Prea Persaud (B.A. from Rollins College, M.A. from Syracuse University, Doctoral Candidate at the University of Florida) is a Lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte where her teaching focuses on Hinduism. In addition to teaching classes on Hinduism and the Hindu diaspora, she also teaches classes on the Caribbean. She is interested in global Hinduism, religion in the Americas (inclusive of the Caribbean), and issues concerning race, identity, and post-colonialism.
We asked her to explain what she gained from her participation in the first American Examples workshop last year.
One of the last things Mike Altman told us when we were leaving the first gathering of American Examples was that we were all considered alumni now and would forever be treated as part of the department. A year out, I have found that statement to be a true representation of how the AE organizers feel about the participants. Both Steven Ramey and Emily Crews have reached out to me about additional projects they are working on. Mike Altman passed along a review he thought I might be interested in. And Samah Choudhury and I have stayed in communication about the job market and our dissertations. As a result of the conversations I had with everyone during the workshop, I was able to successfully complete a related dissertation chapter and draft a conference paper I will present at AAR this fall.
AE was exactly what pre-grad school me believed grad school would be like – people reading together, thinking through difficult concepts, collaboratively working on our writing, and building long-lasting and supportive networks. What I appreciated most about the workshop, in addition to its mission to think beyond the category of “American religion,” was its inclusion of non-tenure tracked and contingent faculty. As an ABD grad student and full-time lecturer working on the Caribbean, an area that is often excluded or forgotten about in larger grants, it is difficult to find programs I qualify for that also provide substantial support. By including contingent faculty and having grad students observe the workshop and interact with the participants, AE actively works against persistent hierarchies in the academy. So in both content and structure, I think AE is doing the work needed to push conversations farther in academia and I look forward to continuing to work with both the organizers and future participants.
American Examples is currently accepting applications for 2020.