JHI Circle of Fellows Spotlight—Freya Abbas

March 28, 2023 by Sonja Johnston

Freya Abbas is a fourth year undergraduate student pursuing a double major in English and linguistics at the University of Toronto’s St. George campus. She is interested in Indigenous, postcolonial, and world literatures as well as analyzing literature through an ecocritical lens. Freya joins the JHI in 2022-2023 as one of our JHI Undergraduate Fellows and received the Zoltan Simo Undergraduate Award in the Humanities.

What are your main research interests?

I study world literatures in English, and I am particularly interested in South Asian and Indigenous literature. Though often, I feel like I have so many interests that it can be hard to narrow them down. I find ecocriticism to be an interesting theoretical lens for approaching literature, and I am also interested in the history of the English language and the creation of diasporic varieties of English.

What project are you working on at the JHI and why did you choose it?

I am researching depictions of agricultural labour in Dalit women's literature from India with a focus on the novel The Grip of Change by P. Sivakami. I chose this topic not only because I find The Grip of Change to be a beautiful and underrated novel, but because I find that the history of its reception is a really interesting case study into the burden of representation that is placed on authors from marginalized backgrounds.

What are/were you hoping to experience as a JHI Fellow?

I was really interested in seeing how different fields in the humanities intersect. I loved being surprised by how topics that I thought would have little connection with my research often made me question my approach and informed me of interesting perspectives.

What have you enjoyed the most so far?

I enjoy what a supportive environment the JHI is. Asking questions or asking for help is encouraged, and I really feel like a bond was created between fellows this year. I really felt a sense of belonging at the JHI, and I had many fascinating conversations with the fellows.

Can you share something you read/watched/listened to recently that you enjoyed/were inspired by?

I recently finished the novel Shame by Salman Rushdie and found myself in awe of the storytelling. As someone who enjoys creative writing, I decided that I might want to experiment with a similar style one day. I was intrigued by one character in particular who was an allegorical figure for the concept of shame.

What is a fun fact about you?

My hobbies include drawing in a style that is inspired by Aztec and Mayan culture, as well as listening to traditional folk music from Scandinavia, Mongolia and the Andes.