Faculty Spotlight: Anita Mannur

photo of Anita Mannur

  • associate professor in the Department of English
  • BA in Comparative Literature, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • PhD, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • teaches interdisciplinary courses focused on the intersectionality of race, class, gender, and sexuality
  • conducts research about food and the intimacies of eating; working on a book called Intimate Eating Publics: Food and Radical Forms of Belonging (Duke University Press)


"I chose comparative literature for both my undergraduate and graduate studies because I was intrigued by its focus on thinking about literature across linguistic traditions. I initially focused on French literature, but comparative literature was the place where I could put into conversation my interests and step out of the Anglo-American literary tradition. Comparative literature was also where I went as an undergrad to read literary theory. I was very interested in post-structuralism, postcolonial theory, and topics that were not often taught in English literature departments.

"In addition to being an associate professor in the Department of English, I was also the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Asian American Studies from 2014 to 2017. I got to do this relatively early in my career, but it was an opportunity I really loved and from which I learned a lot. The chance to edit and shape the direction of the major journal in my field was wonderful, and I enjoyed being able to read articles very interdisciplinarily. I worked with publishers and department chairs to improve the journal's standing and circulation and helped to make professors, not just graduate students, see it as a great place to publish their work."


"Like every other English professor at Miami, I teach classes from the introductory level to the graduate level. I regularly teach courses on Asian American Literature, Ethnic American Literature, and Queer Theory. All of my classes are interdisciplinary and centered around the intersectionality of race, class, gender, and sexuality.

"I really love to introduce students to texts, authors, and perspectives that they haven't previously read. On a basic level, they may not have previously known this sort of content but may share some identity with them. It's gratifying to see that moment in a classroom when a student gets excited that they've accessed a new area of interest or a new passion!

"I believe it is important for everyone to come to the study of literature with humility. We should recognize the limits of our knowledge so that we can learn something new with the texts at the center of analysis. I rarely lecture, because I don't consider myself the only authority on these texts; rather, I sometimes see myself as a curator of the books, helping my students travel through them and seek out new meanings. I hope that my students leave becoming friends on the basis of their newfound intellectual interests.

"There are two takeaways I want students to get from my classes. The first is to be comfortable with discomfort. Even if it means having difficult conversations while thinking through the difficult issues in our texts, we should not avoid the things that make our lives complicated, interesting, and hard at the same time.

"The second thing I want is for students to learn by taking risks. It's important to allow ourselves to successfully fail and take risks that may not have an immediate payoff. I encourage all students to try a different style of writing or something else that they have never done before in their work."


"My current and primary field of research is about food. I currently have a contract with Duke University Press for a book entitled Intimate Eating Publics, which is about trying to think about the way food allows certain intimacies to emerge that would not have otherwise. We often think about eating together as a way to build family, but what if we think about it in a way that is not so heteronormatively imagined? What if sharing food allows strangers who would never talk to one another connect over something?

"I prefer to keep my research separate from my courses because I teach much more broadly than what I research, but I taught a senior capstone course last year called Race, Class, and the Ecocritical Imagination, which relates to my next research project about industrial environmental disasters. Events like Chernobyl and Bhopal are environmental disasters brought about by corporate irresponsibility and malfeasance that mostly go unpunished, so I am trying to make the argument that fiction and memoir are the places that envision justice for the people affected by these catastrophes. In that capstone class, we read all the texts I'm writing about or thinking about writing about."

Outside the Classroom

"Aside from my cats, travel is the thing that sustains me in life. It is something I have always done since I had family vacations when I was a child, and in the last few years I have been traveling by myself a lot more or traveling to meet friends. I always want to make sure I reach Delta Platinum status every year!

"Cooking is my other way of relaxing. I've recently taken up gardening and have finally grown my own tomatoes and peppers, which is amazing because I have never been able to keep a plant alive!

"I live in Cincinnati, and one of the things I enjoy doing is finding new restaurants. Even though I have lived in the city for 8 years, Cincinnati still has some hidden gems in the forms of new foods or ethnic grocery stores where I can get exactly what I want."

[October 2019]