I enrolled in 2018 as a DPhil student at Wadham College, Oxford. My main area of research is contemporary Anglophone writing after 1990 from India, the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia. I delve into how reading postcolonial literatures in English reconsiders how the language itself has been reinvented to express historical sensibilities, beyond popular conceptions of English as a borderless, neutral and global language. It is a research question that I could formulate only by coming to Oxford, and understanding that the broadest conversations about the Anglophone are also the most essential in understanding how world literature continues to shape the cultural discourse of border regions and under-theorised regions like Southeast Asia. My work has spiralled out into considering English as a minor literature in Malaysia, Singlish as a cultural discourse in Singapore and the trope of the Filipina migrant worker as generating a postcolonial and transnational poetics.
Working in the contemporary period means that research is a living practice, which resonates well with my own academic and professional experience prior to coming to Oxford. After completing an honours degree in English at the National University of Singapore, and an MA in English at the University of Pennsylvania, I was part of the education service in Singapore for nine years, teaching English language and literature to secondary school students. Classroom pedagogy is about how practice generates its own forms of knowledge. This is probably also related to my on-off identity as a poet and writer of short stories. Similarly, my research engages with a fast-evolving body of material and I look to contemporary writers’ own theorising about their work as a means of generating new approaches to literary study.
Being in Oxford meant that I was able to attend many seminars and talks at the Faculty of English, and at various colleges. These became part of the rich milieu in which the issues of the day, from the George Floyd demonstrations to urgent appeals for climate change action, informed the direction and rigour of my thinking. There are many, but two are especially important to me: the Postcolonial Writing and Theory Seminar at the Faculty, and the Alternative Curricula Reading group, whose convenors have been generous in allowing me to propose speakers and topics for discussion. With funding support from my college and the faculty, I was able to attend and present at the American Comparative Literature Association’s annual meeting in 2019, and the Institute of World Literature in 2020.
There is an energy to being in Oxford, and I don’t think I ever lacked opportunities to participate, or initiate events based on my interests. The graduate English community at the Faculty organises a yearly conference, and the graduate-organised mentoring and professional development programmes are a great help for new students. Having been Editor of the peer-reviewed, open-access graduate journal, Oxford Research in English, I can say that English graduates are eager to learn and serve as part of their scholarly apprenticeship. While I will spend most of my third year working hard on my thesis, I know I’m still part of a shared effort by young scholars to continually renew the conversations stemming from our research.
Ann Ang is a third-year DPhil candidate in English and the title of her thesis is “No Other World? Postcolonial Inheritance in the Anglophone World Writing”. She was the winner of Wadham College’s Rex Warner Prize for poetry in 2019. She is also the editor of two recent literary anthologies Poetry Moves (2020) and Food Republic (2020), both published in Singapore.