| In 2002 I received a Shastri Indo-Canadian Fellowship at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema (University of Concordia) and worked on a project on gender, nationalism and media. This project and my research at the University of Concordia were crucial in shaping my classes on gendered nationalisms and the numerous lectures I delivered on the shifting intersections of nationalisms, gender and sexualities across several universities in India. In 2004, I received a Commonwealth Fellowship which allowed me to conduct my research at the Centre for Media Studies, University Sussex. My project on ‘Gendering Media, Mediating Gender’ sought to explore the representational politics of gender within institutionalised media spaces. Subsequently I published numerous essays critiquing the culture industry’s investment in creating a feminine mystique and the politics of its popular consumption. I was also part of curriculum framing committees, where I sought to promote a gender responsive pedagogy while attempting to rectify the gender blindness of canonical literature. In 2019, I received yet another international award in Women’s Studies, the Fulbright Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Award- for both teaching and research. My Fulbright project, which situates itself within the discipline of Women’s Studies, was geared towards new media interventions in the wake of the rise on the world wide web with the formation of active online counterpublics, and its structural influence in shaping new cultures of women’s dissent in digital spaces. I was also awarded a Fulbright Visiting Scholar Outreach Lecturing Fund (OLF), which allowed me to lecture in community colleges like the Ferrum College in Virginia in addition to my lectures at the University of California, Los Angeles. My monograph on women’s digital dissent in India, with special focus on Kerala (manuscript under review with Women Unlimited), is a deep reading of the fraught terrains of gender precarity in India, using the Nirbhaya moment as a critical juncture, and moving on among many other dissent movements to the Kiss of Love campaign in Kerala and the menstrual debates around Sabarimala. My article on “Disciplining the Intimate: The Kerala Model” in the Economic and Political Weekly sought to critique the link between discourses on morality and the maintenance of regimes of power. Another case in point was a significant piece I wrote for the South Asian Review on “Modernity and the Fetishising of Female Chastity: C.V. Raman Pillai and the Anxieties of the Early Malayalam Novel”. These are only examples that point towards my ideological investments in the theory and praxis of Women’s Studies.
|As a member of various Boards of Studies in the state, I was instrumental in introducing Film Studies as part of the academic curriculum in Kerala, both at undergraduate and graduate level. I edited the first ever volume of essays on the representation of women in Malayalam cinema (Orient Blackswan, 2010). Currently I am also working on a pioneering monograph on Malayali masculinities on screen which would be a sequel to my Women in Malayalam Cinema. The British Film Institute has published my essay on “The Feudal Lord Reincarnate: Mohanlal and the Politics of Masculinity in Malayalam Cinema”in their book Indian Film Stars. ed. Michael Lawrence. London: British Film Institute and Bloomsbury, 2020.
Over the years my articles and papers on regional and national cinema have received global acclaim owing to their publication in international journals and publishing houses. My works titled “Bearing Witness: Malayalam Cinema and the Making of Keralam” published by Harper Collins in the book Beyond Bollywood: The Cinemas of South India and the “The Virality of the Male Gaze: The Selfie and Commodification of Women” published by Nova Publishers, New York as part of the Media Anthology and my book “The Missing Look: Women in Malayalam Cinema” published by Orient Blackswan comprise a few representative examples. My most recent contribution to the discipline of film studies would be my paper ‘‘Camera Obscura’ to ‘Camera Dentata’: Women Directors and the Politics of Gender in Malayalam Cinema” in BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies (September 2020), published by Sage, London.
I was a Jury Member of the Kerala State Film Jury, nominated by the government of Kerala, and have also served in numerous other film juries. I was also nominated as Jury Member for the SIGNS Festival on documentaries in 2017 and have acted as selection committee member in several film,documentary and short film festivals in the state. I have also been invited as the director of film festivals and have organised film appreciation courses for the public.
I believe that my engagements with Cultural Studies over the past ten years — ever since I took the initiative in establishing the Centre for Cultural Studies in the University of Kerala in 2010 — has enabled me to pursue academic endeavours that aspire to establish a more egalitarian society. My 2015 essay in ARIEL from John Hopkins University dealt with “Cultural Studies and the Reinvention of English Pedagogy in India”. Prompted by the Cultural Studies dictum that nuanced critical debates can happen in popular forums, I have sought to intervene in the fractious cultural debates of the present in that manner — by writing about the attempted rape on the actress and the ideological implications of the Women in Cinema Collective in the EPW, by being vocal about repressive attempts to stifle academic freedom (which resulted in me resigning from the Board of Studies of the Central University of Kerala), by contributing to various aspects of the IFFK, and by analyzing the social ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As the director and founder of the Centre for Cultural Studies at the University of Kerala, I have been able to play an instrumental role in popularising the discipline in Kerala and helping forge what can be called a Kerala school of Cultural Studies.
When universities all over the world were adopting online modes of education in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to a necessary debate over its implications for the future of public education in global and regional senses, I was able to contribute to this evolving field of discourses in the specific context of Kerala through a series of academic and popular articles, lectures and podcasts in both English and Malayalam languages, between April and June 2020. My article titled “Online Classrooms: Covid Lessons for Public Education” that appeared in The Indian Express on April 28, 2020 was one among the early articles to have triggered critical thinking in this area in the context of Kerala, as it engaged with the possibility of public educational institutions getting transformed into insulated, market and technology-driven spaces in the online mode, detrimental to the inclusion and equal participation of underprivileged students in those spaces. Concerns regarding the shift to the online were further taken up in a public lecture titled “The Shift to Online Classrooms” uploaded on my personal YouTube channel on May 12, 2020, as well as in a conversation with Deccan Herald titled “Digital Education in the Times of Covid-19” that was hosted as part of the Pandemic Podcast on May 24, 2020. An article titled “An Ode to the Classroom” that appeared in Frontline on June 20, 2020 developed the earlier concerns, bringing into debate the potential loss of the connectivities engendered by the physical classroom and its organic fabric, foundational to the civil and egalitarian engagements made possible by them. A series of articles that appeared in TrueCopy Think such as “Digital Pourathwam, Digital Janmithwam” on May 12, 2020, “Digital Pothumandalathile Rashtreeyahimsakal” on June 21, 2020 as well as “Ithu Oru Adhyapikayude Vilapam Mathramayirunnenkil” on June 29, 2020 took up the debates in Malayalam as well. An article titled “P. K. Rosiyude Penmakkal Online Classmurikalil Ethumbol” that appeared in TrueCopy Think on June 4, 2020, written in the context of the cyber-assault faced by women teachers of online school lessons in Kerala, critically engaged with the possibility of classrooms coming under hegemonic visual regimes in the online mode, and sought to take the issues to vernacular readers.