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Between Fall 2014 and Spring 2016, three cohorts of women faculty from Kinnaird College for Women in Lahore, Pakistan, have visited ASU as part of a U.S. State Department funded partnership between the two institutions. The project, entitled "Globalizing Research and Teaching of American Literature,” is intended to help professionalize Kinnaird faculty in the area of U.S. American literature, and is led by principal investigator Claudia Sadowski-Smith, Associate Professor of English, as well as co-investigators Yasmin Saikia, the Hardt-Nickachos Chair of Peace Studies, and Neal A. Lester, Foundation Professor of English. ASU's Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict (CSRC) collaborates with the Department of English in the administration of the program.*
The project fosters the study and research of U.S. American literature from a global perspective and provides women scholars with the opportunity to become academic leaders. Why does the partnership focus on the study of U.S. literature? In an interview with ASU Now, Sadowski-Smith offered some reasons:
Literature is often engaged with thinking about identity, which has traditionally been understood to be linked to the nation so that literary canons have been created along national lines. But U.S. literature is increasingly taking transnational lenses and engaging global concerns that we all share. ... Literature personalizes stories of [political and global] developments that often seem so systemic, so depersonalized. It humanizes stories that we don't always hear about, gives us new perspectives, provides counter-narratives and counter-discourses. Allowing us to have small seminars where we talk to each other and exchange ideas is powerful and helps us to better understand each other.
As part of their immersion in U.S. American society, the Pakistani scholars spend a semester taking a core class taught by Sadowski-Smith that examines the emergence of global perspectives in U.S. American literature and theory. They also attend a lecture series that is organized in conjunction with the core class as well as other classes on campus, and they work on research projects that become conference presentations. They also develop teaching units and syllabi, and visit local sites of cultural significance.
In a March 2015 session hosted by Project Humanities, visiting scholars Tehreem Aurakzai, Zahra Hamdani, Kanza Jared, Mahwish Khan, and Aisha Usman were part of a panel discussion, entitled “Beyond the Hijab: Pakistani Women’s Perspectives,” which examined perceptions of women in Muslim-dominant countries. As Carolyn Forbes, Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, says, the partnership is about "creating dialogues across these cultural spaces." Exchanging ideas can't but help further mutual understanding.
Image 1: Two members from the 2016 Kinnaird College cohort pose with their ASU hosts. From left: Saifiya Fawad, Carolyn Forbes, Zahra Hanif, and Claudia Sadowski-Smith. / Photo by Bruce Racine.
Image 2: From left: Stephen Graham Jones, Professor of English at University of Colorado during a February 4, 2015 visit to Claudia Sadowski-Smith's class on "Contemporary U.S. Literatures and Theory" joins visiting faculty from Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore, Pakistan, Mahwish Khan, Kanza Javed, Tehreem Arslan Aurakzai, Zahra Hamdani, and Aisha Usman. / Photo by Carolyn Forbes.