Darshana Sreedhar Mini
6016 Vilas Hall
Current and Future Projects
- Indian cinema
- Migrant Media and Transnational Cultures
- Labor in the Entertainment Sector
- Streaming and Platform Cultures
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, Center for Visual Cultures & and Center for South Asia.
- Ph.D, Division of Cinema and Media Studies, University of Southern California
- M.Phil., Center for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC), India
- B.A, University of Kerala, India
- Rated A: Soft-Porn Cinema and Mediations of Desire in India (Monograph-In-Progress)
- South Asian Pornographies: Vernacular Formations of the Permissible and the Obscene, with Anirban K. Baishya (Edited collection, Forthcoming from Routledge, 2024)
Special Journal Issues (Co-editor)
- Porn and Its Uses, with Rebecca Holt and Nikola Stepić, Synoptique: An Online Journal of Film and Moving Image Studies 9, no. 2. 2021.
- South Asian Pornographies, with Anirban K. Baishya. Porn Studies 9. no. 3. 2022
- South Asian Pornographies: Vernacular Formations of the Permissible and the Obscene, with Anirban K. Baishya. Porn Studies 7. no. 1. 2020.
- “Subjected to play: Power, Participation and Subjectivity in Gaming and Beyond,” with Anirban K. Baishya. Spectator, 38, no. 1 Spring 2018.
- The Anti-Caste Alter-Network: Equality Labs and Anti-Caste Activism in the US, co-written with Anirban Baishya and Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Communication, Culture & Critique, Vol 16. Issue 2. 2023. 99-106
- Figuring the aggregated Aunty: netporn, Metadata and South Asian aunties, co-written with Anirban K. Baishya, Text and Performance Quarterly. Vol 42. Issue 3. 2022. 315-331.
- Feminism not for all? The discourse around white feminism across five social media platforms, co-written with Borah, Ghosh, Suk and Sun, Social Media + Society July-September 2023. 1-22.
- “Think Global, Act Local”: How #MeToo Hybridized Across Borders and Platforms for Contextual Relevance, co-written with Suk, Sun, Li, Farias, Kwon, Ghosh, Borah, Correa, Garlough and Shah, Information, Communication & Society. June 2023
- Towards an Incomplete Repertoire of South Asian Pornographies: Challenges, Potentials & Futures, co-written with Anirban K. Baishya. Porn Studies. Vol 9. Issue 3. 2022. 263-272
- Satellites of Belonging: Televisual Infrastructures and the Gulf-Malayali, Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication 14(1-2), 2021. 81-111.
- Transnational Ethical Screens: Empathetic Networks in Malayalam Cinema from the Gulf, Film History: An International Journal. 32. 3, Fall 2020. 141-169
- Cinema and the Mask of Capital: Labor Debates in the Malayalam Film Industry, Studies in South Asian Film and Media. Vol 11. No 2, December 2020, 173-189.
- “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 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 7. no. 1. 2020. 115-131.
- The Rise of Soft-Porn in Malayalam Cinema and the Precarious stardom of Shakeela, Feminist Media Histories 5. no. 2. 2019. 49-82
- Public Interest Television and Social Responsibility: The Search for Missing Person in Indian Television, International Journal for Digital Television 7. no.2 2016. 173-191
- The Spectral Duration of Malayalam Soft-porn: Disappearance, Desire and Haunting, Bioscope: South Asian Screen Studies 7. no. 2. 2016. 127-150
- Attukal Pongala: Everyday Lives in a Ritualistic Space, Journal of Ritual Studies 30. no. 1. 2016, 59-69
- The House of Ill Repute: Malayalee House, Reality Television and Morality Debates in Contemporary Kerala, South Asian Popular Culture 13. no.1. 2015. 47-59
- Attukal Pongala: Youth clubs, Neighborhood Groups and Masculine Performance of Religiosity, in Economic and Political Weekly 49.no. 17 2014. 53-60
- Reimaging the Migrant in the Time of the Pandemic with Anirban Baishya, in Rohit Dasgupta
Niharika Banerjea and Paul Boyce (eds) COVID Assemblages: Queer and Feminist Ethnographies from South Asia. Routledge. 2022. 34-44.
