Sneha Krishnan joined the School of Geography and the Environment at Oxford as an Associate Professor in 2018. She is also a Tutorial Fellow at Brasenose College.
Sneha is a feminist historical and cultural geographer, whose work asks how childhood and youth are materialised in entanglement with the enduring power of imperialism. She is currently writing a book about women's hostels in Southern India, and has ongoing projects on gender and archival practice, and on geographies of homemaking. Her work has been published most recently in Gender Place and Culture, Antipode and Social and Cultural Geography. She has also coedited a special issue of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, as well as a forthcoming special issue of Antipode.
Sneha is also a coordinator of the Political Worlds Research Cluster with Amber Murrey.
Book in Progress: In Gilded Cages: Hostels, Girlhood and Colonial Modernity in South India.
In Gilded Cages is a book about hostels for girls as material expressions of enduring coloniality in urban India. By the late 19th century in India, hostels became a key institutional form through which colonial projects of philanthropy and social reform engaged their subjects. While the majority of these accommodated young men, the focus of this book is on hostels that housed young women. These institutions, I argue, normalized carceral discipline as integral to the project of modern self-making in which they engaged their residents. What justified this carceral regime was a racialized discourse that framed Indian girlhood and its sexuality as a problem. This colonial 'problem' of Indian sexuality has been widely studied by historians of the region. This book shifts that conversation away from its focus on either the marriage and the middle-class home, or spaces of social abandonment such as brothels, lock hospitals and prisons, to address hostels as a key site of convergence for modernizing projects in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The book's main contribution is in locating debates on colonial carcerality not only in zones of social abandonment where they have been previously studied, but at the heart of middle-class life. In this, my work cultivates a dialogue between geographies of carcerality and those of domesticity and home.
How is 'gender' constituted in the archive? What relation does 'gender' bear to Empire and to cultures of travel and mobility, as well as to projects of education, literacy and self-making? This collaboration represents an effort to engage these questions while asking how digitization shapes contemporary engagements with 'gender' in colonial contexts, particularly that of South Asia. We ask these questions as we seek to acquire for the catalogues of Bodleian Digital (Oxford) and University of Pennsylvania Libraries the papers of two women whose lives bookend Britain's imperial presence in India. The papers of Sharaf-un-Nisa Begum (left) tell a story of encounter of one temporal end of the British Empire in India. Begum married an Englishman and traveled to Devonshire in 1770 and lived the remainder of her life among the British Aristocracy. The papers of Dorothy de la Hey (right) an educator who went out to India in 1914 and established the first women's college in Southern India are indicative of a history of encounter between Indian and British women within the uneven context of colonial rule.
For further details, including events and publications, please see the Unstable Archives website.
Sneha lectures on the Human Geography, Geographical Controversies and Geographical Techniques modules for the Preliminary Examination, and on the Space Place and Society and Geographical Thought modules for the Final Honours School. She also teaches an option course for third years on Childhood and Youth in the Global South.
At Brasenose, Sneha offers tutorials in these modules, as well as in Environmental Geography. She welcomes enquiries from undergraduates interested in writing dissertations in feminist, queer and post/decolonial geography, and on childhood and youth.
Sneha teaches an elective on 'Colonial Histories of Nature' open to students on all taught postgraduate programmes in the department. She also welcomes enquiries on supervision from MSc and MPhil students who are interested in questions of coloniality, and biopolitics, as well as in feminist geography.
Sneha currently co-supervises two DPhil students at Oxford and is on the Dissertation Committee of a PhD Candidate at Rutgers University in New Jersey. She welcomes enquiries from graduate students with interests in the following broadly defined fields: feminist/queer studies, geographies of race, gender and sexuality, geo- and biopolitics, childhood and youth, colonial and postcolonial geographies, South Asia.
- Krishnan, S. (2020) Scooty girls are safe girls: risk, respectability and brand assemblages in urban India. Social and Cultural Geography: 1-19.
