Leela Fernandes

Director, Stanley D. Golub Chair of International Studies
Jackson School Director Leela Fernandes



Leela Fernandes studies the relationship between politics and culture through both qualitative empirical research and theoretical scholarship. Her research examines the ways in which cultural meanings, practices and identities shape political behavior and deepen our explanations of political conflicts and processes. She has pursued this research agenda through extensive field research on labor politics, democratization and the politics of economic reform in India. Her focus on identity, culture and politics has led her to work extensively on qualitative and interdisciplinary methods including ethnographic and interpretive methods.

A central dimension of Professor Fernandes’ research is the study of gender in shaping cultural, economic and political processes. She has worked on theories of intersectionality and has also examined the gendered dimensions of nationalism and transnationalism. An ongoing foundation of Professor Fernandes’ research is the study of social inequality with a particular emphasis on researching and theorizing class identity and inequality.

Leela Fernandes recently finished two books. Transnational Feminism in the United States engages in a critical discussion of interdisciplinary research and theory on transnationalism. She also edited the Routledge Handbook on Gender and South Asia which provides a broad overview of feminist scholarship on South Asia drawing on the work of twenty three scholars from South Asia, Europe and North America. She is currently working on a new research project, The Politics of Water: Inequality and India’s Post-Liberalization State which analyzes changes in the state and the emergence of new forms of inequality through a study of the water sector in contemporary India.

Professor Fernandes previously taught at University of Michigan, Rutgers University, New Brunswick and Oberlin College and is currently the South Asia Editor of the journal Critical Asian Studies.


  • University of Chicago, PhD., Political Science, 1994
  • University of Chicago, M.A., International Relations, 1989
  • University of Michigan, B.S.E., Computer Engineering, 1987
  • University of Michigan, B.A., English Literature, 1987

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