Mukti Lakhi Mangharam works on world literatures and postcolonial studies, Human Rights and Literature, Comparative Modernities, and Feminism and Gender Studies. She has published widely in journals including Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies, Diacritics, ELH, ARIEL, and Safundi.
She is the author of Literatures of Liberation: Non European Universalisms and Democratic Progress (Ohio State UP, 2017), which explores the role that mixed genealogies of European and non-European universalisms of freedom and equality played in challenging colonial and home-grown hierarchies of caste, gender, and race in India and South Africa The book explores the way that regional literary traditions - including oral poetry, religious verse, and folk storytelling as well as global forms such as the novel - register and resist the colonial expansion of capitalism into the Global South through syncretic lineages of universalisms - both Enlightenment and non-European - that posit a notion of a shared, universal humanity through home-grown ideas of freedom, equality and democratic social organization.
Of this book, NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, notes that "its comparative reach, appreciation of technical details, and ability to hold within the same critical move the largest and smallest units of analyses make this book a pleasure to navigate." Priyamvada Gopal writes: "The book contributes to what is perhaps the most urgent and relevant critical project of the present day: recuperate ideas of the 'universal' -and cognate concepts such as democracy, modernity, humanism - from the dustbin of obsolescence to which the postmodern turn has attempted to consign them."
Mangharam's second book: Freedom Inc. Gendered Capitalism in New Indian Literature and Culture (Bloomsbury, 2023), explores the way that the meaning of individual freedom has shifted alongside the liberalization of the Indian economy in the early 1990s and how new Indian literature and culture has registered this shift. While certain texts like Chetan Bhagat's popular novels reinforce a neoliberal notion of individual freedom as a capacity to be entrepreneur of the self, others, including Dalit life writing and the self-help novel, reinscribe older, more complex understandings of how to be free in the new India.
Here is Professor Mangharam in her own words on what drives her research and teaching:
My passion for literature is driven by the belief that reading is one of the best ways to imaginatively smuggle people across enforced barriers of class, gender, nation, and religion.
The texts I explore posit notions of a shared human world through imaginative uses of literary forms. My ongoing interest in the way that ideas like freedom, rationality, and equality are harnessed against exploitative social divisions is compelled by the question of how a concern with the wellbeing of others been historically achieved. I ask: which literary forms and narrative techniques have encouraged such an imagination?
Before obtaining my Ph.D. at Cornell, I obtained a B.A. in English and History at The University of York, UK, and an M.Phil. in Criticism and Culture at Cambridge. My scholarship and teaching also draw on the various historical and literary cultures I came in contact with during my childhood in Belgium, annual visits to family in India, research trips to South Africa, and editorial internships at the Feminist Press at CUNY. These experiences have produced a fascination for various languages and narrative traditions.