Thursday, September 28, 2017

Sujatha Fernandes

Sujatha Fernandes is a Professor of Political Economy and Sociology at the University of Sydney. She taught at the City University of New York for a decade and holds a visiting position at the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Her research combines social theory and political economy with in-depth, engaged ethnography of global social and labor movements. Her first book, Cuba Represent! looks at the forms of cultural struggle that arose in post-Soviet Cuban society. Her second book, Who Can Stop the Drums? explores the spaces for political agency opened up for barrio-based social movements by a hybrid post-neoliberal state under radical left wing leader Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. In her third book Close to the Edge, she explores whether the musical subculture of hip hop could create and sustain a new global cultural movement.

Fernandes's latest book is Curated Stories: The Uses and Misuses of Storytelling.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Among my favorite books I’ve read this year is Lisa Ko’s book The Leavers about a Chinese migrant in New York City who mysteriously disappears one day, leaving her son to be adopted by a white family in New Jersey. I thought that the book superbly described so many different worlds, from immigrant New York, to white suburban Jersey, and an industrialized Fuzhou. I also loved the descriptions of music in the novel, which helped evoke so much about the struggles of the main protagonist. It reminded me of a few other recent books about migrant workers I have read this year, including Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers, Sunjeev Sahota’s The Year of the Runaways and Atticus Lish’s Preparation for the Next Life. Migrant workers are not a common topic in literary writing. We need more of these stories.

I was thrilled to read Arundhati Roy’s masterpiece The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. The book takes unusual and feisty protagonists in New Delhi and brings them together in a way that is electric. I found myself reading sentences over and over for their sheer brilliance and beauty. Roy’s experiences with social justice struggles in Kashmir and among the Naxalite groups in North India over the last two decades show through in the book, and illuminate every page.

In non-fiction, I really enjoyed Teju Cole’s book Known and Strange Things. The book is a series of Cole’s collected essays on the locations one encounters through travel, and how our experiences of place are shaped by art, music, literature and photography. As an acclaimed photographer, Cole offers sardonic and wry observations about social photography platforms like Instagram, where he says trillions of banal photos a year are taken of sunsets, girlfriends, and meals. What does this mean for the art of photography and how can it be subverted? The book is very thought-provoking and asks the big and crucial questions.
Visit Sujatha Fernandes's website.

The Page 99 Test: Who Can Stop the Drums?.

The Page 99 Test: Curated Stories.

--Marshal Zeringue