Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies Professor Banu Subramaniam Wins Kendrick Prize

Banu Subramaniam
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AMHERST, MA–Banu Subramaniam, professor in the department of women, gender, sexuality studies at UMass Amherst, won the 2020 Society for Literature, Science & the Arts (SLSA) Michelle Kendrick Memorial Book Prize for the best book in Literature, Science & the Arts for the book “Holy Science: The Biopolitics of Hindu Nationalism.”

According to the SLSA website, the Kendrick Prize was, “established in the fall of 2006 in memory of Michelle Kendrick of Washington State University-Vancouver, an energetic, well-loved scholar of literature and science and long-time member of SLSA.” The Kendrick Prize is open to any book of original scholarship on literature, science, and the arts.

“This is a profound and important demonstration of what feminist science studies can bring to contemporary cultural criticism, one that is particularly timely in exploring the role of science in the rise of Hindu Nationalism,” said the SLSA prize committee in a letter to Subraminiam commending her win. The committee went on to say that “Holy Science” is, “imaginative in conception and remarkably nuanced and precise in its articulations,” and that the book, “offers both bold claims and a responsible basis for hope as we challenge ourselves to create a more just future.”

In “Holy Science: The Biopolitics of Hindu Nationalism,” Subramaniam lifts, “the euphoric narrative of India as an emerging world power,” to explore, “a complex and evolving relationship between science and religion.” “Evoking the rich mythology of comingled worlds where humans, animals, and gods transform each other and ancient history, […] Subramaniam demonstrates how Hindu nationalism sutures an ideal past to technologies of the present to make bold claims about the Vedic Sciences and the scientific Vedas. Moving beyond a critique of India’s emerging bionationalism, this book explores the generative possibility of myth and story, interweaving compelling new stories into a rich analysis that animates alternative imaginaries and ‘other’ worlds of possibilities,” says the University of Washington Press.

Prof. Subramaniam’s newest book, Holy Science: The Biopolitics of Hindu Nationalism , focuses on how science and religion have become interwoven in emergent nationalist politics and novel conceptions of modernity in India. The book weaves together techno-poetic myths and storytelling with imminent critique of scientific discourses to undo rigid notions of identity and belonging. Her previous book, Ghost Stories for Darwin: The Science of Variation and the Politics of Diversity (University of Illinois Press, 2014), was winner of the Ludwik Fleck Prize 2016 for an outstanding book across the breadth of science and technology studies. She is co-editor of Feminist Science Studies: A New Generation (Routledge, 2001) that put Feminist Science Studies on the map. Her forthcoming edited volume with Duke University Press, MEAT! A Transnational Analysis—coedited with Sushmita Chatterjee, looks at human/animal/plant relations and at the production and consumption of meat (and its alternatives) from the vantage of a wide range of interdisciplinary scholars working at the intersections of the sciences and the humanities.

In 2016, Subramaniam won the Chancellor’s Medal, the highest faculty honor given by the University of Massachusetts Amherst in recognition of service to the campus, was al chosen as one of the speakers in the Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series, a celebration of excellence in public scholarship and teaching.




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