Richa Nagar

Richa Nagar (born 1968, in Lucknow, India) is a scholar, writer, educator, and theatre-worker who is Professor of the College in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota. Nagar makes multi-lingual and multi-genre contributions to transnational feminism, social geography, critical development studies, and critical ethnography. Her research has encompassed a range of topics including: politics of space, identity and community among communities of South Asian origin in Tanzania; questions of empowerment in relation to grass-roots struggles in the global South, principally with the Sangtin Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan (SKMS) in Sitapur District, India; the politics of language and social fracturing in the context of development and neo-liberal globalization; and creative praxis that uses collaboration, co-authorship, and translation to blur the borders between academic, activist, and artistic labor. She was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford in 2005-2006 and at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Advanced Study (JNIAS) at New Delhi in 2011-2012 [1][2][3][4][5][6]

Work on the Politics of Place and Identity among 'Asians' in Tanzania

Richa Nagar's historical, geographical, and feminist exploration of the politics of place, identity, and community among 'Asians' in Tanzania is based on a "large number of life histories as well as participant observation" among Hindus, Khoja Shia Ithna Asheris, Goans and Sikhs, chiefly in the city of Dar es Salaam.[7][8] This body of work is "significant for its geographical focus"[9] and "provides a useful and very necessary corrective to the misperceptions"[10] that "construct[ed] all Asians as a monolithic category."[11] It highlights how "processes at multiple scales intersect and shape the negotiation of geographic and social space among different diasporic South Asian groups in their neighborhoods"[12] while also "explor[ing] many relevant dimensions of the researcher-narrator relationship...[Nagar attends] to the processes involved in navigating within and across Dar's many Asian and African communities, with their particular spaces, boundaries, markers of identity, and hierarchies of power."[13]

Coauthoring Across Research and Activism

In 2004, Nagar published with eight rural women activists or Sangtins, the Hindi book, Sangtin Yatra[14] which refers to a "journey of solidarity, reciprocity, and enduring friendship."[15] The eight activists—Anupamlata, Ramsheela, Reshma Ansari, Richa Singh, Shashibala, Shashi Vaish, Surbala, and Vibha Bajpayee—collaborated with Richa Nagar to explore questions of power, location, and difference in their own lives through personal storytelling, while also engaging with issues of inequity and discrimination in NGOs that seek to empower poor rural women in the global south.[16] This discussion of NGOs triggered a backlash against the authors, which is examined in the English version of the book, Playing with Fire: Feminist Thought and Activism Through Seven Lives in India (2006). Playing with Fire "challenges academic protocol and activist verities alike" and "grapples with creative solutions, such as upending hierarchies of skill and knowledge in organizations, as well as means to fight organizational dependency on donors...Every chapter makes for fascinating reading as the women emerge in their complexity, in their specificity, and in their international context that still includes outside donors driven by their own interests."[17] The book "asks us to think in radically new ways about responsibility, access, research, agency, authorship, subjects, and audience. It contributes to the vibrant discourse on the politics of research particularly between the ‘north’ and ‘south’ [and] pushes at the boundaries of this discourse as it demonstrates different ways of engaging in collaborative work that challenges the separation between ‘the academy’ and ‘political organizing’."[18][19]

The debates triggered by Sangtin Yatra and Playing with Fire helped to build Sangtin Kisaan Mazdoor Sangathan or the Sangtin Farmers and Laborers Organization (SKMS) in the Mishrikh and Pisawan blocks of Sitapur District of Uttar Pradesh.. Nagar's book with Richa Singh in Hindi, Ek Aur Neemsaar: Sangtin Atmamanthan Aur Andolan (2012) tells the story of the birth and growth of SKMS. Playing with Fire and Sangtin Yatra have been translated into Turkish as Ateşle Oynamak: Hindistan'da Yedi Yaşam Üzerinden Feminist Düşünce ve Eylem (Ayizi Kitap, 2011) and into Marathi as Ageeshee Khelataana: Saat Stree Karyakartancha Sahpravaas (Manovikas Prakashan, 2015).

In Muddying the Waters: Coauthoring Feminisms Across Scholarship and Activism, (2014), Richa Nagar examines coauthorship as a mode of sharing authority. The book "emerges out of the difficulties and (im)possibilities encountered in the creation of politically meaningful scholarship that inevitably crosses multiple borders. Those between academia and social movements, academic and nonacademic writing, or geographical and linguistic borders...Nagar’s work is a call for politically engaged and ethical research that takes matters of epistemic violence seriously. For the author, such research cannot shy away from the tensions, risks and challenges involved in the building of solidarities and alliances between researchers and the researched ‘on the ground.’ These ‘situated solidarities’ are achievable when activists and scholars speak with each other to become ‘radically vulnerable’ through trust, affect and critical reflexivity without losing sight of their institutional, material and geopolitical positions."[20][21]

Books in English

Books in Hindi

Articles on Collaboration, Friendships, and Radical Vulnerability in Research and Alliance Work

Articles on Globalization, Development, and Questions of Empowerment

Articles on Politics of Identity, Place, and Community among 'Asians' in Tanzania


  1. "Prof Richa Nagar: College of Liberal Arts". University of Minnesota. Retrieved 2016-05-24.
  2. Poets, Desirée "Book Review: Nagar, Richa (2014).Muddying the Waters: CoauthoringFeminisms across Scholarship and Activism." Journal of Narrative Politics. Vol. 2 (2) 2016. (Retrieved 2016-05-24)
  3. "Desiring Alliance and Complex Translations in Activist Research: An Interview with Richa Nagar". Class War University.
  4. "Editor's Interview with Richa Nagar." Journal of Narrative Politics. Vol. 2 (2) 2016. (Retrieved 2016-05-24)
  7. Mary Jo Maynes, Jennifer L. Pierce, Barbara Laslett, 2008, Telling Stories: The Use of Personal Narratives in the Social Sciences and History, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, p. 102
  9. Patterns of Urban Life and Urban Segregation in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania by Sarah L. Smiley, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Kansas, 2007, p. 213.
  10. Laura Fair, 2001, Pastimes and Politics: Culture, Community, and Identity in Postabolition Urban Zanzibar, 1890-1945, Athens: Ohio University Press. p. 306.
  11. Ronald Aminzade, 2013, Race, Nation, and Citizenship in Postcolonial Africa, New York: Cambridge University Press, p. 321.
  12. Maggi W. H. Leung, 2003, Notions of Home among Diaspora Chinese in Germany, in eds, Laurence J. C. Ma and Carolyn L. Cartier, The Chinese Diaspora: Space, Place, Mobility, and Identity, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, p. 241.
  13. Mary Jo Maynes, Jennifer L. Pierce, Barbara Laslett, 2008, Telling Stories: The Use of Personal Narratives in the Social Sciences and History, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, p. 102
  15. Salma Ismail, 2009, Review, Feminist Africa, Vol 13, p. 133-136
  16. Ibid. Authors meet Critics: A set of reviews and response. Geraldine Pratt; Rupal Oza, Gillian Hart, Matthew Sparke, Sharad Chari, Social & Cultural Geography, 2008, 9: 2: 213-226.
  17. Elisabeth Armstrong, NWSA Journal, 2008, p. 230
  18. Rupal Oza, "Challenging the Victim-Recsuer Framework in Playing with Fire," Social and Cultural Geography, 2008, 9: 2: 214.
  19. See also
  20. Desirée Poets, 2016, Book Review, Journal of Narrative Politics, 2:2:176.
  21. In 2015, Muddying the Waters: Coauthoring Feminisms Across Scholarship and Activism received Gloria Anzaldua Book Prize's Honorable Mention.
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