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Shirin M. Rai

Shirin Rai

Honorary Professor




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Shirin M. Rai is Honorary Professor in the department of Politics and International Studies. She worked at Warwick from 1989 - 2022 and was the Founding Director of Warwick Interdisciplinary Research Centre for International Development (WICID). She is a Fellow of the British Academy. She is currently a Distinguished Research Professor at SOAS, University of London.

Prof Rai is an interdisciplinary scholar and has written extensively on issues of gender, governance and development and gender and political institutions. She is currently working on the impact of COVID-19 on older people and their carers in Coventry and Leicester and is currently writing two books - Depletion: the human cost of care (OUP) and Doing Politics Sideways (Routledge). She was Director of the Leverhulme Trust programme on Gendered Ceremony and Ritual in Parliament (2007-2011)

Prof Rai's recent publications include, Performing Representation (OUP, 2019), commentary on women MPs in the Indian Parliament and the OUP Handbook of Politics and Performance (2021). She has also edited a volume on the Indian Debates on the International Left (2021). She has been co-Editor of Social Politics, an interdisciplinary feminist journal and serves on the Editorial Boards of Review of International Studies, Social Politics, International Feminist Journal of Politics, Politics and Gender, Journal of Narrative Politics, Global Ethics, Indian Journal of Gender Studies and the Journal of Narrative Studies.

Her current work has three strands: 1) feminist international political economy: see her work on depletion through social reproduction (IfJP, 2014) where she analyses the costs of doing social reproductive work, how this might be measured and transformed. 2) Gender and political institutions: see Performing Representation: Women Members in the Indian Parliament (with Carole Spary, OUP) and 3) politics and performance: see the edited collections on performance and/or politics - OUP Handbook of Politics and Performance, The Grammar of Politics and Performance (eds. with Janelle Reinelt, Routledge, 2015) and Democracy in Practice: Ceremony and Ritual in Parliament (ed. Palgrave, 2014) where she explores how performance in and of institutional and informal politics are co-constitutive.

In 2010 Prof Rai was elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. She is also a Visiting Professorial Fellow at the Gender Institute, London School of Economics (2012 -2015; 2021 -), Honorary Adjunct Professor, Department of International Studies, Monash University (2014-) and the Ford Visiting Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. In 2019-20 she was Senior Fellow at M.S. Merian – R. Tagore International Centre of Advanced Studies.



Prof. Rai directed a Leverhulme Trust programme on Gendered Ceremony and Ritual in Parliament (2007-2011). Together with colleagues from Universities of Bristol, London and Sheffield, she explored how ceremony and ritual provide an important lens with which to study political institutions. The project compared three legislatures over time and space – India, South Africa and Westminster. The premise of the programme was that in order to understand representative institutions we need to study not only their institutional form, but also the way a particular form takes shape – through modes of behaviour, negotiating the political and physical space and creating an institution specific culture which socializes members in their participation. Through the performance of ceremony and ritual such institutions create and maintain powerful symbols of democracy and of power. This project inquired into how the socialisation of marginalised groups through the performativity of ceremony and ritual within parliaments secures the elite status of these groups on the one hand, and perpetuates their peripheral position as political actors on the other. The programme resulted in many publications, including Democracy in Practice. This has led Prof. Rai to develop a framework to study PERFORMANCE AND POLITICS, which explores how performance can be read as politics and how politics is performed in particular ways and in so doing congeals as well as disturbs dominant modes of political interaction. This has led to a co-edited book (with Janelle Reinelt) - The Grammar of Politics and Performance. Prof. Rai is researching the affect of performance in parliaments as well as how performance is staged in space, represented in art and performed within parameters of and through discourses of nationalism and modernity in postcolonial India. Building on this work, Prof Rai has co-edited the OUP Handbook of Politics and Performance (2021).

GENDER AND POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS Prof Rai has just published a book manuscript (with Carole Spary) entitled Performing Representation: Women Members in the Indian Parliament (OUP, 2019). This book provides the first comprehensive analysis of women’s representation in the Indian parliament. It will not only further feminist theorising on political representation, but will also provide a theoretically informed and empirically based analysis of continuities and change in the context of Indian politics.
By drawing on as well as critiquing feminist approaches and methodologies in the study of gender and representation, the book will develop a framework within which to situate the experience of women MPs in the Indian parliament. The analysis presented in the book will integrate the different levels of debate - the global, national and the local - to reveal their interconnectedness in terms of circulation of ideas and the consequences of this circulation in terms of discursive and policy shifts in India.


A third strand of Prof. Rai’s work relates to political economy and development. Together with colleagues, she has developed a framework to study the costs of the non-recognition of unpaid domestic work. How is it possible to know if the non-recognition of the value of domestic work undermines the possibilities for achieving gender justice? In order to render the phenomenon visible and to conceptualise it, they have addressed the problem of depletion, or more specifically, depletion through social reproduction (DSR), which can lead to harm. They have identified three sites where DSR takes place as individuals, households and communities and have also outlined three ways of reversing DSR, conceptualised as mitigation, replenishment and transformation. For more click here . Based on this work, Prof Rai has co-edited a themed section on Introduction to the themed section: law, harm and depletion through social reproduction of the European Journal of Politics and Gender and several other articles.