Personal profile

Personal profile

Reader in Film and Global Media

Postgrduate Research Lead, Media Arts

Director of Impact (Media Arts), 2015-2019

Manishita Dass received her Ph.D. from Stanford University and before coming to Royal Holloway, worked as an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) and a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow/Visiting Assistant Professor at Swarthmore College in the U.S.

Her research and teaching interests revolve around South Asian media and cultural history, film historiography, approaches to national cinema and world cinema, transnational media flows, Bengali & Hindi cinema, Asian cinemas, international silent cinema, global art cinema, and the geo-political imaginary of film and modernist studies. She has published in Cinema Journal, Screen, positions, and edited collections.

Published/Forthcoming Books

Her first book, Outside the Lettered City: Cinema, Modernity, and the Public Sphere in Colonial India (Oxford University Press, 2015), traces how the new public space and publics created by cinema were imagined on and especially around the screen -- in films and in contemporary discourses about spectatorship -- in early twentieth century India. These imaginings, the book argues, are crucial clues that can illuminate, if only in flashes, cinema’s role in reshaping the public sphere, the idea of the public, and everyday meanings of modernity in late colonial India. Outside the Lettered City was recommended by BASAS (British Association for South Asian Studies) as one of their "Top 6 South Asia Studies publications of 2016":

Her book on Ritwik Ghatak's Meghe Dhaka Tara (The Cloud-Capped Star) for the BFI Film Classics series (Bloomsbury) was published in October 2020.


She is currently working on a book about the impact of left radicalism on the film cultures of Bombay and Calcutta in the 1940s-1960s (Left Luggage: Cinematic Legacies of the Indian People's Theatre Association). Research for this project has been supported by a British Academy grant (to do archival research) and a Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2019-2020).

A second, and related, project focuses on the possibilities of internediality as historiographic method, especially in colonial and postcolonial contexts: How do we fashion historiographic approaches attuned to the specificity of a medium as well as its relations with other media?  How do we trace the transnational networks, flows, exchanges, and interventions through which medium-specific trends take shape across media? She has organized panels on these issues at various international conferences: SCMS/Society for Cinema & Media Studies (2018, 2019); Screen (2017).

A third project focuses on the aesthetics, politics, genealogies, afterlives, and international resonances of the Indian New Wave. She and Dr Usha Iyer (Stanford University) have co-organized a 2-day, 22-paper seminar, "New Perspectives on the Indian New Wave," at the ACLA/American Comparative Literature Association conference, March 2020, and another seminar, "Refracting Global Art and Political Cinema through the Lens of the Indian New Wave," at the 2020 SCMS conference (April).

Other activities

She is a member of the AHRC Peer Review College. She also serves on the Advisory Board of the University of California Press’ new Cinema Cultures in Contact series, dedicated to publishing scholarly monographs on cinematic flows and exchanges across borders:

Between 2007 and 2010, she was one of the principal project coordinators of Tasveer Ghar (House of Pictures), a multi-institutional and transnational initiative (based at the University of Michigan, Duke University, University of Heidelberg, and the Center for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi) for creating a virtual archive of South Asian popular visual culture through collecting, digitizing, and contextualizing a wide variety of images and visual artifacts, e.g., posters, cinema advertisements, photographs, calendar art, and other forms of street/bazaar art (

Education/Academic qualification

Modern Thought & Literature, PhD, Stanford University