An Empire of Touch turns attention to East Bengal, the historical antecedent of Bangladesh, today an international exemplar of development driven by gender-targeted foreign aid. It recounts a new narrative of female political labor under empire, spanning from anticolonial nationalism to neoliberal globalization, through text and textile. It follows the historical traces of how women have claimed their labor, making what has been customarily seen as “merely” intimate and domestic into appreciable political acts.
Professor Saha’s research and teaching agenda spans eastward and forward from the late 19th century decline of British colonial rule in the Indian Ocean through to the Pacific and the rise of American global power and domestic race relations in the 20th century– with a particular investment in psychoanalysis, critical theory, and feminist studies. She is interested in developing an expansive view of empire and of what constitutes Anglophone literature, routed not primarily through Great Britain and Western Europe but rather through circuits of affiliation and encounter between Asia and the Americas.
She is currently at work on two new projects. The first is a book entitled Fascination: America’s “Hindu” Cults which considers the allure and scandal of so-called “Hindu cults” in America. From the Transcendentalists to the countercultural 1960s, spiritual practices and texts coded as Indic or Vedic have captivated an American imagination. From Ma Anand Sheela to the Hare Krishnas to Ammachi “the Hugging Saint,” Cultish Fascination enquires into the figures, ideas, and social forms seemingly imported from India, but in fact homegrown, that so enthrall an America public and that continue to shape its racial and spiritual self-conception.
The second book project, Bengal to Berkeley, examines conspiracy as a legal, philosophical, and political concept to understand the rise of the surveillance of racial and sexual subjects in WWI America.
Her work has been published in differences, Journal of Modern Literature, and Interventions, among other places