Associate Professor of South Asian Literature and Postcolonial Theory; Associate Professor of Comparative Literature
Current research interests:
My teaching and research combine the theory and practice of translation, and my focus in my own work has been primarily on contemporary Indian literature. I earned a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature (in 1999), as well as an M.F.A. in Translation (in 1993), both from the University of Iowa. I also earned an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa in Nonfiction Writing (in 1999.) My translations of the stories of Rajasthani writer Vijaydan Detha, Chouboli and Other Stories, were supported by a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, co-published by Katha (New Delhi: 2010) and Fordham University Press (New York: 2010), and won the 2012 A.K. Ramanujan Award for translation from the Association of Asian Studies. My first scholarly monograph, Riddles of Belonging: India in Translation and other Tales of Possession (New York: Fordham University Press, 2009) explored the theoretical issues (hence: riddles) attendant in translating a humorous, oral-based writer such as Detha; it was written in part while on fellowship at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University 2004-2005.
I spent the 2013-14 school year in India on a National Endowment for the Humanities/American Institute of Indian Studies Senior Fellowship researching my most recent scholarly book project, Genres of Real Life: Mediating Stories of Injustice Across Languages. In it I analyze translated first-person narratives so that I may interrogate the role of literature in negotiating complex human rights issues transnationally. This scholarship informs and is informed by my current project translating Kausalya Baisantry’s Dohara Abhishap [Doubly Cursed], a Dalit woman’s “life story” [jeevan ki katha] that offers an eloquent protest against the discrimination Baisantry experienced because of her (untouchable) caste and gender. My essay on the Baisantry translation project “Crafting a Feminist Dalit Consciousness in Translation” was published in the May 2014 issue of World Literature Today. Other articles on translation, postcolonialism and the study of human rights have appeared most recently in Blackwell’s Companion to Translation Studies, Routledge Handbook of Translation Studies, boundary 2, Teaching Literary Texts in Translation, and Biography, and are forthcoming in the Oxford History of Literary Translation in English, Between the Lines, Translation: A Transdisciplinary Journal and in the volume Thresholds: Translation in Theory and Practice.
I have been invited to give lectures around the world on South Asian literature in translation, postcolonial theory, and the study of Human Rights, including at the State University of New York – Buffalo (in November 2014 as part of their Juxtapositions lecture series), at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, India (as the 2013-14 Fellow at the Department of Comparative Literature’s Centre for Advanced Study), and at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York (in 2010 for the annual Rabindranth Tagore Modern Literature Lectures Series), as well as papers at specially-organized conferences such as at the Max-Planck Institute for Social Anthropology at the University of Halle in Germany (“Surviving Genocide: On what remains and the possibility of representation” in December 2014), at Fudan University in Shanghai, China (“Translation and Comparative Cultural Studies: East and West in Dialogue” in May 2014) and at the University of London and the School of Oriental and African Studies in the U.K. (“Translations and Translation Theories East and West” in June 2003, sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Board). I have also been asked to speak on translating the work of Vijaydan Detha at the Jaipur Literature Festival in Boulder, Colorado (September 2015) and have delivered a keynote address in Hindi and English at the second annual International Hindi Conference (held at Rutgers University in April 2015). I regularly present papers at the annual meetings of the American Comparative Literature Association, the Asian Studies Association, the International Association of Translation and Intercultural Studies and the Modern Language Association, as well as at the South Asian Studies Annual Conference in Madison, Wisconsin.
I teach courses in world literature and translation, as well as in South Asian literature and culture, at both the undergraduate as well as the graduate level. I have advised Honors undergraduate, M.A. and Ph.D. students from a range of disciplinary backgrounds including Anthropology/History, Architectural History, Asian Studies, Comparative Literature, English, History and South Asian Studies. I draw from both my M.F.A. training in writing and translation as well as my Ph.D. in literary studies to offer assignments that combine the creative and the critical -- such as short “travel” pieces for Asian332: South Asian Identity: writing home from away. For the past ten years I have worked with teams of media consultants to adapt social media technologies such as blogs, wikis and aggregation tools to promote more active and engaged critical thinking skills in the intercultural classroom, including a “virtual workshop” method of peer review and an online tool for comparing and commenting on objects in UM collections. I was awarded a Human Rights Fellowship by the University of Michigan’s Center for International and Comparative Studies 2011-12 to deliver a lecture on translating testimony and to develop a new undergraduate course, CICS401/CompLit490: “Translating Human Rights,” in which students created an online journal commenting on issues raised reading human rights literature in translation; I also teach courses investigating issues of rights and identity in colonial and postcolonial South Asia such as Asian255: Writing Against Discrimination in India, AmCult/Asian276: India as Imaginary Homeland and Asian435: Truth Claims in Indian Literature: nonfiction accounts of gendered discrimination. I have offered graduate seminars on the ethics of translation practice such as Asian500/CompLit750: Translation After Orientalism and CompLit721: Reading the Translation Archive: World Literature Close/Distant, Digital/Print.