Sreya Mallika Datta
My specialisation is in African and postcolonial literatures. More broadly, my interests lie in African studies, Indian Ocean studies, postcolonial and decolonial studies, and Global South studies. My doctoral thesis traces the development of the anglophone Nigerian literary tradition through a communitarian lens, offering insights into how community operates as a critical philosophical concern and register in these narratives, modulating broader questions of modernity, identity, and collective agency. I look at both canonical as well as contemporary writers: novels by Amos Tutuola, Chinua Achebe, Chigozie Obioma, and Sefi Atta form the core of my study.
My thesis extends philosphical and literary discourse on community in African literature by departing from models that espouse a generalised valourisation of the communal as traditional “worldview” or “consciousness”. Instead, I demonstrate how African literature performs itself as an interface for creating active, dynamic ideas of community within the space of the novel, the form of literary modernity.
In my future postdoctoral career, I wish to build upon and extend these areas of enquiry by contending with Africa’s central place in reimagining global modernity through paradigms of interconnection, contact, exchange, and relation. I am exploring how the Indian Ocean region provides a principal site for investigating some of these concerns, and I seek to broaden the study of mainstream African literature by looking specifically at coastal and other marginalised literatures and art forms.
- 2017–present – PhD, School of English, University of Leeds (fully funded by the Bonamy Dobree Scholarship at the international rate)
- 2015–2017 – MA, Department of English, University of Delhi (college first rank)
- 2012–2015 – BA, Department of English, Presidency University (University first rank)
Awards and Grants
- 2021 – Nominated for the Horst Frenz Prize (ACLA Annual Meeting) for best paper by a graduate student (results forthcoming)
- 2021 – AHC Research Dissemination Award for ACLA Annual Meeting
- 2020 – Joint runners-up in PSA/JPW Postgraduate Essay Competition
- 2018 – AHC Research Dissemination Award for ASAUK conference
- 2018 – LUCAS travel bursary for ‘Researching Africa Day’ Workshop, University of Oxford 2017-2020 Full-time Bonamy Dobree Scholarship, University of Leeds
- 2016 – Travel grant from the Malaysian Commonwealth Studies Centre to present at the British Association for South Asian Studies (BASAS) Annual Conference, University of Cambridge
- Foundations of English Studies (2018) [Level 1 core]
- Postcolonial Literature (2019) [Level 3 core]
- Race, Writing and Decolonization (2020) [Level 1 core]
- Creative Africas: Culture and the Arts in Modern Africa (2021) [Level 1 discovery]
Research Activities and Positions
- From September 2021–December 2021, I am the Research Support Officer of the African Knowledges of the Environment project for the Sadler Seminar Series on African Knowledges for Global Challenges.
- I became a coordinator for the Collaborative Research Group (CRG) on African Literatures under the AEGIS network of African Studies in Europe in 2021.
- I am the co-director of Finding Africa, an independent transnational African studies platform.
- I co-organised a webinar on “Forging Solidarities: Community and the COVID-19 Pandemic” (Jul 2020) which was hosted by Sanglap Journal of Literary and Cultural Inquiry. The webinar invited speakers from different disciplines in academia and beyond to ponder on the practices and hopes of community building in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
- I sit on the Advisory Board of LUCAS as a Postgraduate Representative of the Centre.
- In 2020, I was the Media Officer for the Graduate Student Caucus of the African Literature Association (GSCALA).
- I am the co-leader of the Bibliotherapy group for refugees and asylum seekers at the Compton Centre, Harehills. I am responsible for setting up meetings, arranging readings, and communicating and administering the chief vision of bibliotherapy, that is, reading together as a form of collaborative enterprise and therapeutic activity.
- From 2018–19, I was a PGR representative for the School of English, University of Leeds.
- Datta, Sreya Mallika (2020). Silence is the Tool of the Unconcerned: An Interview With Chigozie Obioma. Wasafiri, 35:1, 57–62, DOI: 10.1080/02690055.2020.1683303.
- Datta, Sreya Mallika (2019). Swahili Transmodernity and the Indian Ocean: Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Ethic of Community in By the Sea, Desertion, and Gravel Heart. Postcolonial Text, 14: 3 & 4.
- Mohan, Anupama, and Sreya Mallika Datta. “Arriving at writing”: A Conversation with Abdulrazak Gurnah. Postcolonial Text, 14:3 & 4.
- Datta, Sreya Mallika and Utsa Mukherjee (2015). ‘Pukka Sahibs’ and ‘Yellow Faces’: Reassessing Ambivalence in Orwell’s Burma. George Orwell Now!, ed. Richard Keeble. New York: Peter Lang, 161–174.
