Affiliate Research Fellow, Scottish Centre of Tagore Studies (ScoTs), Edinburgh.
Dr. Suparna Banerjee is an academic and a writer based in Bengal, India. She has a Master’s degree in English from the University of Burdwan, where she graduated with a First in the First Class. Her Ph.D–on the dialectic of science and gender in the speculative fiction of Mary Shelley and Margaret Atwood—was earned in 2009 from the IIT Bombay, a top-tier institute in India. Currently she is a tenured faculty of English at Krishnath College, Berhampore, West Bengal. The College is affiliated to the Kalyani University. As an academic, she has more than a decade’s experience of teaching UG and PG courses at prestigious government-sector positions.
Banerjee’s scholarly publications have been on the interface of literature and Women’s Studies. These include her monograph, Science, Gender and History: The Fantastic in Mary Shelley and Margaret Atwood (Cambridge Scholars, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, 2014), a well-endorsed and widely reviewed book. Banerjee has also published ten articles and book reviews in reputed, peer-reviewed international scholarly journals, like English Studies, Journal of International Women’s Studies, Wasafiri, and Science Fiction Studies. Apart from this, she has published over 50 articles and reviews in leading Indian national dailies, including ‘Hindustan Times’ and ‘The Hindu’. In her newspaper columns, she has dealt with different aspects of gender dynamics as well as with issues related to politics and parliamentary democracy in India. She has consistently reviewed serious non-fiction for ‘The Hindu’ (2013- 2020). She did a series of lead articles for the ‘Literary Review’ of The Hindu in 2016-17. She also posts occasionally on her blog spot at the Times of India web platform. writer on the Times Some of her best work can be seen on her author page at The Hindu here: https://www.thehindu.com/profile/contributor/Suparna-Banerjee-2020/
Banerjee’s research and teaching interests include transnational feminism and gender issues, especially in the Indian context, speculative/fantastic fiction by women writers, Black-Anerucan women’s writing, and democratic state politics with a special emphasis on the Indian set-up. Currently she is working on the modern day valence of Rabindranath Tagore’s sociopolitical ideas for a monograph on Tagore’s political philosophy and its relevance today, with a publishing offer from a highly regarded UK based publisher.
Banerjee has had several awards in recognition of her academic credentials. She won a Fulbright ‘Scholar-in-Residence’ award for Purdue University Northwest in 2019-20; she won a UGC-Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) through the national-level NET examination in Dec. 1998; she was awarded the University Gold Medal for standing First in the First Class at M.A examination; and she was invited to be a ‘Scientific Committee Member’ (advisor) to the ‘International Conference on Gender Studies 2018’ (Oct, 2018, Colombo, Sri Lanka) sponsored by Bridgewater State University.
As an Affiliate Research Fellow at the Scottish Centre of Tagore Studies (ScoTs), Banerjee is working on a book, with the tentative title, Beyond ‘Gitanjali’: the Political Vision of Rabindranath Tagore and its Relevance Today. This will be an accessible and analytical exposition of the political thought of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, highlighting the timeliness and the human worth of his ideal of globalist humanism and the modern day significance of his social vision.
Synopsis of current work:
For the said work Banerjee will study Rabindranath Tagore with a focus on his political thought, aiming to bring out the renewed relevance to our world of his reflections on culture, society, and politics—national and global. Going beyond his overriding international reputation as a spiritually inclined poet, she will highlight his keen intellectual engagement with issues such as political sovereignty, social equity, the conflict and confluence of cultures, and the global impact of nineteenth century British imperialism.
While being mindful of the differences between Tagore’s times and the present day reality, Prof Banerjee will draw out the contemporary valence of his analyses of the dangers incident to the excesses of nationalism and the nation state. In this connection she will explore the nuances of Tagore’s response to the Indian nationalist movement, showing how his love for his motherland and his indignation at British- colonial injustices, coexisted with an antipathy towards the reactionary ideologies of patriotism and ethnic hatred.
A part of Banerjee’s probe into Tagore’s thoughts on (ultra)nationalism will be an examination of his perception of the role of the nation state in effecting public welfare in a country. Moving along this trajectory, she will plunge into an exploration of the many facets of the poet-thinker’s thoughts on social justice and national development. She will show how his repudiation of casteism and his indignation at British India’s mass poverty led him to embrace a globally valid ideal of incremental progress. She will thus bring out how this ideal emphasised the importance of education and healthcare for the masses, and projected a qualified acceptance of the role of the state while relying, ultimately, on the ‘Social Man’ and his innate humanity. In this context, she will dwell at some length on Tagore’s unique, almost non-denominational concept of religion, aiming to show how this ideal of the ‘Religion of Man’ was related to his vision of a just society—one that would enable the higher humanity inherent in every individual to blossom.
As the world has struggled to contain a pandemic that has brought to the fore the existing socio-economic inequalities, while the ongoing global conflicts indicate the urgent need for harmony, Tagore’s inclusive humanism, and his emphasis on inter-ethnic, transnational amity, stand freshly vindicated. Banerjee’s explorations of the depths of Tagore’s multi-faceted socio-political vision will highlight its supreme human worth and its abiding significance. At the end of the project, she will have projected Tagore as an icon of global democracy, much ahead of his times who remains an outstanding thought leader whose time is now.
Suparna looks forward to exploring the rich collection of works by and on Rabindranath Tagore which is with the ScoTs Tagore Collection and also the Special Collections at the University of Edinburgh Library. She will be working with Prof. Bashabi Fraser, Director of ScoTs, as her mentor.
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