New Grad Student Profiles, Fall 2017

This academic year we welcome four students from a variety of educational backgrounds and interests to our comparative literature community at Rutgers! Meet Monica,Paulina, Thato and Yuanqiu.

Mònica Tomàs White is interested in the humanities that lie beyond the human, whether it be animals and the environment, posthumanism, the supernatural, or the insane. She developed her ideas about theory as a tool for improving life on Earth while completing her BA in Comparative Literature and French at UC Berkeley, and MA in Gender Studies at the University of Barcelona, the latter been her hometown. Having mostly studied within the Spanish and French national traditions, she now hopes to explore other geographies at Rutgers, particularly Latin America and East Asia.

Paulina Barrios joins us from Mexico, having grown up in both the U.S. and Mexico she has always been interested in the intersections between cultures and languages. She became interested in literature at an early age, and this finally led her to completing a B.A. in Comparative Literature with an emphasis on International Relations at Colorado College. Her interest in literature also intermingled with a restlessness regarding the inequality and misogyny she saw throughout society, thus guiding her focus on women writers in Latin America and West Africa who point to and protest the unequal, and oftentimes violent, contexts they live in. After finishing her Masters in African Studies at El Colegio de México, she decided to pursue a life-long dream of working in the non-profit sector in Mexico, and developed her translating skills, at times tying in both aspects in her professional life. At Rutgers, she plans to deepen her knowledge of feminist theories and methodologies, as well as analyze the use of literature across social projects in Latin America and Africa. Her goal is to eventually broaden the connections between academia and activism, as well as show how crucial literature can be for people’s lives.

A self-diagnosed functional scoptophobian, Thato Magano recently obtained his MA in African Literature from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in South Africa. While completing his MA, a research essay exploring the utility of women’s writing in democratic South Africa, “Voicing Matty and escaping the spectacle of social absurdity: On Makhosazana Xaba, The Suit and The Stories It Inspired” was selected for presentation at the inaugural Narrative Enquiry for Social Transformation (NEST) colloquium and subsequently chosen for publication in a forthcoming special issue of the interdisciplinary leading Africanist journal, Social Dynamics. In August 2017, Thato and two co-curators published a student activism resource, Publica[c]tion, informed by their active involvement in the #FeesMustFall movement. A mix of narrative styles – long form, poetry, music, criticism – Publica[c]tion is a unique archive of recent student activism in South Africa as it features contributions from all 24 institutions of higher learning and is independently funded, self-edited and freely available (in broadsheet). At the centre of Publica[c]tion are questions about form, content, language, publishing and pedagogy. His short stories, “A What?” appears in Queer Africa 2: New Fiction Anthology (May 2017) and “Parallels of Yesterday” was shortlisted for the Best Short Story Prize in Long Live the Short Story, The Short Story is Dead Vol.2 Anthology (Feb 2017). His poem “How Dare You?” features in Gentle Dust, a collaborative video installation project by several art practitioners between South Africa, UK and the Netherlands. Currently on show in Rotterdam until the end of October, a new single-channel video will be shown at the 10th Berlin Biennale in 2018. He is founding partner of Vanguard Magazine, a multimedia pan Africanist, queer, and womanist platform centering the experiences of young Black people in South Africa and the diaspora. In a life far removed from his current, he obtained his undergraduate degree in Communications and taught at the University of Pretoria for a brief period before pursuing a career in brand management at Cadbury South Africa. Thato comes to Rutgers with these experiences, and hopes to expand his interdisciplinary practise as academic-activist-creative while exploring conceptions of race, gender, sexuality, nationalisms and affect in dystopian narratives/literatures.

Yuanqiu Jiang majored in Astronomy during his first two years at Nanjing University, China, after which he changed his major to Physical Geography & Resource-Environment, while simultaneously training in Chinese Language & Literature as his minor. Although he majored in astronomy and geography, he would not claim to be an expert on either of these two disciplines, but he does remain superficially interested in the natural sciences, and by superficially he means textually and rhetorically.

In 2015 he was admitted as an “undergraduate-in-residence” at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities & Social Sciences,  at Nanjing University, where he was mentored by French writer J.M.G. Le Clézio. During the same program he attended a short course held by French philosopher Bernard Stiegler. These two programs contributed largely to his interest in post-war French theories and in looking at Chinese literature outside of the Chinese tradition(s).

Yuanqiu’s native language is Wu Chinese, a dialect used in Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (he comes from Jiangsu). His “bilingual” (Wu Chinese and Mandarin) experience makes him pay close attention to the phonetics found in Chinese. At an early age, he was trained by his grandfather to practice calligraphy, which initiated his interest in Classical Chinese writing. At Rutgers, Yuanqiu intends to develop his research on all the fields mentioned above, as well as discover new dimensions for doing literary research.