Poet, translator, folklorist, and philologist A.K. Ramanujan was born in Mysore, India. He earned degrees at the University of Mysore and Deccan College in Pune and a PhD from Indiana University. Ramanujan wrote in both English and Kannada, and his poetry is known for its thematic and formal engagement with modernist transnationalism. Issues such as hybridity and transculturation figure prominently in such collections as The Striders (1966), Selected Poems (1976), and Second Sight (1986). The Collected Poems of A.K. Ramanujan (1995) received a Sahitya Akademi Award after the author’s death.
As a scholar, Ramanujan contributed to a range of disciplines, including linguistics and cultural studies. His essay “Is There an Indian Way of Thinking?” proposed a notion of “context-sensitive” thinking based in complex situational understandings of identity that differed significantly from Western thought and its emphasis on universal concepts and structures. Context-sensitive thinking influenced Ramanujan as a folklorist as well. His works of scholarship include The Interior Landscape: Love Poems from a Classical Tamil Anthology (1967), Folktales from India: A Selection of Oral Tales from Twenty-Two Languages (1991), and A Flowering Tree and Other Oral Tales from India (1997).
For much of his career, Ramanujan taught at the University of Chicago, where he helped develop the South Asian studies program. In 1976, the Indian government honored him with the title Padma Shri, the fourth-highest civilian award in the country. Ramanujan’s other honors included a MacArthur Fellowship. The South Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies awards the A.K. Ramanujan Book Prize for Translation in honor of his contributions to the field.