Fulbright Scholars come from a wide variety of fields & disciplines. Rutgers University Professors Ashaki Rouff & Manu Samriti Chander are headed to South America to further research on two very different topics: sustainable geochemistry & 19th century poetry.
Associate Professor Ashaki Rouff, of the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, and Associate Professor Manu Samriti Chander, of the Department of English, each will use their award to further their research and foster international collaboration.
Rouff, who runs the Environmental & Sustainable Geochemistry Group lab at RU-N, focuses her research on the behavior of inorganic and organic contaminants in soil, sediment and wastewater to predict the fate of these toxins in the environment and on people. She’ll spend six months during the spring and summer of 2019 in Suriname, on the northern coast of South America, teaching an undergraduate course in urban geochemistry at Anton de Kom Universiteit, while researching the impact of gold mining, and especially processing, in and around the city of Paramaribo.
Her Fulbright project abroad mirrors work Rouff has been doing in Newark, collaborating with RU-N and local high school students to remediate lead-contaminated soil in proposed community gardens around the city. In Suriname, she and her students will survey sites near gold-processing plants and collect soil samples for basic analysis. They’ll then home in on the most contaminated areas and take additional samples, which Rouff will bring back to the U.S. for more sophisticated analysis using specialized equipment at U.S. government labs.
Rouff is seeking funding for two RU-N students to join her in Suriname to help with the research, and she plans to use video to link her Suriname class to an introductory class in soil science running at RU-N to enable both sets of students talk about soil contamination on a global scale.
“I’m involved in work comparing soil contamination in different urban areas in the U.S. but also feel it needs to happen globally,” says Rouff. “Mass migration to urban areas is increasing throughout the world as cities become more prominent, and all of the geochemical processes we look at in pristine environments get magnified and accelerated in areas of high human activity. So, this work is more important than ever.”
Meanwhile Chander, who specializes in Romanticism, World literature, Postcolonialism and Literary theory, will use his Fulbright in Georgetown, Guyana—next door to Suriname—where he’ll teach at the University of Guyana in December and January, while conducting research for a volume of collected works he’s creating of Egbert Martin, an important but little-known late-19th-century mixed-race Guyanese poet, essayist and short-story writer.
Martin was part of a black middle class that emerged during the window between the emancipation of slaves in 1834 in what was British Guiana and the colony’s independence from Britain in 1966, a period that also saw a remarkable influx of people from Portugal, India, Africa and China, especially toward the late 1800s. Out of that diverse cultural mix arose a native literati committed to creating a coherent national identity and distinctive Guyanese literature well before decolonization. Martin’s contribution to that literary movement is well-known in Guyana, but given the country’s relatively marginal position in studies of world, Caribbean and Anglophone British literature, he is virtually unknown to scholars.
Chander has set out to change that by using his Fulbright to complete research on The Collected Works of Egbert Martin, a scholarly edition, complete with introduction, annotations, bibliography and appendices, that will include three of Martin’s published but rare collections, along with poems and essays that remain uncollected and largely unknown and are scattered among Guyanese periodicals housed in libraries in the U.S., Britain and Guyana.
Compiling these works will do more than preserve Martin’s legacy, says Chander. It will shed light on a series of critical issues that his work makes visible, including complicity and resistance, the centrality of poetry in forging a national identity, the transnational literary world of which Martin was a part, and issues of race and identity in the 19th century.
“My goal is to present a full portrait of Martin and the complex world he lived in, while establishing Guyana’s distinctive place in world and Caribbean literature,” says Chander.
While Rouff and Chander see their Fulbrights as prestigious teaching and research opportunities, they also hope to build formal ties between RU-N and their respective Fulbright universities so that future students and researchers can benefit from those partnerships.
“Study abroad opportunities, student and faculty exchanges, research collaborations: I envision all of these possibilities as we move forward,” says Chander.
By Lawrence Lerner