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Samhita Sunya

Assistant Professor of Cinema

Office Address: 041 New Cabell Hall
Office Hours: Tu 10:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.  & by appointment


Ph.D, Rice University, 2014
Graduate Certificate in the Study of Women, Gender, & Sexuality, Rice University, 2014
Certificate in Museum Studies, Northwestern University, 2023

Class Schedule

Spring 2024

MW 2 - 3:15 p.m.: "Spies in Action: Cine-Media Worlds of Espionage"
MW 3:30 - 4:45 p.m.: "Intro to Middle East - South Asia Film History"

Previously Taught

"Playing Games: A Gateway to the Middle East and South Asia"
"Film Festivals and Global Media Cultures: Middle East - South Asia Spotlight"
"Creaturely Flights of Fancy: A Media History of Birds" [2-credit University Seminar]
"A Thousand and One Nights at the Cinema"
"Via Asia" Forum Intro & Capstone (Co-Taught with Professor Natasha Heller)
"Cinephilia & Global Modernity"
"Cinematic Shakespeare: Middle East – South Asia Histories of Shakespeare on Film”


After completing my PhD at Rice University (2014), I joined the American University of Beirut as an Assistant Professor of Visual Culture. My location in Lebanon for two years (2014 - 2016) complemented my earlier fieldwork at the National Film Archive of India, enabling me to further explore postwar circulation histories of Hindi film/songs across and beyond the Middle East. Supported by a Spring 2018 residence at Yale University and a 2018-2019 Mellon Humanities Fellowship, I have completed my first book titled Sirens of Modernity: World Cinema via Bombay (2022). Sirens of Modernity historicizes the category of “world cinema” in the politics of the Cold War, and the manner in which popular Hindi film/songs negotiated their own worldly circuits through reflexive arguments about gender, excess, and popular cinephilia during the 1960s. A second project, tentatively titled Agents on Location, explores South-South histories of location shooting and espionage genres, as intertwined with informal and clandestine practices of film distribution. I am additionally working--in extra slow motion!--on a more creative project that has grown out of my interests in media studies and transregional histories: I am assembling a cultural history of carrom, a popular tabletop game of South Asian origin, through a collection of oral histories, memoirs, and original short stories.

My interests span world film history; feminist historiography; informal practices of media distribution across South / West Asia and the Indian Ocean; intersections of audio-visual media and literary forms; and sound studies. I am currently Director of Graduate Studies in MESALC, and I am on the executive committee of the Screen Arts and Culture forum of the Modern Language Association. I remain active in the collaborative administration of film series and festivals--most recently, as a Guest Programmer for the Virginia Film Festival and Director of Programming for the Shenandoah Film Collaborative. I recently completed a certificate in Museum Studies from Northwestern University, which has been inspiring for my ongoing curatorial and public humanities practice. By day, I teach survey courses and specialized seminars in Middle East - South Asia film histories, in addition to Middle East - South Asia-focused thematic courses on topics such as cinephilia, adaptation, and genre; methods courses in areas such as film programming, sound studies, and film festival studies; among so many other possibilities that lie ahead!

Select publications

2022 - Sirens of Modernity: World Cinema via Bombay, Oakland: University of California Press

2023 [Forthcoming] - "Re-Viewing 'Shakespeare on Film,'" SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 62.1

2023 [Forthcoming]: [Co-authored with Suja Sawafta] "Cinephilic Life-Writing in An Iraqi in Paris," Global South Cinephilias Dossier Ed. Rielle Navitski, Modernism/Modernity Print +

2023 - "A Thousand and One Nights in World Film History,” Paulo Lemos Horta Ed., Approaches to Teaching the Thousand and One Nights, Modern Language Association - Approaches to Teaching World Literature Series, 112-118.

2023 - Book Review: Love, War, and Other Longings: Essays on Cinema in Pakistan, Eds. Vazira Zamindar and Asad Ali, Bloomsbury Pakistan.

2021 – Book Review: Cinemas Dark and Slow in Digital India, by Lalitha Gopalan, Film Quarterly 75.2, 112-114.

