[skip to content]

Centre for Gender Studies

Dr Geeta Patel

PhD (Columbia)


Staff Silhouette
Dr Geeta Patel
Email address:


Dr Geeta Patel was educated in Mumbai, Delhi, the U.K. and the US.  She received a B.Sc. from Miranda House, Delhi, a B.Sc. in theoretical chemistry and a BA in philosophy from Wellesley College.  Her PhD, in interdisciplinary area studies, Sanskrit and Urdu was from Columbia University.  She was a dean/director in the Office of the Provost at the University of Iowa where she was involved at the local and national level (with the Ford Foundation) with implementing institutional change and establishing interdisciplinary research projects that brought faculty from departments such as Anthropology, Economics, English, Film Studies, Fine Arts (Studio Art, Art History and Theory), Music, Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology and Theatre Studies together with the Sciences and with Law to craft new avenues for faculty to conduct research and teach across and between disciplinary boundaries. She worked with faculty in institutions such as MIT and Arizona State University to investigate the ways in which science and technology provide the theoretical mandates for the social sciences and appear both deliberately and inadvertently in literary studies and aesthetics. She was involved in the early discussions on how to bring science, the philosophy of science and literature together in Science and Literature Society. She taught at Wellesley College for 15 years, where she designed and chaired the South Asia Studies Program, the only free-standing interdisciplinary undergraduate program of its kind in the United States.  At Wellesley College she taught courses in South Asian studies and Women’s Studies:  teaching courses that ranged from history of science, anthropology and sociology to literature, philosophy and film studies.  She designed programs (including film festivals and art exhibits which she curated) that continued that mandate she had embarked upon at the University of Iowa, to interrogate the spaces for interdisciplinary research and teaching.  

Dr Patel, currently an Associate Professor at the University of Virginia, Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures and Studies in Women and Gender, teaches courses ranging from Bollywood cinema to history of science and sexuality to risk.  Professor Patel’s teaching and research is both transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary.  She brings together methods and critical insights from disciplinary areas ranging from the social sciences, aesthetics, history of science and science, history, literary studies and economics.  She interrogates the forms through which the methodologies or theoretical vantage points from one discipline are inflected in another, such as economic value might be conveyed into literary studies, carefully parsed readings might be absorbed into the historian’s tool kits, ethnography might become more commonplace for literary historical accounts, nineteenth century conventions about time in science inflect both nineteenth century economic practices and the ways archival materials are laid out in historians’ periodizations.  She has translated widely from Urdu, Sanskrit, Hindi, Braj and Awadhi and published academic as well as personal writing.


The disciplines that Dr. Patel brings to each research and writing project vary with the particular questions raised by the project.  Her first book from Stanford University Press, Lyrical movements, historical hauntings:  gender, colonialism and desire in Miraji’s Urdu poetry, reads a renegade writer through nationalism, gender, sexuality, and grief in twentieth century Urdu poetic movements.  Dr. Patel’s most recent manuscript Homeliness and its Desserts:  Rethinking Ismat Chughtai, on the Urdu woman writer, Ismat Chughtai for example, stages the history of realism in writing.  The project demands a return to early ethnologies where realist writing, which could be thought of as an objective rendering of a place, people or technology, was given value.  Many of Dr. Patel’s published articles and papers, such as “Ghostly Appearances:  Time Tales Tallied Up,” “Time to Tell:  How to Tell the Proper Time. Finance and Cinema,” “Risky Lives,” “Imagining Risk Care and Security:  Insurance and Fantasy,” “Billboard Intimacies,” “Reading the Surface:  Ismat Chughtai,” “Indian War Bonds and National Sentiment,” “Marginalia,” “Numerologies of Comparison,” “Colonial Technologies and the Science of Time:  India in the mid-Nineteenth Century” interrogate the ways in which science and technology appear in unlikely places; each one taking up the disciplines that would lend insight to the specificities of the questions raised in them.  

Professor Patel’s current research project Insuring Selves, Assuring a Future: The Poetics of Finance delves into insurance, pensions, capital, science, poetry and philosophy from 1750-2010 in South Asia.