, labor, and struggle, I rework the insights from postcolonial, transnational, women of color, and third world feminisms while simultaneously blending the genres of academic, creative, and activist writing and community theatre in English, Hindi, Urdu, and Awadhi. I examine how, why, and to what extent coauthorship and collaboration can become methods in troubling the dominant routes of circulation by which knowledges are produced, deployed, and disseminated; and how these can help us develop new insights about questions of solidarity, ethics, and responsibility in knowledge making while complicating what counts as “path-breaking” work in the academy. More recently, I have begun to explore how personal narratives and political theatre can help interweave questions of translation, (im)mobility, intimacy, and the body in transborder feminist work.


  • politics of development
  • feminisms, praxis, and people's movements
  • Intersectionality, translations, and people's theater
  • Blending/ interrupting genres and languages in antidisciplinary research

Educational Background

  • Ph.D.: Geography, University of Minnnesota, Twin Cities, USA, 1995.
  • M.A.: Geography, University of Poona, Pune, India, 1989.
  • B.A.: English Literature, Geography, and Anthropology, Lucknow University, Lucknow, India, 1986.


  • Muddying the Waters: Coauthoring Feminisms Through Schlolarship and Activism. Nagar, Richa, University of Illinois Press, Author, 2014. Link
  • Playing with Fire: Feminist Thought and Activism Through Seven Lives in India. Nagar, Richa, Sangtin Writers, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press and New Delhi: Zubaan., Co-Author, 2006. Link
  • Critical Transntional Feminist Praxis. Nagar, Richa, Amanda Swarr, SUNY Press, Co-Editor, 2010. Link
  • A World of Difference. Nagar, Richa, Eric Sheppard, Philip Porter, David Faust, Guilford Press, Co-Author, 2009. Link
  • [in Hindi] Ek Aur Neemsaar: Sangtin Atmamanthan aur Andolan [On the making of Sangtin Kisaan Mazdoor Sangathan]. Nagar, Richa, Richa Singh, New Delhi: Rajkamal Prakashan, Co-Author, 2012. Link
  • [in Hindi] Sangtin Yatra: Saat Zindagiyon Mein Lipta Nari Vimarsh [A Journey of Sangtin: Feminist Thought Wrapped in Seven Lives]. Nagar, Richa, Anupamlata, Ramsheela, Reshma Ansari, Vibha Bajpayee, Shashibala, Shashi Vaish, Surbala, Richa Singh, Sitapur: Sangtin, Co-Author, 2004. Image
  • Retelling Stories, Resisting Dichotomies: Staging Identity, Marginalization and Activism in Minneapolis and Sitapur: Nagar, Richa, Sofia Shank, In eds. Linda Peake and Martina Reiker, Rethinking Feminist Interventions into the Urban, 90-107, 2013. Link
  • Storytelling and Co-authorship in Feminist Alliance Work: Reflections from a Journey: Nagar, Richa, Gender, Place, and Culture, 20: 1. Also in DOI:10.1080/0966369X.2012.731383 1-18, 2013.
  • Organizing from the Margins: Grappling with "empowerment" in India and South Africa. Nagar, Richa, Amanda Swarr, In eds. Lise Nelson and Joni Seagar, A Companion to Feminist Geography, Co-Author, 2004.
  • Dismantling Assumptions: Interrogating "lesbian" struggles for identity and survival in India and South Africa. Nagar, Richa, Amanda Swarr, SIGNS: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 29:2:491-516, Co-Author, 2004.
  • Locating Globalization: Feminist (re)readings of the subjects and spaces of globalization. Nagar, Richa, Victoria Lawson, Linda McDowell and Susan Hanson, Economic Geography 78:3:257-284, Co-Author, 2002.
  • English Medium Education, Social Fracturing, and the Politics of Development in Postcolonial India. Nagar, Richa, David Faust, Economic and Political Weekly July 28-August 3:2878-2883, Co-Author, 2001.
  • Women’s Theater and the Redefinitions of Public, Private and Politics in North India: Nagar, Richa, ACME An International E-Journal for Critical Geographers , 1:1: 55-72, 2002.
  • Mujhe Jawab Do [Answer Me]: Feminist grassroots activism and social spaces in Chitrakoot (India). Nagar, Richa, Gender, Place, and Culture 7:4:341-362, Author, 2000.
  • Religion, Race and the Debate over Mut'a in Dar es Salaam. Nagar, Richa, Feminist Studies 26:3:661-690, Author, 2000.
  • "I'd Rather be Rude than Ruled": Gender, Place, and Communal Politics among South Asian Communities in Dar es Salaam. : Nagar, Richa, Women's Studies International Forum, 23:5: 571-585.
  • Communal Discourses, Marriage, and the Politics of Gendered Social Boundaries among South Asian Immigrants in Tanzania. Nagar, Richa, Gender, Place and Culture 5:2:117-139., Author, 1998.
  • Contesting Social Relations in Communal Places: Identity Politics Among Asians in Dar es Salaam. : Nagar, Richa, Helga Leitner. In eds, Ruth Fincher and Jane Jacobs, Guilford Press, Cities of Difference, 226-251, 1998.
  • The Making of Hindu Communal Organizations, Places and Identities in Postcolonial Dar es Salaam: Nagar, Richa, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space , 15 707-730, 1997.
  • Communal Places and the Politics of Multiple Identities: The case of Tanzanian Asians. : Nagar, Richa, Ecumene (now 'Cultural Geographies'), 4:1: 3-26, 1997.
  • The South Asian Diaspora in Tanzania: A History Retold. Nagar, Richa, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East: A Journal of Politics, Culture and Economy 16:2:62-80, Author, 1996.

