Anne Murphy

Prospective Graduate Students / Postdocs

This faculty member is currently not actively recruiting graduate students or Postdoctoral Fellows, but might consider co-supervision together with another faculty member.

Associate Professor

Research Classification

Research Interests

Arts and Cultural Traditions
Literary or Artistic Work Analysis
Philosophy, History and Comparative Studies
cultural history
Early Modern Studies
Punjabi Studies
South Asian Studies

Relevant Degree Programs


Research Methodology

Cultural history
Oral history
Community Partnership
Language advocacy

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Nov 2020)
Negotiating shame & honour, caste & class : women in Punjabi theatre of East Punjab (2020)

Few females participated in early forms of Punjabi theatre until the 1940s and there is a dearth of information available on their contributions in the area. This dissertation examines reasons that prevented females from entering this field, and the stories of women who have. I focus on the life stories of four women who have made significant contributions to Punjabi theatre, Neena Tiwana, Rani Balbir Kaur, Navnindra Behl and Neelam Man Singh Chowdhry, whom I interviewed over a period of three months (February to April) in 2017, to understand what enabled and hindered their success. The dissertation begins with the history of women in performance within the Indian subcontinent in general, and the Punjab region of Northern India, in specific. I then investigate gendered norms within Punjabi society and their connection to ideas of shame and honour, which lead to a “script” which traditionally barred women from areas of performance in public spaces. Finally, I consider the success of the aforementioned females, looking again at ideas of shame, as well as the support of male relatives and dynamics of caste and class privilege as factors that enabled their ascendence within Punjabi theatre. Overall the dissertation seeks to understand the presence of shame and stigma for women in the theatre, and analyze how we can understand the emergence of these four women in a field that is otherwise dominated by men.

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Participating in other worlds : locating gurbilās literature in the wider world of Brajbhasha traditions (2020)

The full abstract for this thesis is available in the body of the thesis, and will be available when the embargo expires.

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Printmaking and Professionalism in Early Twentieth Century Bengal (2015)

The early twentieth century in Bengal was a time of great social transformation, when many new ways of being and making a living in the world became suddenly possible and negotiable. Amongst the new livelihoods finding expression in that time and place was that of the modern, urban, professional Bengali printmaking artist, one who combined professional artistic training and certification with a determination to carve out spaces of economic and social opportunity for himself, often very difficult circumstances. Most artists struggled to forge successful careers at this time, but those who were engaged with print and printmaking media were able to take advantage of unique opportunities and were faced with particular challenges. Each chapter of this thesis deals with particular images and objects, certain institutions and texts, in order to trace the modern, professional Bengali printmaking artist through the contested spaces of a rapidly professionalizing art world that was itself emerging and transforming in Bengal, particularly in the urban centre of Calcutta from roughly the 1920s to the 1940s. By looking closely at how therelationships between individualism and collectivity, and between village India andmodern urban agglomerations, were represented and negotiated in and through print and printmaking media during this period, this thesis also complicates our understanding of how these twinned issues were connected to the experience of modernity and modern art in South Asia. Finally, this thesis addresses the Bengal Famine of 1943, its representation in the art of the period, and how its cataclysmic circumstances were a context in which the issues and themes discussed throughout this project manifested in particularly urgent ways.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Jat masculinity and deviant femininity in a punjabi romantic epic: exploring gender through Waris Shah's Hir (2018)

This thesis examines the representation of gender in Waris Shah’s Hīr, a romantic epic (qissā) composed during the late 1700s in Punjab. The author, Waris Shah, a Sufi of the Chishti tradition, lived during the eighteenth century. Hīr portrays the tragic story of the love between Hīr, a young woman of the Siyal clan, and Rāṅjhā, a young man known by his clan name; the story is sometimes called the “Romeo and Juliet” of Punjabi literature. This qissā is set in the rural, feudal plains of Punjab, where multiple clans strove to maintain or improve their status. In the qissā, Hīr, Waris Shah portrays gender through poetic metaphor, dialogue, character, and plot. I focus primarily on his protagonists, treating each of Hīr and Rāṅjhā as pivotal male and female characters, and secondarily on the character of Sahiti, Hīr’s sister-in-law in the story. I interrogate the gender representation of each character to uncover the social constructs to which Shah subscribed. I will argue that through the plot of the story, the dialogue, and the exchanges between the characters, a multiplicity of forms of gender is articulated. The portrayal of Shah’s main characters forces us to question the idea of gender norm, while recognizing how it functions as a social force. Through his complex characters Shah demonstrates the unorthodox gender is normal in this text. In Part I, I propose an overarching meaning for Shah’s multi-vocality of femininity as tied to the character of Hīr (and secondarily Sahiti), by paying close attention to the language Shah uses in describing her, the arc of her plot which ends in her murder, and her interaction with other women characters. In Part II, I propose an overarching meaning for Shah’s multi-vocal portrayal of masculinity as tied to the character of Rāṅjhā, by attending to descriptions of his appearance, his loss of property and arc that ends in his death, as well as his interactions with other characters. Through these two figures, Hīr and Rāṅjhā, Shah articulates a range of gendered forms, while ultimately adhering to patriarchal norms that are presented alongside other models.

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The heroine in modern Punjabi literature and the politics of desire (2013)

This thesis project focuses on the representation of the heroine in three works of contemporary modern Punjabi literature. More specifically, I address questions regarding the importance of the heroine in literature as well as the manner in which she is portrayed. Part of the work I have done is historical in scope, as each of the heroines is constructed in accordance with the needs and perspectives of the time of her creation. I argue that the preoccupation of writers centralizing their work around women was to address the rebellion that each heroine undertakes against their subordinate position in society. However, the rebellions that occurred took place within specific historical circumstances and within larger projects within which women’s roles would be defined. The first chapter begins with Sikh reformist Bhai Vir Singh’s Sundri written in 1898. Bhai Vir Singh constructs a role model Sundri, to re-energize a sleeping community. Problematically, through this process his heroine Sundri has to sacrifice her sexuality and is transformed into a goddess whose perfection is unattainable. The second chapter analyzes a literary movement that emerges alongside the nationalist movement. Gurbaksh Singh Preetlari’s novel Anviahi Maa (Unmarried Mother) was published in 1942. The heroine of this novel is a Bengali woman named Prabha who is shunned from society for being a woman who expresses and acts on her desire. The final chapter investigates the politics of desire in Shiv Kumar Batalvi’s Loona (1965). The women in this verse play are brought to the forefront to reveal the injustices that have been committed toward them by the patriarchal society that they are trapped in. Within these three works I analyze the constructed boundaries from which these heroines cannot escape. I critique the context in which each author defends or abandons his heroine. I argue in conclusion that that there is no appropriate space in Indian society or Punjabi literature for women to present themselves as sexual beings, without being chastised.

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Current Students & Alumni

This is a small sample of students and/or alumni that have been supervised by this researcher. It is not meant as a comprehensive list.

Membership Status

Member of G+PS
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