Kum-Kum Bhavnani

Kum-Kum Bhavnani
Distinguished Professor

Office Location

SSMS 3024




Ph.D., Social and Political Sciences, King's College, Cambridge University, UK


My main area of scholarship is within a field that I have been instrumental in establishing — Women, Culture, Development (WCD) — and has increasingly centers on human aspects of the climate crisis that the planet faces for the rest of this century. Since 2006 I have disseminated my research in the form of research documentary films, in the spirit of Seberg and Durand's cinematic sociology.



WCD argues that the reason development has failed the Third World is because development policies are overly economistic, women are not viewed as potential agents of change and culture is not considered as part of the lived experiences of development. It reflects the interdisciplinary directions that I have continued to take with my academic work, and for which UCSB is known as the flagship campus within the UC system. My research spans many regions of the world, connects scholarship and social change, and juxtaposes the past, present, and the future to suggest a new set of vantage points through which to look at the possibilities for Third World Development. I strive to offer a fresh approach to the issues, aiming my work at scholars, policy makers, activists, and related constituencies.

I am also a qualitative methodologist who has developed innovative methods within critical ethnography. My work in WCD builds on my previous main area of Women’s Studies/Feminist Studies.

Inaugural Editor for Meridians; Feminism Race Transnationalism (2000-2002 Smith College);

London Study Center Director for the UC Education Abroad Program (2008-2010);

and the UC Systemwide Senate Vice Chair and Chair (2018-2020).

I present my research and documentaries around the word including keynotes in Brazil, India, South Africa, United Kingdom and other countries in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.


February 2019  You Think You Can’t Dance? 15 minute short documentary Premiered SBIFF

February 2018  We Are Galapagos (feature research documentary on the role of humans in environmental issues

January 2014    Lutah: A Passion for Architecture A Life in Design an award winning research documentary film (Film screening information provided as needed)

February 2012  Nothing Like Chocolate an award-winning research documentary film (details provided as needed) http://nothinglikechocolate.com

February 2006  “The Shape of Water: A Documentary Film”. Funded by grants from UCSB units, Ford Foundation, the LEF Foundation, Fund for Santa Barbara and Gift Fund set up by private donors

Books (select list)

2019     Climate Futures: Reimagining Global Climate Justice (co-edited with John Foran, Priya Kurian, Debashish Munshi) Zed Press/Bloomsbury 

2016     Feminist Futures: Re-Imagining Women, Culture, Development 2nd Edition London: Zed Press (co-edited with John Foran, Priya Kurian, Debashish Munshi) – at invitation from publisher

2009     On the Edges of Development:  Cultural Interventions (Kum-Kum Bhavnani, John Foran, Priya Kurian, and Debashish Munshi, coeditors) New York:  Routledge

2003     Feminist Futures: Re-Imagining Women, Culture, Development London: Zed Press (co-edited with John Foran and Priya Kurian) 

2001     Feminism and ‘Race’ (editor) Oxford: Oxford University Press

1992     Talking Politics (Cambridge University Press)


156A:  Introduction to Women, Culture, and Development

156B:  Seminar in Women, Culture, and Development

185S:  Special Topics in Social Theory (Theories of Globalization)

212F: Feminist Methods

213: Critical Ethnography

265W:  Women, Culture and Development