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Asha Varadharajan


My research and pedagogy have been driven by inveterate and eclectic curiosities, a delight in speculation, a low boredom threshold and a rather old-fashioned belief in erudition. These principles have resulted in undergraduate teaching across the department’s core curriculum—from Shakespeare to Soyinka—and in developing new offerings in African-American literatures and cultures, Australian literature and cinema, cross-cultural and multi-media adaptations of Shakespeare, and modern and contemporary women writers (online). I take a contrapuntal approach to decolonizing canon and curriculum. My graduate seminars are generally designed to address problems that shape modernity or to develop modes of being and reflection designed to alter the worlds we inhabit. My most recent graduate seminars have discussed the refugee crisis, creolization and syncretism, and the Black Lives Matter movement.

My current research focuses on forced migration and involuntary displacement. I have forthcoming book chapters on trauma and refugee narratives and on the “denizen” rather than the “citizen.” I have presented papers on dignity, distress and care at the UNESCO-RILA Spring School, Glasgow, and on the bane and dream of belonging at NIAS, Amsterdam. My vigorous cross-disciplinary collaborations with political scientists on the war in Afghanistan, with lawyers on the deportation of refugees, and with a colleague in the Smith School of Business on neo-colonialism and corporate social responsibility have been exciting and illuminating. To remind myself that I am a literary scholar and pedagogue, I have co-authored forthcoming essays for Oxford Bibliographies and for Teaching Anglophone South Asian Diasporic Literature (MLA).

Research Interests

Studies in Forced Migration and Involuntary Displacement; Necropolitics; Violence, Human Rights and Humanitarian Intervention; Decolonizing Cultures, Institutions and Pedagogies; Adorno and the Legacy of the Frankfurt School; Global Cinema; Race, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

Selected Publications
  • “‘The Wordshop of the Kitchen’: Impressions of Austin Clarke and Paule Marshall.” ‘Membering Austin Clarke. Ed. Paul Barrett. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2020. 98-108.
  • “Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me”: Rethinking the Humanities in (Times of) Crisis.” With Jeremy De Chavez. Special Issue of Critical Arts: South-North Cultural and Media Studies. Guest Editor Pier Paolo Frassinelli. 2019.
  • “Straight from the Heart”: A Pedagogy for the Vanquished of History.” Decolonisation and Feminisms in Global Teaching and Learning. Eds. Sara de Jong, Rosalba Icaza, and Olivia Rutazibwa. London: Routledge, 2018.
  • “‘ideas with broken wings’: Critical Theory and postcolonial theory.” The SAGE Handbook of Frankfurt School Critical Theory. 3 vols. Eds. Beverley Best, Neil Larsen, Werner Bonefeld and Chris O’Kane. London: Sage Publishing, 2018. 1398-1416.
  • “How to Kick Ass when Life’s a Bitch”: A Human Rights Bulletin from India.” The Social Work of Narrative: Human Rights and the Cultural Imaginary. Eds. Gareth Griffiths and Philip Mead. Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag/Columbia University Press, 2018. 139-161.
  • “‘The world is spoilt in the white man’s time’: Imagining Postcolonial Temporalities.” With Tim Wyman-McCarthy. After Colonial Governmentality: Biopolitics and Memory in the Postcolony. Ed. Michael Griffiths. Ashgate Press, 2016. 103-121.
  • “‘half sick of shadows’: Figure and Ground in Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s Imagination of the Subaltern.” Cultural Studies 30.4 (2016): 730-753. Special Issue, Relocating Subalternity: Scattered Speculations on the Conundrum of a Concept. Eds. Sara de Jong and Jamila Mascat.
  • “Michael Ignatieff, Romeo Dallaire, Stephen Lewis, and the Making(s) of a Canadian Global Conscience.” University of Toronto Quarterly. 82.2 (Spring 2013): 352-374. Special Issue, Canadian Literature and the Politics of Representation and Empathy: Writing the Foreign in Canadian Literature and Humanitarian Narrative. Guest Editor, Smaro Kamboureli.
  • “Between Securocratic Historiography and the Diasporic Imaginary: Framing the Transnational Violence of Air India Flight 182.” With Raji Singh Soni. TOPIA: Journal of Canadian and Cultural Studies 27 (Spring 2012): 177-195. Refereed. Feature section, Air India Flight 182: A Canadian Tragedy?
  • “Subjectivity.” Intercultural Discourse - Key and Contested Concepts. Eds. Monika Kirloskar-Steinbach, Gita Dharampal-Frick, and Minou Friele (Hg.). Verlag Karl Alber, 2012. 112-121.
  • “The Language of the Unrequited: Memory, Aspiration, and Antagonism in the Utopian Imagination of Edward Said.” Edward Said: A Legacy of Emancipation and Representation. Eds. Adel Iskandar and Hakem Rustom. University of California at Berkeley Press, 2010. 448-462.
  • “Nick Hornby” in Twentieth-Century British Humourists. Ed. Paul Matthew St. Pierre. Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol.352. Detroit: Gale, 2010. 103-111.
  • “Eric Idle” in Twentieth-Century British Humourists. Ed. Paul Matthew St. Pierre. Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol.352. Detroit: Gale, 2010. 125-134.
  • “Hanif Kureishi” in Twentieth-Century British Humourists. Ed. Paul Matthew St. Pierre. Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol.352. Detroit: Gale, 2010. 142-153.
  • “Unsettling the Legacy of Harold Bloom’s Anxiety of Influence.” Modern Language Quarterly 69.4 (December 2008): 461-80. Special issue ed. Andrew Elfenbein.
  • “Afterword: The Phenomenology of Violence and the Politics of Becoming.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East 28.1 (2008): 124-141. Special Issue. Eds. Nouri Gana and Heike Harting entitled “Narrative Violence: Africa and the Middle East.”
  • Exotic Parodies: Subjectivity in Adorno, Said, and Spivak. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995.
Awards and Recognition
Project Lead on eCampus Ontario $90,000 grant to develop an online open-access course on Race, Migration and Nation, 2021.
Principal’s Promoting Student Inquiry Teaching Award, 2021.
IASH-SSPS Visiting Research Fellowship, University of Edinburgh, 2019.
Graduate Supervision

Studies in Cosmopolitanism; Creolization; Mourning and Melancholia; "Tripping"; Love, Nostalgia, and Affect; Nation and Narration; Crowds and Processions; Hardboiled Detective Fiction; The Discourse of Mental Health; Agape and Emancipation; Authorship in the Age of Terror; Cynicism and Modernity; The Travails of Whiteness; Maimed and Dead Dogs in the American Cultural Imaginary; Contemporary Travel Writing.

Additional Information

Department of English, Queen's University

Watson Hall
49 Bader Lane
Kingston ON K7L 3N6

Telephone (613) 533-2153


Telephone (613) 533-6000 ext. 74446 extension 74446


Telephone (613) 533-6000 ext. 74447 extension 74447

Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.