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Ambreen Hai

Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities, Professor of English Language & Literature; Department Chair of English Language & Literature

Ambreen Hai


Wright Hall 213


Ambreen Hai specializes in Anglophone postcolonial literature from South Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, and 19th–20th century literature of the British Empire. Additional research and teaching interests include contemporary literary theory, gender and women’s studies, globalization, film adaptation studies, critical humor studies, and literature and ethics. She has published widely on postcolonial and transnational writing, with a focus on South Asia and its diaspora. Her first book, Making Words Matter: The Agency of Colonial and Postcolonial Literature (2009), focuses on the work of Rudyard Kipling, E. M. Forster and Salman Rushdie, and examines how, in the context of colonization, a self-reflexive anxiety about their own agency shapes colonial and postcolonial narratives, and why that anxiety is articulated through the figure of the human body. Her second book, Postcolonial Servitude: Domestic Servants in Global South Asian English Literature, analyzes how a diverse range of fiction from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh calls attention to and deploys new formal strategies to engage with the realities of contemporary domestic servitude.

Courses taught recently include: FYS 132 Girls Leaving Home; ENG 199 Methods of Literary Study; ENG 241 The Empire Writes Back: Postcolonial Literature; ENG 277 Postcolonial Women Writers; ENG 278 Asian American Women Writers; and ENG 391 Contemporary South Asian Writers in English. She also serves on the executive committees for the Program for the Study of Women and Gender and is the director of the South Asia studies minor. Beyond Smith, she serves on the board of editors for ARIEL (A Review of International English Literature), and as reader for various scholarly journals.

Selected Publications


Postcolonial Servitude: Domestic Servants in Global South Asian English Literature, Oxford University Press, 2024.

Making Words Matter: The Agency of Colonial and Postcolonial Literature, Ohio University Press, 2009.


“‘Some Other Land, Some Other Sea’: Attia Hosain’s Fiction and Non-fiction in Distant Traveller.” In Mid-Century Women's Writing: Disrupting the Public/Private Divide, eds, Ravenel Richardson, et al. Manchester University Press, 2024, pp. 202–222.

“H. M. Naqvi’s Home Boy as a Response to Post-9/11 Islamophobia and as Implicit Critique of Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist.” ARIEL, A Review of International English Literature 53.3 (July 2022): 113-147.

“Pitfalls of Ambiguity in Contexts of Islamophobia: Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist,Studies in the Novel, 52.4 (Winter 2020) 434–458. Special issue, “The Postcolonial Novel, Post-9/11.”

“Mira Nair’s Independence of Vision: Film Adaptations of The Namesake and The Reluctant Fundamentalist,Teaching South Asian Women’s Writing, eds., Deepika Bahri and Filippo Menozzi. MLA: New York, 2021. 146–162.

“‘No One in the House Knew Her Name’: Servant Problems in R. K. Narayan’s Short Stories.” South Asian Review 39:3-4 (2019): 335–353.

“Complicating Collusion and Resistance: Teaching Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace, Intersectional Reading, and the Ethics of Colonized Subjecthood.” Approaches to Teaching the Works of Amitav Ghosh, eds., Gaurav Desai and John Hawley. MLA: New York: 2019, 55–66.

“Uses of Humor in Post-9/11 Pakistani Anglophone Fiction: H. M. Naqvi’s Home Boy and Mohammed Hanif’s A Case of Exploding Mangoes.” The Routledge Companion to Pakistani Anglophone Writing: Origins, Contestations, New Horizons, edited by Aroosa Kanwal and Saiyma Aslam, 80–93. Routledge, UK, 2018.

“Laughing with an Iranian-American Woman”: Firoozeh Dumas’ Memoirs and the (Cross) Cultural Work of Humor.” Journal of Asian American Studies 21.2 (June 2018): 263–300.

“Motherhood and Domestic Servitude in Transnational Women’s Fiction: Thrity Umrigar’s The Space Between Us and Mona Simpson’s My Hollywood.” Contemporary Literature 57.4 (Winter 2016): 500–540.

“‘There’s Always the Other Side, Always’: Black Servants’ Laughter, Knowledge, and Power in Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea.” Modernism/Modernity 22.3 (September 2015): 493–522.  

“Postcolonial Servitude: Interiority and System in Daniyal Mueenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders.” ARIEL, A Review of International English Literature 45.3 (July 2014): 33–74.

“Adultery Behind Purdah and the Politics of Indian Muslim Nationalism in Zeenuth Futehally’s Zohra” (In special issue of Modern Fiction Studies on “Women's Fiction, New Modernist Studies, and Feminism”) 59.2 (Summer 2013): 317–345.

“Re-Rooting Families: The Alter/Natal as the Central Dynamic of Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth”. In Naming Jhumpa Lahiri: Canons and Controversies, edited by Lavina Dhingra and Floyd Cheung, 181–209. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2012.

“Reading Fawzia Afzal-Khan’s Lahore With Love: The Ethics of Memoir.” Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies. 3:2 (Summer 2011): 29–51.

“Forster and the Fantastic: The Covert Politics of The Celestial Omnibus.” Twentieth-Century Literature 54.2 (Summer 2008): 217–246.

“Out in the Woods: E. M. Forster’s Spatial Allegories of Property, Sexuality, and Colonialism.” Literature, Interpretation, Theory. 14.4 (Oct.-Dec. 2003): 317–55.

“Departures from Karachi Airport: Some Reflections on Feminist Outrage.” Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism  4.1 (October 2003): 142–64.

“Border Work, Border Trouble: Postcolonial Feminism and the Ayah in Bapsi Sidhwa's Cracking India.” Modern Fiction Studies 46.2 (June 2000): 379–426.

“‘Marching in from the Peripheries’: Rushdie’s Feminized Artistry and Ambivalent Feminism.” In Critical Essays on Salman Rushdie, edited by M. Keith Booker, 16–50. New York: G. K. Hall, 1999.

“Children of An Other Language: Kipling’s Stories, Interracial Progeny, and Questions of Censorship.” Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies 5.2 (Fall 1998): 49–80.

“On Truth and Lie in a Colonial Sense: Kipling’s Tales of Tale-Telling.” ELH (English Literary History) 64.2 (Summer 1997): 599–625.


“The Inspection Tea Party” (short story). The Massachusetts Review, 63.3 (Fall 2022): 507-528.

A Portrait of a Mother” (short story). Cerebration, October 2023.

Rapunzel’s Mother” (short story). Press Pause, April 2024.

Office Hours

By appointment


Ph.D., M.Phil., M.A., Yale University
B.A., Wellesley College

Selected Works in Smith ScholarWorks