Navjotpal (Nav) Kaur is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at Memorial. She came to Memorial for her PhD from Punjab, India. Her research interests are men and masculinities, international migration, caste, deviance, and gender. Nav is an amateur photographer and a visual sociologist – she uses pictures as methodological tools for her doctoral research. A collection of her photographs was displayed at an exhibition at QEII Library from Jan 2019-Apr 2019. Some of her photographs were also published in Sociology on the Rock, the departmental newsletter of Sociology.
How and why did you decide to attend Memorial for your graduate degree?
For me, the most important decisive factor was my supervisor (Dr. Rose Ricciardelli). Dr. Ricciardelli’s research interests aligned with mine (men and masculinities, deviance, gender) and she was the most responsive of the professors I emailed regarding my research proposal; so she, and by extension Memorial, seemed like a natural fit for me. I didn’t know much about Memorial before I came here, and I must say all that the university had to offer was cherry on top for me! I am very happy about my decision to come to Memorial.
What drew you to explore sociology originally?
Regrettably, studying social sciences is not the norm back home. Students are encouraged for STEM sciences; I have a bachelor’s degree in information technology myself. But as I was preparing for the Indian Administrative Services exam, I “discovered” sociology. I was completely fascinated by the subject and the sheer breadth of it was enough to inspirit me to get a masters in sociology – which eventually brought me to Memorial for a PhD.
Can you tell us a bit about your current projects?
Currently, I am doing fieldwork in Ontario for my doctoral project. My research explores the transnational experiences of young Punjabi men who migrate to Canada as international students. I am examining how Punjabi masculinities are influenced by transnational aspirations, the process of migration, and eventually transnationalism. I am exploring the hegemonic masculine ideals at different intersections of space and time and how young men strategize their masculine performativities in order to achieve that ideal in each of the following stages:
- Before emigrating to Canada;
- In Canada as international students; and/or in transition from temporary to permanent residency;
- After obtaining permanent residency in Canada. In the process, I am also evaluating the overarching role of caste-visibility at each stage.
In addition, I am working as a research assistant and a contributing scholar with the Canadian Institute of Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT), within the sector Dr. Ricciardelli directs at Memorial. I am also working as a reviewer for some student journals at Memorial and at York University.
A supervisor can be key to the success of any grad student. What does your supervisor bring to their role as your advisor and mentor?
I believe a supervisor is THE key to the success of any grad student. I can’t explain how much my supervisor (Dr. Rose Ricciardelli) has supported me till now. She is always there to rescue me from tough situations or whenever I am in a predicament, she is there to resolve it. I easily become interested in multiple things at a time – I think every grad student has that tendency; there are so many things to explore that one could easily lose track which could lead to attention fragmentation. For me, the supervisor is a grad student’s anchor that holds you down in place and constantly reminds you to focus on one thing at a time.
How does studying in the humanities and social sciences affect your worldview?
Not only studying humanities but studying humanities at Memorial has affected my worldview tremendously. In addition to my supervisor, I have had the chance to meet and learn from so many different and amazing people – Dr. Lisa-Jo van den Scott, Dr. Liam Swiss, Dr. Eric Tenkorang to name a few. I have had the opportunity to take on various roles as a student, a teaching assistant, a research assistant, and an instructor which has not only enhanced me professionally but also personally.
Are you involved in any organizations on-campus or off? If so, can you explain and detail such involvement?
It’s difficult to find time as a grad student, but I have always tried to get involved with the community. I have acted as a volunteer for Association for New Canadians (ANC) at their weekly conversation circles; for the Terry Fox Run; for Science Rendezvous; and for the Heritage Management activities of archaeology and folklore. I have been involved with student bodies on campus such as Indian Youth Association and Punjabi Language Association of Newfoundland. I was also briefly associated with the Memorial student chapter of Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research (CCGHR). Recently, one of my colleagues and I installed a Free Book Box at the School of Graduate Studies with help from Taking It Global.
What do you like most about being a graduate student at Memorial?
The thing I love the most about being a grad student at Memorial is that it offers a unique cultural context which, in my opinion, no other university can or does (I would never have known Newfoundland culture if it wasn’t for Memorial). The cultural consciousness among people is extraordinary here which inspires ‘come from aways’ like me to explore and learn more about it. I have come across Memorial students who are activists, humanitarians, entrepreneurs which has been terrific and inspirational.
Moreover, there is an abundance of intellectual spaces at Memorial necessary for a grad student’s academic development. I have been a part of some of them such as the qualitatives workshop at the sociology department organized by Dr. van den Scott; ACE Space (introduced to me by one of my dissertation committee members, Dr. Yolande Pottie-Sherman) at the geography department through which I was fortunate enough to meet scholars from Canada and abroad.
What do you hope to do after completing your graduate degree?
The sociological field of Punjabi men and masculinities has tremendous potential, but it is very underdeveloped right now. I plan to pursue more research in this area after I graduate (in addition to finding a teaching job), and I hope that I can inspire some future researchers to explore this field as well.