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A Champion for the Humanities

Ranjana Khanna Reappointed as Franklin Humanities Institute Director

Professor of English, Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies and Literature Ranjana Khanna has been reappointed to a second term as director of Duke University’s John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute. The reappointment follows the recommendation of a university committee chaired by Harris Solomon, Fred W. Shaffer Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology.

Established in 1999, the Franklin Humanities Institute leads interdisciplinary education and research programs that engage faculty, students, staff and community members as well as local and global partners. From sparking new collaborative research projects and hosting short residencies to supporting humanities labs, incubating global partnerships and encouraging public engagement, the FHI creates opportunities for scholars at all levels.

Khanna has served as director since 2018. Under her leadership, the FHI has strengthened its role at the forefront of national and international conversations on the future of the humanities and of humanities centers within universities.

In addition to supporting and highlighting fundamental research in the humanities across periods and locations, Khanna has encouraged collaboration among humanities scholars, together with researchers in the social and natural sciences, on some of the world’s most pressing societal problems.

A current focus is the Entanglement Project, which addresses the historical, cultural and political shifts in our understanding of the concepts of race, climate and health that shape our present. Scholars consider what constitutes “justice,” “health” or an “ecology in which one can thrive” as philosophical, imaginative and culturally-shaped concepts that carry long and complex histories necessary to understanding the present and shaping the future.

With two colleagues, Khanna leads Humanities Unbounded, a five-year initiative funded by an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant to nurture collaboration and inventive expressions of the humanities at Duke.

Khanna is recognized for her contributions to the fields of postcolonial, feminist and psychoanalytic theory and literature. Her books include “Algeria Cuts: Women and Representation, 1830 to the Present” and “Dark Continents: Psychoanalysis and Colonialism.” She earned a B.A. and a D.Phil. from the University of York in the U.K.

A Duke faculty member since 2000, Khanna has held several leadership roles and earned praise for her work with students. She received the Graduate School Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring in 2015. Among her current research collaborations is a project on race and mental health in the southern United States.

Khanna has been the recipient of fellowships from the Rockefeller and Ford foundations, the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University, and others.

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