- Locating the “B” in the B-circuit Cinema, in Bhattacharya, Menon and Duggal (eds) Film Studies: An Introduction, Delhi/Kolkata: Worldview Publications. 2022. 319-328.
- Star’s Dust: Miss Kumari and the Fossilized Memory of the “First Malayalam Female Star, in Michael Lawrence edited Indian Film Stars, London: BFI, Palgrave Macmillan. 2020. 45-58
- Attukal Pongala: Myth and Modernity in a Ritualistic Space in Kerala Modernity: Ideas, Spaces and Practices in Transition. Satheese Chandra Bose and Shiju Sam Varughese (eds.) Hyderabad: Orient BlackSwan. 2015. 46-61
- When the Ghosts Come Calling: The Disappeared Muses of Malayalam Cinema, Co-written with Vinu Abraham in SARAI Reader 9. Projections. 2013. 336-344
Forum Pieces/Public Scholarship
- “Mysterious Cadavers and Marshy Mishaps in Purusha Pretham,” Critical Collective. May 2023
- “Star of the Stream: Sobhita Dhulipala and the New Star-Texts of OTT India,” Critical Collective. October 2022
- ‘We give sex a good name’: an interview with Paromita Vohra, co-written with Anirban K. Baishya, Porn Studies 9, no. 2. 2022. Pp 384-399
- The Ontologies of the Refugee. Docalogue. April 2022.
- Dossier on ZEE5, India for the Global Internet Television Consortium, 2021
- Where is Cinema? COVID-19 and Shifts in India’s Cinemascape, S.V Srinivas, Ratheesh Radhakrishan et al (eds) “Indian Cinema Today and Tomorrow: Infrastructure, Aesthetics and Audiences” in Indian International Center Quarterly. Winter 2020-Spring 2021. Vol 47, Numbers 3 &4, 106-123.
- Body in Keywords in South Asian Film and Media, Bioscope: South Asian Screen Studies 12, no. 1-2, 2021, 39-42
- Book Interview for The Digital Fronter: Infrastructures of Control on the Global Web, Communication, Culture and Critique 14, no. 3. 2021, pp 545-549.
- “Minnal Murali: Provincializing Superhero Films”, Critical Collective. February 2022.
- What Women Want: Gendered Precarity and Labor Organizing in the Indian Film Industry, in Ammu Joseph, Bina Paul et al (eds). Shift Focus: Women Shaping the Narrative in Media and Entertainment. Published by Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) & Sakhi Women’s Resource Center, 2020, 62-74.
- Miss Kumari’s Stardom: Malayalam’s First Studio Actress, Swatantryavaadini, August 2020.
Fellowships, Honors and Awards
- Byerly Award for Feminist Political Economy, Feminist Communication Division, International Communication Association (ICA), 2023
- Senior Long-term Fellowship funded by American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) and National Endowment of Humanities (NEH), 2022
- First Book Award, The Center for Humanities, UW-Madison, 2022
- Library Research Enhancement Grant, UW-Madison, “South Asian Film and Media Collection” (Principal Investigator), 2022
- Co-organizer Mellon-Borghesi Seminar on “Migrant Media: Activism, Visual Art and Performance,” UW-Madison, 2021-22
- 4 W Innovation Award, UW-Madison, 2022
- Exceptional Service Award, UW-Madison, 2022
- PhD Achievement Award, USC, 2020
- SCMS Student Writing Award (Third position), 2017
- COM350 – Introduction to Cinema
- COM418 – Gender, Sexuality and the Media
- COM443 – Indian Cinema and Beyond
- COM669 – Film Theory
- COM950 – Migrant Media and Diasporic Imaginations