Let’s Talk resumes its interview series with higher education professionals, and is delighted to welcome Dr. Ritu Mahendru. Ritu has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Kent (2010) and authored the book: “Young People’s Perceptions of Gender, Risk and AIDS: A comparative analysis of India and the UK (2010).”
She is an academic, researcher and activist with substantial experience in gender and human rights issues. She has country knowledge and experience of working in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Serbia, Denmark, Mexico and the United Kingdom. Ritu is a founder and moderator of the South Asian Sexual Health (SASH) Forum and an Editor of the AIDS-ASIA eForum.
She is also the Director of Spatial and Social Development Perspectives – UK.
Priyali: Hi Ritu, welcome to the “Let’s Talk” blog which is a platform for people within higher education and those simply interested in it, to talk about the things that concern us.
First off, many congratulations on completing your doctorate in Sociology. Would you like to comment on your early career experiences now that you’ve got it under your belt? What are your career plans, and what do you think of the present job market in the UK and outside it?
Ritu: Thanks Priyali. As you are aware, opportunities for PhD graduates are sporadic. I have not had much success in securing a full time academic position in the UK, something that I was looking forward to after finishing my PhD. However, I have specific engagements with various UK universities. Elsewhere, I am in negotiation with universities to establish international programmes – this is a lengthy and time consuming process.
Preferably, I would like to teach Gender and Public Health from sociological perspectives, and engage myself in social research simultaneously. I do have a company and would like to keep that as a tool to continue my engagement with countries like India, Afghanistan, South Africa etc. It may appear that I am adhering to the doctrine of utilitarianism. However, the job market in the UK is bleak so I have created a job for myself and carved my own path. I am hoping that one day the situation within UK universities will change, and I will have a full-time position at a University here.
Priyali: What or whom do you hope to influence with your work as a social science researcher?
Ritu: I wouldn’t necessarily like to influence anyone. Instead, I would like to facilitate and/or provide space for discussions on the issues of migration, gender and health. This would create knowledge of social marginalization through theoretical and methodological understanding. I am interested in the conceptualisation of diasporas and health and how the two are deeply interlinked. I made initiatives to enable this dialogue and founded SASH – an online forum that attempts to address the sexual health needs of migrants and diasporic communities in the UK.
Next post: 7 March. Dr. Mahendru comments on being able to work across cultures, and on career planning for doctoral researchers.