For the third consecutive year, the University of Hyderabad holds the top two ranks in India and South Asia in Arts and Humanities Research, and 7th and 9th in South-East Asia. The rank holders are Professor K Narayana Chandra and Professor Pramod K Nayar, both from the Department of English. This is an unusual achievement for the University and for the School of Humanities in particular.
The Centre for Publication Ethics, Savitribai Phule Pune University, is studying India’s contributions to Arts and Humanities Research at three levels, India, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, since 2019. This is done through the analysis of Web of Science publication data, especially from the Arts and Humanities Citation Index for the 1989-2022 period.
Prof. Pramod K Nayar Prof. K Narayana Chandran
The University of Hyderabad expects all faculty members as well as students to engage in academically and procedurally sound research in their respective fields. Both these professors from English have continued the tradition of undertaking such research.
Professor K Narayana Chandran is the Institution of Eminence Research Chair Professor in Literary and Cultural Theory at the Department of English and has published over 150 articles and chapters on English in India. His core areas of interest include American Literature, Modern British and other Literatures in English, English in India─ the history and pedagogy of the discipline.
Professor Pramod K Nayar, an alumnus, lists as areas of specialization, English colonial writings on India, posthumanism, graphic novels, celebrity culture and literary-cultural theory. He has authored books on these from Wiley-Blackwell, Penguin, Bloomsbury, Anthem, Lexington, Orient BlackSwan, Viva, Springer, Palgrave-Macmillan, Cambridge University Press, SAGE, Routledge, Polity; and papers in highly ranked journals worldwide, from Modern Fiction Studies and Changing English to Orbis Litterarum and Narrative. He won the Visitor’s Award for Best Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences from the Honourable President of India in 2018, and is globally ranked at 120 in Literary Studies according to a Stanford study (2021).
When talking about their influences in their decades long careers, both professors had something interesting to say.
Prof. K Narayana Chandran – Many and diverse, in fact, spanning more than 5 decades. Some becoming distinct and well-formed in time as ‘influences;’ some as inspirational nudges from time to time; some human, some material, resources I seem to have recognized retrospectively as ‘influences.’ The major ones are evidently books and papers to which I was directed by teachers and elders in the profession.
Prof. Pramod K Nayar – Too many to name, as critics go. But I could think of domains as having influenced what I now do: colonial discourse, Human Rights Literature, Graphic novels and posthumanism, and the top critics in these fields.
I asked them about their most significant research accomplishments and they shared –
Prof. K Narayana Chandran – Just to be fair: to have gathered from the air a live tradition of learning in a country where research in my subject and related areas is still nascent, very badly understood, and seldom encouraged in our schools. The real accomplishment for a researcher in English is to find what will suffice as research, and why. If that does not count as an ‘accomplishment,’ I can claim no other. Over the last 50-odd years, I have seen a complete turnaround in the discipline itself― how it is learnt and taught, and how topics in English now seem unEnglish and nonEnglish in ways that astonish the good old discipline and the disciplinarians. My sporadic research and writing in Malayalam in some ways help my teaching and research.
Prof. Pramod K Nayar – My published work on Bhopal, Ecoprecarity, subaltern literatures, Human Rights literature, colonial discourse and India, and more recently, posthumanism and graphic novels are, I think, satisfactory accomplishments given their global circulation now, with of course a lot more to be done, perhaps at a higher standard of publishing.
When asked about the best paper or work that they have published, both answered with dignified humility.
Prof. K Narayana Chandran – There, I seek your/ others’ views/ opinions. The reason again often surprises me because what I think is ‘my’ best is often based on essentially impressionistic criteria: hours of my relentless work, struggle with limited resources, poor feedback from scholarly cohorts, chance discoveries and insights from aleatory media, etc. Nothing goes by luck in making a book or a paper. I do not wholly trust my instincts or intuition either. My unusual reading of the English classics and the canon has, however, sometimes drawn special attention, has even been commended, by publishers of scholarly work here and elsewhere. I have already published close to 200 single-author papers. The long and short of all this is the hope that I can, will, do better work.
