Rekha Mirchandani, Associate Professor of Sociology at Bowling Green State University (BGSU), passed away on March 8, 2012, at the age of 48, following a battle with cancer. She leaves behind a rich legacy of scholarship in the areas of sociological theory and sociology of law, as well as mentorship of numerous students in BGSU’s Sociology Department and American Culture Studies Program.
Rekha graduated with distinction from the University of Vermont in Burlington, VT, in 1985 with majors in sociology and English. She received her PhD from the University of North Carolina in 1998, where she completed her dissertation under the direction of Craig Calhoun. In 2001, after serving on the faculties of Bucknell University and the University of Utah, Rekha joined the faculty of the Sociology Department at BGSU, where Rekha taught graduate and undergraduate courses in sociological theory, sociology of gender, sociology of law, and criminology. Known particularly for her work in teaching the required graduate theory sequence in the Sociology Department, Rekha’s dedication to engaging and encouraging students, providing clear direction, and her remarkable ability for explicating complex ideas in the classroom were appreciated by all students who had the good fortune to take her classes. It is rare that required courses are so well regarded by students; yet, at BGSU, her courses were consistently popular. Among both students and her colleagues, Rekha was considered one of the best and most inspiring teachers in the department. Rekha excelled in working with graduate students, and successfully directed numerous theses and dissertations in both sociology and American culture studies.
Rekha was also an exceptional departmental and university citizen. At BGSU, she was a faculty affiliate of the Center for Family and Demographic Research, the Women’s Studies program, and the American Culture Studies program. Rekha also served as a member of the university’s Undergraduate Council, the Faculty Senate, and the Senate’s Faculty Welfare Committee. She was active in several professional organizations, including the American Sociological Association’s Theory section and Law and Society section, the Law and Society Association, and the Critical Theory Roundtable.
Rekha’s scholarly work was published in many leading journals in her field, including Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Sociological Theory, and Law and Society Review. As a theorist, she was a leading American interpreter and scholar of the work of the German sociologist Jurgen Habermas. Most recently, she developed a burgeoning interest in Habermas’ recent re-engagement with the issues of religion and immigration, and the implications for the public sphere in the modern world. In addition to her scholarship in the area of sociological theory, Rekha was involved in an international multi-site study of domestic violence courts in Salt Lake City, UT, Ann Arbor, MI, and Brooklyn, NY. She was interested in these courts as an example of problem-solving institutions that mediate relationships between individuals and the state, and she was the author of numerous studies examining the social effects of such mediating structures. Throughout this research, Rekha expressed her genuine optimism and deep desire to bridge theory and praxis in order to make meaningful sociological contributions that would ultimately help the lives of others.
Rekha’s example of peace, love, gratitude, and positive enthusiasm for fully living life is left to her graduate and undergraduate students, sociology colleagues, friends, and her daughters and husband. The deeply humane, generously loving, and warm spirit Rekha embodied will be dearly missed by those who knew and loved her.
Monica A Longmore, Bowling Green State University