Kirin Narayan

EmaP Kirin Narayan

Emerita Professor


Research activity per year

Personal profile


Kirin Narayan was born in India to an American mother and Indian father, and moved to the United States to attend college in 1976. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California—Berkeley. Her first book, Storytellers, Saints and Scoundrels: Folk Narrative in Hindu Religious Teaching (1989), won the first Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing from the American Anthropological Association and was co-winner of the Elsie Clews Prize for Folklore from the American Folklore Society. She then published a novel, Love, Stars and All That (1994). In the course of researching women’s oral traditions in Kangra, Northwest Himalayas, she collaborated with Urmila Devi Sood to bring together a book of tales with discussions of their meaning and ethnographic context in Mondays on the Dark Night of the Moon: Himalayan Foothill Folktales (1997). An interest in family stories and diasporic experience inspired My Family and Other Saints (2007). Teaching ethnographic writing led her to compose Alive in the Writing: Crafting Ethnography in the Company of Chekhov (2012), that includes galvanizing extracts, prompts and writing exercises. Everyday Creativity: Singing Goddesses of the Himalayan Foothills (2016)  emerges from a long association with women singers in Kangra.

Kirin Narayan has received support from the Australian Research Council, National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Institute of Indian Studies, the School of American Research, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the University of Wisconsin Institute for Research in the Humanities, and the University of Wisconsin Graduate School. She received a Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of Wisconsin in 2011. She currently serves on the Committee of Selection for the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.



Research interests

social life of narrative; ethnographic writing; ethnographic genres; expressive culture; oral traditions, folklore; gender; life stories; anthropology of religion; anthropology of creativity; South Asia; South Asian diaspora


Researcher's projects


2016 Everyday Creativity: Singing Godddesses of the Himalayan Foothills. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

2015 guest editor Transmissions and Transitions in Indian Oral Traditions Special issue, Oral Tradition 29 (2)

2012 Alive in the Writing: Crafting Ethnography in the Company of Chekhov.Chicago University of Chicago Press.

2007  My Family and Other Saints. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (2008 My Family and Other Saints. New Delhi: Harper Collins]

2002  Old Deccan Days or Hindoo Fairy Legends by Mary Frere. Edited with an introduction by Kirin Narayan. (reprint of Old Deccan Days or Hindoo Fairy Legends Current in South India, fifth ed. 1898). Series in Classic Folk and Fairy Tales, Jack Zipes, Series Editor. Santa Barbara: ABC Clio.

1997  Mondays on the Dark Night of the Moon: Himalayan Foothill Folktales in collaboration with Urmila Devi Sood. New York: Oxford University Press.

1994  Love, Stars and All That. New York: Pocket Books. New Delhi: Penguin India. London:Piatkus Books.

1993  Creativity/Anthropology. Smadar Lavie, Kirin Narayan and Renato Rosaldo, eds.Ithaca:Cornell University Press.

1989   Storytellers, Saints, and Scoundrels: Folk Narrative in Hindu Religious Teaching. Series in Contemporary Ethnography, and Publication of the American Folklore Society, New Series. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas. (Winner of Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing and co-winner of Elsie Clews Parsons Prize for Folklore)



Ph.D. University of California--Berkeley, 1987