Sonja M. Thomas

Associate Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Office: Miller Library 256 [ campus map ]
Box 8800

Phone: 207-859-4722
Fax: 207-859-4425
Mailing Address:
8800 Mayflower Hill
Waterville, Maine 04901-8888
Thomas, Sonja M.


BA: University of Minnesota '01
PhD: Rutgers University, '11

Areas of Expertise

  • South Asian Feminisms/South Asian Diaspora
  • Transnational Feminsms
  • Caste in Christianity
  • Rural Montana
  • Tap Dance

Courses Currently Teaching

CourseCourse Title
WG101 AIntroduction to Women's, Gender,and Sexuality Studies
WG120A ARace, Gender, and Sport
WG223 ACritical Race Feminisms and Tap Dance
WG311 AFeminist Theories and Methodologies

Other Courses Taught

CourseCourse Title
WG493Senior Seminar: Transnational Feminisms
WG484Senior Honors Thesis
WG223Critical Race Feminisms and Tap Dance
WG225Gender and Politicized Religion
WG398South Asian Feminisms
WG341Gender and Human Rights

Professional Information

Sonja Thomas is an Associate Professor of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies at Colby College where she teaches courses on South Asian feminisms, transnational feminisms, gender and human rights, feminist theory, and postcolonial and native feminisms. She is the author of Privileged Minorities: Syrian Christianity, Gender, and Minority Rights in Postcolonial India. The book examines the Syrian Christian community in Kerala, India—a dominant caste Christian community named “Syrian” because of the Syriac language inherent in its traditions. In this book, Sonja discusses caste, class, and Aryan racial privilege in India, intercaste/interfaith marriages, secular protections and article 30(1) of the Indian constitution, and issues of religious minority rights in postcolonial India. She has also written articles on education and religious minorities in India, brahmanical patriarchy, and on race and immigration in rural America and Asian settler colonialism.

Her other research interest is tap dance history. She has written articles on tap history, intersectionality and black vernacular traditions, and on blackface abroad (specifically in Asia). She teaches tap dance and black feminist thought in a class at Colby called “Critical Race Feminisms and Tap Dance.” Check out the video for the class here: Critical Race Feminisms and Tap Dance

Sonja is associate editor for South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies. And interim secretary for the National Women's Studies Association.

She is currently researching and writing her second book project on Catholic missionary priests from India serving in rural Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming. The project is tentatively titled: Indians and Cowboys: Indian Missionary Priests in Rural America. And conducting research on the 1961 Babe Ruth World Series hosted in her hometown, Glendive Montana.


Privileged Minorities: Syrian Christianity, Gender, and Minority Rights in Postcolonial India. Global South Asia series. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2018.
Privileged Minorities

“Cowboys and Indians: Indian Priests in Rural Montana.” Women’s Studies Quarterly Special
Issue: Asian Diaspora.
Lili Shi and Yadira Perez Hazel, guest editors. Volume 47, Numbers 1 & 2, (Spring/Summer 2019): pp. 110-131.
Cowboys and Indians

"Can Syrian Christians be Black? Racialized Discrimination in Global South Asia," ALA: A Kerala Studies Blog June 30th, 2019. Issue 10
Can Syrian Christians be Black?

“Black Soundwork, Knowledge Production, and the “Debate” Over Tap Dance Origins” Resonance: The Journal of Sound and Culture, , 1, no. 4, (2021): pp. 412–421.
Tap Origins

"Studying race in the field of South Asian religions,"Religion Compass,15, no 4., (2021): pp 1-9.
Studying Race

"The Women's Wall in Kerala, India and Brahmanical Patriarchy," Feminist Studies 45, No1 (2019): pp. 253-260.
Women's Wall

““This is America” and the Global Erasure of Black Vernacular Traditions” ASAP/Journal: The Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present, Open-access platform, reviews. August
This Is America

“Educated Feets: Tap Dancing and Embodied Feminist Pedagogies at a Small Liberal Arts College.” Feminist Teacher, 28, no. 2-3. (Fall 2018).
Educated Feet

“Education as Empowerment? Gender and the Human Right to Education in Postcolonial India”
in Human Rights in Postcolonial India. V.G. Julie Rajan and Om Dwivedi, eds. New York: Routledge, 2016.

“The “New” South Asian Feminisms.” Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial
2 no. 2. (Fall 2014): 74-83.

“Gender, Macroeconomic Policy, and the Human Rights Approach to Social Protection.” Co-
authored with Dr. Radhika Balakrishnan. New Frontiers in Feminist Political Economy. Shirin M. Rai and Georgina Waylen, eds. New York: Routledge, 2014.

“The Tying of the Ceremonial Wedding Thread: A Feminist Analysis of “Ritual” and
“Tradition” Among Syro-Malabar Catholics in India,” Journal of Global Catholicism, 1, No. 1 (September 2016): 104-116
Ritual and Tradition

Public Intellectual Activities

Article "Wondering About the Appearance of the Indian Flag at the Capital Riots? Racism and Casteism in Dominant Caste Christian Communities" Indian Flag at Riots

Podcast "Cowboys and Indians": The East is a Podcast

The Uma Show interview with Rita Kakati-Shah: "Caste, Race and Domestic Violence in South Asian Communities" The Uma Show

Podcast “Why Are South Asians So Racist?” With Stanley Thangaraj on Kaamna Bhojwani-Dhawan, “Petticoat Ke Neeche” Rukus Avenue Radio Why Are South Asians So Racist

Malayalees for Black Lives Matter panel: “Casteism and Anti-Blackness” Casteism and Anti Blackness

Oklahoma City International Pentecostal Assembly: “Race, Caste, and Black Lives Matter,” Race Caste and Black Lives Matter

Panel discussion, St. Mary's Indian Orthodox Church, Suffern NY: “Justice and Equality” Justice and Equality

Operation Tap: “Tap Dance History” Tap Dance History

Nexis Initiative: "Keralan Allies" Keralan Allies


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