2021 - "Changing Winds: Oman TV, Indian (Ocean) Films, and Media Piracy in the 1980s," Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication 14.1, pp. 46-67

2021 - "A Change of Address with Filmfare Middle East," in "Indian Cinema Today and Tomorrow: Infrastructures, Aesthetics, Audiences" special issue of IIC Quarterly, Winter 2020/Spring 2021, India International Centre, pp. 221-238

2021 - "Comedies of Terror: Strategic Offenses and Genre Tactics," Kristian Petersen Ed., Muslims in the Movies: A Global Anthology, Harvard University Press - Mizan Series, pp. 234-246

2021 - “Worldly Matters: Distributed Histories of Tunisian Amateur Cinema and the Screening of Nontheatrical Film,” Masha Salazkina, Enrique Fibla, Eds., A Global History of Amateur Film Cultures, Indiana University Press, pp. 261-277

2020 - [Special issue guest co-editor, with Kaveh Askari]. “Introduction: South by South / West Asia: Transregional Histories of Middle East - South Asia Cinemas,” Film History 32.3, pp. 1-9

2020 - “On Location: Tracking Secret Agents and Films, Between Bombay and Beirut,” Film History 32.3, pp. 105-140

2020 - [Co-authored with Kaveh Askari] "Editors' Note: On a Press Booklet for Black Eyes (1936)," Film History  32.3, pp. 191-196

2020 - "A 1973 Aramco World Magazine Feature on Location Shooting in Lebanon," Film History  32.3, pp. 223-231

2020 – "High-Fidelity Ecologies: India versus Noise Pollution in the Contemporary Public Sphere," Laura Brueck, Jacob Smith, Neil Verma Eds., Indian Sound Cultures, Indian Sound Citizenship, University of Michigan Press: 2020, pp. 88-112

2019 – "Curatorial Reflections on Letters of Love: A Trio of Transregional Genre Comedies," Jump Cut 59: Fall, 2019

2019 – "From Seoul to Cinemascapes: The Private Lives of Contemporary Cine-Tourism in (and out) of India," Robert Ji-Song Ku, Sharon Lee, Monika Mehta Eds., Pop Empires: Transnational and Diasporic Flows of India and Korea, University of Hawaii Press: 2019, pp. 195-208

2019 – "The Bubble (2006, Eylan Fox)," Howard Chiang, Anjali Arondekar, Marc Epprecht, Jennifer Evans, Ross G. Forman, Hanadi Al-Samman, Emily Skidmore, and Zeb Tortorici Eds., Global Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History, Farmington Hills: C. Scribner's Sons / Gale Cengage

2019 – "An Interview with Aden-Based Director Amr Gamal," Jadaliyaa E-zine, Arab Studies Institute

2017 – “Moving Towards prem nagar: An Intimate Genealogy of the ‘City of Love’ and the Lyrical Worlds of Hindustani Film Songs,” positions: asia critique 25:1, Duke University Press, pp. 51-99

2016 – Film Festival Review – Third Annual Cultural Resistance International Film Festival of Lebanon, Jadaliyaa E-zine, Arab Studies Institute

2013 – Book Review: The Sexual Life of English: Languages of Caste and Desire in Colonial India, by Shefali Chandra, South Asian History and Culture 4:3, 417-419

2013 – “‘It is Written’ (in Invisible Ink): Slumdog Millionaire's Sfx and the Realist Overwriting of Bollywood Spectacle,” Ajay Gehlawat Ed., The Slumdog Phenomenon: A Critical Anthology, Anthem Books, pp. 121-139

Select curatorial work

2021 - "When Put to the Test," October 2021, Virginia Film Festival

2020 - "Between Man and God: Chronicles of the Everyday," November 2020, Virginia Film Festival

2019  – "On Love: Of Cities, of Cinema," November 2019, Virginia Film Festival

2019 – "Family Trees: Roots & Routes," November 2019, Virginia Film Festival

2018  – "Sadat Hassan Manto from Story to Screen: A Special Screening & Conversation with (Screen)Writer/Poet/Dramatist Sarmad Sehbai," in collaboration with Mehr Farooqi and Bilal Hashmi, November 2018, University of Virginia

2018 – "Rites of Remembrance from the Global South: Screening Pasts, Presents, and Possibilities," November 2018, Virginia Film Festival

2018 – "Letters of Love (LOL): From the Middle East to South Asia - A Film Series of Contemporary Genre Comedies in U.S. Premieres," November 2018, Virginia Film Festival

2018 – "Letters of Love (LOL): From the Middle East to South Asia - A Film Series of Contemporary Genre Comedies in Special U.S. Preview Presentations," April 2018, Yale University

2017 – "Migrations and Mediations: The Politics of Movement" in collaboration with co-curators Nilo Couret & EJ Basa, DePaul University, Society for Cinema & Media Studies Annual Conference

2016 – "Urban Intimacies," May 2016, American University of Beirut


Director of Graduate Studies
world film history; sound studies; feminist historiography; informal practices of media distribution across South / West Asia and the Indian Ocean; intersections of audio-visual media and literary forms