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Ranjana Khanna, Ph.D.

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring
Margaret Taylor Smith Director of Women's Studies and
Professor, English, Literature, and Women’s Studies



Ranjana Khanna joined the Duke faculty in 2000 and has served on the dissertation committees of 36 Duke Ph.D. students, including 13 as director. She has published widely on transnational feminism, psychoanalysis, and postcolonial and feminist theory, literature, and film. She is the author of Dark Continents: Psychoanalysis and Colonialism and Algeria Cuts: Women and Representation 1830 to the present. Her current book manuscripts in progress are called Asylum: The Concept and the Practice and Technologies of Unbelonging.

In Her Words

"When you advise someone, you are responding to the needs and the personality of a particular person. You have to understand their needs, their strengths, what they need from you, what they don’t need from you. Some people desire to have more instruction than others, and others would like a relationship which is more formal and quite specific to guidance on the work itself. So I think one of the most important qualities of a good mentor is to understand who it is you are speaking to."

In Their Words

Excerpts from Khanna’s Nominations

“I arrived at Duke intending to study 19th-century literature; I will be leaving the program as a scholar of ethics, the human/animal divide, and the contemporary novel. That shift would not have been possible without Professor Khanna, who took an interest in my work long before I was her advisee, and long before I knew to believe in myself and in the value of the writing I aspired to undertake.”

“I have never had a reader, much less a mentor, who is so invested in doing justice to my ideas and my writing and in helping me to turn my work into the best version of itself that it can possibly be.”

“As I entered the dissertation writing stage, she offered encouragement without pressure, supervision without surveillance, and guidance without constraint.”

“Beyond her outstanding skill as a reader … Professor Khanna is also a model of scholarly life, dedicating herself to research, publishing, and organizing public events for the Women’s Studies community.”

“She has a good sense of how to encourage her students while at the same time making sure that she is not stifling their thought.”