Darshana Sreedhar Mini


Assistant Professor





6016 Vilas Hall

Current and Future Projects

  • Indian cinema
  • Critical Sexuality Studies
  • 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 book Rated A: Soft-Porn Cinema and Mediations of Desire in India (UC Press, 2024) 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


Special Journal Issues (Co-editor)


Book Chapters

Forum Pieces/Public Scholarship


Fellowships, Honors and Awards

  • The Edward Cameron Dimock, Jr. Prize in the Indian Humanities, American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) for Rated A: Soft-Porn Cinema and Mediations of Desire in India, 2024
  • Race, Ethnicity and Indigeneity Fellow, Institute of Research in Humanities (IRH), UW-Madison, 2024
  • 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