Not Quite Not White: A Conversation with Sharmila Sen and Jyoti Rao

Event has passed (Thu Sep 20, 2018 - Thu Sep 20, 2018)
California Institute of Integral Studies - CIIS
07:00 PM
Community, Lecture / Discussion
Claim this listing


This event is part of The Haresh & Joan Shah Lecture & Performance Series.
At the age of 12, Sharmila Sen emigrated from India to America. The year was 1982, and everywhere she turned, she was asked to self-report her race—on INS forms, at the doctor’s office, in middle school. Never identifying with a race in the India of her childhood, she rejected her new “not quite” designation—not quite white, not quite black, not quite Asian—and spent much of her life attempting to blend into American whiteness.
After her teen years trying to assimilate—watching shows like General Hospital and The Jeffersons, dancing to Duran Duran and Prince, and perfecting the art of Jell-O no-bake desserts—she was forced to reckon with the hard questions. What does it mean to be white? Why does whiteness retain the magic cloak of invisibility, while other colors are made hyper visible, and how much does whiteness figure into Americanness?
Sharmila distilled her experiences into a book, Not Quite Not White, a witty and sharply honest story of discovering that not-whiteness can be the very thing that makes us American. Join CIIS Professor Jyoti Rao for a conversation with Sharmila about her life, her work, and her ideas for a new path forward for the next not quite not white generation.
Sharmila Sen grew up in Calcutta, India, and immigrated to the United States when she was twelve. She was educated in the public schools of Cambridge, Massachusetts, received her AB from Harvard, and her PhD from Yale in English literature. As an assistant professor at Harvard she taught courses on literatures from Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean for seven years. Currently, she is executive editor-at-large at Harvard University Press. Sharmila has lived and worked in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. She has lectured around the world on postcolonial literature and culture and published essays on racism and immigration. Sharmila resides in Cambridge, with her architect husband and their three children.

Jyoti Rao joined the core faculty at CIIS in 2016 after teaching in ICP as a member of the adjunct faculty. An experienced clinician, supervisor, and instructor, she holds degrees from the California Institute of Integral Studies (MA) and the University of California at Berkeley (BA), and postgraduate training in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California at San Francisco. She is a Member-At-Large of the Board of Directors for the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society.
She teaches The Clinical Relationship, Multicultural Counseling, Psychodynamics, Psychopathology, and Trauma. In addition to her classroom teaching, she is the Intern Program Director at the Integral Counseling Center at Pierce Street, and regularly conducts training there on topics such as "The Inner Life of The Therapist," "Therapeutic Listening," and "Holding and The Therapeutic Relationship."
Her research interests include contemporary psychoanalytic theory and practice; applied psychoanalysis; psychoanalytic formulations of oppression and marginalization, especially among communities of color; the social unconscious; intergenerational transmission of trauma; clinical work with adult children of immigrants; as well as psychological dimensions of sacred musical traditions.


  1. California Institute of Integral Studies - CIIS 1453 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA