Associate Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
- (207) 859-4722
- [email protected]
- Miller Library
8800 Mayflower Hill Waterville, Maine 04901-8853
- Ph.D., Rutgers University, 2011
- B.A., University of Minnesota, 2001
Areas of Expertise
- South Asian feminisms/South Asian diaspora
- Transnational feminisms
- Caste and race
- Rural Montana
- Tap dance
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, 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 blackface abroad (specifically in Asia). She teaches tap dance and black feminist thought in a course 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. She served as secretary for the National Women's Studies Association 2020-21.
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. She is also 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
- "The Ingredients of Casteism: Holy Week and Syrian Christian Food Practices in Kerala, India" in South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, (30 Jan 2022): 1-16. Casteism
- "Syrian Christians and Dominant Caste Hindus" in Handbook of Hindu-Christian Relations. Michelle Voss Roberts and Chad Bauman, Eds, New York: Routledge, 2020.
- "'Studying Up' in World Christianity: A Feminist Analysis of Caste and Settler Colonialism," Journal of World Christianity, 11, No. 2 (2021), pp. 195-209. Studying Up
- "Black Soundwork, Knowledge Production, and the 'Debate' Over Tap Dance Origins" in Resonance: The Journal of Sound and Culture, , 1, no. 4, (2021): pp. 412–421.
- "Studying race in the ﬁeld of South Asian religions," Religion Compass, 15, no 4., (2021): pp 1-9. Studying Race
- "Can Syrian Christians be Black? Racialized Discrimination in Global South Asia," ALA: A Kerala Studies Blog June 30th, 2019. Issue 10.
- "The Women's Wall in Kerala, India and Brahmanical Patriarchy," Feminist Studies 45, No1 (2019): pp. 253-260. Women's Wall
- "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
- "'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 2018. This Is America
- "Educated Feet: 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 Studies. 2 no. 2. (Fall 2014): 74-83.
- "Gender, Macroeconomic Policy, and the Human Rights Approach to Social Protection." Coauthored 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
Media and Public Scholarship
- "The Smoke and Mirrors of Casteism in the US: Dispelling Misinformation and Refuting Convoluted Arguments"
- Article "Caste as a Protected Category and Indian Christianity" Public Orthodoxy
- Program notes "What a Sound It Makes" Ayodele Casel’s Chasing Magic
- Article "Wondering About the Appearance of the Indian Flag at the Capital Riots? Racism and Casteism in Dominant Caste Christian Communities"
- Nexis Initiative: "Keralan Allies"
- The Uma Show interview with Rita Kakati-Shah: "Caste, Race and Domestic Violence in South Asian Communities"
- Podcast "Why Are South Asians So Racist?" With Stanley Thangaraj on Kaamna Bhojwani-Dhawan, "Petticoat Ke Neeche" Rukus Avenue Radio
- Malayalees for Black Lives Matter panel: "Casteism and Anti-Blackness"
- Oklahoma City International Pentecostal Assembly: "Race, Caste, and Black Lives Matter"
- Panel discussion, St. Mary's Indian Orthodox Church, Suffern NY: "Justice and Equality"
- Operation Tap: "Tap Dance History"
- Podcast "Cowboys and Indians"
- Royzman, Valerie. "Colby College Bans Discrimination Based on Caste." Bangor Daily News, October 14, 2021.
- AP: "Maine’s Colby College Bans Discrimination Based on Caste." October 15, 2021
- Carraso, Maria. "Colby College Bans Discrimination Based on Caste." Inside Higher Ed, October 15, 2021,
- Melekote, Aswini. "Organizers are Mobilizing for Caste Protections in U.S. Institutions. Here's Why." Blueprint, November 8, 2021.
- “Colby College in Maine has Banned Discrimination on the Basis of Caste.” The Week, November 19 2021.
- Quintana, Chris. "Why are American Colleges Addressing Caste Discrimination? An 'Opportunity to Educate'." USA Today, 24 Nov 2021.
- PR Newswire via Equality Labs: Equality Labs Commends: Cal State Board of Trustees Votes Unanimously to Ratify California Faculty Association Collective Bargaining Agreement that Adds Caste as Protected Category to Anti-Discrimination Clauses, Jan 26, 2022.
- Kaur, Harmeet. "Colleges and Universities Across the US are Moving to Ban Caste Discrimination," CNN, January 30, 2022.
- Desai, Ketaki. "How the Battle to End Caste Bias on American Campuses was Fought." Times of India, February 5, 2022.
- Baruah, Sukrita. "Explained: Caste on US campuses." India Express, February 8, 2022.
- Sebastian, Meryl. "Why the West is Reckoning with Caste Bias Now," BBC News, April 28, 2022, BBC.
- Venkatraman, Sakshi. "Big Tech’s Big Problem is Also its 'Best-Kept Secret': Caste Discrimination" NBC News, June 23, 2022.
- Smith, Paige. "Rare Caste Bias Case Advances, Raising Calls for Federal Action," Bloomberg Law, August 10, 2022.