Usha Iyer's research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of cinema, performance, and gender and sexuality studies, with a specific focus on film and performance histories, body cultures, and Global South cultural traffic along the vectors of race, gender, caste, and religion.

Iyer (she/they) is the author of Dancing Women: Choreographing Corporeal Histories of Hindi Cinema (Oxford University Press, 2020), which examines constructions of gender, stardom, sexuality, and spectacle in Hindi cinema through women’s labor, collaborative networks, and gestural genealogies to produce a corporeal history of South Asian cultural modernities. Through a material history of the labor of producing on-screen dance, theoretical frameworks that emphasize collaboration, aesthetic approaches to embodiment, and formal analyses of cine-choreographic "techno-spectacles," Dancing Women offers a variegated, textured history of cinema, dance, and music. The book was awarded the British Association of South Asian Studies (BASAS) Book Prize.

Iyer’s next book project is an examination of the affective engagements of Caribbean spectators with Indian cinema in relation to discourses of belonging and citizenship that have developed around the histories of African enslavement and Indian indentureship in Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, and Guyana. Examining as well the impact of Caribbean cultural forms on the Indian film industry, the project engages with transnational perspectives on race, ethnicity, performance, and migration to produce a multi-sited analysis of the traffic of sensory, embodied forms of knowledge across informal networks between South Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean.

Iyer's essays have appeared in Camera Obscura, Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, Feminist Media Histories, Bioscope: South Asian Screen Studies, South Asian Popular Culture, and edited collections such as Figurations in Indian Film, The Evolution of Song and Dance in Hindi Cinema, Industrial Networks and Cinemas of India, Movies, Moves and Music: The Sonic World of Dance Films, and are forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of Film Theory, The Blackwell Companion to Indian Cinema, among others. Iyer is Associate Editor of South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies.

Iyer is affiliate faculty in Stanford's Center for South Asia, the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE), and in the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (FGSS) program. She is a 2021-22 FGSS faculty fellow, and her research has been supported by fellowships from the Stanford Humanities Center, The George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation, the Clayman Institute of Gender Research, CCSRE, and Stanford Global Studies.

Academic Appointments

  • Associate Professor, Art & Art History

Administrative Appointments

  • Director of Undergraduate Studies, Film and Media Studies Program, Dept of Art and Art History (2017 - Present)

Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations

  • Faculty Steering Committee, Center for South Asia (2019 - Present)
  • Faculty Steering Committee, Center for Comparative Studies of Race and Ethnicity (2019 - Present)

Professional Education

  • PhD, University of Pittsburgh, Film Studies (2014)
  • MA, Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages, Hyderabad, India, Literary and Cultural Studies (2006)
  • MA, University of Pune, India, Mass Communication (1996)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

Film studies, South Asia, Caribbean, Gender, Diaspora, Race and ethnicity

2023-24 Courses

Stanford Advisees

All Publications

  • "Smuggling, Infiltrating, Usurping: Why Globalizing the Film and Media Studies Curriculum is Essential to Decolonizing It." The Journal of Cinema and Media Studies Iyer, U. 2022; 61 (6)
  • A Pedagogy of Reparations Notes toward Repairing the Film and Media Studies Curriculum FEMINIST MEDIA HISTORIES Iyer, U. 2022; 8 (1): 181-193
  • Song-and-Dance Sequence BIOSCOPE-SOUTH ASIAN SCREEN STUDIES Iyer, U. 2021; 12 (1-2): 174-177
  • "Bringing Bharatanatyam to Bombay Cinema: Mapping Tamil-Hindi Film Industry Traffic through Vyjayanthimala’s Dancing Body" Industrial Networks and Cinemas of India: Shooting Stars, Shifting Geographies and Multiplying Media Iyer, U. Routledge. 2020; 1
  • “Dispassionate Repetition and the Enfoldings of History” Iyer, U. Chatterjee & Lal Art Gallery. Mumbai, India. 2019 ; Exhibition catalog for the film, Vrindavani Vairagya (Dispassionate Love, Ashish Avikunthak, 2018)
  • “Dance Musicalization: Proposing a Choreomusicological Approach to Hindi Film Song-and-dance Sequences.” South Asian Popular Culture Iyer, U. 2017; 15 (2-3): 123-138
  • "Looking for the Past in Pastiche: Intertextuality in Bollywood Song and Dance Sequences." Movies, Moves and Music: The Sonic World of Dance Films Iyer, U. Equinox Publishing. 2016: 207–226
  • "Stardom Ke Peeche Kya Hai?/What Is behind the Stardom? Madhuri Dixit, the Production Number, and the Construction of the Female Star Text in 1990s Hindi Cinema" Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies Iyer, U. 2015; 30 (3): 129-159
  • "Nevla as Dracula: Figurations of the Tantric as Monster in the Hindi Horror Film" Figurations in Indian Film Iyer, U. Palgrave Macmillan. 2013: 101–115