- Mukherjee, U. and Datta, SM. (2017). 'Travelling travel: an Indian king's tryst with Europe.” Travel Writing, Travel in Writing: An anthology of Critical Essays, eds. T. Ahmed and S. Sriwastav Chatterjee. Kolkata : Viswakos Parisad, 36–44.
- Datta, Sreya Mallika. “Critical Affiliation in Sefi Atta’s Swallow: Female Mobility, Kinship, and Survival in Neoliberal Nigeria.” “African Knowledges of Community and Belonging”; “African Knowledges for Global Challenges” Sadler Seminar Series. Virtual. 29 April, 2021.
- Datta, Sreya Mallika. “Repurposing the Bildungsroman in ‘Third Generation’ Nigerian Writing: Towards Communitarian Futures?.” ACLA Annual Meeting. Virtual. 8–11 April, 2021.
- Datta, Sreya Mallika, and Arunima Bhattacharya (organizers). “Forging Solidarities: Community and the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Sanglap Journal of Literary and Cultural Inquiry. Virtual. 18 July, 2020.
- Datta, Sreya Mallika. ““We were fishermen”: Theorising community in the post-nation; Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen.” Contemporary Africas, Creative Africas. University of Leeds. 4–5 April, 2019.
- Datta, Sreya Mallika. “The City and the Bush: Narrative Ecologies in the Works of Cyprian Ekwensi and Amos Tutuola.” African Studies Association UK Biennial Conference. University of Birmingham. 11–13 September, 2018.
- Datta, Sreya Mallika. “The “Conflagration of Community” in Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen: New Directions in Postcolonial Nigerian Literature.” African Studies Beyond the Binary: Critical Encounters at the Intersection. ‘Researching Africa Day’ Workshop. University of Oxford. 3 March, 2018.
- Datta, Sreya Mallika. “The ‘black canvas of night’: The Afropolitan Aesthetic and The Myth of Return in Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria.” Palaver XIV. Centre for Studies in African Literatures and Cultures. 14–15 March, 2017.
- Datta, Sreya Mallika, and Utsa Mukherjee. “Bollywood’s midsummer (night’s) dream: 10 ml Love and the problem(atics) of adaptation.” ‘Indian Shakespeares on Screen’ conference. Asia House, London. 27–29 April, 2016.
- Datta, Sreya Mallika, and Anil Pradhan. “‘Women in love’: Zami and the Politics of the Black Lesbian Body in the Diaspora.” Bodies at Work: Reimagining the Lines of (Re)production. Fourth Annual UTA English Graduate Conference. the University of Texas at Arlington. April 7–8, 2016.
- Datta, Sreya Mallika. “Empire on a Plate: Colonial Food Cultures and Cosmopolitan Modernity.” British Association of South Asian Studies (BASAS) Conference. Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University. 6–8 April, 2016.
- Datta, Sreya Mallika. “uNosilimela: Performing Resistance, an Afrocentric Paradigm.” Journey of Performance and Performing Art Forms within Africa and Beyond. International Conference on African Literatures and Culture. Centre for Studies in African Literatures and Cultures, Jadavpur University, Kolkata. 11–12 January, 2016.
- Datta, Sreya Mallika, and Utsa Mukherjee. “'So sweet a changeling': The Indian Boy and the politics of representation in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Shakespeare Reconsidered- 25th University Grants Commission International Conference and Theatre Festival. Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata. 20 March, 2015.
- Datta, Sreya Mallika, and Utsa Mukherjee. “’Travelling Travel’: Reassessing Contemporary Travel Narratives.” National Seminar ‘Placing the Space: Facets and prospects of Travel Writing’. Aliah University, Kolkata. 25 September, 2014.
- Datta, Sreya Mallika, and Utsa Mukherjee. ‘“Pukka sahibs’ and ‘yellow faces’: reassessing ambivalence in Orwell’s Burma.” International Orwell Symposium ‘Orwell Now!’. University of Lincoln, UK. 12 June, 2014.
I am a member of the following academic groups:
- LUCAS (Centre for African Studies)
- Postcolonial Studies Association
- 'Critical Life' research group , University of Leeds
My broad research interests are in African literature, Indian Ocean studies, postcolonial and decolonial studies, and Global South studies.
- 2017-Present (PhD, University of Leeds)
- 2015-2017 (M.A. English, First Class, Delhi University)
- 2012-2017 (B.A. English, First Class, University First Rank, Presidency University, Kolkata)