Rishi Guné

Lecturer in Effron Center for the Study of America and Freshman Seminars
Office Phone
Morrison Hall, Room 212
  • B.A., Vassar College
  • M.A., UCLA
  • M.A., Columbia University

Rishi Guné (they, them, theirs) is an interdisciplinary scholar working at the intersection
of South Asian and Asian American studies. They specialize in literary and historical analysis of
South Asia and its U.S. diaspora. Their research examines how casteist hegemony and
oppression operate in diasporic contexts among South Asian Americans living in the settler-
colonial United States. Their work uses a relational, womxn of color feminist approach to
examine archival materials, literature and interviews representing South Asian American
diasporic communities. By engaging and centering Indigenous, Black feminist, Muslim and
Dalit feminist critique, their work seeks to examine how caste-privileged diasporic subjects
sustain the racial hierarchy in the American settler-colonial imaginary. Throughout, they
examine how to negotiate debates in South Asian studies and Asian American studies relating to
hegemonic identities, nationalisms and complicity in these oppressive systems.

They have finished a book manuscript titled “Debrahminizing Indian America: Representing
Indian Americans in the Settler-Colonial Imaginary.” The monograph begins with a theoretical
examination of the origins in the development of Brahminism in South Asia, before querying
how Hindu nationalism is a modern iteration of Brahminism that impacts Indian American
politics directly. Their work asks how selection criteria in India allowed caste-privileged people
to access higher education. This education allowed many Indian emigrants to attain their present
status as the richest non-White racial or ethnic group in the United States. How does caste
translate in economic and social terms for members of the Indian diaspora? The book then
analyzes how American popular sources and legal systems have racialized and gendered Indian
Americans from the 1880s to the present. The final section examines the gaps in these American
representational economies: it analyzes how Indian American cultural productions represent
caste and Hinduism, and how these processes allow Savarna South Asians to cohere in the
American racial hierarchy of colonial hegemony.

Rishi is also a working artist and has a painting studio in New York City. Their current art series
visually examines queer and trans futurity by asking what happens when we realize nothing has
been forgotten. They are also a creative writer, and currently in the process of publishing two
texts, a novella called Unseeing, about a queer Indian girl’s coming of age in 1986 New York,
and Crevices, a poetry collection that engages legacies of colonial sexualities and genders, and
asks to reimagine the very foundation of these discourses.