Welcome to Dr Shaona Barik, our Charles Wallace India Trust visiting fellow

Dr Barik joins us from Visva-Bharati University in Santiniketan, India to discuss her work and upcoming research seminar.

Dr Barik is resident with us until early June 2023 and she took some time to discuss her research before her research seminar 'Occult Objects from India in Victorian England (1858-1900): Reception and Perspectives' on Thursday 29 March.

What is your research background?

I received my PhD, ‘Haunted by the Empire: Representations of the Occult and the Uncanny in Colonial Fictions about India, 1870-1940’ from Jadavpur University, India in 2019. My thesis examined the manner in which the study of the occult led to a process of cultural exchanges between India and Britain.

I looked at the diverse ways in which European women and men who came to India during the nineteenth century engaged with the uncanny in direct or indirect ways. In order to elaborate on this theme, I looked at certain examples, such as writings about uncanny objects, the so-called ‘devilry’ and arcane practices of the ‘natives of India’ (as imagined by the Europeans in India), including the strange actions of the fakirs and other practitioners of the occult.

What are your research plans while you are here at Leeds?

I am curious to know about the afterlife of objects like the ‘Planchette board’, crystal balls, healings stick, different talismans and amulets which travelled between England and India in the nineteenth century.

I’ll analyse their impact on British and Indian domestic households. Special Collections at the University of Leeds contains excellent material for my research, particularly the Art and Antique Market Collections, the Antique Dealers’ Archive, the International Textile Collection, the Chinese Holdings from the Royal Asiatic Society, and the Art and 1890’s Literature sections of the Brotherton Collection.

I’ll also be visiting the British Library where the newspaper archive will contain fascinating evidence. I’ll be scouring all these sources for references to occult objects, their transmission, and impact on Victorian society.

What else are you looking forward to during your fellowship?

The opportunity to visit museums, antiques shops, take historical walks and visit cities across the UK to help me to further enrich my understanding of the Victorian past.

Dr Barik’s research seminar

Occult Objects from India in Victorian England (1858-1900): Reception and Perspectives

You can hear more about Dr Barik’s research in her research seminar paper ‘Occult Objects from India in Victorian England (1858-1900): Reception and Perspectives’, on 29th March 2023. 

Dr Barik’s fellowship is generously supported by the Charles Wallace India Trust. Applications for a Charles Wallace India Trust visiting fellow (2023-24) will open in late spring 2023. View further details about fellowship opportunities

Image: The British Library - Image taken from page 10 of From New York to Delhi, by way of Rio de Janeiro, Australia, and China'