Q: So how’d you wind up getting a job here at Union?
A: I had one of the best interviews of my life. From having worked at Morris, I understood the mission of community colleges and could answer questions comfortably and share my ideas about students and learning.
Q: But OK, you were at Morris but jumped ship to come here. Why?
A: Union was offering a full-time position and had a number of course offerings in Women’s Studies. But I was particularly attracted to the diversity of the students we have at Union -- not just with respect to race and ethnicity but also the fact that our students come to us from a wide range of ages and personal circumstances; and they represent the globe.
Q: What about Women’s Studies and your interest in that? A: Right. One of the first feminist books I read at a young age, without knowing what feminism was, was Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex , where she theorizes how society has rendered females into a secondary sex. Her work is not just a philosophical treatise; she draws from biology, psychoanalysis, and historical materialism (Marxism) to juxtapose the myths on women against their lived experiences. Most important is her recommendation to women at the end of her analysis: education leads to independence (i.e. existence as Self and not the Other).
Q: Do you think your interest in Women’s Studies also comes from your having grown up in Nepal? A: Absolutely. I came of age in a traditional and stratified society. However, even if I had grown up here in the 70s, I would have endured gender discrimination. As it is, I’ve always been interested in ways to make society better, which also happens to be the goal of Sociology as a discipline.
Q: Yes, anyone with Google can see you’re a writer about social issues. You’ve had gender-studies scholarship published in journals but you’ve also written articles about women’s participation in the guerilla movement in Nepal. Wouldn’t you call yourself an activist?A: Yes, my dissertation was on the People’s War in Nepal and women’s participation in it. But I’m not an activist -- more of an observer and researcher. I’m wary of labels since they tend to marginalize people. In fact, labeling is often a form of gender bias to diminish the role of women as leaders. I was never the type of person who felt comfortable on a street corner waving a placard. I always wanted to be in a classroom, teaching and changing lives by helping students develop a more comprehensive understanding of their world.
Q: You’ve translated a book of short stories. How does a gender-studies sociologist-activist wind up doing short stories? A: I contributed my translations to a volume of stories by the Nepal Academy. That was a long time ago. Aside from Nepali writers, I grew up on Austen, Dickens, Hardy, Eliot, Tolstoy, Dostoevksy, and Pasternak among others. They portrayed their society and were social scientists in a sense!
Q: But you’re really all about teaching. Why teaching and not research or activism?A: Yes. I came to academia for the life of the mind -- but I also sought a practical application of what I learned. The value to learning comes in what you do with it and what you believe in. Although it may sound naïve, I believe in the intrinsic goodness of people. As the Dutch primatologist Franc de Waal postulates, we are evolutionarily wired for empathy and kindness. Long before him, Anne Frank said the same thing, and there are others who lived that, like Mother Teresa. In my opinion, teaching is that: bringing the goodness out of everyone.
Q: And now besides teaching and advising the Social Sciences club, you’re also a PTK advisor. A: PTK students are a pleasure to work with. They’re a brilliant group of students. They come from different backgrounds but share a singular commitment and purpose -- a sense of service and a drive to be better and do better. They inspire me.