Fulbright program brings scholar from India to Oswego

Suryasikha PathakAs a Fulbright Visiting Scholar, Suryasikha Pathak brings a global perspective to SUNY Oswego while learning more about American women’s history.

“I’m quite passionate about the discipline of history,” said Pathak, a lecturer in history at Assam University in India. “I really think that to be a good citizen or a good human being, you need a strong sense of history. It’s essential to understand how the past and future are interconnected.”

Pathak comes through a prestigious program that cultivates international connections and sharing knowledge between the United States and around 140 countries.

Her connection with SUNY Oswego is Dr. Geraldine Forbes, the distinguished teaching professor of history whose text “Women in Modern India” is a foundational work in India’s academic system. Pathak wrote Forbes last summer, which led to applying for the Fulbright. “It’s a great privilege,” Pathak said of working with Forbes.

Based here through the spring semester, Pathak has begun a major project, “Gendered Encounters,” on women among the American Baptist missionaries that formed Christian villages in her country’s northwest region and have influenced it since the 1840s.

Tracing the evolution of Indian culture involves examining church influences, which more “defined private practices, which the state does not regulate,” she said. “We have these notions of an ideal home, how children should be raised. A large number of these notions are reinforced by the church.”

Pathak herself studied in a convent as a child, learning what she termed “moral science, a set of ethical rules.”

She is visiting archives rich in material on the little-studied angle of missionary women, such as letters that “trace day-to-day life, the essence of the process more than official history,” she said.

She has made a presentation at the South Asia conference at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she pored through college archives, and explored the Wisconsin Historical Society and Baptist records in St. Paul. Her future research itinerary includes Chicago (where she expects to make a presentation), New York City, Atlanta, and Harvard and Cornell universities.

Pathak also is exploring the early U.S. women’s movement and how it encompassed public figures like Elizabeth Cady Stanton as well as lower-middle-class farm wives and working women.

“There was actually a lot happening, many different parts to the women’s movement that I am trying to understand,” she said.

At Oswego, she recently discussed “Fighting Her Own War: Women and Peace-Making in Northeast India,” a College Hour lecture on women’s roles in protests and the political process in that region.

“I’ve attended functions at Hart Hall, and gradually I’m getting to know a lot of people,” she said. She noted a positive and can-do attitude at SUNY Oswego, which she said she enjoys. “The classroom is more friendly and more open,” Pathak said. “Everyone really works a lot. There’s a work ethic at this college that is very good, and you all get a lot done. It encourages me that I can do it.”

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PHOTO CAPTION: Scholarly exchange—Fulbright Visiting Scholar Suryasikha Pathak from Assam University in India is spending a year based at SUNY Oswego to share and collect perspectives and research. Here she speaks with Ashley Witman, a junior human development major, about their shared interest in India.

(Posted: Nov 26, 2008)

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