Art and sociology help to reveal lives of British South Asian Women

Leicester sociologists will collaborate with a local artist to bring new insights to their research into the experiences of migrant communities in the UK.

The University has received an award from the Leverhulme Trust to host Kajal Nisha Patel, a Leicester based photographer and filmmaker, as an Artist in Residence for 2016. Kajal will be based in the Department of Sociology; her application was sponsored by Dr David Bartram, a Senior Lecturer in the Department who researches topics related to the subjective well-being (happiness) of immigrants.

Since 2006, Kajal has produced work on the British South Asian experience, concentrating on issues of personal conflicts, cultural bereavement, social assimilation and the formation of new identities. Kajal will use the award to continue her artistic work and community engagement, focussing on the everyday lives of British South Asian Women. She is interested in colonial and postcolonial histories of the British Raj, its legacy of Indian economic trade and its impact on the Indian diaspora.

Kajal is also the founder of Lightseekers, a social enterprise that uses photography and storytelling as a platform to learn about and engage with key social issues. This cross-cultural education project delivers workshops to low-income areas, where civic participation and engagement is low and students are likely to experience exclusion and discrimination.

During the residency, Kajal will produce a series of multidisciplinary artworks to form the basis of a travelling exhibition at various art galleries and community spaces. Members of the Leicester Migration Network will be invited to visit the exhibition; the Network will then host Kajal at a seminar discussion exploring the contribution of artistic representation to public and scholarly understanding of Asian communities in the UK.

Dr David Bartram said: “Kajal’s artistic work nicely complements research in the department on immigration and diversity in Britain.  We’re very pleased that working with Kajal this year will mean these issues can be presented in a way that integrates scholarship and visual representation.”