Aunty Ethnography

Savannah Shange

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Savannah Shange is assistant professor of Anthropology at UC Santa Cruz and also serves as principal faculty in Critical Race & Ethnic Studies.  Her research interests include gentrification, multiracial coalition, ethnographic ethics, Black femme gender, and abolition.  She earned a PhD in Africana Studies and Education from the University of Pennsylvania, a MAT from Tufts University, and a BFA from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU.  Her first book, Progressive Dystopia: Abolition, Anti-Blackness and Schooling in San Francisco (Duke 2019) is an ethnography of the afterlife of slavery as lived in the Bay Area.

Sneha Annavarapu

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Dr. Sneha Annavarapu is a postdoctoral teaching fellow at the University of Chicago. An ethnographer by training, Sneha’s wide-ranging research interests center around urbanization, governance, class relations, and gender in contemporary India. Sneha has published articles in academic journals such as Social Problems, Journal of Historical Sociology, and Journal of Consumer Culture and teaches in the areas of feminist geography, transnational urbanisms, sociological theory, and qualitative sociology. Sneha is also committed to public scholarship and has written for popular websites and magazines. She is also the co-founder of Ethnographic Marginalia, and a regular host on the New Books Network podcast.

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Auto Rani: an aunty, an “America ammayi,” and an autorickshaw

In this talk, I recount an ethnographic encounter from my fieldwork on driving culture in Hyderabad: my first meeting with the most prominent woman auto-rickshaw driver in the city, Nizampet’s Narayanamma.


From talking about breaking into the highly masculinized profession of commercial driving to mischievously asking (read: chiding) me why I am not married despite being in my late 20s, Narayanamma reminded me how aunties are just full of seamless contradictions. As if reading my mind, Narayanamma insisted I call her anything else but an aunty – “just call me auto rani”. The queen of autorickshaws. 


Attending to her own reflections on her becoming an auto rani, I propose that the cheeky moves she makes on the busy roads of Hyderabad, and the way she plays with the unruly potentials of pleasure betray the fundamental ambivalence aunty figures embody – they practice much more subversion than they preach. (22:01)

Play Aunties and Dyke Bitches: gender, generation and the ethics of black queer kinship

Through ethnographic engagement with queer kids of color coming of age in the San Francisco Bay Area, I explore the co-production of Black queer common sense across gender and generation.  A social justice themed alternative high school allows us to examine schools as not just hostile territories to queer teachers or students in isolation, but also potentially as sites of the collaborative, contested production of queer communities of color.  Drawing on the work of Riley Snorton (2017), Kara Keeling (2007), Kaila Story (2017) and Mel Michelle Lewis (2017), I critically engage stud-femme sociality as a contested site of Black queer kinship.  Struggling through conflict and collaboration, the young women of Frisco teach us to engage girlhood as a coalitional space of queer possibility. (18:05)

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