Dreaming…

During the pandemic, there was an avalanche of a number of projects that were launched — podcasts, new blogs, DH projects, YouTube channels, webinars among many other things. Some of these projects were refreshing, much needed and from what I understand was being conceptualized much before the pandemic. Then there were some projects which frankly appeared opportunistic to me, simply utilizing the pandemic to serve individual interests.

I have been inspired by projects that have been interesting and carried out almost with no institutional support. I acknowledge organizations, individuals and community advocacy groups who came up with innovative ways of building communities in pandemic times. Then there were projects, which reminded me what not to do and prompted me to be cautious of where and how I am spending my time and energy.

I did not have the intellectual energy in me to launch a new project during the Fall semester, because I was burnt out. I was struggling to keep myself afloat and I just survived with constant support from parents, friends, mentors and of course, my therapist!

I found myself carrying out some Curriculum Development work in the summer and though I have been interested in archival scholarship and gender studies for a long time, one of the reasons I took up the work was the need for money. With the pandemic, the number of dependents that I had to support increased and the only way I could support them was to take up a project that pays me some money and one that would sustain my interest.

But I am a dreamer. I kept on dreaming: new projects, new collaborations, the need for building communities that I would like to be a part of. I am a slow worker and it takes me a lot of time to conceptualize what I really want to do. There are three questions that really guide me what I want to do and I am really grateful to my mentor Shalini Puri for helping me to think through these questions: What is interesting to me and others? What is sustainable and desirable? What existing structures and resources can I tap on to really do the kind of scholarship and advocacy that inspires me ?

Today’s notes are really an articulation of all those projects that I have been dreaming of. I am really thinking out aloud as I am writing of these projects. Most of these projects require long-term commitments.

a) Indian Ocean Visual Archive

There are many projects and work happening around the Indian Ocean but the rich and diverse visual cultures around the Indian Ocean need even wider documentation and interest. Whom is this archive for ? How do we use this archive for advocacy ? I am still thinking through this and hence taking my time with it.

It needs a group of archivists, scholars, visual artists, community support, multi-institutional collaborations and money — that is difficult to mobilize when you are a graduate student trying to meet your degree milestones.

I am inspired by SAADA’s work, when I think of my model for this project.

b) A journal special issue on Weather Studies

Within the growing body of scholarship on Environmental Humanities, I see that there is potential for a lot of work to be done on Weather and Literary Studies. I would love to propose a journal special issue but the journals that I am interested in have not carried out a special issue edited by graduate students. So I am still looking for spaces that would be conducive to a proposal for a special issue.

c) Mental health network for academics in India

I am no mental health professional but as someone who care deeply about mental health, I hope that I can be a part of some kind of initiative that focuses on care work and mental health, even if that means connecting people with resources- something that I did not have as a graduate student in India.

d) Prison Education in India

As an abolitionist, I really want to see a day in India when we could collectively work on education initiatives for incarcerated people. There are some initiatives in place but there is scope for a lot of work.

e) International Students’ Mentorship Network

I have to acknowledge my friend Kay Sohini, who once told me about her dream of creating a platform that would have resources relevant for international students. I have been thinking of that platform for almost two years now. I am specifically interested in a mentoring network for international graduate students in the humanities who have just entered graduate school and could benefit from the expertise of more advanced graduate students in the profession.

Thank you for reading about my dreams. If you have advice to offer or generally want to talk about any of these projects, please do write to me at src88@pitt.edu

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