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Ranjana Khanna is an associate professor in the Department of English and the Program in Literature and an affiliate in women's studies at Duke University. She teaches and conducts research in the areas of psychoanalytic, postcolonial, and feminist theory and literature. She is the author of Dark Continents: Psychoanalysis and Colonialism (Duke University Press, 2003), and her book Algeria Cuts: Women and Representation, 1830 to the Present is forthcoming in 2007 from Stanford University Press.
In “Asylum: The Concept and the Practice,” she will analyze conceptual links among different sites designated by the term “asylum.” Extending insights concerning one institutional setting (the mental asylum) to asylum’s most expansive version (the nation), she will highlight the manner in which asylums are bound not only by borders but also by strict rules. The space of asylum suggests the rights of institutions over living bodies, rather than the rights of citizens emerging into different spaces. Through figures of sovereignty and subjectivity, asylum highlights the ways in which the sovereign intervenes in lives to formulate concepts of the human and the valuable. This feminist analysis of asylum—related to philosophy, literature, film, art, and architecture—reconceptualizes the boundaries of modernism.
Khanna received her DPhil in women’s studies from the University of York in 1993. She has been the recipient of fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University. Starting in the fall of 2007, she will be the Margaret Taylor Smith Director of Women’s Studies at Duke.