SOAS University of London

Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)

Miss Poonkulaly Gunaseelan

BA English Literature (Brunel), MA English Literature (London)


Poonkulaly Gunaseelan
Miss Poonkulaly Gunaseelan
Email address:
Thesis title:
‘Breaking taboos (?)’: Representations of rape in post 1970s Indian-English literature
Internal Supervisors


I completed my Masters in English Literature at Kings College London in 2013, where I became interested in gender and sexuality in Indian English literature. While undertaking the Masters, I witnessed the impact of the 'Delhi rape' in December 2012. This event sparked international debate about women and sexualisation in the subcontinent. Within these discussions, I felt that there was a niche for me to develop and incorporate these ideas into the field of literary studies.

I am grateful to SOAS for awarding me a Doctoral Scholarship to undertake my research.

PhD Research

The tragic and notorious ‘Delhi rape’ in December 2012 called for a re-examination of women and sexualisation in South Asian communities. It led to a renewed interest in anthropological and sociological discussions attempting to address the issue of rape in India.

My research will broaden these interdisciplinary discussions by focusing on an area that has received limited critical attention: the representations of raped women in Indian English literature. The scope of my corpus will be limited to literature that has been published from the 1970s to the present, partially to reflect the prominence of the Indian feminist movement during this period.

The main research questions seek to analyse how literary depictions of rape articulate questions of power / sex. Furthermore, I aim to assess the role of Indian English literature in perpetuating / breaking the taboo of sexual violence in the subcontinent. The theoretical frameworks that underpin my research are postcolonial feminism, trust theory, cultural studies, and a Foucauldian perspective. This interdisciplinary approach will help illuminate my understanding of the complex sexual / power dynamics that dominate literary representations of rape.


Poonkulaly Gunaseelan, 'Splitting/Violating the "new Indian woman" in Shashi Deshpande's The Dark Holds No Terrors (1980),' Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik: A Quarterly of Language, Literature and Culture, Vol. 66, Issue 1, (March 2018), pp. 91 - 103.


  • MLA, Chicago (Invited Roundtable: Feminism and Nationalism: the case of South Asian Women.) January 2014 “Are you really all mine now?”: Representations of gender and nationalism in Meera Syal’s My Sister-Wife (1993) and Monica Ali’s Brick Lane (2003)
  • Cornell University, ‘Gender, Race, Representation in Magazines in the New Media’, October 2013 ‘(Un)Colouring the British South Asian Woman: the case of Asiana Magazine’ 
  • South Asian Literary Association: 'Race and the South Asian Diaspora' January 2013 'Little Walking Prisons': Interplays of Race and Gender in Hanif Kureishi's My Son the Fanatic (1997). Won ‘Graduate Student Paper Prize’ 2013
  • London South Bank University: ‘Queer sexualities, nationalism and racism in the new Europe’, October 2012 ‘Fragmented Identities’: The homosexual ‘Other’ in British Hindu communities
  • Kingston University: ‘Women in Magazines’: Research, Representation, Production and Consumption, June 2012 ‘Asiana: For the Woman who wants more (?)’: Representations of beauty and marriage in Asiana magazine