Cambridge University academic makes history as first Indian-origin department head

Cambridge University academic makes history as first Indian-origin department head

Cambridge University academic makes history as first Indian-origin department head

An academic from Newnham College on the University of Cambridge, Dr Manali Desai, has made history as the first lady of Indian heritage to take over as the Head of the Sociology Department of the celebrated UK varsity in its over 800-year history.

Desai, a Reader in Comparative and Historical Sociology and Fellow of Newnham College whose work focuses on social actions, ethnic and gendered violence and post-colonial research, took over as Chair of the department this month.

“Sociology gives us the tools to be able to investigate and understand the world around us and so I think the department is a good place to be during periods of such upheaval,” stated Desai, in reference to her appointment amid the coronavirus pandemic and world actions such as Black Lives Matter.

“We are living through a period of ferment and we are at a crucial juncture when fundamental questions about our very existence are at stake.

The discipline of sociology has always tackled the big questions, be it climate change, war, poverty, and intersectional social inequalities,” she stated.

Desai describes herself as a “hybrid child of three different cultures” having spent equal quantities of time in India, the US and UK.
She grew up in India and the US earlier than transferring to Britain.

She accomplished her PhD in Sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles, the place she educated as a Comparative and Historical Sociologist.

Her work, which has a robust India focus, encompasses the areas of events and political articulation, social actions, ethnic and gendered violence, and post-colonial research.

Her present analysis, as Principal Investigator on the GendV Project funded by the ESRC/GCRF Large Grant of GBP 1.76 million, is a comparative qualitative work titled ‘Gendered Violence and Urban Transformation in India and South Africa’.

“Our aim is to historicise and contextualise this violence, and examine violence as something that appears to connect the most intimate of affective relations with changes that are happening in the wider world,” she explains.

Desai has additionally spoken out about the necessity to tackle points associated to colonialism and going through as much as historic occasions.

“In Britain there’s a massive reluctance to address the colonial past and issues such as racism and anti-immigration are often justified by such myopia.
At the same time, paradoxically, imperial nostalgia emerges in all sorts of places,” she stated, indicating that decolonisation will stay an essential facet of her work as Head of the Sociology Department.

“This has been a priority for the Sociology Department: we set up a working group with both staff and students in 2017 and it’s been pushing for changes, not just in our curriculum but also in terms of the pedagogy we use,” she stated.

Desai’s first ebook, ‘State Formation and Radical Democracy in India, 1860-1990’, was a historic evaluation of the emergence of two completely different welfare regimes in India and he or she has additionally co-edited different books and printed her analysis in a number of main journals.

In her new function, she hopes to steer the Sociology Department on the college to proceed to contribute to academic debates and journals and in addition to exit into the world and make an affect on public coverage and up to date debates.

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