Assistant Professor of Religion
Office: Humphrey House, Room 105
PhD: University of California, Berkeley
MA: Columbia University
BA: Wellesley College
Dr. Pillai is Assistant Professor of Religion and Director of Film and Media Studies at Kalamazoo College. She is a comparatist of South Asian religious literature and her area of specialization is the Mahabharata and Ramayana epic narrative traditions with a focus on retellings created in Hindi and Tamil. Her current book project, Krishna’s Mahabharatas: Devotional Retellings of an Epic Narrative, demonstrates how regional religious traditions in premodern South Asia transformed the Sanskrit Mahabharata, an epic about a catastrophic war, into a narrative of bhakti (devotion) focused on the popular Hindu deity Krishna. She is also the co-editor of Many Mahabharatas (State University of New York Press, 2021), a member of the Steering Committee for the Hinduism Unit at the American Academy of Religion, and a member of the editorial board for Reading Religion. She received her PhD in South and Southeast Asian Studies from the University of California, Berkeley; her MA in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies from Columbia University; and her BA in South Asia Studies and Theatre Studies from Wellesley College.
- The ‘Hindu’ Epics? Telling the Ramayana and the Mahabharata in Premodern South Asia.” In The Epic World, edited by Pamela Lothspeich. New York: Routledge, forthcoming.
- “Remembering and Removing Aurangzeb: The Manuscript History of Sabalsingh Chauhan’s Mahabharat.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East 42, no. 2 (2022) 356-61.
- Co-editor (with Nell Shapiro Hawley), Many Mahabharatas. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2021.
- “The Mahabharata as Krsnacarita: Draupadi’s Prayer in Two Regional Retellings.” The Journal of Hindu Studies 14, no. 2 (2021): 259–78.
- “Blessed Beginnings: Invoking Visnu, Krsna, and Rama in Two Regional Mahabharatas.” In Many Mahabharatas, edited by Nell Shapiro Hawley and Sohini Sarah Pillai, 257–75. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2021.
- Co-author (with Nell Shapiro Hawley), “An Introduction to the Literature of the Mahabharata.” In Many Mahabharatas, edited by Nell Shapiro Hawley and Sohini Sarah Pillai, 1–34. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2021.
- “From Villainess to Victim: Contemporary Representations of Surpanakha.” In Oral-Written-Performed: The Ramayana Narratives in Indian Literature and Arts, edited by Danuta Stasik, 159–76. Heidelberg: CrossAsia eBooks, 2020.
For more information about Dr. Pillai, visit her website.
Dr. Pillai is the Director of Film and Media Studies.
Please visit the Film and Media Studies website for more information about the concentration.