Carol A. Breckenridge received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1976 with a dissertation on the Sri Minakshi Sundareswarar temple in Madurai, south India. She went on to teach first at the University of Pennsylvania, then at Chicago, Yale and finally The New School for Social Research in New York. She married anthropologist Arjun Appadurai, with whom she had a son. In 1988, she co-founded the journal Public Culture with her husband. It helped shape the emerging field of transnational and cultural studies and became a major academic periodical that also published work by historians, philosophers, and political scientists. Under her direction, Public Culture also became a forum for the work of young artists, many of whom have gone on to prominent careers. Her publications as an editor or co-editor included Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament (with Peter van der Veer, 1993) and
Consuming Modernity: Public Culture in a South Asian World (1995, with Arjun Appadurai).