Congratulations to our 2017 – 2018 IRWGS Graduate Fellows Erica Richardson (English and Comparative Literature) and Syantani Chatterjee (Anthropology). Fellows are selected annually, based on the excellence of their scholarship and their commitment to women’s, gender, and sexuality studies.

Erica Richardson is a seventh year PhD candidate in English and Comparative Literature. Her research explores “how black authors and intellectuals from the 1890s through the 1930s use aspects of sociology in their literary production as a means of representing black social life during a time of racial violence and constraint.” Richardson explains that in her work “categories of gender and sexuality are central to defining and theorizing black racial uplift.”  Richardson hopes that as a graduate fellow at IRWGS she will have “the opportunity to cultivate a conversation about black women’s agency, intellectualism, and symbolics within American political discourse that might benefit the IRWGS’s community.” According to Richardson, IRWGS has always been a place where she can let her thoughts “unfold, wander, and linger.” Richardson said, “I hope in that spirit to encourage the broader Columbia community to really consider what feminist practice means to them as scholars, teachers, and activists.”   In the fall, Richardson will also serve as a Literature Humanities Preceptor in Columbia University’s Department of Core Curriculum.  When Erica isn’t teaching or working on her research, she spends her time enjoying healthy Southern cooking (it does exist!), weight training, and making collages.

Syantani Chatterjee is a fourth year PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology. She has recently concluded her fieldwork in Mumbai, India. As a graduate student at Columbia, Syantani says she has primarily been interested in “how processes of embodiment interact with mechanisms of power.” Her current research focuses on “what modes of life, endurance, and politics materialize amid exposure to almost imperceptible everyday toxicity in Mumbai’s urban periphery.” Syantani’s master’s thesis focused on commercial gestational surrogacy in India. Her concern was “to understand the manner in which the “perfect surrogate mother” is produced.” Syantani says that she has spent many years in India politically mobilizing and organizing around the rights of marginalized and gendered labor. Thus, working at IRWGS will, she says, “be an extension of several political and intellectual commitments close to my heart.”   Syantani is a trained Bharatnatyam dancer (Indian classical dance), and considers herself to have been a professional dancer in a previous life. She has helped curate dance festivals involving dancers from India and the United States to perform in New York at Barnard, Columbia, and the Asia Society.