Generous donations support University appointment

February 8, 2018

Professor Vijay Mishra and Dr Rahul Gairola

New position: Dr Rahul Gairola (right) will be mentored by Professor Vijay Mishra

Donations from Perth cardiologist Dr Krishna Somers are funding a new academic position at Murdoch University, to support the research of transnational cultures, literature and diasporas.

American researcher and teacher Dr Rahul Gairola has just begun his role as The Krishna Somers Lecturer in English and Postcolonial Literature in Murdoch’s School of Arts.

His appointment will provide teaching support for Professor Vijay Mishra, a world-renowned expert on literary and cultural studies. This will give Professor Mishra time to develop and complete major research projects, such as an Australian Research Council-funded book on Nobel Laureate VS Naipaul.

Professor Mishra will also mentor Dr Gairola to continue his legacy at Murdoch University.

Born in Virginia and raised in Washington DC, Dr Gairola has taught and researched at renowned institutions including the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, Leipzig University in Germany, and the City University of New York and Yale University in the United States.

Most recently he was teaching undergraduates and supervising doctoral students at the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, Asia’s oldest technological institution.

Dr Gairola said he was thrilled to begin his role at Murdoch, and new life in Australia.

“I remember reading Professor Mishra’s work when I was a 19 year old undergraduate, so being able to work alongside him as his mentee is a true delight,” he said.

“The role will allow me to engage in comparative postcolonial studies across continents and contexts. I also hope to work with other scholars on the realm of comparative digital humanities, which is an emerging field that surveys the links between technology and humanities.

“It’s also a great opportunity to step beyond my comfort zone and parlay my teaching and research experiences in the United States and India into Australia. There is huge potential for growth and collaboration with my former institutions.”

Dr Somers has long been a friend of Professor Mishra and they share a passion for literature and a special interest in diasporas. These are defined as scatterings of people who have migrated away from their established or ancestral home.

This interest stems from his own experiences. Dr Somers is of Indian descent yet was born in South Africa at the height of Apartheid. Determined to leave to gain specialist training in medicine outside of South Africa, Dr Somers subsequently trained and worked in several countries including India, the United Kingdom, Uganda, the United States and Papua New Guinea, before settling in Perth.

He began donating to Murdoch in 2002, establishing the Krishna Somers Foundation with $100,000 seed funding.

Over the following 15 years, the earnings from the fund supported more than 60 seminars and three sabbaticals. In 2015, Dr Somers made an additional gift to Murdoch of $300,000, to support the new role and a further donation of $100,000 in 2017.

“I have taken inspiration from my friendship with Vijay and I am proud to have helped him achieve everything he has in his research through the Foundation,” Dr Somers said.

Professor Mishra said Dr Somers’ donations had made it possible for him to advance a number of projects, including manuscripts on Salman Rushdie, one of the most recognised authors of the Indian diaspora.

“His amazing generosity over many years has also benefited the careers of young scholars like Dr Helena Kadmos, who was the Krishna Somers Postdoctoral Fellow, and now also Rahul. We cannot thank him enough,” Professor Mishra said.

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Comments (2 responses)

Prem Mathur February 9, 2018

Hats off to Dr. Sommers! Donations for Diaspora studies is a rare happening in my experience. Congratulations to Prof. Mishra and his dedicated, sustained work in the field.
And,welcome Dr.Goirala! Look forward to your inaugural lecture.

Andrew Taggart February 13, 2018

A wonderful appointment
Dr Somers generosity will be well served with productive outcomes from such a well credentialed scholar working with Vijay

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