Research Student: Keerti Raghunandan
Negotiating 'Indianness': Gender, ethnicity and performativity among young women in Trinidad
Based at the Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies (CERS), my research explores the production and performance of Indian identification and identities in the postcolonial island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. I am interested in race performativity as a theoretical framework through which to explore the intersections of raced and gendered bodies in addition to processes of mixing and multiculturalism.
I also explore ways of understanding the female Indian experience in terms of diaspora, ethnicity, hybridity and hyphenated identities and seek to show that essentialist conceptions of gendered and ethnicised identity are non-productive and that ultimately, the identification of oneself as female, Trinidadian, Indian, or Indo-Trinidadian can be read as discursively constructed.
I have an interdisciplinary background ranging from pedagogy, adult education and humanities to critical sociology. Having trained and taught at various further education institutions in London, I developed an interest in gender issues and worked for a local woman’s charity as well as working in advocacy at the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare in Mauritius. I enrolled on a Masters program in Gender Studies at Leeds to further broaden my perspective and expand my knowledge on theoretical positionings within this area.
What motivated me to undertake PhD study?
The ongoing encouragement and generous support afforded to me by Dr Tate was my primary motivation in seeking to undertake this in-depth research study.
What makes me passionate about my subject?
The processes of mixing in the Caribbean are ones which are of personal and ceaseless fascination and as such, I engage with post-colonial theory and critical race studies in seeking to understand this region —the site of Europe's first post-Columbian colonies, where ethnic and physical differences figured prominently in the building of local social systems. How these have in turned continue to play out in the Caribbean amidst varying multiculturalist discourses, and the relationship between theory and context is an interrogation which is paramount. One of the ways in which I have recently attempted to map out the diversity of these discourses as anchored in ‘race’ is by co-organising the 1st Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Symposium on Critical Mixed Race Studies (CMRS) entitled Mixing Matters. I presented a paper ‘Dougla and difference’ which conveyed some of the broader debates on mixing and multiculturalism through the dougla (Indian and African descent) body.
What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?
To continue research in this dynamic area as ‘race’ continues to affect the social world and the people who inhabit it in multiple ways. As current scholarship and world events demonstrate, the study of ‘race’ and ethnicity remains as vital and relevant as ever before and as such I wish to continue working and researching in this.