Ronak K. Kapadia is Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and affiliated faculty in Global Asian Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He received a PhD in American Studies in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis from New York University (2012), an MA in American Studies from NYU (2008), and a BA with honors and distinction in comparative ethnic studies from Stanford University (2005). Previously, he was the 2012-2013 University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Ethnic Studies at UC Riverside and the 2011-12 Riley Scholar-in-Residence in the Program in Race and Ethnic Studies at Colorado College.
A cultural theorist of race, sex, and empire in the late 20th and early 21st century United States, Kapadia is completing a book about the interface between contemporary visual media and US global counterinsurgency warfare in South Asia and the Middle East titled Insurgent Aesthetics: Race, Security, and the Sensorial Life of Empire (under contract, Duke University Press). With Katherine McKittrick and Simone Browne, he is co-editor of the forthcoming special issue of Surveillance and Society on race and surveillance, and his work also appears in Asian American Literary Review, South Asian Diaspora, Journal of Popular Music Studies, and edited volumes including: Shifting Borders: America and the Middle East/North Africa (Ed. Alex Lubin, American University of Beirut Press, 2014), Critical Ethnic Studies: A Reader (Duke University Press, 2016), and With Stones in Our Hands: Reflections on Racism, Muslims and US Empire (Ed. Sohail Daulatzai and Junaid Rana, University of Minnesota Press, forthcoming 2017).
Kapadia’s research has been supported by the NYU Henry MacCracken Fellowship, the Mellon/ACLS Fellowship, the Consortium for Faculty Diversity in the Liberal Arts Colleges, the NYU Dean’s Dissertation Award, the University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship, the UIC Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy Faculty Fellowship, and the UIC Great Cities Institute Faculty Scholarship. Outside of academe, he is a former board member of FIERCE, a member-led community organizing working to build the leadership and power of queer and trans youth of color in New York City and Sage Community Health Collective, a worker-owned health and healing justice collective in Chicago.
Professor Kapadia’s faculty scholar project “Beyond ‘Chiraq’ and Homan Square: Alternatives to Mass Incarceration, Military Urbanism, and Homeland Security in Chicago”, asks how contemporary activists, artists, lawyers, and cultural producers have identified and challenged the growing links between mass incarceration, military urbanism, and homeland security in four key sites across Chicago. Specifically, Kapadia will analyze recent works by the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, We Charge Genocide, Project NIA, and Transformative Justice Law Project. As multi-issue, multi-generational political projects, these case studies will serve as the analytical grounds for his analysis of alternative strategies of resistance against the militarization of urban police violence and the broader domestic reverberations of the global war on terror. At stake here is the quality of life for this city’s most vulnerable inhabitants, primarily working-class people of color, racialized immigrants, and trans and gender non-conforming people who have come to be seen as a source of targets and threats that need to be continually tracked, scanned, warehoused, and controlled, if not entirely eliminated, in the name of security. By analyzing local and transnational forms of activism and cultural production, Kapadia argues for a new framework through which to understand the links between mass incarceration and the global war on terror. In the process, the project documents more critical and imaginative responses to US state violence as well as the alternative models of coalition and collectivity that these violent politics have engendered within multiple activist communities across Chicago.