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Photo of Kapadia, Ronak K.

Ronak K. Kapadia, PhD

Associate Professor

Gender and Women's Studies

Pronouns: he/him/his


Building & Room:

1218 UH


601 S Morgan St.

Office Phone:

(312) 996-2715



Dr. Ronak K. Kapadia (he/him) is an interdisciplinary queer feminist studies scholar of race, war, aesthetics, and empire in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century United States with a focus on South Asian and Southwest Asian American diasporas and the carceral geographies of late modern warfare in the Greater Middle East. His scholarship is situated at the nexus of critical race and ethnic studies; decolonial and women of color feminisms; queer/trans of color critique; visual culture and performance studies; crip and environmental humanities; and critical studies of prisons, surveillance, and militarization. Currently, Kapadia is an Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and affiliated faculty in Art History, Global Asian Studies, and Museum & Exhibition Studies at the University of Illinois Chicago. His first book, Insurgent Aesthetics: Security and the Queer Life of the Forever War (Duke University Press 2019) was awarded the 2020 Surveillance Studies Network Best Book Prize. This groundbreaking work examines the radical experiments, freedom dreams, and queer world-making potential of contemporary art and aesthetics in the ongoing context of US war and empire in the Greater Middle East. It analyzes the impact of present-day militarized security practices on immigrant and refugee communities in the US and how transnational Arab, Muslim, and South Asian diasporic queer feminist multimedia artists, in turn, have made visible and palpable the violence of the US planetary war on terror through their innovative artmaking. In addition to co-editing the special issue of Surveillance & Society on “race and surveillance” (2017), Kapadia has contributed to numerous academic journals, edited volumes, and art catalogs. He is currently engaged in his second solo book project, Breathing in the Brown Queer Commons, which examines queer and trans futurisms in visual culture and performance art to develop a critical theory of healing justice and pleasure amidst ecological chaos and US imperial decline. Recently, Kapadia was honored with the UIC Scholar of the Year Award (Rising Star in the Humanities, Arts, Design, & Architecture Division) as well as the UIC Silver Circle Award for Teaching Excellence, recognizing his outstanding achievements in research, teaching, and mentorship.

Kapadia has expanded his research pursuits by taking on the role of lead project director and co-curator of Surviving the Long Wars, a multi-sited public humanities collaboration with the emerging Veteran Art Movement investigating the intimacies between the 18th and 19th century US "Indian wars" and the 21st century "global war on terror." This project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, featured a seven-part virtual scholarly seminar series and culminated in the 2023 Veteran Art Triennial & Summit at the Newberry Library, Hyde Park Art Center, and Chicago Cultural Center. The Triennial showcased works by over fifty emerging and established BIPOC artists, including veterans of the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, alongside native and Indigenous artists, and South and Southwest Asian American artists. Additionally, Kapadia is co-editor of the forthcoming volume Surviving the Long Wars (Bridge Books | StepSister Press) and serves as co-curator of the satellite exhibition, Transformative Threads, currently on display at the Grand Army of the Republic at the Chicago Cultural Center until December 2024.

Kapadia has received support for his research from numerous prestigious national fellowships. He currently serves on the Advisory Boards of interdisciplinary journals like Verge: Studies in Global Asias and Surveillance & Society. He has held elected leadership positions in the American Studies Association and the Association for Asian American Studies, and he previously co-convened the Newberry Library's Scholarly Seminar on Gender and Sexuality. Outside of academia, he worked as a program fellow at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, where he supported immigrant justice organizing, QTPOC youth activism, and arts organizations of color, and he served on the board of directors of FIERCE, a member-led organization dedicated to building the leadership and power of queer and trans youth of color in New York City.


Selected Books and Publications


Public Scholarship


Selected Awards, Fellowships, and Grants

UIC Scholar of the Year Award – Rising Scholar in Humanities, Arts, Design, and Architecture Division (2022-2023)

UIC Provost COVID-19 Relief Program Grant (2023-2024; award amount: $15,000, PI)

National Endowment for the Humanities Dialogues on the Experiences of War Grant (2022, $100,000, Shared-PI)

UIC Award for Creative Activity (ACA) Program (2022, $25,000, PI)

UIC Silver Circle Award for Teaching Excellence (2021-2022)

UIC Humanities Innovation Grant, Institute for the Humanities (2021, $10,000, Shared-PI)

UIC Teaching Recognition Program Award (2020-2021)

Mellon Humanities Without Walls Seed Grant on “Reciprocity & Redistribution” (2021, $5,000, Shared-PI)

Surveillance Studies Network Best Book Prize for Insurgent Aesthetics (2020)

New York University, Asian/Pacific/American (A/P/A) Institute, Visiting Scholar (2019-2020)

UIC LAS Dean's Award for Faculty Research in the Humanities (2017-2018, award amount: $2,000)

Mellon Art History Publishing Initiative Grant, Duke University Press, (2016, $8,000 for first book costs)

UIC Great Cities Institute (GCI) Faculty Scholarship (2015-2016)

UIC Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy (IRRPP) Faculty Fellowship (2015-2016)

University of California President's Postdoctoral Fellowship (2012-2013)

Consortium for Faculty Diversity (CFD) in Liberal Arts Colleges Dissertation Fellowship (2011-2012)

NYU College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teaching Award (2010)

Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) Anita Affeldt Graduate Student Award (2009)

Stanford University Tom Ford Fellowship in Philanthropy (2005-2006)

Stanford University Robert M. Golden Medal for Excellence in the Humanities (2005)


GWS Courses Taught

GWS 101: Gender in Everyday Life

GWS 204: Gender & Popular Culture

GWS 362: Queer Theory

GWS 407: Advanced Seminar in Queer and Trans Studies

GWS 455: Feminism & Justice: Abolition & Decolonization

GWS 494: Prisons, Policing, & American Warfare

GWS 494: Climate Feminisms & Radical Worldmaking

GWS 501: Feminist/Queer/Trans Theory

GWS 502: Feminist/Queer/Trans Knowledge Production (Methods)

GWS 594: Feminism, Abolition, & War


PhD, American Studies, Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University (2012)
MA, American Studies, Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University (2008)
BA, with honors and distinction, Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Stanford University (2005)