Alysha Bains examines South Asian Canadian Cultural Production in her SSHRC-funded project

November 01, 2019

Alysha Bains' experience with community outreach initiatives has continually informed her academic path and research. While working at the nonprofit organization, The Writer’s Exchange, Alysha designed and implemented multiliteracy programs, including the program that critically engages young people on media literacy through pop culture. She consequently explored the topic of literacy education from the community perspective in her SSHRC-funded master’s thesis at McGill’s University. 

Recently, Alysha was awarded a 2-year SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship to pursue her doctoral research project at SFU School of Communication. The project aims to address the emergence of South Asian creative networks across Canada and directly speaks to Alysha’s personal connection to the community. 

We’ve talked to Alysha and asked her a few questions about her work and source of inspiration.

What inspired your current research topic? 

I saw a music video when I was 10 by a band from the UK called Asian Dub Foundation. The sound, aesthetics and lyrics of the song called ‘New way, new life,’ told a story that I was unable to articulate as a young second generation South Asian kid living in Canada. I was captivated by the music video because it represented a moment for me - it was the first time I saw what self-definition and political resistance could look like through creative expression in the context of being a child of South Asian diaspora.

Why do you think this topic is important? 

The problematic narrative arc of multiculturalism in Canada and its cultural industries has often worked to disguise and silence the complexity of race relations and everyday experiences of BIPOC. The purpose of this research is to reorient the question of representation around South Asian identities in Canada to capture the complexity and often times ambivalent features of cultural production. Through this focus, I aim to center a narrative about creative practice and the actors who are refashioning opportunities of self-definition and community activism (including critique). More specifically, this research aims to provide insights into nuanced social structures that could potentially be valuable to effect change on a policy level (ie: funding structures, non-formal learning projects, reframing ‘diversity’ initiatives, etc.).

How will SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship help you to achieve your research goals? 

It will help me expand my research scope, collaborate with my community and share my work across a multitude of settings. 

Book Recommendation from Alysha Baines 

 The Fish Eyes Trilogy by Anita Majumdar, based on her incredible one-woman show and also Naben Ruthnum’s book, Curry: Eating, Reading, and Race.