Vasuki Shanmuganathan is a Ph.D. candidate in the German Department writing under the supervision of Professor Willi Goetschel. She is investigating the interstices between children and race in the German and Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1870s to 1920s. Her focus on children, and in the specificities of age generally, was inspired by earlier research she had undertaken on German masculinities and exoticism. After completing an M.Phil. in Gender Studies focusing on German feminist literature at the University of Birmingham (UK) in 2006, she
returned to Canada, where she enrolled in the Collaborative Ph.D. program in German Literature, Culture & Theory and Women & Gender Studies at the University of Toronto.
Vasuki draws upon a variety of materials to support her research: literary works of Arthur Schnitzler, Paul Heyse, Oskar Panizza and Franz Kafka as well as medical reports, newspaper articles and visual evidence collected from postcards, photographs and advertisements. She also examines legal documents to shed light on the official parameters of paternity and the father/child relationship. Vasuki is particularly interested to understand how official views of childhood coalesced around racialized differences and to what extent such views shaped the German and Austro-Hungarian Empire as a colonial power. Simultaneously, she is concerned with negotiations of “Germanness” and its associated vocabulary in discussions of imperial boundaries. From here, Vasuki seeks to make a more theoretically vested assessment of the imperial subject, which excluded the participation of infantilized and animalized bodies.
As an offshoot of this research, Vasuki is currently preparing an article examining the imperial social order through the writings of Arthur Schnitzler. Future projects include a workshop on theories & texts on children, organized together with a graduate student from Anthropology and scheduled for Spring 2012. Her aim is to create a collective workspace where researchers from the humanities and sciences can share their methodological approaches to studying constructs of childhood and children.
In the upcoming academic year, she will continue teaching courses on German literature and culture. She is also a teaching assistant for the “Race, Gender and Class” course in the Women & Gender Studies Department. Vasuki greatly enjoys the flexibility to tailor lesson plans to an instructor’s individual pedagogical approach, as well as the opportunities available for incorporating current research in the classroom. She once collaborated with graduate students from Art History and Visual Studies to prepare a German language lesson on Dadaism. Toronto and its vibrant culture of artists, writers, and culture workers remain a continuous source of inspiration for her.