Anupama Rao

This professor has earned a CULPA silver nugget

May 2019

If you're thinking about taking this class, ask yourself a few questions: - Do you enjoy reading a ton of very dense readings about very niche topics? We had ~100 pages/week on the low end, 300 on the high end. The readings are full of jargon and big words and aren't that informative -- rather they just go insanely in depth on specific topics like the census, Mughal taxation systems, fingerprinting, etc. - Do you prefer political theory or history? I'd argue that this class is misclassified, and should be in the Poli Sci or Philosophy dept. We barely saw any timelines, names, or dates. I couldn't tell you much about concrete events/history/people like the Partition, Nehru, or the Kashmir conflict but can go very in depth about the intellectual gatherings of landowing Muslims in the early 20th century. Rao is so smart that most of what she said went over my head, and I was grasping for straws as she was delving into the ideas and philosophies across time. If you're a high-level thinker with a strong foundation/knowledge in concrete events in Indian history and an insanely good vocabulary then this is a great class. If you're a regular plebian like me studying STEM, you might find yourself way out of your league and bored to death every class, since you don't understand much of anything, and since she is a PURE lecturer and rarely shows pics or videos -- she mostly just animatedly reads off of a word document. That said I did have a reasonable prior knowledge of India so I got an A. But I recommend Intro to Indian Civ instead of this.

Jun 2017

I took this as a global core. The class is very informative, and intriguing in certain ways. However this is not an easy class for a non-history major to be in. It is a lot of reading and for those who are not used to doing a ton of reading, (read: for people like me in the engineering school) the readings take time and is often frustrating. Sometimes my brain was unable to process what Professor Rao was saying, because she can keep talking about a number of concepts simultaneously at a very fast pace. She usually never grants an extension, unless it is an emergency. The papers are complicated but the Midterms and finals are generally very easy and entirely from the study guide she gives.

May 2017

Professor Rao is a star. She's fiercely intelligent, funny, warm and really wants you to learn and work hard while doing it. There's a huge amount of reading for sure but, you are being educated on 400 years of history! She is open to changing the work load as the class progresses but be assured, you will learn a lot and you will probably enjoy learning it with her.

Oct 2016

Professor Rao definitely seems to like what she teaches and that is extremely important if you're taking a history class; you don't want a professor who is a complete bore! This is a class in which you have to read a lot. There are a lot of texts that are quite dense to read and hard to get through but others that are simply fascinating. Sometimes you will be disgusted or indignant about something you just read. This is a class that makes you think and discuss. Although it might seem like a class designed for history students, it is accessible to all (if you put in the work!). Professor Rao truly seems to want all of her students to develop critical thinking skills and sets you on the right path to do so!

Apr 2013

Professor Rao is easily the best, smartest professor I've had between Columbia and Barnard. She seems to know absolutely everything, down to the most obscure details and complex theories. She always encourages each person in the class to participate in the conversation, and she seems so genuinely interested in what you say. At times, she'll put you on the spot if she feels that something you said needs further explaining or if you haven't said anything at all. Very rarely will she disagree or say you're wrong, but if she does, you know you must really be off base. She's incredibly kind and encouraging, has a great sense of humor and just the right amount of snark. Yes, the class is a lot of work, but she really wants you to do well and not only to understand the information, but to enjoy it as much as she does. I think it would be hard not to be interested in what she's teaching in this class partially because of the subject but mostly because of the way that she teaches it. She has a really unique style of speaking and an even more unique way of approaching information. The spatial map project was very cool--she was very vague in giving directions, which she generally is not, but was also pretty lax when a bunch of us showed up with I-don't-know-what. She also does a thing when it's time for a graded assignment where each person in the class talks about his/her topic and then gets criticisms from the rest of the class. She likes to call it "tough love." It was pretty intimidating at first, but it's really helpful. In short, the class is a little intimidating at first but once you get into it, you'll be so grateful you didn't drop it. Someday, I hope to buy Professor Rao a drink and call her by a nickname. She's just that good.

