Professor Ananya Jahanara Kabir is a literary and cultural historian with interests spanning music, dance, film, the visual arts, academic discourse, and literature, and invested in examining what these forms of cultural production can tell us about global modernity.
Professor Kabir studied at the Universities of Calcutta, Oxford, and Cambridge before taking up a Prize Research Fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge (1997-2001). After further postdoctoral fellowships at Clare Hall, Cambridge, and the Centre for History and Economics, then at King’s College, Cambridge (2001-2003), she spent ten years (2003-2013) at the School of English, University of Leeds. In 2011, she was appointed Professor of the Humanities at the School. She joined the Department of English at King’s College in April 2013.
Between 2005 and 2011, Professor Kabir was co-investigator or lead investigator in collaborative projects funded through the AHRC and ESRC’s large research programmes (Diasporas and Migrations: Religion and Society). As one of the first AHRC Knowledge Transfer Fellows, she co-curated the multi-sited art exhibition ‘Kismet and Karma: South Asian Women Artists Respond to Conflict’. In 2011, she was awarded a British Academy/Leverhulme Senior Research Fellowship to complete a monograph on the Partition of India. During 2013-18 she will lead a research project on Afro-Diasporic rhythm cultures and modernity (www.modernmoves.org.uk), funded by a European Research Council Advanced Grant.
Research Interests and PhD Supervision
For her MPhil and doctoral research, Professor Kabir worked with Old English, Old Norse and Latin. Her South Asian research draws on her native Bengali and fluent Hindi, while her work on kinetic transnationalism is enabled by advanced level Spanish, intermediate French and German, passable Portuguese (which she is improving), and immersion in Latin American and African couple dance forms. Her early training in the European Early Middle Ages left her with a love of linguistic and disciplinary border-crossing which she has taken forward to diverse areas. Increasingly, Professor Kabir’s research integrates her different interests to ask some big questions: what is modernity when we ask the question from outside Europe? How do different diasporas relate to each other in transnational times? How can we historicise knowledge production from a global perspective - including historical periodisation and the differentiation of academic disciplines within the Humanities? How do we negotiate between the general and the particular in writing about the 20th century’s collective traumas? How can we take pleasure and enjoyment seriously within academic analysis?
Professor Kabir enjoys supervising students with an interest in and ability to cross genres and languages of cultural production. She welcomes applications from prospective doctoral students who want to pursue unconventional approaches to the cultural and memory politics of contemporary South Asia and its diasporas, particularly the older labour diasporas; the latter’s contact with African heritage populations; medievalism and Empire, and postcolonial approaches to Philology.
For more details, please see her full research profile.
Expertise and Public Engagement
Professor Kabir’s research on conflict in South Asia has relied heavily on conversations with contemporary visual artists. Through an AHRC Knowledge Transfer Fellowship (2007-2010) she collaborated with external partners and artists in Britain and South Asia to curate the exhibition, Between Kismet and Karma: South Asian Women Artists Respond to Conflict, which unfolded in multiple sites nationwide throughout 2010.
She frequently speaks on the cultural politics of the Kashmir conflict in India, the United States and Britain, and is invested in engaging with emergent cultural producers from all parts of Kashmir and its British diaspora.
Her new project, ‘Modern Moves’, will engage with a transnational cross-section of DJs, musicians, dancers and dance photographers in order to explore the themes of vivacity, kinetic pleasure, modernity and ‘swag’. In course of this project she is already advisor to several Afro-Latin dance festivals worldwide, including the Salsa Addicted Festival (Timisoara, Romania), The Exalta Afro Festival (Sao Paulo, Brazil), and the Berlin Salsa Congress.