by Aishwarya Ramachandran
I can still recall walking into Dr. Vertinsky’s undergraduate seminar: ‘Gender Matters in Sport, Health, and Physical Activity’. The course would examine how gender and sex shape the way in which sports and physical cultures are structured, experienced and represented. I was hooked in those first few minutes of the class!
I began work on a research paper that examined classical dance in India, during the late colonial period, with a specific focus on the underlying dynamics of gender, sex and race. Initially meant as a final assignment, I continued my research well into the rest of the year! I was enthusiastic about this topic because as a child I had studied and performed Indian classical dance. This paper allowed me to explore the many facets of my South Asian heritage. I enjoyed the experience so much that I decided to pursue graduate school.
I have been enrolled as an MA student in the School of Kinesiology since January, 2018. My research looks at the transnational flows of physical cultures, particularly physical education and modern dance, between India and the West during the early decades of the 20th century. This time is particularly important to the understanding of South Asia’s modern history. The years leading up to national sovereignty for India in 1947 were fraught with the last vestiges of colonial rule and fervent expressions of nationalism, leading to a number of competing approaches to physical development. I look at two specific cases where individual actors and institutions became involved in facilitating complex and multidirectional flows of physical culture practices, focusing on the underlying dynamics of imperialism, colonial struggle, and nationalism in India during this period.
One of the most rewarding moments in my graduate journey was attending the North American Society for Sport History conference, where I presented my research paper for the first time. This experience exposed me to the world of public speaking and the joys of sharing my efforts with academics from across the continent. Recently, I co-authored a paper with my supervisor, Dr. Patricia Vertinsky, titled “Uday Shankar and the Dartington Hall Trust: patronage, imperialism and the Indian dean of dance”, which was published in the Sport in History journal. I have since co-authored two more papers that are under consideration for publication.
This has been a year of new experiences! An invaluable aspect of my graduate studies has been the mentorship I have received from my supervisor, Dr. Patricia Vertinsky. Her mentorship has encouraged me to write and publish research articles, and to present them at conferences. My experience in a collaborative lab environment has provided me with intellectual stimulation and an academic community, which I greatly value.
As the School’s Graduate Student Representative, I have the privilege of working closely with other graduate students. After 5 years at UBC as an international student from India, I recognize the unique challenges faced by students from diverse backgrounds, and I hope to be able to contribute to a stronger, more supportive community by providing special guidance and peer support to these students.