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.
- 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
- 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.
- “Transnational Ethical Screens: Empathetic Networks in Malayalam Cinema from the Gulf,” Film History (Forthcoming 2020)
- “Satellites of Belonging: Televisual Infrastructures and the Gulf-Malayali,” Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication (Forthcoming 2020)
- “Un-sound” Sounds: Pornosonics of Female Desire in Indian Mediascapes, Music, Sound and Moving Image. 13 (1) 2019. 3-30
- Translating porn studies: lessons from the vernacular, co-written with Anirban K. Baishya, Porn Studies. Vol. 7, No. 1, 2020, 2-12
- Transgressions in Toonland: Savita Bhabhi, Velamma and the Indian Adult Comic, co-written with Anirban K. Baishya. Porn Studies, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2020, 115-131.
- The Rise of Soft-Porn in Malayalam Cinema and the Precarious stardom of Shakeela, Feminist Media Histories, 5 (2) 2019, pp 49-82
- Public Interest Television and Social Responsibility: The Search for Missing Person in Indian Television, International Journal for Digital Television, 7(2) 2016, pp 173-191
- The Spectral Duration of Malayalam Soft-porn: Disappearance, Desire and Haunting, Bioscope: South Asian Screen Studies, 7 (2) 2016, pp 127-150
- Attukal Pongala: Everyday Lives in a Ritualistic Space, in Ann David, Geoffrey Samuel and Santi Rozario edited “Transformations in contemporary South Asian Ritual: From Sacred Action to Public Performance,” Journal of Ritual Studies, 30(1) 2016, pp 59-69
- The House of Ill Repute: Malayalee House, Reality Television and Morality Debates in Contemporary Kerala, South Asian Popular Culture, 13(1) 2015, pp 47-59
- Attukal Pongala: Youth clubs, Neighborhood Groups and Masculine Performance of Religiosity, in Economic and Political Weekly, 49 (17) 2014, pp 53-60
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
- COM350 – Introduction to Cinema
- COM950 – Migrant Media and Diasporic Imaginations