Student Spotlight

A student of anthropology often uncovers narratives of society’s darker sides. Influenced by his experience growing up between Bangalore and Atlanta, 4th year anthropology doctoral student Shreyas Sreenath is tackling the subject of caste and class relations in Bangalore, India as it pertains to the country’s sanitation infrastructure. 

“My research looks at sanitation work in Bangalore, often referred to as India’s Silicon Valley. It tries to understand how modern forms of waste, such as municipal garbage and sewage, repackages a very old problem in South Asia—the problem of caste hierarchy.”

 

Shreyas’ research further elaborates on the type of individuals who are selected to perform this labor, “Bangalore recruits sanitation workers via intricate contract systems, largely from Dalit communities.” Dalits, the most dominated sections of the caste hierarchy, are subject to discrimination and poor living conditions in modern-day India. Shreyas seeks to understand the complexities and politicization of their roles. “I’m always intrigued by the rationales people come up with to sustain social hierarchies. They are often contradictory when one thinks with a cool head, but they continue to exercise a powerful grip over people’s minds,” says Shreyas. In his research, he acknowledges the role that material relations play in one’s conceptualization of power. “It’s when we come to explore these material contingencies, through the social sciences, natural sciences, or humanities, that we really start to unsettle all sorts of deeply held prejudices of what society should look like.”

It's when we come to explore these material contingencies, through the social sciences, natural sciences, or humanities, that we really start to unsettle all sorts of deeply held prejudices of what society should look like.

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As an undergraduate student, also at Emory, Shreyas developed a profound interest in political and economic anthropology. Like many other students, his first steps towards graduate studies began with an initial curiosity about certain fundamental human problems. “I had a lot of questions of how people imagined economic activity, across history and society, especially in relationship to questions of political power.” Before applying to LGS, Shreyas connected with Emory faculty who had conducted research across similar disciplines. “I liked that many professors I was interested in were not wedded to a disciplinary perspective, even as they were grounded in particular theoretical traditions.”  He credits these professors for playing an instrumental role in his application process.

 

At Laney, our students have access to a variety of resources that are essential to their academic and professional development. From our TATTO program to grant writing seminars, Shreyas has been able to expand his scholarly audience through peer engagement. “Many of the sessions have student led discussions which help us think through the challenges of communicating ideas as first time teachers. It helps us discuss challenges among ourselves.”

 

Through these opportunities, Shreyas has established intellectual bonds with fellow scholars across varying disciplines interests. He states, “I always learn a great deal from fellow graduate students that I meet at Laney events. I’ve made a lot of good friends at such events. And I’m often surprised to find that we find a lot to talk about, even if our interests, on the surface, seem to have nothing in common.”