Department of Asian Studies
Department of Asian Studies

Graduate Students Receive Continuing Fellowships

Wed, September 1, 2004

Asian Cultures and Languages doctoral candidate Laura Brueck received good news in April: a late-night phone call from India informed her that her Fulbright fellowship visa paperwork had finally been approved (it had been delayed since early October of last year, a story in itself). But there was more good news on the way: she was further surprised and delighted to hear from the American Institute of Indian Studies, which wrote to offer her a yearlong language fellowship for 2004-2005 (unfortunately she had to decline since the Fulbright had come through). To top it all off, the UT Graduate School informed her that she'd been awarded a prestigious University Continuing Fellowship for 2004-2005. What's a doctoral candidate to do? If you're Laura Brueck, head to India at the earliest possible moment (after gratefully deferring the Continuing Fellowship until 2005). The goal of Laura's dissertation research is to delineate and analyze the social and aesthetic spheres of women's writing in Hindi. Based in Delhi, she will work with the women authors who produce the literature, the publishers who print it, and the journal editors who solicit it for their publications. Laura's fieldwork will include the construction of ethnographies of women writers across region and class, the collection of poetry and prose in Hindi and its translation into English, and the qualitative and theoretical analysis of Indian women's writings in order to understand the variety of ways in which women narrate their experience of gender and caste. She will be drawing from a background in the study of Hindi and Urdu literature in order to situate this collection of texts within the contexts of other socially conscious traditions throughout the history of North Indian literature, particularly those that prospered throughout the struggle for independence and the early post-colonial period. Dissertation supervisor Kathryn Hansen feels that Laura's project is timely and original. "Laura's project involves some difficult work in the field and the archives, as retrieving occluded chapters of women's history often does... Then there is the challenging task of translating ... women's texts and lives into the intercultural codes that reach beyond their local circumstances.... Her ear for poetic language and facility with literary translation will go a long way in ensuring the contribution that her dissertation makes." Asian Studies faculty member Martha Selby agrees. "As India's oppressed classes have more access to education, we are going to see the emergence of new literatures of resistance in the vernacular languages, and Laura Brueck's work will stand to testify to the birth of this new genre." Laura will be in India during the upcoming academic year, and will return to the US in late spring of 2005.

Asian Cultures and Languages doctoral candidate Mark McClish was delighted to hear that he too had received a University Continuing Fellowship. Mark first came to the University of Texas in 1998 from Indiana University where he received his Bachelor's in Religious Studies. He earned his Master's in Asian Cultures and Languages from UT in 2000. After spending a year in the Ph.D. program in Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Harvard University wooed by Harvard's Ivy League image and a hefty five-year fellowship offer, he "chose quality over image," as dissertation supervisor Patrick Olivelle puts it, and returned to UT in 2001 to complete his doctorate in Asian Cultures and Languages.

Mark's dissertation examines religion and religious policy in ancient Indian political science. His approach to this issue focuses primarily on a unique and poorly-understood Sanskrit text from the ancient period (500 BCE - 500 CE), the Arthasastra of Kautilya. This is the sole extent text from the expert tradition on statecraft that existed in South Asia throughout the ancient period. His goal is to examine the major areas of a king's private and public ritual life, preferential treatment of Brahmins in legal matters, and civil policy regarding "unorthodox" traditions primarily from the perspective internal to the tradition of statecraft and to understand the manner in which political scientists negotiated the social reality of religious difference in their pursuit of functional religious policy. Of Mark's dissertation research Patrick Olivelle says, "This commentary has never been properly studied, edited, or translated. I think this will be a wonderful area for a dissertation; it will also allow Mark to use his two languages profitably." Joel Brereton agrees. "Both at Harvard and at UT, Mark polished his abilities in Sanskrit, and especially here, his historical methodology. As a result of all this and with the considerable help of a very sharp intelligence, he has become a skilled and reflective textual scholar." Cynthia Talbot adds, "Mark's dissertation has the potential of being path-breaking in its methodology and should, at the minimum, be a significant contribution to the study of both ancient and medieval India." Mark's broader interests include the Malayalam language and the history of the Indian state of Kerala, as well as trade history and vernacularization.

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