Dr Shameem Black

BA, Yale University, PhD, Stanford University
Fellow, Department of Gender, Media and Cultural Studies, School of Culture, History and Language
College of Asia & the Pacific

Research interests

Globalization, literature, and culture; India and its diaspora; 20th and 21st-century postcolonial literature; yoga and mindfulness; gender studies and feminist critique; reconciliation and humanitarian crisis


I joined the Australian National University from the United States, where I received my PhD from Stanford University and served as an Assistant Professor of postcolonial literature in the English Department at Yale University. My work focuses on globalization, culture, and ethics in contemporary Anglophone fiction, with particular attention to India, South Asian diasporas, and the cultural work of English in Asia. In all of my research, I’m concerned to understand the significance of cosmopolitan encounters in our contemporary world.

My book, Fiction Across Borders: Imagining the Lives of Others in Late Twentieth-Century Novels (Columbia University Press, 2010), shows how novels from different parts of the world try to represent socially diverse people and places without stereotyping, idealizing, or exoticizing them. This book challenges core models of reading that dominate postcolonial studies, and suggests how scholars, in partnership with fiction writers, might begin to articulate new approaches to the problem of representing those considered "others."

My subsequent project, a series of essays, explores a global body of literature concerned with the problems of reconciliation after mass conflict. Focusing on an era of international courts, truth commissions, political apologies, and commemorative work, these essays investigate how literature from the turn of the millennium contributes to process of social restoration. In particular, my work explores how people considered “outsiders” to mass conflict might have a role to play in grappling with its aftermath.

While my first love is the novel, my publications have examined cosmopolitanism, sympathy, and the ethics of representation not only in postcolonial fiction but also in nontraditional literary spaces such as cookbooks and microfinance websites. My essays have appeared in Public Culture, South Asia, Social Text, and other journals. I am a Fellow in the Higher Education Academy.

Researcher's projects

Yoga promotes flexibility – and not just for those in downward dogAs India rises in economic clout and global standing, my current book project, Flexible India, argues that cultural visions of yoga offer a cipher for changing ideals of Indianness in the world. This book takes yoga as a lens to understand key contradictions in twenty-first-century ideas of “India” and “Indianness, especially in the context of national soft power aspirations, expanding capitalist practices, international migrations, and political violence.   This work not only illuminates changing ideas of the Indian nation in an international context, but also suggests how the humanities can contribute to a broader understanding of the rise of Asia.

Current student projects

Geoff Piggott, PhD thesis (Primary Supervisor): cricket and India-Australia relations

Myra Mentari Abubakar, PhD thesis (Primary Supervisor): female heroism in Indonesia

Tayyaba Malik, PhD thesis (Primary Supervisor): Muslim women’s activism in Islamist parties

Rosanna Stevens, PhD thesis (Primary Supervisor): decolonial approaches to creative writing

Bianca Hennessy, PhD thesis (Associate Supervisor): Decolonising Epistemology: Pacific Studies as a Va'a in the Va

Vihanga Perera, PhD thesis (Associate Supervisor): Sri Lankan narratives of Emergency

Shwetal Pares, PhD thesis (Associate Supervisor): vernacular nationalism in Gujarati literature

Sarah Zwartz, PhD thesis (Associate Supervisor): Royal Commission narratives of child sexual abuse

Ben Langley, PhD thesis (Associate Supervisor): Indian international relations with China

Qiong He, PhD thesis (Associate Supervisor): trauma, space and time in modernist literature

Past student projects

Stella Jang, PhD thesis (Associate Supervisor): "Migrant Wives in Korea"

Zara Shehzad (visiting PhD scholar, Qaid-i-Azam University): gender and imperialism in Pakistani women’s groups

Ashma Sharma, PhD thesis (Associate Supervisor): "Contemporary Postcolonial Life Writing by the South Asian Diaspora"

Anuparna Mukherhee, PhD thesis (Associate Supervisor): "'The Dust of Time': The Haunted City and the Legacy of Nostalgia'"

Annie McCarthey, PhD thesis (Associate Supervisor): "Under Development: Stories of Children and NGOs in Delhi, India"

Elen Turner, PhD thesis (Associate Supervisor): South Asian feminist publishing 

Melissa Jogie, PhD thesis (Associate Supervisor): "The Great Tradition of Texts: How To Break the Mould? A Study of English Education in Australia and England"

Joanne Ryan, PhD thesis (associate supervisor): "Mapping Modernity: Cultural Memory and the Mythology of Istanbul in Poetry of the Turkish Republic"

Isabelle Wentworth, Honours (Primary Supervisor): "Camus and Asperger's Syndrome"

Queenie Siu, Master's thesis (Primary Supervisor): Chinese-Korean tourism

Zoe Zhou, Master's thesis (Primary Supervisor): Chinese and Western representations of Tibet

Edward Blaxell, Honours (Primary Supervisor): "Voyeurism, Intrusion and Aggression: The Courtship Narratives of Modern Masala"

Radium Mardia, Honours (Primary Supervisor): "Freedom from Disgrace: A Reconstruction of Choice and Representation in J.M. Coetzee's Novel"

Jennifer Eadie, Honours (Primary Supervisor): "The Least Body of the Condemned Man: Discipline and Punishment in J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace"

Anna Torrington, Directed Reading (Primary Supervisor): "Lesbian Studies in Taiwan"

Oliver Friedman, PhB Advanced Study course (Primary Supervisor): "New Age Practices, Indigeneity, and Cultural Appropriation"

Vincent Chiang, PhB Advanced Studies Course (Primary Supervisor): "Asian Australian and Asian American Literature"

Nicholas Fenech, Summer Scholar (Co-Supervisor): "Travel, Ethics and Memory in the Work of W.G. Sebald"


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