Banu Subramaniam

Luella LaMer Professor of Women's and Gender Studies

Feminist Science and Technology Studies, Environmental Studies, Evolutionary Biology, Plant Sciences, Postcolonial Science Studies, South Asian Studies, Religion and Science; Anti-colonial and Decolonial Approaches to Science.

I am excited to join the faculty of WGST. I am an interdisciplinary scholar, trained as an evolutionary biologist and plant scientist, and have since embraced tools from the humanities and social sciences to help shape the field of Feminist Science and Technology Studies. I explore the philosophy, history, and culture of the natural sciences and medicine as they relate to gender, race, ethnicity, and caste. My recent research rethinks the field and practice of botany in relation to histories of colonialism and xenophobia and explores the wide travels of scientific theories, ideas, and concepts as they relate to migration and invasive species. I also continue to work on the relationship of science and Hindu Nationalism in India.

I am the author of three books. These include Botany of Empire: Plant Worlds and the Scientific Legacies of Colonialism (University of Washington Press, 2024). Holy Science: The Biopolitics of Hindu Nationalism (University of Washington Press, 2019) won the 2020 Michelle Kendrick Memorial Book Prize from the Society for Literature, Science & the Arts. The book focuses on how science and religion have become interwoven in emergent nationalist politics and novel conceptions of modernity in India. The book weaves together techno-poetic myths and storytelling with imminent critique of scientific discourses to undo rigid notions of identity and belonging. Ghost Stories for Darwin: The Science of Variation and the Politics of Diversity (University of Illinois Press, 2014), was winner of the Ludwik Fleck Prize 2016 for an outstanding book across the breadth of science and technology studies. I am co-editor of Feminist Science Studies: A New Generation (Routledge, 2001) that put Feminist Science Studies on the map, and MEAT! A Transnational Analysis which looks at human/animal/plant relations and at the production and consumption of meat (and its alternatives) from the vantage of a wide range of interdisciplinary scholars working at the intersections of the sciences and the humanities.



Selected Recent Articles and Essays:

Courses Recently Taught at Wellesley:

  • ES/WGS 238: Naturecultures: Feminist Futures & Environmental Justice
  • WGS 120: Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies
  • ANTH/WGST 254: Biology of Human Difference
  • SOC/WGST 256: Global Feminisms

Current and upcoming courses

  • How do we account for the many similarities and differences within and between human populations? Axes of human “difference”– sex, gender, race, class, sexuality, nationality – have profound consequences. These differences shape not only group affiliation and identity but have been shaped by colonial and national histories. They shape social structures such as socioeconomic status, professions, work mobility, as well as stereotypes about personal traits and behaviors. The biological sciences have been very important in the history of differences. Scientists have contributed to bolster claims that differences are determined by our biology – such as research on sex and racial differences, notions of the “gay” gene, math abilities, spatial ability etc. Conversely, scientists have also contributed to critiquing claims of difference – challenging the idea that sex, gender, race, sexuality are innate, and immutable. How do we weigh these claims and counterclaims? We will begin with a historical overview of biological studies on “difference” to trace the differing understandings of the “body” and the relationship of the body with identity, behavior and intellectual and social capacity. We will then examine contemporary knowledge on differences of sex, gender, race, class, and sexuality. Using literature from biology, anthropology, feminist studies, history and science studies, we will examine the biological and cultural contexts for our understanding of “difference.” How do we come to describe the human body as we do? What is good data? How do we “know” what we know? The course will give students the tools to analyze scientific studies, to understand the relationship of nature and culture, science and society, biology and politics. (ANTH 254 and WGST 254 are cross-listed courses.)