Growing up as a young girl in India, Jyoti Puri was always encouraged and supported in her efforts to succeed academically and personally. “I didn’t feel constrained by my gender; it wasn’t even an issue in my life, but there always were certain inconsistencies and inequalities,” says Puri.
Years later, as a graduate student in the United States studying sociology and social anthropology, Puri developed new insights into the role gender plays in society. “I began to realize that I had been a beneficiary of India’s historic feminist movements. My interest in feminist and gender studies ignited, at a time when the area of study exploded among colleges and universities around the country.”
Before coming to Simmons in 1996, Puri taught sociology and women’s studies at Boston College and at Northeastern University, where she was awarded her M.A. and Ph.D. “Coming to Simmons offered the ideal academic environment for me. The College’s size allows for more substantive, interdisciplinary collaboration among colleagues in and out of my departments. Studies related to gender and feminism are not only supported here, but also strongly encouraged. And faculty’s work and research on these topics is valued.”
As an associate professor in the departments of sociology and women’s studies, Puri teaches courses and graduate seminars that focus on issues of gender, sexuality, post-colonialism, development, and culture in an international context. Her research interests are closely related. In her 1999 book, Woman, Body, Desire in Post-colonial India: Narratives of Gender and Sexuality, she sheds light on important issues of class, nationalism, gender, and identity in India. Her new book, Encountering Nationalism, considers the links among nationalism, colonialism, gender, race, and sexuality. She also is working on a research project related to the visibility of lesbian and gay sexual identities in urban India, and is a deputy editor for the journal Gender & Society.
“My research work and my teaching permeate each other,” explains Puri. “My speaking engagements and paper presentations offer opportunities to gain valuable insight into today’s international discussions on gender and feminist studies. I return to the classroom excited to share what I have learned, only to be stimulated and shaped by my students’ contributions to the discussion. They are eager, bright, and enthusiastic to learn. They make teaching at Simmons rewarding and exciting.”