Prof. Pramod K Nayar – I am not sure I can identify one such, but I know that a paper on Bama that I published in 2006 continues to receive massive citations annually even now, and the essays/books I have published on posthumanism, the graphic novel and Human Rights Literature, Bhopal have received huge numbers of citations. I have found these cited by sociologists, historians, comics studies scholars, indicating influence on other researchers’ approaches to these fields.
I asked them about the impact of their research they shared –
Prof. K Narayana Chandran – Hard, if pointless, to speculate. I never worry about impact. Nor do I believe in the immediate impact of any work gauged and measured in numbers. Only naïve researchers entertain such puerile notions. Have you wondered why the Nobel laureates gain some recognition for the work they have done some 3 to 4 decades ago? On the flip side, in the humanities, bad work makes an immediate impact. Intelligent researchers however learn what not to do, how not to go about their work, if they mean business.
Prof. Pramod K Nayar – It is not easily quantifiable, but the number of citations has been rising, and the citation in places like the Year’s Work in English Studies on many occasions in the last decade indicates impact among peers. Also, the requests to contribute to Special Issues of prestigious journals like Photography and Culture and Gothic Studies, besides anthologies from Bloomsbury, Routledge, etc, in diverse fields such as Ageing Studies, Communication Ethics, Posthumanism, all suggesting that the readership for the work I do is global, and growing. I am not sure the Visitor’s Award from the Hon’ble President, which cited my work on Dalit Literature, Human Rights & Literature, among others, counts as “impact” but it counts as recognition, certainly.
But I should say that I receive, on an average, one mail a week from researchers and young faculty stating that they found my books/essays very useful and seeking help to develop their own work. This suggests that there is a readership out there that has benefitted from the work, and is learning from it.
When I asked them about what makes for good, quality research, they both came from different point of views and mentioned –
Prof. K Narayana Chandran – Let me revise that a little and say, “The quality research in English/humanities.” A fine balance between quality teaching and excellent research infrastructure conducive to productive scholarship. A firm institutional commitment to respect scholarship where you find it. A willing suspension of belief in the Hirsch Index when you see/ evaluate humanities scholarship, or failing which, cultivate academic decency by trying to learn where the humanists live and what they live for. Love India and all its bhāshās and dialects at least as much as you love English of which you still have to know/ study a lot.
Not the least, the English MA students of the UoH, the best you will find anywhere. They make for excellence in teaching and research. Who wouldn’t publish quality work after weekly meetings with such a brilliantly responsive and diligent audience?
Prof. Pramod K Nayar –
(i) Reading “the best which has been thought and said” in the topic I am researching;
(ii) Think through this reading to push already established “truths” to unravel new ones;
(iii) Rigorous methodology and theoretical frames;
(iv) Consolidating existing research but moving into newer areas;
(v) Refusing to rehash, repeat what others have said, unless that can be the point of departure for my own argument.
Finally, when talking about how they encourage excellence in their students they said –
Prof. K Narayana Chandran – By instilling in budding researchers a respect for honest work, fine writing. Other things follow. I do not pull my punches on bad work or writing when I see it. Generally, English research in India is extremely tolerant of quality. I am sure students anywhere do not want to be ‘encouraged’ my way. By and large, however, students whose work I take care to read critically have been most indulgent.
Prof. Pramod K Nayar –
(i) By insisting, where possible, on rigour in methodology
(ii) By insisting, where they are open to the idea, on sound Theory
(iii) By not endorsing repetition, “borrowing” and rehashed arguments
(iv) By insisting, where they are receptive to the idea, on sending written work to the top journals (some of the students whom I have supervised, and who were willing, have published work in fabulous journals as a result)
-By Lavanya Rana, Department of Communication