Research Activities

  • A Collaborative Journey with Sangtins: Watch glimpses in three short videos at:

Creative Activities

  • Theater Across Borders: This community project, chiefly in Hindi/ Urdu, explores the intersections among place, praxis and people's theatre and is shaped since 1986 by the efforts of many individuals and groups working in India and USA. Amateurs and professional actors have come together to reflect on social issues through their own stories; through works of Nazeer Akbarabadi, Premchand, Ismat Chughtai, Manto, and Asghar Wajahat; and through stories told by organizations such as Vanangana and Sangtin.


  • Professor of the College, From 2015
  • Russell M. and Elizabeth M. Bennett Chair in Excellence, 2015 - 2020
  • Beverly and Richard Fink Professor in Liberal Arts, 2015 - 2018
  • Annual Feminist Faculty Scholar, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI, September 2014
  • Mellon Visiting Professor, Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, August - October 2013
  • Peg Zeglin Brand Distinguished Lecturer, Department of Gender Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington, 2013
  • Playing with Fire selected for President’s annual book event at the Sabanci University, Istanbul, 2012 - 2013
  • Jan Monk Gender, Place, and Culture Lecturer, Annual Meetings of the Association of American Geographers, New York, 2012
  • Jawaharlal Nehru Institute for Advanced Study (JNIAS), Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Residential Fellowship, 2011 - 2012
  • Scholar of the College, 2008 - 2011
  • Wallace W. Atwood Lecturer, Department of Geography, Clark University, Worcestor, 2007
  • Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS), Stanford: Residential Fellowship, 2005 - 2006
  • Grant-in-aid of Research, Artistry and Scholarship, University of Minnesota Graduate School, 2003 - 2004
  • McKnight Presidential Fellow, University of Minnesota, 2001 - 2004
  • McKnight Land Grant Professorship, University of Minnesota, 2000 - 2002
  • National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Grant, 1992 - 1993
  • MacArthur Fellow, University of Minnesota, 1989 - 1995

Courses Taught

  • CLA 1904 - Stories, Bodies, Border crossings (Freshman Seminar offered as part of the Humanistic Commons)
  • GWSS 1904 - Stories and Struggles: Narratives and Social Change
  • WoSt 3003 - Gender and Global Politics
  • WoSt 3406 - Gender, Labor and Politics
  • WoSt 4103 and 5104 - Transnational Feminist Theories
  • WoSt 4107 - Research Methods
  • WoSt 5400 - Feminist Approaches to Ethnography
  • GWSS 8190 - Feminisms and Praxis
  • WoSt 8109 - Feminist Theory and Methods
  • WoSt 8401 and Geog 8980 - Gender, Space and Resistance
  • DSSC 8010 - Doctoral Research Workshop (for ICGC scholars)
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