Leela Prasad

Leela Prasad

Fellow: Awarded 2023
Field of Study: South Asian Studies

Competition: US & Canada

Leela Prasad is Professor of Religious Studies, and Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies at Duke University and Visiting Professor of Religious Studies at Brown University. She is the Vice President of the American Academy of Religion and will become its President in 2024. Leela’s interests are in everyday ethics, gender, narrative, decoloniality, prison-and-post-prison life, Hindu traditions, and Gandhi. Her book Poetics of Conduct (2007), which won the American Academy of Religion’s “Best First Book in the History of Religions Prize,” showed how everyday lifeworlds vibrantly express ‘lived’ ethics and the ethical imagination. In The Audacious Raconteur (2020), Leela contends that even the most empowered oppressor cannot usurp the sovereign creativity of politically-dominated or enslaved people. She guest-curated the first exhibition on Indian-American life titled Live Like the Banyan Tree (Balch Institute, Philadelphia, 1999). She is co-directing “Moved by Gandhi,” a film on the poetry of ethical resonance. Leela regularly teaches in American prisons and is intrigued by the resonance of Gandhi in carceral contexts—how nonviolent consciousness becomes an everyday practice. Her Guggenheim project engages the post-prison lives of Gandhi-inspired individuals in India. Two Fulbright fellowships, and grants from the American Academy of Religion, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Philosophical Society supported her ethnographic research.

Photo Credit: Akshayini Leela-Prasad

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