Scholar awarded prestigious grant for research in India

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Dr Siddhesh Mukerji, Senior Lecturer in Social, Therapeutic and Community Studies has been selected as a 2024 Fulbright US Scholar for India.

Goldsmiths’ Dr Siddhesh Mukerji has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar Grant to fund research on Navayana Buddhist social action in India. The US Fulbright Program is one of the world’s largest and most diverse international educational exchange programmes, recognising outstanding academics and allowing them to conduct collaborative research and teaching internationally.

Dr. Mukerji’s research will involve interviewing Navayana social workers, community workers, and activists. Navayana Buddhism was founded by the 20th-century social-political-religious revolutionary Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, who saw Buddhism as a vehicle of liberation from the oppression of the Hindu caste system.

Dr Siddhesh Mukerji notes: “Part of what makes Navayana Buddhism unique and compelling is its strong emphasis on social action. Rather than existing solely as a path of self-cultivation, it emphasizes that social and political transformation are necessary conditions for collective enlightenment and, as Dr. Ambedkar envisioned, a society grounded in liberty, equality, fraternity, and justice.”

The goals of this project are to learn how these social workers, community workers, and activists incorporate Buddhist concepts and practices into their work, and how their praxis helps challenge and expand dominant, Eurocentric definitions of social work.

For Dr Mukerji, challenging and expanding understandings of social work and social action is vitally important in England, where he believes social work often functions in a way that is insular, bureaucratized, uncritical, individualistic, disembodied, and dehumanizing to social workers, themselves, and the people whom they serve. Dr Mukerji hopes that increasing the diversity of worldviews represented in social work’s body of knowledge will contribute to more globally informed, critical, and empowered social workers in England. He views this as a crucial task since social workers serve the most vulnerable members of society. 

He also hopes that this research, which is a collaborative effort with Indian scholars and activitsts belonging to the Navayana community, will yield resources that are useful for social workers in India.

For me, one of the most meaningful benefits of this project is the ability to continue developing relationships with my colleagues and collaborators in the Navayana community. I hope that opportunities arise to build connections between them and some of my colleagues at Goldsmiths.

Fulbright scholars play a critical role in US public diplomacy, establishing long-term relationships between people and nations. Alumni of the Fulbright Program include 62 Nobel Laureates, 89 Pulitzer Prize winners, 80 MacArthur Fellows, and thousands of leaders and world-renowned experts in academia and many other fields across the private, public, and non-profit sectors.

More information is available on the Fulbright Scholar program website.

Dr Mukerji teaches on the Social Work Course (BA and MA), where he especially enjoys welcoming and learning with students with diverse interests and critical perspectives.