Ranu Samantrai

Ranu Samantrai

Associate Professor, English


  • Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1990
  • A.B., Smith College, 1984

About Ranu Samantrai

My field of research is England in the second half of the twentieth century. I’m interested particularly in the ways that England has been transformed by the presence of postcolonial diasporas, and I study the arts of Black/Asian Britain using the tools of cultural as well as literary analysis. My first book, AlterNatives: Black Feminism in the Post-Imperial Nation (Stanford 2002) takes as its occasion the Black British feminist movement in London in the 1970s and ’80s. Here I propose that we should think of heterogeneity and conflict, rather than homogeneity and consensus, as constitutive of community. This study is situated in the long debate between liberalism, Marxist critical theory and poststructuralism. Though I’m firmly in the last camp I aim to answer criticism of the practical valence of the poststructuralist turn by finding in dissent the key to the radical potential of democracy.

My current project, After Empire: Decolonizing England, represents a turn to literary and aesthetic concerns. This study is motivated by the question of what happens to imperial formations when the conditions of their existence become obsolete. As the glue of the English collective, imperialism informed national structures of feeling, attachments to locality, even gendered identities. I look to constellations of literary and visual artifacts drawn from high and popular culture—novels, films, monuments, photography—to examine how artists grapple with the residue of imperial Englishness and attempt to rearticulate its fundamental tropes of homeland, heritage, and folk. Thus England functions as a test case to further our understanding of the transition from an imperial to a national to a transnational world.

My teaching falls into three broad categories:

  • the arts--fiction, drama, film--of England in the second half of the twentieth century;
  • postcolonial, diasporic, and emergent world literatures;
  • twentieth century intellectual history, especially cultural studies, poststructuralism, and feminist theory

Journal Articles and Other Publications

"Sermon and Spectacle: J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls." Modern Drama60.2 (June 2017): 212-30.

"Sedentary and Mobile Poetics: Paul Gilroy and the Aesthetics of Postcolonial Theory." Retrieving the Human: Reading Paul Gilroy. Ed. Rebecka Rutledge Fisher and Jay Garcia. SUNY Press, 2015. 131-60.

"History’s Subjects: Forming the Nation in Andrea Levy’s Small Island." Identity and Form in Contemporary Literature. Ed. Ana María Sánchez-Arce. Routledge, 2013. 70-86.

"A Memorial to Octavia E. Butler." Co-authored with De Witt Douglas Kilgore. Science Fiction Studies 37.3 (November 2010): 353-61.

"Justice Without Truth?" Interdisciplinarity and Social Justice: Revisioning Academic Accountability, co-edited with Joe Parker and Mary Romero. SUNY Press, 2010. 353-62.

"Who Needs the Subaltern?" Scriptures: A Complex Social-Cultural Phenomenon. Ed. Vincent Wimbush. Rutgers University Press, 2008. 278-283.

"Cosmopolitan Cartographies: Art in a Divided World." Meridians: Feminism Race, Transnationalism 4.2 (Fall 2004): 164-91.

"Continuity or Rupture? An Argument for Secular Britain." Social Text 64 (Fall 2000): 105-21.

"Claiming the Burden: Naipaul’s Africa." Research in African Literatures 31.1 (Spring 2000): 50-62.

"The Conditions of Democracy: Pluralism, Conflict and Crisis." Studies in International Relations XXIV (Vienna, 1999): 49-58.

"Weapons of Culture: Collective Identity and Cultural Production." REAL: Yearbook of Research in English and American Literature 14 (Tübingen, 1998): 131-48.

"States of Belonging: Pluralism, Migrancy, Literature." Essays on Canadian Writing 56 (1995): 33-50.

"‘Caught at the Confluence of History’: Ama Ata Aidoo’s Necessary Nationalism." Research in African Literatures 26.2 (1995): 140-57.