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Graduate Student: Annu Dahiya  

Annu Dahiya
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I am a scholar of feminist theory, specializing in feminist science studies, late nineteenth and twentieth century continental philosophy, continental philosophy of science, and origins of life studies. Currently, I am a Ph.D. candidate in The Program in Literature and a Dissertation Fellow in The Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. I am completing my dissertation, The Conditions of Emergence: Towards a Feminist Philosophy of The Origins of Life, under the direction of Elizabeth Grosz and Mark B.N. Hansen.

Consistently undergirding my research and teaching is a theoretical commitment to the idea that the constitutive forces of Nature are in no way phallocentric, racist, or transphobic in and of themselves. This foundation shapes how I engage my own research and teach my students. My efforts to rethink the nature of nature involve critical attention to writing and research that is racist and phallocentric in order to understand how oppressive systems of thought operate to destabilize them from within. The Conditions of Emergence argues more specifically that a phallocentric scientific and theoretical framework is incapable of addressing the emergence of life from matter on the ancient Earth. A phallocentric theory of the origin of life posits a vertical hierarchy between life and matter and understands them as fundamentally opposite to each other. In creating a division between matter and life, phallocentric approaches to the origins of life create a dilemma of needing to pinpoint exactly when life emerges, in other words answering exactly when “inanimate” matter is animated or penetrated with a logos of life.

The relation between matter and life is the litmus test I use for what kinds of contemporary scientific research—while not feminist themselves—have implications for a feminist philosophy of life. I read contemporary origins research through the writings of Henri Bergson, Ilya Prigogine, Gilbert Simondon, Raymond Ruyer, Luce Irigaray, and Elizabeth Grosz, who complicate the binaries between materialism and idealism and also between matter and life. Across three chapters, I engulf key debates in origins of life studies—the evolution of metabolism, the invention of the first cellular membranes, and the birth and role of genetics—in a far-from-equilibrium fluid milieu that creates the possibility for their emergence. To do this, I draw on Luce Irigaray’s philosophical writings—which argue that the necessary fluid prerequisites for a subject to emerge have been ignored in the history of western thought—in concert with contemporary origins research that argues the oldest single celled organism on Earth could have only been birthed in a fluid milieu in a state of disequilibrium.

Beyond the scope of my dissertation, my work has been published in Transforming Contagion: Risky Contacts among Bodies, Disciplines, and Nations and is forthcoming in A Sharing of Thought and Speech: Scholarship on or Inspired by the Work of Luce Irigaray

At Duke, I have taught small, intensive undergraduate seminars that weave together the history of biology, feminist theory, and continental philosophy at the introductory, intermediate, and advanced intermediate levels. These courses revolve around concepts within feminist theory and the natural world such as the “reproduction,” “contagion,” and “monstrosity.” I teach my students how to utilize feminist theory to generate novel scientific avenues of inquiry.

I have presented my work and organized panels in national and international venues, including The Society for Existential and Speculative Philosophy, philoSOPHIA: A Society for Continental Feminism, The International Association for Environmental Philosophy, The North American and European Societies for Science, Literature, and the Arts, The National Women's Studies Association, and The Irigaray Circle. 


Origins of Life Studies • Biophilosophy • The Non-Human • Feminist Philosophies of Time, Difference, and Becoming


Feminist Theory • Science and Technology Studies • Continental Philosophies of Science • Women’s and Gender Studies 


  • Monstrosity, Science, Culture, Program in Literature (cross-listed with Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies, Visual and Media Studies, & English), Summer 2018
  • Contagion in Culture and Society, Program in Literature (cross-listed with Global Health, Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies, Visual and Media Studies, Science and Technology Studies, & English), Summer 2017
  • Gender and Everyday Life, Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (cross-listed with Program in Literature), Spring 2017
  • Non/Human Reproduction, Program in Literature (cross-listed with Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies & Cultural Anthropology), Fall 2016


Duke University—Durham, NC, expected March 2019
Ph.D., The Program in Literature

Rutgers University—New Brunswick, NJ, May 2013
B.A.,  Majors: Women’s and Gender Studies; Cultural Anthropology
         Minors: Biological Sciences; Critical Race and Ethnic Studies

External Training

Cardiff University—Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom, April - May 2018
         sciencehumanities International Summer School


  • B.A., Rutgers University,

Recent Publications

  1. Dahiya, A. "The Container Problem: Irigaray, Primordial Wombs, and the Origins of Life." A Sharing of Thought and Speech: Scholarship on or Inspired by the Work of Luce Irigaray Ed. Crapo, R; Russell, Y; Sharp, B. July, 2019.
  2. Dahiya, A. "Before the Cell, there was Virus: Rethinking the Concept of Parasite and Contagion through Contemporary Research in Evolutionary Virology." Transforming Contagion Risky Contacts Among Bodies, Disciplines, and Nations July, 2018. (translated by Fah, B; Mann, A; Swank, E; Stage, S) [abs]
  3. Dahiya, A. "Gender Violence in HIV Prevention Efforts: A Case Study." Rutgers Journal of Bioethics 1.2 (2010): 33-36.

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