Priya Kumar is an Associate Professor who joined the English department in 2001. She specializes in postcolonial studies with an emphasis on South Asian literature and culture. She is the author of Limiting Secularism: The Ethics of Coexistence in Indian Literature and Film (Minnesota, 2007), which considers the fraught question of religious coexistence in post-independence India and its entanglement with the concept of secularism. Taking on the issue of the anomalous place of religious minorities in a liberal state and society, this project examines the construction of Muslims as “strangers” in India, especially since the 1947 partition of British India. Informed by Jacques Derrida’s late work on hospitality and living together, Limiting Secularism traces the emergence of an ethics of coexistence in South Asian literature and film. Priya has also published essays on the Partition of the Indian subcontinent; on South Asian writers in English; on the Urdu writer, Qurratulain Hyder, and on Hindi cinema. Her extensive interview with Hindi filmmaker and screenplay writer, Khalid Mohamed, was published in the film studies journal, Framework (2007).
She has now turned her research interests to postcolonial narratives of mass displacement and exile with special attention to the liminal figure of the refugee.
Her teaching interests include Anglophone literature and subcontinental language fictions; postcolonial feminist theory; theories of cosmopolitanism, hospitality, nationalism, and secularism; testimony and trauma theory; and discourses of diaspora and exile.