Feb 2013

An incredible class. Wonderful theorist. Incredibly involved in her students' personal interests--she helped me, a year later, to be accepted to a Barnard trip to Mumbai. Class begins with theory (LeFebvre, Marx) and moves into history of Bombay and ends with modern pieces, creative nonfiction, and films. An enjoyable and immense learning experience about one of this decade's most important cities. This class is ideal for someone with an asian studies/theory/urban studies background who is particularly interested in learning about the global south, colonialism and labor. It is not by any means an easy class and Professor Rao wants to know each student personally.

Oct 2012

Professor Rao's class Bombay was absolutely wonderful and I recommend taking it whenever it is offered again. Rao is one of the most engaging professors I have met at Columbia, she is enthusiastic and present in class in a way that is quite rare at Columbia. The class was very small (6 people) which turned out to be a great thing as we did collaborative work that once again, I had not experienced in many other classes. As a class we were also part of an event on Bombay at Columbia; and Prof. Rao was very excited about using different kinds of media. I forgot to mention that Rao, apart from actually caring about the students, is also brilliant. Although the class was specifically on Bombay, which I have no direct interest in, it made me think about urban spaces, urban history and the related theory in a way - even as a history and anthropology major - I had really not considered. My senior thesis which was already part written became heavily influenced by it. In short, take this class!

Aug 2008

By far the best teacher I've ever had at Barnard. Rao's enthusiasm and rich vocabulary will make you jealous. She is downright inspiring. While I only took this class for a general requirement, I walked away with so much more. Take this class!

Feb 2008

Professor Rao can be incredibly intimidating, simply because she's so brilliant. She literally knows everything about everything. This is both good and bad for you. It's bad because her mind works a mile a minute, and sometimes it can be hard to keep up with her in lecture because she's just thrown out several complicated concepts in the space of a couple minutes. It's good because you learn SO MUCH from this woman. South Asia is her area of expertise, but she can lecture in just as much detail and with just as much nuance on slavery in the Americas, or sex workers in colonial Nairobi. Because she is so brilliant, it can be really intimidating to speak up in class, and I often felt like she put me on the spot. But this is because she really challenges you to articulate your ideas clearly and back up your opinions. And despite all of this she is actually very approachable outside of class. If you are interested in the topic, and/or if you want to improve your speaking and argumentative skills, I highly recommend that you take this class.

Apr 2007

Professor Rao is extremely knowledgeable, really easy to get along with, and A great way to learn how to read theoretical historical texts. I didn't find her to be as tough as previous reviewers did. She is definitely more aware of the fact that her students have other classes and commitments outside of her classroom, but is deeply committed to stimulating nuanced discussions. At times the class discussion went on forever. Not the best class to take to get hard facts about South Asian history. Her approach is definitely a combination of anthropology and history.

Jan 2007

So, I was thrown into Prof. Rao's course as a 2nd trm freshman (the class was full of jrs and srs). I got my first paper back and got a B or a B- or something like that. But, Prof. Rao is an AMAZING teacher. She assigns tons and tons of reading and shes very strict about lateness and stuff. But, if you work hard in her class it is possible to make a complete turnaround. Her entusiasm and knowledge completely shines through and shes been my favorite prof at columbia/barnard so far. Yes, it is a lot of work and its not an easy A. But, shes fair. Despite my botch ups in the begenning she gave me an A-. So, take the class...shes really inspiring.

Dec 2006

Prof Rao is insane. And she's also one of the best professors I've had at Barnard. The readings were excellent, her lectures were amazing, the discussion was productive and on-point. This class is an excellent look at colonialism and post-colonialism in different areas of the globe: Batavia, South Africa, and Haiti, mostly. We read a mix of theoretical and historical/anthropological texts: the Wretched of the Earth, History of Sexuality, Country of My Skull, Avengers of the New World... all really fascinating, and Rao manages to tie everything together and create a coherent narrative throughout. Excellent!!

May 2006

Anu is the best professor I've had at Columbia. She presents cogent lectures that deftly mix theory with dry history and anthropology. Some students find her lectures to be a little hard to follow bc she talks very fast and jumps from topic to topic. Since she has a dual PhD from Michigan in Anthro and History, she basically knows everything. Her purview extends far beyond the boundaries of south Asia; she focused on post-colonialism in general, so she can talk about the Caribbean and Africa in equal depth. She pulls really nuanced discussions out of students, which is enjoyable. She's also just wonderful to be around, always joking around and definitely very approachable.

