Usha Iyer's research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of cinema, performance, and gender and sexuality studies, with a specific focus on film and performance histories, body cultures, and Global South cultural traffic along the vectors of race, gender, caste, and religion.
Iyer (she/they) is the author of Dancing Women: Choreographing Corporeal Histories of Hindi Cinema (Oxford University Press, 2020), which examines constructions of gender, stardom, sexuality, and spectacle in Hindi cinema through women’s labor, collaborative networks, and gestural genealogies to produce a corporeal history of South Asian cultural modernities. Through a material history of the labor of producing on-screen dance, theoretical frameworks that emphasize collaboration, aesthetic approaches to embodiment, and formal analyses of cine-choreographic "techno-spectacles," Dancing Women offers a variegated, textured history of cinema, dance, and music. The book was awarded the British Association of South Asian Studies (BASAS) Book Prize, and shortlisted for the Oscar G. Brockett Book Prize for Dance Research by the Dance Studies Association.
Iyer’s next book project is an examination of the affective engagements of Caribbean spectators with Indian cinema in relation to discourses of belonging and citizenship that have developed around the histories of African enslavement and Indian indentureship in Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, and Guyana. Examining as well the impact of Caribbean cultural forms on the Indian film industry, the project engages with transnational perspectives on race, ethnicity, performance, and migration to produce a multi-sited analysis of the traffic of sensory, embodied forms of knowledge across informal networks between South Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean.
Iyer's essays have appeared in Camera Obscura, Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, Feminist Media Histories, Bioscope: South Asian Screen Studies, South Asian Popular Culture, edited collections such as Figurations in Indian Film, The Evolution of Song and Dance in Hindi Cinema, Industrial Networks and Cinemas of India, Movies, Moves and Music: The Sonic World of Dance Films, A Companion to Indian Cinema, and are forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of Film Theory, among others. Iyer is Associate Editor of South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies.
Iyer is the Annenberg Faculty Fellow, School of the Humanities and Sciences (2022-2024), and serves as affiliate faculty in Stanford's Center for South Asia, the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE), and in the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (FGSS) program. Their research has been supported by fellowships from The George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation, Stanford Humanities Center, Clayman Institute of Gender Research, CCSRE, FGSS, and Stanford Global Studies.
More information on publications at: https://stanford.academia.edu/UshaIyer)
Queer Cinemas around the World; Love in the Time of Cinema; Decolonizing Theory; Gender & Performance; The Body in Film and other Media; Global Melodrama; Art Cinemas of India; Hollywood/Bollywood; History of World Cinema; Introduction to Film Study, Indian Cinema.
Select Recorded Talks and Interviews
South Asian Studies at Stanford podcast interview, 2020: https://shows.acast.com/south-asian-studies-at-stanford/episodes/usha-iyer-dancing-women
"Folded Corporeal Histories of the 1950s-60s Hindi Film Dancer-Actress" (UC Santa Cruz, Center for South Asian Studies, 2020): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7DtbnT15QE&feature=emb_logo
"Dancer-Actresses as Choreographers of New Mobilities" (Columbia University, South Asia Institute, 2020): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUtuSdX8c3A&t=4381s
Society for Cinema and Media Studies Aca-Media podcast interview, 2019: http://www.aca-media.org/episode50
"Teaching Indian Cinema in Trinidad: Rethinking Globalization Paradigms" (Stanford Global Studies, 2018): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UiXzCU-oo3c&list=PLmsK9JBJBwlI7KmlP6lPAH3-MgD-B5Ih0
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