Jigna Desai

My first book Beyond Bollywood (Routledge 2004) demonstrates the centrality of cinema to the formation of South Asian diasporas in North America and Britain. Through analyses of the production, circulation, and reception of diasporic films, I theorize the gender, sexual, and racial formations of diaspora. My research on the globalizing of Bollywood attends to the rise of Bollywood since economic liberalization in India, the corresponding formation and development of new genres such as NRI or Non-Resident Indian films, the transnational circulation and reception of popular Hindi films within diasporas, and the fluid and heterogeneous relationships between Bollywood and its audiences. I move beyond textual analysis of what diaspora means in the films, to understand what the films do in diaspora, i.e., to analyze the presence, function, and influence of Bollywood in diaspora. Additionally, my scholarship focuses on Asian American racial formations and citizenship in post-9/11 America. I examine how certain figures – e.g., (South) Asian American men – are framed as perpetrators of violence and terror to establish and justify the expansion of empire and the security state in the name of protecting of the vulnerable citizen. The essays explore the convergence and conflation of violence, race, and masculinity within media in discussions of Seung-hui Cho at Virginia Tech, the Harold and Kumar film series (in progress), and Tyler Clementi and Dharun Ravi at Rutgers (in progress). Asian Americans in Dixie brings together essays on historical and contemporary migration, community formation, and racialization in the South to reflect the breadth and depth of the Asian American presence in the region. With the emergence and rise of “brain sciences” (psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience), a new set of neural knowledge and technologies (e.g. neuroimaging) is transforming how we identify, understand, and manage personhood and citizenship vis-a-vis conceptions of “normal” and “abnormal” brains. Queer and disability studies have elucidated how “normal” bodies and minds are defined and have demonstrated how “deviance” from these norms marks an abject status by characterizing some individuals as sub-human, bestowing on them a diminished citizenship. By interrogating the proliferation of neural knowledge and how it is intrinsically and increasingly related to the governance of the self, my new research examines how neural knowledge about autism shapes our social, political, and material worlds nationally and transnationally. Consequently, the project raises questions about the meaning of autism and about the ways neural knowledge and neuro-normativity (e.g., the hegemony of "normal brains and cognition") increasingly form and inform societies and citizenship in the new millennium.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • Ph.D.: English, Feminist Studies Minor, University of Minnesota.
  • B.S.: Cognitive Science and Literature, MIT, Cambridge, MA , 1990.
  • B.S.: Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, MIT, Cambridge, MA , 1990.

Curriculum Vitae


  • Asian American literature and media
  • feminist theory
  • postcolonial studies
  • queer/sexuality studies
  • South Asian diasporas
  • critical disability studies, autism, neuronormativity
Courses Taught
  • GWSS 1002 - Politics of Sex
  • GWSS 1004 - Screening Sex
  • GWSS 1902 Bollywood! -- Popular Indian Cinema
  • GWSS 1902 - What's" Normal?" What's Not: A Critical Disability Look at Autism
  • GWSS 3301 Writing Difference
  • GWSS 3409 - Asian American Women's Cultural Production
  • GWSS 4103/5104 - Transnational Feminist Theories
  • GWSS 8490 - Asian American Cultural Criticism
  • GWSS 8250 Nation, State, and Citizenship: On Violence and Normativity
Research & Professional Activities

Professional Activities

  • Chair: 2013 - 2016
  • Director of Undergraduate Studies: 2010 - 2013
  • Visiting Associate Professor: Harvard University , Spring 2009
  • Director of Asian American Studies Program : 2006 - 2008


  • South Asian Diasporic Cinema: Study of the gender and sexual politics of South Asian diasporic public cultures, September 1998 - ongoing
  • Globalization of Bollywood: Study the internationalization of Indian cinema, concentrating on their reception and consumption in the US, September 2001 - ongoing
  • Race and migration in Asian American Studies: Examining masculinity, nation-state, and terror, Fall 2007 - ongoing
  • Transnational Feminist and Queer Critique: theorizing transnational feminisms and queer studies, Fall 1998 - ongoing


