On a sultry September afternoon in 1997, a group of college and university teachers, all Jadavpur University alumni, met in the Department of English, Jadavpur University, to discuss the formation of an association, which would be free of bureaucratic interference, but also an extension of the department, for advanced study and research in the field of American literature. The meeting was chaired by Supriya Chaudhuri, then head of the Department of English. It was decided that the association would attempt to open up new areas of research in American literature and encourage its interface with other art forms. The association would meet each month for a brief interactive session at which two research papers would be presented and discussed. A Newsletter (to be titled JUSAS Newsletter) carrying abstracts and academic news, would also be circulated at each session. The association would be designated ‘Jadavpur University Society for American Studies’, acronymically JUSAS. Indrani Halder, faculty-member of the English Department, was to be the Coordinator and lead the Core Committee which was formed to facilitate the running of JUSAS. Sobha Chattopadhyay, Dipak Shankar Chakrabarty, Susmita Basu, Somdatta Mondal, Pranati Dattagupta and Subhashree Tagore were elected teacher-members of the committee.
The first seminar of the JUSAS, attended by teachers from different universities and colleges as well as students of the department, was held in November, 1997, on the theme, “American Drama: Past and Present”. Since then, annual seminars became a regular feature in addition to the monthly paper-reading sessions. In 2002, however, due to financial constraints, the monthly meetings were replaced by two general seminars, a students’ seminar, and a workshop each year. Foreign scholars, sometimes Fulbright teachers attached to the department (Rena Fraden and Huck Gutman the more active among them) were invited to speak. Each seminar was, and still is, moulded around a theme, and attempts were made to interrelate the arts with the focus primarily on literature. Experts from fields as varied as film, music, theater, architecture and the visual arts were invited to speak. The tradition is still continuing though the membership of the association has been fluid.
JUSAS Core Committee
The JUSAS at present is run by a core committee of eight members:
Indrani Halder, Sobha Chattopadhyay (Joint Chairpersons)
Abhishek Sarkar (Co-ordinator)
Aloka Sarkar (Treasurer)
Susmita Basu, Ajanta Paul, Sandhya Sen, Arghya Bannerji.
Membership is open to all associated with Jadavpur University and may be obtained on an annual payment of Rs 150/- (for teachers and other professionals) and Rs 100/- (for students) at the registration counter during a seminar.