The Department of Anthropology is pleased to announce that Ph.D. student Priyanka Jayakodi has won two awards from the MSU Asian Studies Center this past year: the Dr. Delia Koo Global Student Scholarship; and 3rd place in the Shao Chang Lee Scholarship Fund Best Paper Competition. The Dr. Delia Koo Global Scholarship is administered by the Asian Studies Center to provide scholarships to students from Asia and to further MSU’s interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body. The Shao Chang Lee Scholarship Fund was established by friends and colleagues of the late Professor Lee to provide scholarship awards for students who have made outstanding accomplishments in Asian studies and are pursuing or planning to pursue a program that includes Asian studies.
Priyanka is a Sociocultural Anthropology Ph.D. student specializing in medical and environmental anthropology. Her research interests include the intersections of health, gender and environment, state violence, and social suffering. Her Ph.D. dissertation will examine the social and political aspects of water insecurity in the context of Chronic Kidney Disease of uncertain etiology (CKDu) in Sri Lanka. At the same time, she is also interested in studying how state violence and militarism in Sri Lanka affect health and wellbeing of certain communities more than others. Priyanka says that although these two research areas are seemingly unrelated, they focus on broader entanglement of lived experiences of marginalized groups in times of crisis.
Priyanka’s previous education and research experiences were critical preparation for her current work: She obtained her BA and MA in Sociology from University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. Through her research there, she explored daily occurrences of stigma and how it’s manifested through different meanings attributed to CKDu and how the social values, healthcare system, and media influence stigmatization of patients diagnosed with CKDu. It’s through this research experience she became interested in studying water insecurity in the context of CKDu. At MSU, Priyanka has found success in building upon her ethnographic research prior to joining the Department of Anthropology Ph.D. program.
Priyanka won 3rd place in the Shao Chang Lee Scholarship Fund Best Paper Competition for her paper titled: “Chronicity of Militarism: Sri Lanka’s Militarized Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic”. This paper was written for Dr. Heather Howard’s course, ANP 834: Medical Anthropology. Priyanka presented this paper at a panel entitled “Covid’s Chronicities” at SfAA 2022 Annual Meeting and she is working on publishing a book chapter based on this paper in a volume edited by Dr. Lenore Manderson and Dr. Nancy Burke. Priyanka is continuing to work with Dr. Howard to expand this research with ethnographic data and plans to publish a paper.
Priyanka will use the funds she received from the Dr. Delia Koo Global Scholarship during her initial summer fieldwork in 2022 in Sri Lanka, where she will explore the multiple socio-economic and political dimensions of water insecurity in the context of Chronic Kidney Disease of uncertain etiology (CKDu) in the North-Central Province in Sri Lanka. Most of the time, dominant approaches to water insecurity focus on solutions that are technocratic, depoliticized and environmentally deterministic. Priyanka says: “I believe my study is significant because it aims to explore lived experiences of water insecurity at multiple levels (scale of the body or individual, household, and community) and how water insecurity is entangled with CKDu, poverty, gender dynamics, as well as neoliberalism”. Following the completion of her summer fieldwork project, Priyanka plans to host a collaborative photography exhibition on water security at MSU and initiate a reading group with fellow doctoral students in the college of social science who are studying water-related issues. Priyanka says these activities are especially significant because “Climate change is unarguably the number one global challenge faced by human beings around the world and specifically in underprivileged communities, and requires a broader discussion among fellow graduate students who are interested in studying water justice and water governance.”
When asked about her long-term goals, Priyanka says: “I hope my research in Sri Lanka will make a positive impact on water policies there. My long-term goal is to become a professor in Anthropology at a public university in Sri Lanka through which I could disseminate knowledge, conduct research, and continue to work with the communities that are marginalized in multiple ways.” Priyanka would like to express her gratitude to the Asian Studies Center, whose funding makes her upcoming Summer research in Sri Lanka and photography exhibits at MSU possible. And she says that she really appreciates the mentorship of her advisor, Dr. Lucero Radonic whose work on water governance and water justice inspires her. She says Dr. Radonic encourages her to explore various innovative methods for doing ethnographic research. She also acknowledges Dr. Heather Howard’s continuous and unwavering support and guidance on her research.