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School of English and Drama

Dr Sita Balani, BA (Leeds) MA (Goldsmiths PhD (King's)


Senior Lecturer in English | Fellow at the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences



Before coming to Queen Mary in 2022, I was Lecturer in Contemporary Literature and Culture at King’s College London, where I completed my PhD in 2016.

I try to share my work with a broad audience, and I am always keen to engage with galleries, book groups, activist organisation, cultural venues, festivals, film/podcast makers and oral history projects in the UK and further afield.


I teach cultural studies and critical theory, with a particular focus on histories of imperialism, insurgent movements, and political formations.

I have designed a module called Study and Struggle: Global Revolutionary Thought and Practice for use in community and activist groups as well as in the university context. You can find the outline and set readings here: If you decide to run Study and Struggle as an independent reading group, please do feel free to get in touch and let me know how it goes.


Research Interests:

  • Hegemonic and insurgent political formations
  • Sexuality
  • Imperialism
  • ‘War on Terror’
  • Political education

Recent and On-Going Research

My monograph, Deadly and Slick: Sexual Modernity and the Making of Race will be published by Verso in Spring 2023. In this book, I argue that race is naturalised in everyday life through the domain we take to be most intimate and essential: sexuality. I posit that that modernity inaugurates a new political subject made legible as an individual through the pursuit of romantic love, nuclear family, and sexual adventure. But sexual modernity has a dark underbelly. Sexual freedom for some depends on the control, denigration and exploitation of others. By examining the regulation of sexual life in colonial India, at Britain’s borders, and through the functioning of the welfare state, marriage laws, education, and counterterrorism, I show that sexuality has become fatally intertwined with the making of race. 

I am co-author of Empire’s Endgame: Racism and the British State (Pluto, 2021). I worked with Gargi Bhattacharyya, Adam Elliott-Cooper, Kerem Nişancıoğlu, Kojo Koram, Dalia Gebrial, Nadine El-Enany and Luke de Noronha to offer an account of the multiple overlapping crises we face in Britain today. While the 'hostile environment' policy and Brexit referendum have thrown the centrality of race into sharp relief, discussions of racism have too often focused on individual behaviours. Foregrounding instead the wider political and economic context, we trace the ways in which the legacies of empire have been reshaped by global capitalism, the digital environment and the instability of the nation-state.




Deadly and Slick: the sexual life of race in Britain (London: Verso, forthcoming 2023)

Empire’s Endgame: Racism and the British State, with Gargi Bhattacharyya, Adam Elliot-Cooper, Luke de Noronha, Kerem Nisancioglu, Dalia Gebrial, and Kojo Koram. (London: Pluto Books, 2021)

Peer-Reviewed Articles

‘Pedagogies of Defiance’, Wasafiri: International Contemporary Writing (invited submission for special issue on Reimagining Education, due for publication December 2022)

‘What’s love got to do with it?: Marriage and the Security State’, Identities (2021) 1–19.

‘Anxious Asian Men: “coming out” into neoliberal masculinity’, Journal of Postcolonial Writing (2019) 55:3, 382-396.

‘many voices, one chant: 30th anniversary roundtable’ (with J. Bernard and C. Gupta), Feminist Review, (2014) 108, 26–43.

Book Chapters

‘Making It Count: Resisting the Authority of Ignorance’ in Futures of Socialism: The Pandemic and the Post-Corbyn Era ed. Grace Blakeley (London: Verso, 2021) 150-157.

‘From Botany to Community: A Legacy of Classification’ in Theatrum Botanicum, ed. Uriel Urlow and Shela Sheikh, Sternberg Press (2018)  329-336.

‘Touch and other feminist visual strategies’, Photoworks Annual (Theme: Women) (2015) 62-65.


‘Catching History: Vigils, Riots and the Right to Protest,’ Verso (2021)

‘Are We All Females?,’ Tribune (2020)

‘Why We Need a New Response to the LGBT Sex Education Row,’ Novara Media (2019)

‘The Far-Right Views Behind the London Bombings of 1999,’ VICE (2019) < bombings-of-1999>

Apna: One of Our Own,’ Discover Society, (2019), Issue 67, <> 

‘Virtue and Violence,’ Verso (2018)

< virtue-and-violence>

‘Operation Skybreaker: When the State Co-opts the Community,’ Ceasefire, (2014)

’Britain: A history of shopkeeping, empire and racial tensions (published in two parts), Media Diversified, (2013)

‘Beyond “A Plague on Both Their Houses”: The Bradford 12 and the Liberal Anti-Fascism of Hope Not Hate’, The Multicultural Politic, (2013)


‘Without Mourning’, Five Dials, Penguin Books (2021)

‘Against Mastery: A Dialogue on Ta-Nehisi Coates’s The Water Dancer’ with Jay Bernard, The White Review (2020)

‘Cruising Alan Hollinghurst’s Contradictions,’ Boundless (2019)

‘Field Notes: Queer Vertigo,’ The Hythe, 87press (2019)

‘Notes on Direct Action,’ Identity Theory (2017)


I would welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of the areas of my research. I am particularly keen to supervise first generation university students.

Public Engagement

I have published in Open Democracy, Vice, Novara Media, The Hythe, Ceasefire, Tribune, Five Dials and The White Review.

In collaboration with Bryony White, I run Up Close: A Reading Group on Sex and Desire at the Institute of Contemporary Arts:

I have appeared on podcasts (with Novara Media, Pluto Books and on Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan’s Breaking Binaries) and I am keen to do more public engagement in this form.  

  • Guest speaker on ‘Know Your Enemy’ course, The World Transformed, 2021
  • Guest Lecture on ‘Arts, Culture and Anti Imperialism’ at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, Peckham 2021
  • Online workshop on ‘Anti-Racist Resistance Then & Now’ at Consented Summer School (annual youth conference) 2020
  • Workshop on ‘Homonationalism’ at Consented Summer School (annual youth conference) 2019
  • Lecture on ‘Asian Youth Movements’ at Consented Summer School (annual youth conference) 2018
  • Workshop on ‘Homonationalism’ at BSix College, Clapton 2018
  • Workshop on ‘Orientalism’ at Oaklands School, Bethnal Green 2018
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