Sharleen Mondal is Assistant Professor of English at Ashland University. She is an interdisciplinary scholar of gender and sexuality in Victorian Britain and colonial South Asia. Drawing on transnational and postcolonial feminist theory, her research explores how race, gender, sexuality, caste, and class shaped narratives of national identity and political engagement for both British and Indian subjects who were socially marginalized—including, for instance, Hindu widows, people of mixed or ambiguous racial identity, non-heterosexuals, and religious converts. Dr. Mondal traces these marginalized subjects through a rich archive of texts, including novels, poetry, autobiography, letters, photographs, religious tracts, travel narratives, and periodicals. She is committed to studying literary texts alongside other relevant cultural texts and to that end, employs the methods of close reading and discourse analysis in her work.
Dr. Mondal’s current research includes two book projects. Taking Liberty: The Work and Writing of Pandita Ramabai, employs a transnational Victorian studies perspective to understand what role Indian Christian women played in the emergence of feminism in India. In particular, the book examines the work of late nineteenth-century Hindu convert to Christianity, Ramabai Dongre Medhavi (1858-1922), also known by the honorific title Pandita Ramabai. Ramabai was an advocate for oppressed Hindu widows regarded by the Brahmin (high-caste) patriarchy as sexually toxic and polluting. Taking Liberty reveals that Ramabai forged alliances with reformers across the world to obtain support for the widows’ homes and schools she created in India. The book argues that in forming these alliances, Ramabai crafted a distinctive public persona for herself and other Indian Christian women and directly challenged both British colonial and Brahmin patriarchal oppression of widows.
Dr. Mondal’s second book project, Desiring Politics in Victorian Britain and Colonial South Asia, focuses on late Victorian imperial anxiety around racial mixture and the preoccupation with so-called racial purity. It shows that just as there was a drive for “purity,” celibacy, and eugenics in England, there was also a contemporaneous Indian focus on celibacy and preserving religious purity. Desiring Politics argues that the notion of sexual restraint was central to late Victorian colonial nationalisms in England and South Asia, manifesting in a wide range of fiction and political writings. Her analysis shows how some writers of the period envisioned forms of intimacy which challenged the idea that sexual restraint must be a precondition for meaningful participation in social and political life.
Mondal, Sharleen. “Whiteness, Miscegenation, and Anti-Colonial Rebellion in Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King.” Victorian Literature and Culture. (Forthcoming.)