Darshana Mini

Film

Assistant Professor

dmini@wisc.edu

Darshana Mini

Expertise and Activities

Darshana Mini’s teaching and research lie at the intersection of gender, sexuality, transnational media, migrant media and screen cultures of South Asia.

Her current book project “Rated A: Soft-Porn Cinema and Mediations of Desire in India” examines the genre of soft-porn in India and how it impacts public discourse on sexuality, obscenity, sex-work and sex-education. Using archival and ethnographic methods, the project tracks the emergence of the genre in the South India-based Malayalam film industry from the 1970s-2000s, by focusing on the formation of media publics—relationships, formations and exchanges in the public sphere, facilitated by the affective power of media. Produced in the state of Kerala, Malayalam soft-porn films incorporated transgressive desires and non-normative sexual practices through narratives and production decisions that unsettled heteronormative patriarchy. She engages a two-pronged strategy to explore soft-porn film’s production, circulation and exhibition history. First, she undertakes an ethnographic mapping of the actual spaces where these films were produced, and thereby account for the resistance, struggles and survival tactics employed by the technicians, filmmakers, actors and distributors. Second, using a combination of archival research, online ethnography and narrative analysis, she examines how the figure of the madakarani (sex-siren)—a sexually autonomous woman who is unabashed about her upward mobility, offers a new mode of looking at female pleasure and desire in the context of Indian cinema. Combining archival, ethnographic and textual analysis, she locates new imaginations of sexuality and politics in informal film practices and transnational flows. Her research is based on the idea that while histories and cultures of sexuality are locally specific, they often travel and have impacts in worlds that are not immediate to them. Her dissertation research was funded by Social Science Research Council (SSRC), American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) and Asia Research Institute, NUS. Excerpts from the dissertation also received a Student Writing Prize awarded by the Society of Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) and the Claudia Gorbman Award from the Sound and Music Studies Special Interest Group at SCMS.

Dr. Mini is an affiliate of Gender and Women’s Studies and Center for South Asia.

Education

  • Ph.D, Division of Cinema and Media Studies, University of Southern California, 2020
  • M.Phil., Center for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC), India, 2011
  • B.A English Literature, All Saints’ College, India, 2007

Books

  • Rated A: Soft-Porn Cinema and Mediations of Desire in India (Monograph-In-Progress)
  • South Asian Porno-cultures (Edited Collection, In-progress)

Special Journal Issues (Co-Editor)

  • “Porn and Its Uses,” Special Issue for Synoptique: An Online Journal of Film and Moving Image Studies, In-Progress.
  • “South Asian Pornographies II,” Porn Studies, In-Progress.
  • “South Asian Pornographies: Vernacular Formations of the Permissible and the Obscene,” Porn Studies. Vol 7. No. 1, 2020.
  • “Subjected to play: Power, Participation and Subjectivity in Gaming and Beyond” Spectator, 38 (1) Spring 2018.

Articles

Awards and Honors

  • PhD Achievement Award, USC, 2020
  • Thomas W. Simons Junior Fellow, American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS), 2019
  • Women of Color Leadership Project, National Women Studies Association (NWSA), 2019
  • Anne Friedberg Memorial Grant, Visual Studies Research Institute, USC, 2019
  • Mellon International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF), SSRC, 2018
  • Asia Graduate Student Fellowship, NUS, 2018
  • Claudia Gorban Award for the best student paper, SCMS Sound and Music SIG, 2018
  • Research Enhancement Fellowship, Graduate School, USC, 2017
  • SCMS Student Writing Award (Third position), 2017
  • Phi Kappa Phi Student Recognition Award, USC, 2017
  • Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship (DPDF), SSRC, 2016
  • Hanns-Seidel Stiftung-FIGS Fellowship, Freie University, Berlin, 2015
  • Research Fellowship on Social and Digital Media, CSDS-SARAI, New Delhi, 2014
  • DAAD Fellow at the Cluster of Excellence, University of Konstanz, Germany, 2013

 Courses

  • COM350 – Introduction to Cinema
  • COM950 – Migrant Media and Diasporic Imaginations