Meet Sowmya Ramanathan, Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies

Global Voices recently caught up with Dr. Sowmya Ramanathan after her first full semester of teaching at William & Mary. Dr. Ramanathan is and Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies.

How have your first few weeks been at William & Mary?

Wonderful! William & Mary has such a gorgeous campus that I spent most of my first days taking in the beauty of its red-brick buildings, gigantic trees, and all the greenery. Beyond that, I received such a warm welcome from all my colleagues at the Modern Languages and Literatures Department and once classes started, immediately began the process of teaching-learning with some truly brilliant students. All of that made arriving at this new institution both a bit intimidating and also really exciting! 

What are you teaching this year?

During the Fall and Spring of this year, I am teaching HISP103, which is an accelerated course that covers the beginning two semesters of Spanish in one semester. I also taught MLL’s HISP207 during the Fall of 2020, which is a course that studies marginality, the politics of inclusion and exclusion, and cultural production from Latin America and Spain. 

What is the focus of your research? What projects are you working on right now?

I am interested in gender politics and cultural production in the Global South. More specifically, my work looks at the cultural and aesthetic production of womxn in Latin America, and I am particularly interested in how feminine and feminized others theorize and practice creativity, agency, and resistance within the difficult and often impossible conditions imposed by colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy. I am currently working on the manuscript for my book on the fascinating work of Chilean writer, Diamela Eltit, and am conducting research for another project on the politics and poetics of care—as a form of labor and resistance typically performed by feminine subjects—in Latin America. 

What will you be teaching next semester?

I am so excited for Spring 2022 as I’ll be teaching two courses on topics that are near and dear to my heart. First, HISP250 will focus on literary and cultural artefacts of Latin American womxn, studying gender theory to explore and interrogate canonical (colonial and patriarchal) depictions of the cultural sphere in Latin America. I’ll also be teaching a COLL150 course that takes on a more sociological perspective and reviews different strains and manifestations of feminism from the United States to Latin America. 

What would be your dream class to teach and why?

I’m so lucky to be teaching two classes during the Spring 2022 semester that truly are my dream classes, but for fun and with the adequate time for research and preparation, I would love to teach a class on reggaeton and popular movements in Latin America. While the genre has often been considered sexist and materialistic, I find it fascinating that reggaeton has played such a seminal role in recent social movements like the protests in Puerto Rico demanding that ex-governor Ricardo Roselló resign or the feminist mobilizations across Latin America with slogans such as “sin perreo no hay revolución”. Teaching a class on the genre, with ample tools for understanding both its musical and social complexities, could permit illuminating discussions on how certain musical cultures have travelled from the Caribbean to the rest of the world, on the power of the body in public protest, and on the contradictions and complexities embedded within movements for sociopolitical change.