From India to the U of M: Meet Sreyashi Ray
Can you share a little bit about yourself?
I'm twenty four years of age, and I received a BA and an MA in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University in India. This year, I joined the University of Minnesota to pursue a PhD in Asian Literatures, Cultures and Media (ALCM) in the Asian languages and literatures department.
How did you discover the University of Minnesota’s ALCM program?
I was acquainted with some significant research work related to my field of academic interests being done by the core and affiliate faculty of ALL at UMN. Additionally, my personal research prior to applications and the professors' recommendations at my alma mater convinced me to apply for the University of Minnesota's ALCM program.
What do you like most about the ALCM program in the Asian Languages and Literatures department? Why did you choose this program instead of others?
I was particularly interested in the ALCM program because it doesn't focus on any one specific area studies related to Asia—and thereby compartmentalizing students on the basis of their particular geographical area of research. Instead, it takes a flexible and comprehensive approach to Asia in its totality while keeping in mind the significant heterogeneity within Asia. Although my research interests are specific to South Asia, ALL's cross-cultural, interdisciplinary approach allows me to extend my knowledge to other parts of Asia beyond South Asia and undertake an in-depth, transnational comparative approach to Asian literatures and cultures.
What do you like (or dislike) the most about the being in Minnesota and/or the United States?
It has been only about three months since I have come to Minneapolis. To date, settling down and experiencing Minneapolis has been quite enjoyable and hassle-free. Although the midwestern weather is quite unpredictable and often catches tropical newcomers off-guard, I'm looking forward to making the most of its brighter sides throughout the duration of my tenure.
Can you describe your research interests?
My research interests are focused in South Asian literatures and cultures. My areas of interest include comparative literature and cultural studies, subaltern studies, gender and sexuality in literature. Although I'm at the primordial stage of graduate studies where it is difficult to specify my research, it primarily focuses on comparative studies of Dalit literature—that is, literature on and by the people who comprise the bulk of India's proletarian class and who are socially ostracized or economically disadvantaged. This literature is written in different regional Indian languages like Bangla, Hindi, Marathi and Tamil, as well as in English. I analyze the politics of representation around the gendered subaltern figure in them. Additionally, I'm interested in studying South Asian women's narratives in terms of feminist historiography, or with respect to transitions in intellectual history and culture. In my research, I also look forward to exploring how the writing and analysis of literature from conflicted zones of South Asia, like Kashmir and the North East of India, for instance, constitute important modes of activism and intellectual resistance. In this context, I'm particularly interested in how memory, myth, and orality can counter state-sanctioned disciplinary mechanisms. Examples of this include the Kashmiri daastaangoyi (an Urdu oral storytelling art), the generationally disseminated folklores of Nagaland (which have been incorporated into written narratives by authors like Easterine Kire), and the interrogation of religious myths (as seen in the writings of Assamese author Indira Goswami). All three can be instrumental in countering realities of neoliberal governance.
What do you wish to do for your career? How will studies your studies at the University of Minnesota help you reach your career goals?
Although it is difficult to answer this with certainty, given that I'm at a formative stage of my academic career, I look forward to adhering to academia and possibly pursue a career in teaching. I believe that the academic resources, wide-ranging departmental support and valuable advice and counseling provided both professionally and personally at the University of Minnesota will help me to consolidate my career goals and settle for what would be best for me.