Meena Kandasamy

Meena Kandasamy (b. 1984) is an anti-caste activist, poet, novelist, and translator. Her writing aims to deconstruct trauma and violence, while spotlighting the militant resistance against caste, gender, and ethnic oppressions. She explores this in her poetry and prose, most notably in her books of poems such as Touch (2006) and Ms. Militancy (2010), as well as her three novels, The Gypsy Goddess (2014), When I Hit You (2017), and Exquisite Cadavers (2019). Her latest work is a collection of essays, The Orders Were to Rape You: Tamil Tigresses in the Eelam Struggle (2021). Her novels have been shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, the International Dylan Thomas Prize, the Jhalak Prize, and the Hindu Lit Prize.

She has been a fellow of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program (2009), a Charles Wallace India Trust Fellow at the University of Kent (2011) and is presently a fellow of the Berlin-based Junge Akademie (AdK).

Activism is at the heart of her literary work; she has translated several political texts from Tamil to English, and previously held an editorial role at The Dalit, an alternative magazine in 2002. In her late teens, she translated the essays and speeches of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi founder-leader Thol.Thirumavalavan into English: Talisman: Extreme Emotions of Dalit Liberation (2003) and Uproot Hindutva: The Fiery Voice of the Liberation Panthers (2004). In 2007, she translated Dravidian ideologue Periyar’s feminist tract Penn Yaen Adimai Aanaal? (Why Were Women Enslaved?) and co-wrote the first English biography of Kerala’s iconic Dalit leader Ayyankali. She holds a PhD in sociolinguistics. Her op-eds and essays have appeared in The White Review, Guernica, The Guardian and The New York Times, among other places.