Prof. Meena Khandelwal
Dept. of Anthropology
University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA
Prof. Meena Khandelwal, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies, has published extensively on the topic of Hindu religious renunciation (sannyasa) in India. Sannyasa entails the renunciation of marriage, family ties, wealth, caste, and professional status for a life of celibacy and spiritual discipline. Khandelwal published her findings in a monograph Women in Ochre Robes (SUNY Press 2004) and co-edited the volume Women’s Renunciation in South Asia (Palgrave Macmillan 2006, Zubaan 2007) with Sondra Hausner and Ann Grodzins Gold, She has also written about transnational aspects of renunciation, including foreign swamis who have migrated to India as monks and cosmopolitanism in the world’s yoga capital, Rishikesh. Her inquiries into globalization have also led her to research arranged marriage and cultural politics of Indian diaspora in the United States.
Recently, Khandelwal turned her attention to biofuel cooking in rural India and more broadly to issues of development and environment. She is part of a multi-disciplinary group of University of Iowa faculty exploring the linkages between local (rural Rajasthan) and global processes, and also connections among forests, energy, gender relations, health, consumption and culture. She has brought an environmental perspective to hotly contested Indian debates about veganism, vegetarianism and beef-eating and has co-authored “Why Have Cook-stove Initiatives in India Failed?” published in World Development. Khandelwal is co-designer and co-director of the Big Ideas course People and the Environment and, in winter 2016-17, she led a 4-week Fulbright-Hays Group Project Award seminar in India, funded by a grant from the US Department of Education.