Department of Asian Studies
Department of Asian Studies

Ph.D. Students Awarded Fellowships by the Office of Graduate Studies for the 2009-2010 Academic Year

Sun, June 14, 2009

Elliott McCarter, Ph.D. candidate in Asian Cultures and Languages, was awarded a University Continuing Fellowship for his research on the relationships between sacred narrative, place and pilgrimage. His research examines the processes by which myths sustain and recreate themselves when they become localized to a sacred region. The region of India in which Elliott is conducting his research, Kurukshetra, enjoys a robust mythology. It is regarded as the site from which the universe was created; it is well- known as the battlefield of the epic Mahabharata; it is revered as the site where the Bhagavad Gita was delivered. Countless other sacred stories are told about specific sites within the region. It is a place to which pilgrimage is made at the most inauspicious time, during the event of the solar eclipse. In his dissertation, Elliott draws together modern pilgrimage literature and oral narratives recently collected from Kurukshetra, along with their antecedents in classical Sanskrit literature, in order to show the influence of place in sacred narratives and the practice of pilgrimage.

Keely Sutton, Ph.D. candidate in Asian Cultures and Languages, was awarded a University Continuing Fellowship for her research on a genre of literature exclusive to Kerala, India, known as Māppila pāṭṭu. These are songs composed by the northern Muslims of Kerala, known as Māppilas, and are written and sung in a dialect of Malayalam known as Arabic-Malayalam. Often focusing on Northern Indian communities, scholarship on Islam in India tends to overshadow studies on other Indian Muslim communities with very different origins, histories, and literature. Keely plans to translate a selection of songs into English as well as discuss the historical and cultural developments that influenced the songs, their themes, and the dialect in which they are composed. Her project is the first work in current scholarship to specifically discuss Māppila pāṭṭu and its significance within Indian Islam and the larger Islamic world.

Shaohua Guo, Ph.D. candidate in Asian Cultures and Languages, was awarded a Bruton fellowship for her dissertation which studies three prominent social phenomena that evidence the burgeoning of participatory culture in China’s Internet age: 1) the popularity of blogging among middle-class women, a new cultural form of reflective writing; 2) the increasingly blurred boundaries among media consumers, distributors, and producers, exemplified by mobile phone users’ frequent creation, exchange, and circulation of jokes via text messaging; and 3), the emergence of a new sociality as demonstrated by cyberactivism initiated by both intellectuals and ordinary citizens. Focusing her analysis of Internet use on these three areas, she will illustrate how new media have played an important role in opening up alternative space—communication space constructed by virtual communities to offer alternative views of mainstream policies, aesthetics, perspectives, and ideologies—in both China’s political and economic reforms and in people’s quotidian lives.

Maeri Megumi, Ph.D. student in Asian Cultures and Languages, was awarded a Bruton fellowship for her dissertation research on the way and the extent to which modern Japanese intellectuals, and authors, in particular, were influenced by the West, through the conduit of Christianity. She plans to explore how Japanese Christian authors reconciled their seemingly incompatible national and religious identities in both their fictional and non- fictional works, and hopes to uncover how one’s indigenous culture interacts with non-indigenous religious tradition. One of these authors is Endô Shûsaku (1923- 1996), one of Japan’s most prominent post-war writers whose work has been widely translated abroad.

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