This week we meet Dr Pavan Manogaran, Research Fellow in Racism, Racialisation and Gender at the Sarah Parker Remond Centre. Here, he chats to us about writing a play and his upcoming monograph on postcolonial nationalism.
What is your role and what does it involve?I’m a Research Fellow in Racism, Racialisation and Gender at the Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the Study of Racism and Racialisation. My role isáprimarily research-focused - I work with contemporary literature, critical theory and cultural studies to analyse postcolonial nationalism and its entanglements with race, gender and sexuality. But part of my role also involves working with the SPRC’s co-directors Professor Paul Gilroy and Professor Tariq Jazeel on centre activities, and I’m currently organising a seminar series on the textual histories of race and colonialism.
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?Four months now. Previously, I was a PhD candidate atáthe Department of English at King’s College London and an Associate Lecturer at Birkbeck College. where I was teaching atáthe Department of Psychosocial Studies.
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?I don’t know if necessarily proud but certainly one I’m quite fond of is a play I wrote a couple of years ago called Left. It was this absurd comedy about a left-handed kid whose parents zealously tried to convert into being right-handed. Because the world’s built for right-handed people isn’t it? I mean, try using scissors with your left hand without winding up in the A&E. In any case, that was the play - a set of melodramatic and exaggerated vignettes of fully-grown adults making a big deal out of something seemingly quite trite.
I didn’t mean for it to have some profound message though I guess some people brought their own allegorical readings to the party. I was just quite happy to have written something that brought about some mirth and enjoyment and made people laugh. I should say too I was incredibly lucky that there was a fantastic set of directors, cast and crew who brought it to life wonderfully. Lots of friends and families came and it was generally a really fun evening where people chuckled a lot. I liked that very much.
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?Right now, I’m working on my first monograph. It’s a book that analyses postcolonial nationalism and its tremendous investment in maintaining a rather rigid hierarchy of sexuality and sexual expression. I think there’s something to be said about how nationalism, especially in ostensibly diverse, multicultural societies, can accomplish its xenophobic work of generating enemy figures by making some ways of living seem sacrosanct and others appear sacrilegious. And sexuality can function as a modality for its transmission. Hopefully the book elaborates that something adequately.
What is your favourite album, film and novel?I reckon A R Rahman’s soundtrack for the film Rhythm is brilliant. But 90s Rahman was something else, so it’s really hard to pick just one album. My favourite film I’d probably say isáGet Out. And I’m especially fond of Antoine Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince.
What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?"The pen is mightier than the sword... if the sword is very small and the pen is very sharp." A Pratchett classic.
Who would be your dream dinner guests?Arundhati Roy, Terry Pratchett, and Eric Cantona. And perhaps James Hoffman for a post-dinner lecture on making coffee. Whilst making coffees for all present.
What advice would you give your younger self?Don’t take advice from someone who enjoys wearing a suit.
What would it surprise people to know about you?I know how to drive trucks. I mean, in the sense of legally possessing an actual HGV license, not just the abstract sense of I know how a truck works. Which, frankly, I’d say I’m not a 100% on as I previously flunked out of a mechanical engineering degree. So I wouldn’t trust myself with explaining how a truck works but certainly, if you gave me one, I could drive it rather competently and happily.
What is your favourite place?The Parkland Walk in North London’s pretty special. It’s such a beautiful, lush and serene trail running between Finsbury Park and Highgate. The first time I went on it turned out to be quite delightful - certainly one of the better decisions I’ve made - and it’s become somewhat of a semi-regular weekend activity now. If you do go, I’d highly recommend building in some time for gelato and pastries in Crouch End. I mean, if you’re there you might as well.
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