College of Arts and Sciences

Dorothy M. Figueira

Photo of Dorothy Figueira

Distinguished Lecturers

"The Myth of the Aryan: Identity Politics East and West"
Dorothy M. Figueira

Tuesday, October 27, 2009, 7:30 p.m.
Neff Hall, Room 101
Host Department: International Language and Culture Studies


Dorothy M. Figueira is Professor in the Comparative Literature Department at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. Her scholarly interests include religion and literature, translation theory, exoticism, myth theory, and travel narratives.  At present, Figueira is working on a book dealing with notions of race in Portuguese and Italian travel narratives.

Figueira was born in 1955, and grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York.  She studied religion as an undergraduate at Vassar College—particularly myth—and spent her junior year in Paris, where she worked with eminent historians of religion and scholars of myth. Upon graduation from Vassar, she received a fellowship to return to the Université de Paris to complete an MA on ancient Greek sacrificial ritual, working with Marcel Detienne, Jean-Pierre Vernant, and Pierre Vidal-Naquet. She received a scholarship to Harvard Divinity School at which she completed another MA. Realizing that the study of religion as a science was different from faith-based religious studies, Figueira began doctoral work in comparative literature, a discipline that allowed her explore all of her multidisciplinary interests, at the University of Chicago.

Figueira connects her identity as a first-generation American and Latina to her interest in exoticism and identity studies, and she believes that the sense that one has a firm place in one’s society affords one the freedom to seek spiritual/aesthetic compensation outside it. Her work as a minority in academia whose research focuses neither on her own ethnicity nor gender informs her latest published book: Otherwise Occupied: Pedagogies of Alterity and the Brahminization of Theory (2009). This work examines the institutionalization of identity studies and affirmative action in the United States and India, arguing that theories and pedagogies of alterity are a ruse to undermine affirmative action.

Figueira has written more than sixty articles and given more than one hundred conference papers. She is also the author of Translating the Orient (1991), The Exotic: A Decadent Quest (1994), and Aryans, Jews and Brahmins (2002). She is the editor of La Production de l'Autre (1999), Cybernetic Ghosts (2004), and the Southern Comparative Literature Association’s journal, The Comparatist. She is currently Vice President of the International Comparative Literature Association, and has served as an elected officer in the American Comparative Literature Association and Southern Comparative Literature Association. She has received American Institute for Indian Studies, Fulbright Foundation, and National Endowment for the Humanities grants.