Jigna Desai

photo of jigna

Office Location

4706 South Hall


Queer of Color Critique, Women of Color Feminisms, South Asian Diasporic and Migration Studies, Asian American Studies, Critical University Studies, Critical Disability Studies, Public Engagement and Humanities, Media Studies


1998  Ph. D English, minor in Feminist Studies (University of Minnesota) 

1990  B.S. Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Science (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

          B.S. Literature with Cognitive Science (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)


Jigna Desai is Professor in the Department of Feminist Studies and the Department of Asian American Studies at UC -- Santa Barbara.  Her most established research theorizes diasporic feminism and queer diasporas of the Brown Atlantic.  Specifically, she offers the Brown Atlantic as an analytic for understanding how South Asians negotiate gender, sexual, and racial formations arising from colonialism, empire, and racial projects of the nation-state. Beyond Bollywood (Routledge 2004) was the first book to queer the South Asian diaspora and to demonstrate the centrality of cinema to the racial, gendered, and sexual formations of South Asian diasporas in North America and Britain. She has also co-edited several collections -- Bollywood: A Reader for Open University /McGraw Hill Press (2009), Transnational Feminism and Global Advocacy in South Asia for Routledge (2012), and Asian Americans in Dixie: Race and Migration in the South for University of Illinois Press (2013). She has published widely on issues of race, media, gender, and sexuality in journals such as Social Text, Journal of Asian American Studies, and Meridiens.

Their current research expands to the fields of critical disability studies, feminist and queer science studies, and racial necropower through analyses of neural selfhood and neurocitizenship. Drawing on intersectional feminist, queer, and disability theories of biopolitics and citizenship, the research examines the changing meaning of what it is to be human as knowledge about the brain increasingly defines our understanding of the mind and self.

She has served as a board member of the Association for Asian American Studies and serves as a co-editor of the Asian American Experience book series for the Univ. of Illinois Press. For two decades, her teaching and service have worked to strengthen institutional support for undergraduate and graduate students of color. She is the co-founder with Dr. Kari Smalkoski of MN Youth Story Squad (a K-12 University partnership) and former PI for Minnesota Transform, a $5 million higher education initiative funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to address decolonial and racial justice at the University of Minnesota, in the Twin Cities, and throughout the state through public humanities projects.

They are a dedicated mentor and adviser who has mentored with over 100 graduate students and junior faculty. For almost three decades, her scholarship, teaching, and service have worked to strengthen institutional support for racial justice, international students, LGBTQ students, students of color within higher education.

She is the current director of the Center for Feminist Futures. 


  • Diasporas
  • Film and media
  • Asian American disability and mental health
  • Ethnic Studies and Feminist Studies in the academy
  • Asian American feminism
  • Speculative fiction and futures
  • Neurodivergent epistemologies
  • Ethnic and LGBTQ Studies in K-12 education



-- Joshi, Khyati and Jigna Desai eds. Asian Americans in Dixie: Race and Migration in the SouthUniv. of Illinois Press, 2013. 

-- Rajan, Gita and Jigna Desai, eds. Transnational Feminism and Global Advocacy in South Asia. New York: Routledge, 2012.

-- Dudrah, Rajinder and Jigna Desai, eds.  The Bollywood Reader.  London: Open University Press-McGraw Hill, 2008.

-- Desai, Jigna.  Beyond Bollywood: The Cultural Politics of South Asian Diasporic Film.  New York: Routledge, 2004. 



-- Desai, Jigna and Elizabeth Wilson. “Report on the Gender, Women’s, Feminist, Sexuality, and Queer Studies Academic Job Market 2006-2018.” Signs, Spring 2023.

 -- Bouchard, Danielle and Jigna Desai.  “All That Whiteness Allows: Femininity, Race, and Empire in SafeCarol, and Wonderstruck” An Indelible Mark: Feminism and the Work of Todd Haynes. Edited by Julia Leyda and Terri Geller. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 2022.

-- Desai, Jigna. “Speculative Choreography: Futures of Feminist Food Justice and Sovereignty.”  Dancing Transnational Feminisms: Ananya Dance Theatre and the Art of Social Justice. Ananya Chatterjea, Hui Niu Wilcox, and Alessandra Lebea Williams, eds. Series: Dissident Feminisms. Rutgers University Press. 2022.

-- Banerjee, Koel and Jigna Desai. “Mompreneur in the Multiplex: Entrepreneurial Technologies of the “New Woman” Subject in the Age of Neoliberal Globalization.”  In Bollywood’s New Woman: Liberalization, Liberation and Contested Bodies. Edited by Megha Anwer and Anupama Arora. Rutgers University Press. 2021.

-- Desai, Jigna. “Film.” Our Stories: South Asian Americans. South Asian American Digital Archive. 2021.

-- Bhattacharya, Sayan and Jigna Desai. “Feminist and Women’s Studies.” Sage Encyclopedia of Higher Education. Marilyn J Amey and Miriam David, eds. Sage Publications. 2020.

-- Desai, Jigna. “Bollywood and Asian America.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature and Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Invited book chapter. 2019.

-- Butler, Pamela and Jigna Desai. “A Second Read: Further Reflections on Women-of-Color Chick Lit.”  Theorizing Ethnicity in the Chick Lit Genre. Erin Hurt, editor. New York: Routledge. Invited book chapter. 2018. 25-37.

-- Desai, Jigna and Kevin Murphy. “Subjunctively Inhabiting the University.” Critical Ethnic Studies Vol. 4, Issue 1, Spring 2018. 23-43.

-- Desai, Jigna. "political, bio-.  His Boba Fett Tattoo.” In DSM: Asian American Edition. Asian American Literary Review. Open in Emergency A Special Issue on Asian American Mental Health. Mimi Khuc, editor. 2016. 117-24.