International interdisciplinarity 

By Karen Herland

Concordia’s leadership in coordinating an initiative with the Quebec Ministry of International Relations has led to the imminent visit of R. Raj Rao, through the brand new Quebec-India Visiting Scholar Awards Program.

Magnifying glass

Rao is one of two scholars whose visits are being subsidized in this first round of the awards, intended to reinforce links between researchers in Quebec working on issues pertaining to India with colleagues there. The other will visit the Université de Montréal.

Tom Waugh, of the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema and the Interdisciplinary Program in Sexuality Studies, met Rao in the early ’90s, when he was doing research at the National Film Archives in Pune, India.

Rao combines creative writing with scholarship in post-independence Indian literature and queer studies.

“I am trying to develop a sort of post-colonial theory of creative writing,” he wrote in an email interview. “I am myself a poet, novelist, playwright and writer of non-fiction. Similarly, my teaching and research interests in queer theory and queer literature are a direct and natural outcome of my being gay and imaginatively tackling the subject in my fiction, poetry and plays.”

Waugh’s research interests in India go back over 35 years. He also published the definitive compendium on queer video and cinema in Canada in November 2006 (see Journal, Nov. 23, 2006). The two kept in touch, and Rao was able to lecture here in 1996 when he came to North America for another conference.

Waugh invited Rao through this program to build on their collaboration. “We’re bound to zero in on queer literature and cinema in Canada and India. In fact, this was the theme of an international conference that Tom and I organized in my department at the University of Pune exactly a year ago,” Rao wrote.

Waugh added that this visit, from mid-April to early July, will allow Rao the possibility to network “with Quebec academics and artists (writers and filmmakers) working in the same areas of queer studies, writing and cinema.” There is also hope that Rao’s recent novel, The Boyfriend, will become a film through Canadian connections developed while he is here.

In addition to Rao’s creative and theoretical work, Rao did postdoctoral work in Warwick, U.K., because they had a strong Caribbean studies department. “Both India, and many parts of the Caribbean, like the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, were British colonies at one time,” Rao wrote. “Caribbean literature is very much a part of invader colony postcolonial literature.”

Both professors hope that students will benefit from Rao’s presence through seminars and less formal opportunities for exchange.


Concordia University