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Debarati Sanyal

Professor of French, Director of The Center for Interdisciplinary Critical Inquiry
4211 Dwinelle Hall
Spring semester by appointment, email

Research Areas

Debarati Sanyal is Professor of French and Director of Berkeley's Center for Interdisciplinary Critical Inquiry. She is affiliated with Critical Theory, the Center for Race and Gender,  European Studies and the Berkeley Interdisciplinary Migration Initiative.  Her research and teaching interests include critical refugee studies; aesthetics and biopolitics;  postwar French and Francophone culture; transcultural memory studies. Debarati's first book, The Violence of Modernity: Baudelaire, Irony and the Politics of Form (Johns Hopkins, 2006), reclaims Baudelaire's aesthetic legacy for ethical inquiry and historical critique; her second book, Memory and Complicity: Migrations of Holocaust Remembrance (Fordham, 2015), addresses the transnational deployment of complicity in the aftermath of the Shoah. She is completing a book on migrant resistance, biopolitics and aesthetics in Europe's current refugee "crisis." 



Debarati Sanyal grew up in France and received her BA in English and Modern Languages from Oxford. She came to the United States for a PhD in Romance Languages and Literatures at Princeton and held a junior faculty position at Yale before joining the Berkeley French Department in 2000. She received the UC Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award in 2014, and was a Guggenheim Fellow (2021-2022).


Selected Publications


Arts of the Border: Fugitive Bodies at the Edges of Europe (in progress)

Memory and Complicity: Migrations of Holocaust Remembrance (Fordham University Press, 2015).

Translated into French as Mémoire et Complicité: au prisme de la Shoah (PUV, 2019) by Camille Perton with a preface by Éric Fassin.

The Violence of Modernity: Baudelaire, Irony and the Politics of Form (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006).

Journal Issues:

Co-editor, with Mario Telò and Damon Young, of Proximities: Reading with Judith Butler (Representations, 158/1, 2022):

Guest Editor and contributor, Time and Politics in Contemporary Critique: Entanglements and Aftermaths (Critical Times: Interventions in Global Critical Theory, 2:3, 2019): (open access).

Special Editor with Michael Rothberg and Max Silverman, Noeuds de mémoireMultidirectional Memory in French and Francophone Culture (Yale French Studies 118/119, 2010).


Recent articles:

"Race, Migration and Security at the Euro-African Border," Theory & Event, vol. 24 no. 1, 2021, p. 324-355. Project MUSE

 “The Gender of Testimony: Ruth Elias and the Challenge to Lanzmann's Paradigm of Witnessing" in The Construction of Testimony: Claude Lanzmann's Shoah and its Outtakes (Wayne State, 2020)

Introduction to Time and Politics in Contemporary Critique: Entanglements and Aftermaths (Critical Times, 2:3, 2019):

“Humanitarian Detention and Figures of Persistence at the Border,” (Critical Times, 2:3, 2019): (open access).

“Calais’s ‘Jungle’: Refugees, Biopolitics, and the Arts of Resistance” (Representations, 139, 2017):

“The City as Heterotopia: Sylvain George’s Paris est une fête “(La Furia Umana no.31, 2017):

“A Tour through Baudelaire’s Fight Clubs,” in Approaches to Teaching Baudelaire’s Prose Poems (MLA Approaches to Teaching World Literature series, 2017)

“Modiano’s Memoryscapes” (Public Books, October 2015):


Recent Blog Posts:

"The Social Contract and the Game of Monopoly: Listening to Kimberly Jones on Black Lives" (6/29/20):

"The Virus and the Plague: Albert Camus on COVID-19" (3/27/20):