Student Profile: Sasha Patel, BA History and South Asian Studies

BA History and South Asian Studies second year student talks to SOAS Blog

I am currently in my second year studying BA History and South Asian Studies (Hindi). I love doing a joint degree as I get the best of both worlds in what I learn. I feel Area Studies allows me to gain specialist knowledge on South Asia through learning Hindi, as well as deeply studying the politics, culture and history of the region. The History side of my degree also allows me to further my understanding of Africa, the Middle East and Asia from a variety of perspectives.

I think studying History is so important in being able to think critically as we consistently have to deconstruct different points of view. This all relates to challenging the ‘common narrative’ that we are fed from a young age. I feel that everything relates back to history; how do we have a chance of bettering our world without a deep understanding of what caused it to become the way it is today.

On studying at SOAS

SOAS offers so much both inside and outside of the classroom. Wherever you are, and whatever the time of day, you are bound to be learning something new. Whether that’s through your conversation in the JCR on post-colonial Marxism, or through all the amazing and specialised exhibitions that always seem to be popping up around SOAS.

SOAS is a hub of different perspectives that are encouraged through the mixture of cultures and identities that create it. I love that all conversations will consistently challenge your thoughts; encourage you to ask more questions and research further. The events that take place at SOAS are so unique in comparison to other institutions. From Dianne Abbott (MP) to Vrinda Grover (Supreme Court of India), and DeRay McKesson (American civil rights activist) there are so many opportunities available to learn without even leaving campus!

On interests outside the classroom

I am passionate about supporting (so-called) ‘sub-altern’ women in the Global South. Upper-class white women generally dominate Feminism in the West. To challenge this narrative we need to encourage learning and educate ourselves on the inspirational women of colour who fight against racism, classism, ableism, casteism and many other prejudices everyday.

Figures such as Phoolan Devi, the Dalit legend who is South Asia’s “Bandit Queen”, or Nwanyeruwa who instigated the first major challenge (the Igbo Women’s War) to British rule in West Africa are intrinsic to what feminism is and should be centered on.  We need to ensure that the role of women in revolutionary movements is recognised. It is too often dominated by male figures, despite women being the root of change, through emotional and physical labour.

I am also passionate about music.

Classical music in the UK is completely dominated by an elite few of a certain demographic, and we need to change that! I think Music is probably the most behind in the Arts, and in general in its efforts of increasing accessibility to BAME and lower-class communities.

Music is an international language (however cliché it sounds), so why are only some people allowed to enjoy it? Music has always been a part of my life as I am classically trained in the Clarinet, Piano and Voice. However, due to government and council cuts, less BAME people from inner-London are able to benefit from the few actually accessible centers that have helped me, and many others to enjoy and learn classical musicMozart died poor, and many of his operas were about deceiving the rich, so why has classical music been appropriated as a solely elite art?

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