First woman of colour to lead a department in the 811-year-old university
The sociology department at the University of Cambridge will for the first time in the varsity’s 811-year-old history be headed by a woman of Indian origin.
Dr. Manali Desai, who calls herself a “hybrid child of three different cultures”, is also believed to be the first woman of colour to lead a department at the University of Cambridge.
“Dr. Manali Desai takes up the chair in Sociology this year, and in doing so becomes the first woman of colour, to our knowledge, to lead a Cambridge department in the University’s 811-year history,” reads a notice on the website.
Born in the US, Desai moved to Delhi in her early years and studied at Modern School. She later returned to London and completed her last two years of school there.
Desai received her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she trained as a comparative and historical sociologist, according to the University of Cambridge website. Her work encompasses the areas of parties and political articulation, social movements, ethnic and gendered violence, and post-colonial studies.
Desai is a reader in sociology and a fellow at Newnham College, Cambridge. according to her departmental website https://www.sociology.cam.ac.uk/ .
She has also published her research in the American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, Social Science History, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Journal of Historical Sociology and Critical Asian Studies, among others. Manali has co-edited two books titled States of Trauma: Gender and Violence in South Asia (2009) and Building Blocs: How Parties Organize Society (2015).
“We have witnessed dramatic transformations and ruptures in recent years, with the global pandemic and movements for social change such as Black Lives Matter coming on the heels of austerity and the rise of global populism to name a few. Sociology gives us the tools to be able to investigate and understand the world around us and so I think the department is a good place to be during periods of such upheaval!” she was quoted as saying on her departmental website.
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