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Introducing Premilla Nadasen, Visiting Associate Professor in History

What is your specific area of research? What are you currently working on? 
I am currently writing about domestic-worker organizing in the post-war United States. Unlike the portrayal of private household workers in books such as Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, this history illustrates how domestic workers themselves mobilized to transform the occupation and in the process built a movement with a distinctive approach to labor organizing. My first book, Welfare Warriors, chronicled the lives of women on welfare who organized for the right to be supported in their work as mothers. I am generally interested in poor women of color, how they organized, and their particular understanding of feminism.

What is most exciting to you about joining Barnard's faculty? What are you looking forward to most about being here?
What I find most exciting about being at Barnard is that this is a women’s college. I’ve always been interested in women’s issues and I identified as a feminist from a very young age—even before I fully understood what the term meant. So, to be in an environment where I can engage in conversations about women’s history, women’s politics, and feminism is particularly appealing. I especially look forward to having those conversations with Barnard students.

What courses will you be teaching?
I will teach a range of courses, including a survey in US women’s history, as well as courses on social policy, labor history, and feminism.

Outside of your academic life, any interests, hobbies, accomplishments of note?
I enjoy biking, hiking and swimming. When I was in the fourth grade I was a star basketball player. After my peak at the age of 9, however, I didn’t really continue to cultivate my abilities, which is probably why I turned to academia. I love to cook. New York City is a wonderful place to discover new cuisines and to find unusual ingredients. I have two children, 9 and 15, and they’ve been working with me to hone my culinary and basketball skills.

Additionally, last year I was part of a Guggenheim project in Jackson Heights, Queens.  The museum ran a project called “Stillspotting” and asked a handful of people to write personal narratives about their family background and connection to Jackson Heights, and they had actors/actresses read the personal narratives as visitors went on a walking tour of the neighborhood.  My narrative was about the area’s diverse food associated with my background—specifically, traditional Indian samosas and South African samoosas. For me, the samosa was a metaphor for migration, cultural change, and adaptation.

Read more about other new faculty members.