Rukmini Bhaya Nair is Professor of Linguistics and English at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge and has since taught at universities ranging from Singapore to Stanford and delivered plenary addresses worldwide from Aarhus to Xinjiang. Nair's research interests are in the fields of cognitive linguistics, pragmatics, narrative, English studies, philosophy of language, techno-cultures, literary and postcolonial theory, gender and creative writing.
Author of over a 100 papers and articles, Nair’s widely acclaimed academic books include Poetry in a Time of Terror (Oxford University Press, New Delhi and New York, 2009), Narrative Gravity: Conversation, Cognition, Culture (Routledge, London and New York, 2003), Lying on the Postcolonial Couch (Oxford and Minnesota University Presses, 2002); Translation, Text and Theory: the Paradigm of India (ed., Sage, New Delhi and Thousand Oaks, USA 2002) and Technobrat: Culture in a Cybernetic Classroom (Harper Collins, India, 1997).
Nair is Consulting Editor of Biblio, a leading Indian review journal, and on the editorial board of international, peer-reviewed journals such as the Journal of Literary Semantics (De Gruyter) and Language and Dialogue (Walter Benjamins). She also writes widely in national papers and journals and has been a regular contributor to Australian radio's 'The Book Show' and Mark Tully’s BBC program 'Something Understood'. From 2015 onwards, she has also been an occasional online columnist for NDTV.
In the year 2013, Nair published the first novel -Mad Girl's Love Song - of a trilogy which aims to explore, amongst other themes, the complex love-hate relationship that Indians have with the English language. This novel was in final 10 books 'long-list' for the prestigious DSC prize.
From the time she won, as a student, an Essay Prize in a competition organized by La Stampa, Le Monde, Die Welt and The Times in conjunction with the First International Exhibition on Man & his Environment, Turin, Italy, Nair has been the recipient of several awards (The J.N. Tata Scholarship, the Hornby and Charles Wallace Awards, the Dorothy Leet Grant etc.).
In 2006, Nair was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Antwerp for her contributions to the fields of linguistics and narrative theory and was a chosen a Fellow of the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), University of Cambridge in the same year.
More recently, Nair was awarded the prestigious two-year Senior Fellowship at the NMML (2010-12) for a project on ‘Contemporary Indian Keywords’. In 2016 she has been selected as Senior Professorial Fellow as the Centre for Developing Societies (CSDS). Her latest major grants have been from the Indian Ministry of Science and Technology (DST) to conduct basic research in cognitive science on the theme of ‘Language, Emotion and Culture’ (2010-2014) and from the Indian Council of Social Sciences Research (ICSSR_ on the theme of early childhood development under the rubric 'The Capabilities Approach to Education" (2013-2016).
Head of Department, Humanities and Social Sciences, IITD, from 2006 to 2009 on her return from Stanford University where she was invited to teach in 2005, Nair’s honorary duties currently include being President's Nominee (Visitor) to the Central Universities of Kerala and Tamil Nadu as well as being on the Academic Council of the Society of Fellows, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. She serves on the Scholarship Committee of the Open Society Foundation, New York and on the Consultative Board of the International Pragmatics Association (IPRA), which held its 13th biennial meeting for the first time in New Delhi in 2013 and was attended by 500 academics from 60 countries, at an event organized by Nair.
Called 'the first significant post-modern poet in Indian English', Nair has published three volumes of poetry: The Hyoid Bone, The Ayodhya Cantos and Yellow Hibiscus (Penguin India, 1992, 1999, 2004). A fourth collection, Shataka 26/11, awaits publication. Nair’s poems have been widely anthologized and translated into languages as diverse as Chinese, Italian, Macedonian and Swedish. The entry on her in the standard reference volume Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry (OCMP 2nd edition ed. Ian Hamilton and Jeremy Tod, 2014), which contains entries for poets across the world during the past century (1910-2010). including iconic names like T.S. Eliot and Pablo Neruda, says of her work that it "has been widely admired by other poets and critics for its postmodern approach to lyrical meaning and feminine identity." She has read her poetry at international venues from Beijing and Copenhagen to Struga and Sydney. In 1990, Nair received the first prize in the All India Poetry Society/ British Council competition and in the year 2000, she was selected as a 'Face of the Millennium' in a national survey of writers by India Today.