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Faculty Feature

Dr. Yamuna Sangarasivam

What do you learn by teaching a MALS course?

In teaching the MALS core curriculum course, Knowledge & Culture (LST 502) with Dr. Alec Sutherland, I learn the art of listening, collaborating, and choreographing a movement/interplay of interdisciplinary ideas and pathways of analysis that are emerging from literary studies and cultural anthropology. I also learn from an experienced scholar. Dr. Sutherland is a wonderful, pedagogical mentor and colleague.

What do you think a liberal arts education has to offer a student?

In an increasingly globalizing world, a liberal arts education offers students the skills of interdisciplinary analysis, multicultural perspectives, a critical awareness/consciousness of a multitude of intersecting realities (for example - social, political, economic, cultural, spiritual, environmental, ethical, atomic & subatomic) in order to participate in and contribute to a vibrant, sustainable, and peaceful world for all nations and people to live with dignity and self-determination.

What lesson(s) did you learn in college that you bring to your classroom when you teach?

In college, I learned the lesson of asking critical questions that may, at first, feel scary to ask out loud - scary because the questions may be unpopular, may be seemingly unfriendly in a culture where political discourse and debate is seen as unfriendly, and also because the questions challenged some of the strongest beliefs of others and/or my own. I also learned the lesson of becoming attentive to, what appear to be, "tangents" in classroom discussions and writings. I have learned that "tangents" are, in fact, what I call ethnographic excursions - these are brief and sometimes lengthy discursive excursions that seemingly have little to do with the topic at hand but do, in fact, reveal a pathway(s) of analysis that is made visible precisely because of this deviation from the normal route of thinking, discussing, and writing. These discursive excursions are ethnographic because the narrator is sharing moments in her/his lived experience, revealing her/his subject position and social location, while attempting to make sense of and understand a problem or reveal further insights into the principal topic of discussion. The task of a faculty member facilitating such a discussion is to identify and make the immediate analytical connections between the theoretical and methodological paradigms that inform the topic of discussion and the pathway(s) that are made visible through the ethnographic excursions that we invite in a classroom.

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