  • Performer: Dancing from Shadow, March 2003 - April 2003
  • Poet and Performer: A Wife's Letter, August 2001 - September 2001
  • Negotiating Neoliberalism: Jigna Desai Interviews Pamela Thoma about Asian American Women’s Popular Literature: Desai, Jigna, Pamela Thoma, Genders, 59 , 2014. Link
  • Wound, Injury, and Restoration: Bollywood’s Formations of Global Terror: Desai, Jigna, Rani Neutill, Studies in South Asian Film and Media, 5.2 121-39, 2014. Link
  • The Anxieties of ‘New’ Indian Modernity: Globalization, Diaspora, and Bollywood: Desai, Jigna, Rani Neutill, Blackwell Publishing, A Companion to Diaspora and Transnationalism, 233-48, 2013. Link
  • The Scale of Diasporic Cinema: Negotiating National and Transnational Cultural Citizenship: Desai, Jigna, Routledge, Routledge Handbook on Indian Cinema, 206-17, 2013. Link
  • Asian Americans in Dixie: Race and Migration in the South. Desai, Jigna, Khyati Joshi, University of Illinois Press, Co-Editor, 2013. LinkImage
  • Transnational Feminism and Global Advocacy in South Asia. Desai, Jigna, Gita Rajan, Routledge, Co-Editor, 2012. LinkImage
  • Digital Technology for Feminist Pedagogy: A Useful Method for Learning Key Concepts in a Changing Academic Landscape. Desai, Jigna, Katie Bashore, University of Minnesota Press, Co-Author, 2012. Link
  • Insurgent Cameras and Postcolonial Squibs: Desai, Jigna, Zubaan, Spectacles of Blood: A Study of Masculinity, 2012.
  • Pulp Frictions: Epistemologies of Globalization in Slumdog Millionaire: Desai, Jigna, Routledge, Re-Orientalism and South Asian Identity Politics: The Oriental Other Within, 2011. Link
  • Disavowed Legacies and Honorable Thievery: The Work of the “Transnational” in Feminist and LGBTQ Studies. Desai, Jigna, Danielle Bouchard and Diane Detournay, SUNY Press, Co-Author, 2010.
  • Rajinder Dudrah. Bollywood: A Reader. Open University/McGraw Hill, 2008.
  • Desai, Jigna. "Bollywood, USA: Diasporas, Nations, and the State of Cinema." Transnational South Asians: The Making of a Neo-Diaspora Susan Koshy and R. Radhakrishnan, eds (2008):
  • Pamela Butler. "Manolos Marriage and Mantras: Chick Lit Criticism and Transnational Feminism." Meridians: Feminism, Race, and Transnationalism 8.2 (Nov. 2008): 1-31.
  • Amy Brandzel. "Masculinity, Violence, and Terror: The Cultural Defensibility of Heteronormative Citizenship in the Virginia Tech Massacre and the Don Imus Affair." Journal of Asian American Studies 11.1 (Feb. 2008): 61-85.
  • Desai, Jigna. "Bollywood Abroad: South Asian Diasporic Cosmopolitanism and Indian Cinema." South Asian American Cosmopolitanism Gita Rajan and Shailja Sharma, eds. (2006): 115-137.
  • Rajinder Dudrah, and Amit Rai. South Asian Popular Culture. Special Issue -- Bollywood Audiences. , October 2005.
  • Bouchard, Danielle. "There's Nothing More Debilitating Than Travel:' Locating US Empire in Todd Haynes' Safe." Quarterly Review of Film and Video 22.4 (Oct.-Dec 2005): 359-370.
  • Desai, Jigna, Shilpa Dave, LeiLani Nishime, and Tasha Oren, eds.. "Planet Bollywood: Indian Cinema in Asian America." East Main Street: Asian American Popular Culture (2005): 55-71.
  • Desai, Jigna. Beyond Bollywood: The Cultural Politics of South Asian Diasporic Film. New York : Routledge, 2004.
  • Bollywood, USA: Diasporas, Nations, and the State of Cinema: Desai, Jigna, Oxford University Press, Transnational South Asians: The Making of a Neo-Diaspora, 2008. Link
  • University of Minnesota, All-University Award for Outstanding Graduate and Professional Teaching; Designation as Distinguished Graduate Professor, 2014
  • Association of Asian American Studies Excellence in Mentorship Award , 2013
  • President's Award for Outstanding Service, Univ. of MN, 2007
  • Red Motley Undergraduate Teaching Award, Univ. of MN, 2004