Harshita Mruthinti Kamath

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Harshita Mruthinti Kamath

Assistant Professor

EDUCATION

Ph.D., Emory University
M.T.S., Harvard Divinity School
B.A., Emory University

RESEARCH INTERESTS

  • South Asian Religious Texts and Practices
  • Gender and Feminist Theory
  • Performance and Ethnography
  • Critical Dance Historiography

PROFESSIONAL BIOGRAPHY

My research focuses on the textual and performance traditions of Telugu-speaking South India in conversation with theoretical discourses on gender and sexuality in South Asia. As an interdisciplinary scholar of South Asian religions, I incorporate a broad array of methodologies in my research and teaching, including critical gender theory, ethnography, performance studies, and textual analysis.

My book, Im/personations: The Artifice of Brahmin Masculinity in Contemporary South India, centers on an insular community of Smarta brahmin men from the Kuchipudi village in Telugu-speaking South India who are required to don the stri-vesam (woman’s guise) and impersonate female characters from Hindu religious narratives. By shifting across village, urban, and transnational spaces, I show how normative ideals of gender, caste, and sexuality are maintained through the embodied practice of impersonation, the term I use to indicate the donning of a gender guise (vesam). Ultimately, I argue that impersonation is not simply a gender performance circumscribed to the Kuchipudi stage, but a practice of power that enables hegemonic constructions of brahmin masculinity in quotidian village life.

As part of my research in South India, I have completed the first English-language translation of the sixteenth century classical Telugu text Parijatapaharanamu (Theft of a Tree) with Telugu scholar Velcheru Narayana Rao (Emory University). Theft of a Tree tells the story of Krishna’s theft of the divine parijata tree from the garden of Indra, the king of the gods. Our translation will be published by Harvard University Press as part of the Murty Classical Library of India.

At UNC, I teach courses on Religions of South Asia, Gender Theory and the Study of Religion, Asian Religions, and Dance in South Asia.

Awards

  • Wabash Center Teaching and Learning Workshop for Early Career Religion Faculty of Asian and Pacific Islander Descent, 2017-2018
  • UNC Performing Arts Special Activities Fund, 2017-2018
  • AAUW American Fellowship Publication Grant, 2016–2017
  • Faculty Feminist of the Year, Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Study Program, Middlebury College, 2014

PUBLICATION HIGHLIGHTS

Theft of a Tree. Translation of Parijatapaharanamu by Nandi Timmana. With Velcheru Narayana Rao. Murty Classical Library of India. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, forthcoming.

“Constructing Bodied, Embodied, and Disembodied Selves: A Theory of Performative Selfhood in the Context of South Indian Performance.” The Body in South Asian Religions, edited by Barbara Holdrege and Karen Pechilis. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2016.

“Dancing the Divine Female: Diasporic Women’s Encounters with the Hindu Goddess through Indian Classical Dance.” Journal of Asian American Studies 9:3 (2006): 271-299.