May 2006

As previously noted, Professor Rao is pretty insane, in mostly good ways. She knows an insane amount about her subjects, conveys an insane amount of information during her lectures, and she is able to answer questions and provide insights insanely well (okay, very well). Unfortunately, she also gives an insane amount of work. She does try to manage it a little bit, i.e. make some weeks lighter than others, but there will be weeks when you will be expected to read 300 pages. The actual amount of written work to be handed in isn't all that bad, but I found her paper topics very narrow and difficult to respond to. For one paper, she asked us to "trace the argument" of a 300 page book in 5 pages. She is very genial and understanding about turning in things late, which is nice, and sometimes she's just goofy, which is cool, but she's very serious about her work. She also will bombard you with multiple emails a day about everything under the sun. Overall, an enjoyable class with lots of reading, but you'll learn a lot if you put the time in.

May 2006

O my goodness, I love professor Rao! Hear she's hard? Hear she's hella demanding? Hear she assigns a lot of reading? IT'S ALL TRUE. But as long as you aren't taking this class or any of her classes just to fulfill a requirement you should have a great time! She is completely adorable, incredibly enthusiastic, quite brilliant, and all about the layers--if you like history that's linear like a story, this may not be the class for you. Think anthro meets history meets gender studies. Rao rocks my socks.

Apr 2006

Sweet lady but disorganized like anything. Grades harshly, has no clue what the standard is, hates multiple choice with passion, has deeply-held opinions that tend to eclipse those of other historians, and just unnecessary in order to learn. Taking her was a mistake, unnecessarily tough, unclear about what her demands are, and subjective without room for discussion.

Dec 2005

Rao is a brilliant professor with an engaging teaching style and a flair for critical theory. I found her to be very approachable - - she always made time for me despite her busy schedule. This course, however, is not for those who are looking for an easy A. Style without substance will not score any brownie points. I was a bit intimidated by my lack of a Women's Studies background, but found that Rao valued the logic of one's thoughts and the application of theory much more than casually throwing around feminist jargon. All in all, I found her to be challenging but far one of the best classes I've taken this semester. Last word, take this class, but only if you're actually interested in the subject.

Dec 2005

Though she is friendly, Anupama is probably the most insane teacher i have ever encountered. She assignes approximatley 3000 pages of reading for the semester, will add on random weekly discussion sessions that meet at 8 or 9 PM and are essentially just a third lecture for the week, and, best of all, will send you about 500 emails every day explaining new assignments and more readings that we are to do. Basically there are two things to know here. You will, based on the sheer amount of information that is pumped into you during her lectures, learn an unbelieveable amount from this woman. Yet at the same time, a term paper due the day after Thanksgiving, a 600 page coursepack along with 3 other mandatory books might really not be worth it. Don't think that i completley hated this class but i doubt it was really worth the whole effort

Dec 2005

Rao gives a lot of work, yes, but more importantly, she is an amazing professor. She covered so much in this lecture -- which ended up more like a seminar -- and most of it was fascinating and very relevant to the current political situation. She's a great lecturer, engaging and enthusiastic, and obviously loves the material, but also is very open to questions and to changing her presentation if it's not working for people. She obviously really cares about her students and this class was a wonderful experience.

Apr 2004

She will kill you if you aren't prepared to do the readings and spend hours and hours on the midterm and final. But hers was my favorite class at Columbia or Barnard. She is amazing -- brilliant, nice, approachable, understanding if you need an extension. I didn't find her to be such a hard grader. If you show that you're doing the reading and trying, you'll do well even if you're confused every lecture. I learned SO much in this class. The reading is dense and filled with untranslated terms but she will help you if you bring it up to her. Take a class with her before you leave.

