Current Faculty

Dr. Harshita Mruthinti Kamath is Visweswara Rao and Sita Koppaka Associate Professor in Telugu Culture, Literature and History at Emory University. Her research focuses on the textual and performance traditions of Telugu-speaking South India. Her monograph, Impersonations: The Artifice of Brahmin Masculinity in South Indian Dance (2019) analyzes gender impersonation in the Telugu dance style of Kuchipudi. She has also co-translated the sixteenth-century classical Telugu text Parijatapaharanamu (Theft of a Tree) with Velcheru Narayana Rao, which is published as part of the Murty Classical Library of India (2022). Her next research project focuses on the padams (short lyrical songs) of fifteenth-century Telugu poet Annamayya. Dr. Kamath’s research has been supported by grants from the American Institute of Indian Studies, Fulbright-Hays, American Association of University Women, and National Endowment for the Humanities.

Dr. Gautham Reddy is the South Asian Studies and Religion Librarian at Emory’s Robert W. Woodruff Library. He received his PhD, An Empire of Literary Telugu: Remaking Language and Community in Colonial South India, 1812-1920 (2020) from the University of Chicago’s Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations. His current research interests include Telugu language and literature, the history of the book in South Asia, colonial modernity, and critical archival studies. He is a member of the Association of Asian Studies, the Committee on South Asian Languages and Documentation, and the South Asia Open Archives. He is managing editor of the recently launched digital journal Maidaanam: Culture, History, and Politics from the Deccan and Southern India.

Graduate Students and Alumni

Aalekhya Malladi received her doctorate in West and South Asian Religions in 2022. Her dissertation titled “Gender, Detachment, and Devotion in the Lives of 18th c. Telugu Poet Vengamamba” explores the texts and the life histories of Telugu devotional poet Vengamamba (1735-1817), who was based in the Vaishnava pilgrimage town of Tirupati. Through her analysis of Vengamamba’s texts, this project conceives of a distinct female perspective on devotion (bhakti) and detachment (vairagya). Dr. Malladi held the Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship in 2019-2020. Prior to her doctoral studies, Dr. Malladi received a BA in Comparative Literature & African, Middle Eastern & South Asian Languages and Literatures from Rutgers University, New Brunswick, and an MA in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies from Columbia University. She is currently Assistant Professor of South Asian Religions at McGill University.

Shiva Sai Ram Urella is a doctoral student in West and South Asian Religions. His current doctoral project at Emory focuses on the Oggu Katha tradition and Telangana’s oral-performing community of Ogguvandlu. His research explores the contemporary forms of the tradition to offer an insight into the tradition’s conception of narrative (katha) as a performative expression of a shared oral memory of the community. This project will subsequently explore the tradition’s presence and reception in ritual, “secular,” and political spaces and theorize the entangled forms of caste and regional identity in Telangana. Shiva received a Integrated Masters’ degree in Political Science from University of Hyderabad, India.

Emeritus Faculty

Dr. Joyce Burkhalter Flueckiger joined Emory’s Religion Department in 1992 and retired in 2021. She was instrumental in founding the Telugu Initiative at Emory, in which she remains active, and she continues to work with doctoral students. One goal of her research and teaching has been to bring unwritten traditions—vernacular and everyday religion–into the mainstream of the study of religion. Dr. Flueckiger spent one year in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, researching narrative and ritual traditions of the village goddess Gangamma, which resulted in publication of When the World Becomes Female: Possibilities of a South Indian Goddess (2013). She has conducted extensive research in Hyderabad, from which she published a book about a Muslim female healer, In Amma’s Healing Room: Gender & Vernacular Islam in South India (2006) and select chapters of Material Acts in Everyday Hindu Worlds (2020). She has also written about oral traditions, ritual, and materiality in Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand.

Dr. Velcheru Narayana Rao taught Telugu and Indian literatures for 38 years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he was Krishnadevaraya Professor of Languages and Cultures of Asia. In 2015, he was named the first Visweswara Rao and Sita Koppaka Professor in Telugu Culture, Literature, and History at Emory University, a position which he held until December 2017. Professor Narayana Rao is the author of several books on Telugu Literature and South Indian history including Classical Telugu Poetry: An Anthology, with David Shulman (2002), God On the Hill: Temple Songs from Tirupati, with David Shulman (2005), The Story of Manu, with David Shulman (2015), and Text and Tradition in South India (2016). Most recently, he was awarded the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award by the Government of India in 2021.