Raising South Asian Voices

Cynthia Dettman:  Author

Learning about Indian law students

My best source of information for my novel thus far?  The Tamilnadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University, the very school I in which I have enrolled my protagonist!

Fortunately, I’ve been welcomed there by administrators. They’re not quite sure what I’m doing and I have NOT mentioned a novel.  Instead, I’ve been having conversations about a possible future visit to their school as a visiting American educator, with an eye towards providing faculty training in “student centered pedagogy”.  This is indeed one of my specialties and I might just apply for a third Fulbright grant for 2021 and have the US State Department pay for my next trip to India.

However, I’m most interested in meeting students and learning about their lives.  They seem very young.  After some puzzlement about their course and degree options, I’ve decided that my protagonist will be in their 3 year law program, or perhaps getting a masters.  Now I’m trying to connect with students to sit and talk informally- they are busy!

I offered to teach a couple graduate student seminars so I could meet students, and concocted a couple reasonable and interesting topics for two groups.  As usual, the students responded with great enthusiasm to my participatory approach to discussion and each group insisted on a photo after the class.  In this group, we talked about LGBT law issues in India and the US and had quite a progressive conversation!

 

In my second group, the topic was access to legal services for the poor.  The students seemed to agree that lawyers had a “moral” obligation to help the poor, but that in India most attorneys were likely concerned with their own advancement.  They felt that most Indians, who are poor and live in rural areas, don’t know their rights and don’t have access to free or low-cost legal assistance.

 

My next task?  Getting invited into someone’s home to observe family dynamics around career and marriage.  Let’s see what happens next!

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Not exactly! I do have two legitimate goals with my law school contacts. Besides the novel, I’m discussing a possible visit in 2021 to offer faculty training in “student centered teaching”. So that’s what I’m discussing with administrators and faculty, and hope to offer a preview of this training at the end of January- they are working on setting up a “seminar” for me. The novel is a separate topic, which I’m mentioning to students who are indeed fascinated! Cynthia

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