Introducing Sharada Balachandran Orihuela
Introducing Assistant Professor
Sharada Balachandran Orihuela
What is your current project, and what led you to it?
From Flags to Freeways: Hemispheric Routes of Exchange, Marginalized Economies, and Liberal Rights analyzes hemispheric acts of illegal exchange across the longue durée of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I contribute to the predominantly historical and economic examinations of piracy and illegal exchange by tracing a lineage of textual representations of illicit exchanges. I examine how literature depicts liberal livelihoods that surface from within these hidden economies across the Americas, and I suggest that representations of illegal exchange serve to underwrite new forms of selfhood in a system of global capital. This is the organic product of a series of overlapping interests that I wanted to reconcile in the context of a dissertation project. I spent the first many years of graduate school taking courses in Spanish, Cultural studies, and History, so I knew the project would be methodologically and archivally rich, if not complex. The most difficult task I encountered when starting the dissertation was to impose a structure onto these moving pieces.
What are you most looking forward to as you teach this fall? Can you tell us a little about your approach to teaching American literature?
I am looking forward to testing a few dream survey courses in American literature. In the Fall I will be teaching ENGL 433 where we will examine frontier spaces in twentieth century American literature. I will repeat the course in the Spring but will be focusing more specifically on the U.S. South and New South. My strengths are in teaching American literature with a comparative approach, and I am fortunate that UMD values this interdisciplinary approach.
What drew you to the English Department at UMD?
The faculty and graduate students, absolutely. I look forward to developing long-lasting relationships with such a large and diverse group of strong scholars. I am excited to work alongside academics who share my interests and approaches to literary studies. For example, that faculty are busy organizing events at the cutting edge of Americanist scholarship, like the recent "Race, Law, and American Literary Studies" interdisciplinary conference, [and this] demonstrates their overall interest in a diversity of approaches to American literature as well as their commitment to exciting new research.
You’re coming to us from positions at both Kenyon College and UC Davis; tell us a little bit about how this experience has shaped you as a teacher and scholar, and what you hope to bring with you as you start anew here.
I credit Kenyon College with teaching me how to transition out of being a graduate student and into being a junior faculty member. Living in a small village in central Ohio, and being fairly far removed from a large city, also resulted in my developing a strong bond with my colleagues and students. At Kenyon, I started to feel very comfortable inhabiting the role of professor. This is certainly not something I was familiar with at UC Davis despite having taught my own courses for over six years. However, teaching and working at Davis taught me what a dynamic and vibrant English department looks like. There is an intellectual energy and vigor at large state institutions that is unrivaled by other types of institutions. I look forward to discovering UMD's unique institutional culture.
What occupies your time and interests when you aren’t teaching and researching?
I haven't had much time away from teaching and writing in the past seven years, but I hope to turn over a new leaf at UMD. Although I love to travel internationally, I hope that living in DC will allow me to more thoroughly get to know both the cities and wilderness of the northeast, a region I am largely unfamiliar with. It has been a long time since I have lived in a large metropolis, so I am also looking forward to hearing a lot of live music, seeing great art, and eating my way through DC.
If you weren’t a professor of Hemispheric American Studies and literature of the Americas , or even a professor at all, what do you think your field/occupation would be?
To be honest, I have never imagined my life as anything other than a career academic, only when I was younger I hoped to be an archaeologist for no reason other than I watched a lot of Indiana Jones movies! Not having the option of being a professor however, I think my contribution would come through public service and advocacy work for immigrant communities in the U.S.