The IITB-Monash Research Academy is a unique academic collaboration between Monash University and the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB).
Recognising India’s status as an emerging research and global technological powerhouse, the IITB-Monash Research Academy was opened in 2008.
Since then, the Academy has launched 420 joint collaborative projects, recruited 250 students and attracted $14 million in funds committed by industry partners including CISCO, Orica, InfoSys, TATA, Reliance, SABIC and BHPBilliton.
Sreejata Paul is one of the IITB-Monash Research Academy’s inaugural Faculty of Arts intakes into the project, Gender and Public Sphere. Under the Academy’s flagship joint-PhD program, Sreejata is supervised in Australia by Dr Mridula Nath Chakraborty, Deputy Director of the Monash Asia Institute, and in India by Dr Paulomi Chakraborty from the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at IITB.
Sreejata’s unearthing of previously undiscovered Bengali Muslim women’s writing during the Indian colonial period is an exciting contribution to the field of women’s education, global feminist concerns and examinations of the public and the private.
“Sreejata’s work is a wonderful way to bring to life different feminist voices, cutting across time and culture,” Dr Chakraborty said.
“Her work illuminates the way feminism was taking form in India during this period of socio-political ferment.”
Sreejata describes her research as bringing to life the experiences of Bengali Muslim women who at this point in history were contained within the home and committed to domesticity, marriage and child-rearing. Their voices were rarely heard in the public sphere.
Despite the confines of their day-to-day lives, these women were in fact making forays into creating and publishing literature that voiced their frustrations, hopes and ambitions and imagined a life for themselves outside the home.
They were also creating revolutionary commentary into the ways in which their religion limited their potential.
“One of my goals with this research is to bring to life literary role models that modern women can use. I want to hold up these women from the past who were clearly envisioning the type of future they believed was possible,” Sreejata said.
Working across disciplines in a joint PhD program has deepened Sreejata’s links to the Indian and Australian academic communities, and created unique opportunities to collaborate and learn from the world’s leading researchers.
“I would never have had the opportunity to do a research project of this kind, in this depth, outside of this program,” Sreejata said.
“The academic community here at Monash is cooperative, co-creative and supportive. I can go to other universities and they will put me in touch with people who can have input into my research. I love that about being part of the city of Melbourne’s academic community; people know about each other’s research and they are willing to be help and support one another.
“The intellectual stimulation I get here is incredible. Australia is often front of mind for students wanting to study medicine or engineering, but it is also one of the best locations in the world for the humanities and social sciences.”
Monash Faculty of Arts Dean, Professor Sharon Pickering, said humanities, arts and social sciences had an important role to play in shaping the workforce in a rapidly-changing world.
“It’s going to be at the intersection of the human and the technological development that our very best, most critical, most innovative thinking will need to occur. It’s also where we stand most to gain,” Professor Pickering said.
“The IITB-Monash Research Academy is an important component of this innovative and interdisciplinary approach.”
Monash University Vice Chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner described the IITB-Monash partnership as breaking down barriers to global innovation.