Dharshani Lakmali Jayasinghe (Ph.D. 2021)
Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, 2021
Lecturer – Civic, Liberal, and Global Education, Stanford University
Research Associate – Poetic Media Lab, Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA), Stanford University
Senior Editor – Stanford International Policy Review
Assistant Editor – Stanford Global Shakespeare Encyclopedia
Associate (2021/22) – Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar on “Unbordering Migration in the Americas: Causes, Experiences, Identities”, Humanities Center, University of Rochester, New York
Tell us about your Stanford degree.
I graduated from Stanford University with a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, and I work across 20th and 21st century literature and film in English, French, Korean, and Spanish. My dissertation analyzed the ways in which visa law and policy impinge on the rights and dignities of applicants from the Global South by exploring narratives from literary texts, films, oral histories, and social media. My research and teaching interests span topics in immigration, visa law and policy, borders, border surveillance, human rights and dignity (particularly the right to freedom of movement), and digital humanities.
During my doctoral studies, I received over 20 awards, grants, and fellowships in recognition of my research. I am indebted to the different Stanford organizations and centers, which supported my work throughout my time at Stanford. In my final year, I was the recipient of the 2021 Susan W. Schofield Oral History Award for Excellence in the Practice of Oral History awarded by the Stanford Historical Society, the Digital Humanities Graduate Research Fellowship awarded by the Stanford Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA), and the Graduate Research Opportunity Award granted by the Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences. I was also a 2021 d.school Creativity in Research Scholar at the Stanford Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. Other fellowships and grants that I received while at Stanford include a Mellon Foundation Dissertation Writing Fellowship awarded by the Stanford Humanities Center, multiple grants awarded by the Stanford Center for East Asia Studies for research and study in South Korea, and fellowships from the Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences and the Stanford Europe Center for study and research in France. During my doctoral studies, I presented my research at more than twenty conferences, including multiple conferences at Harvard University, Columbia University, and Stanford University as well as at annual conferences organized by the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA), Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA), Modern Language Association (MLA), and the Association for Asian Studies (AAS). In 2021, I was a recipient of the NeMLA Conference Paper Prize and was also awarded an Outstanding Conference Abstract Award at the 2021 International Graduate Student Conference organized by the East West Center, HI.
I also received other awards from institutions outside Stanford during my time as a Ph.D. student. For four consecutive years, I won the third (2014), second (2015) and first place awards (2016, 2017) at the double-blind peer reviewed Annual Korean Literature Essay Competition organized by the Korea Translation Institute and the University of California, Berkeley; a competition open to all graduate and undergraduate students attending all universities in the Bay Area. During the 2016/17 academic year, I was a Visiting Ph.D. Scholar at the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University, New York, while also teaching at the City College of New York as a recipient of the Stanford-City College of New York Teaching Fellowship. Overall, my time at Stanford as a Ph.D. student was a period of incredible opportunity that helped me to grow immensely, both professionally and personally. My degree not only provided me with exceptional training in the fields I work in, but also exemplified what it means to be a humanist and a citizen of the world.
What you are doing now?
On completing my Ph.D., I have joined the Stanford Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE) as a Lecturer in Civic, Liberal, and Global Education. I am delighted to return to teaching fulltime; a career in which I have 17 years of prior experience. I have taught a variety of humanities and liberal arts courses previously at institutions such as Stanford University, City College of New York, European College, and the Alliance française. In 2020, I was selected as a Stanford Provost’s Teaching Fellow in recognition of my teaching and mentoring experience. I will also continue to work on my research as a Research Associate at the Poetic Media Lab; a digital humanities lab at the Stanford Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA) where my ongoing digital humanities project is housed. Given my engagement with editing and publishing, I will also work as an Assistant Editor of the Stanford Global Shakespeare Encyclopaedia (General Editor: Prof. Patricia Parker; Associate Editor: Prof. Roland Greene), and as a Senior Editor of the Stanford International Policy Review (Chair of the Faculty Advisory Board: Prof. Francis Fukuyama). Additionally, for the 2021/22 academic year, I will be an Associate of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar on “Unbordering Migration in the Americas: Causes, Experiences, Identities” at the Humanities Center at University of Rochester, New York. This year, I also look forward to working on a book based on my research on visa law and policy. An article based on this work is forthcoming in the double-blind peer-reviewed journal Law and Literature.
How did you engage with Center for South Asia (CSA)?
When I think of the Center for South Asia, I am reminded of the quintessential medieval town square, also known as the plaza, the agora, or the piazza. The town square facilitated communication, discussion, and public performances. It structurally supported the flourishing of culture, community, and democracy. The Center for South Asia is, in many ways, one of Stanford’s town squares. I participated in multiple events and programs spearheaded by the Center for South Asia, which provided me opportunities to learn about, connect with, and explore the diverse cultures and communities that make up South Asia. The various lectures, workshops, performances, and social events that the Center organized created both a professional and personal space to engage with core issues pertinent to the South Asian region. The experience of putting together the Sri Lanka Conference as a member of the conference organizing committee during the first two years of my Ph.D. program is one of the memorable engagements I’ve had with the Center for South Asia.
What is one word that defines CSA for you?