- Krishnan, S. (2020) Where do good girls have sex? Space, risk and respectability in Chennai. Gender, Place and Culture.
- Krishnan, S. (2019) Killing Us Slowly: Pre‐Empting Suicide at a Women’s Hostel in Chennai. Antipode, 51(5): 1515-1533.
- Krishnan, S. (2019) Speaking from other demonic bases of partiality. Dialogues in Human Geography.
- Krishnan, S. (2018) Clubbing in the afternoon: Worlding the city as a college-girl in Chennai. City, Culture and Society.
- Krishnan, S. (2018) Doing Nothing: Gender, Respectability and Playing with Time. Voices: Journal of the Association for Feminist Anthropology, 13(1): 62-73.
- Chatterjee, E., Krishnan, S. and Robb, M.E. (2017) Feeling Modern: The History of Emotions in Urban South Asia. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 27(4): 539-557.
- Gooptu, N. and Krishnan, S. (2017) Tension. South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 40(2): 404-406.
- Krishnan, S. (2017) Agency, intimacy, and rape jokes: an ethnographic study of young women and sexual risk in Chennai. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 22(1): 67-83.
- Krishnan, S. (2017) Anxious Notes on College Life: The Gossipy Journals of Eleanor McDougall. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 27(4): 575-589.
Special / Edited Collections
- Gergan, M., Krishnan, S., Smith, S. and Young, S. (forthcoming) Special issue 'Young People as Agents of Decolonization'. Antipode.
- Robb, M., Chatterjee, E. and Krishnan, S. (2017) Special edition 'Urban Emotions: Responses to the South Asian City, c. 1850 – 1950'. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 27(4).
- Krishnan, S. (forthcoming) Bodies, Embodiment and Feeling. In, Barclay, K. and Stearns, P. (eds.) The Routledge History of Emotions in the Modern World. Routledge, London.
- Krishnan, S. (2020) Children/Childhood. In, Kobayashi, A. (ed.) The International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (Second Edition). Elsevier, London. pp. 167-172.
- Krishnan, S. (2020) Dreaming of Addis Ababa: In the Afterlives of Inter-War Christian Internationalism. In, Silva, K. and Franz, M. (eds.) Migration, Identity, and Belonging: Defining Borders and Boundaries of the Homeland. Routledge, New York.
- Krishnan, S. (2018) Bitch don’t be a lesbian: Selfies, Selves and Same-Sex Desire. In, Dasgupta, R. and Dasgupta, D. (eds.) Queering Digital India: Activisms, Identities, Subjectivities. Oxford University Press, New York. pp. 151-164.
- Krishnan, S. (2018) Style-ish Girls and Local Boys: Young Women and Fashion in Chennai. In, Lewis, R., Begum, L. and Dasgupta, R. (eds.) Styling South Asian Youth Cultures: Fashion, Media and Society. IB Tauris, London.
- Krishnan, S. (2014) Responding to Rape: Feminism and Young Middle-Class Women in India. In, Alston, M. (ed.) Women, Political Struggles and Gender Equality in South Asia. Palgrove Macmillan, Basingstoke. pp. 19-32.
- Krishnan, S. (2020) Merit Must Fall. Public Books, October 2020.
- Krishnan, S. (2020) Radical Object: A Colonial Schoolboy's Report Card. History Workshop Online, October 2020.
- Bligh, A. and Ware, G. (2019) Women, Gender and Love: India Tomorrow Part 4. The Conversation. (The Anthill - podcast produced by The Conversation UK, includes interview with Sneha Krishnan).
- Krishnan, S. (2019) On Old Questions that Remain Important. In Plainspeak, May 2019.
- Krishnan, S. (2018) Gay but not Homosexual: Issue in Focus - Gender, Sexuality and Performance. Plainspeak: A Digital Magazine on Sexuality in the Global South.
- Krishnan, S. (2015) The Labour Party’s Modi Problem: Ahead of the Indian Prime Minister’s Visit. Oxford Left Review.