Jan 2004

This course is really hard, and Rao is really demanding, but you will learn a lot. Do NOT attempt to take this unless you are interested; it isn't an easy MC credit. Rao is a tough grader on exams (not so bad on the paper) and takes attendance seriously. Her lectures can be a bit disorganized, but she knows the material really well, and teaches a lot about historiography as well as South Asian history through the colonial period. She appears to force the TA to grill you during section, so be prepared and do the reading. All in all, hard but good, although she's a better (read: amazing) teacher in seminars.

Oct 2003

I went in knowing nothing about the region, and came away with a postmodernist perspective on South Asian history and politics. Rao is absolutely wonderful - she's energetic, brilliant, speaks quickly and extremely kind and approachable. This class taught me more about historiography than anything else - looking at the way that history is presented, Rao will challenge all mainstream perceptions and then put them back together. Warning: there is lots of work, and even more material to get through. It is completely worth the energy and effort you put into it. Highly recommended class.

Apr 2003

This is an amazing class, really a gem in the history curriculum. Rao ties together a bunch of areas (South Asia, Indonesia, the Carribean, Africa, the US South ...) to present a bunch of different historical frameworks for understanding the development of capitalism out of colonial relations. CU's history department sucks at teaching theory -- Rao is the exception. So long as you have some background (i.e., read Marx in CC), you'll learn a lot about different narratives historians use to describe change. The discussions were fantastic -- Rao would start with a sometimes-overcomplicated description of some different thinkers or theories, and then the class would try and pick apart the reading. The readings themselves were long, dense, and heavily theoretical; a few really sucked, but most taught me a lot. Warning: you can't slack in this class, but if you're a history major, take it. Rao is an incredibly sweet woman who has her shit together, knows a ton about several regions and many areas of theory, and really cares about actually teaching, as opposed to just writing and getting famous (although her writing's good, too). And the prev. reviewer is right, she does talk like a postmodern valley girl.

Apr 2003

just don't do it. i took a history class of her's to fill a requirement- huge mistake. she makes little sense and is hard to follow. she also doesn't erase the board. if you really love history i guess she might be for you but if you don't, save yourself the trouble.

Feb 2003

Anupama Rao -- you call her "bad"? I DON'T THINK SO!!! This charming, young professor is incredibly energetic, engaging, super NICE, and simply BRILLIANT. I agree that her organizational skills need some work but if you're confused, all you need to do is ask her to clarify some points during lecture...she's extremely open to questions. Unlike most classes that approach history in a linear, boring, conventional manner, Prof Rao knows how to engage us in a broader, more theoretical picture of history by persistanly asking us "what is at stake?," "why is this important," etc. This is a great class if you're trying to look at history CRITICALLY. I absolutely fell in love with Indian history after this course -- and Prof Rao too!!!

Feb 2003

oh my lord. what a bad professor. being young, rao feels like she has to prove something and thus talks in circles all day long. she doesn't understand any simple ideas. and in order to get anything across to her you have to sound just as confusing as she is. ugh.

May 2002

She knows a lot, and you'll learn a lot. No question about that. But her organizational skills leave much to be desired. She showed up late to class almost as a habit and then told the class that tardy students should not show up at all. She would outline a five-point lecture and then an hour and ten minutes later (with only five minutes left in class) would still be in the middle of the first point. While her organization wasn't superb, she was enthuastic and, while opinionated, open to others' viewpoints.

Jan 2002

Unlike most history classes, that merely present facts in an interesting manner, Rao's class teaches the gritty, complex theory that is lacking in the history department. For example, her class on history and human rights does not talk about HR in the traditional way, but challenges it because it was a part of the same liberal project that created slavery and colonialism. She really looks at the big picture, and talks about how different historical paradigms work in different times and places. This class not only used traditional histories, but Foucault, Hegel and the subalterns. Her specialty is colonial and post colonial studies in South Asia, but she also knows a lot about other sights of colonial domination. I felt that Rao really filled in the gaps in my education and introduced a lot of tough ideas. The best part is that she is not only brilliant, but really nice, with speech patterns that can only be described as well educated valley girl (like, come on guys, power is diffused!). She is always smiling and treats all questions with respect. That being said, her class is very difficult, both concept wise (esp. if like most history majors, you haven't done much theory) and work wise. But worth it.