Episode 33: Aruna Srivastava interviews Sharanpal Ruprai

Jun 6, 2022


In this interview, Sharanpal Ruprai and Aruna Srivastava touch on many important BIPOC actors in the Canadian literary scene, both living and passed away. Sharanpal contemplates the transition from poetry to playwriting as well as reads from her excellent poetry collections, Pressure Cooker Love Bomb and Seva. She discusses the academy and her anti-racist work in connection with students and activism, the influence of her Sikh heritage on her writing, and experience as a writer living in diaspora.


Dr. Sharanpal Ruprai is a writer and Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Winnipeg. Ruprai’s début poetry collection, Seva was shortlisted for the Stephen G. Stephansson Award for Poetry by the Alberta Literary Awards in 2015, and her most recent collection, Pressure Cooker Love Bomb, was shortlisted for the prestigious 2020 Annual Lambda Literary Awards. As an interdisciplinary humanities scholar, her research and teaching interests include: indigenous and critical race feminism, religious and cultural studies and artistic practice. Currently, Ruprai is working on a collection of essays entitled Who You Calling a Kaur/Princess? By juxtaposing novels, plays, poetry collections, and films, the book explores issues such as religion, gender violence, and identity, within the specific context of the Canadian South Asian women’s experience.

 Aruna Srivastava has spent many years working as an anti-racism educator in various community-based, arts, and academic contexts, focused in more recent years on the complexities and intersections of disability, illness, age, and trauma in this work. As a racialized arrivant/settler, who has been a guest in many Indigenous lands across the world, she has found a home for quite some time here in what the Blackfoot called Moh’kins’tsis in Treaty 7 territory. Aruna has in the past twenty years or so also been on a journey to work in alliance with Indigenous peoples; this has shown her better and wiser ways to work both within and against colonial structures, such as universities, arts institutions, and non-profit organizations. The work of (re)conciliation engages her specifically in that it requires storying and storing or archiving memory in many forms – and repudiates forgetting.


 07:25 – Reference to Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity which provides space for writer retreats.

08:23 – Remembrance of 2-spirit Métis writer Sharron Proulx-Turner who passed away in 2016.

08:45 – What is the importance of relationships in Ruprai’s literary work and also in general (such as in activist work and teaching work)?

12:09 – Brief mention of Canadian poet Weyman Chan.

12:23 – Discussion of the processes of community building as connected with relationship building and generative ways of making spaces more inclusive.

14:29 – Dr. Catharine Taylor (LGBTQ activist and writer) and Dr. Chantal Fiola (Métis writer and scholar) out of University of Winnipeg (UofW).

15:29 – Discussion of the conference C2C: Two Spirit & Queer People of Colour Call to Conversation with LGBT & Allies that was held in 2017 at the University of Winnipeg.

16:11 – Brief mention of Japanese Canadian writer Hiromi Goto.

18:45 – Mention of the Sikh Student Association at the UofW.

20:00 – Discussion of Ruprai’s first collection of poetry, Seva.

20:15 – Discussion of audience, readership, and inspiration for Ruprai’s writing.

21:49 – Reference to Rupai’s book Pressure Cooker Love Bomb.

22:56 – Reading from Pressure Cooker Love Bomb.

27:44 – Dr. Ruprai’s previous scholarship on the turban, gender, and the five Ks of Sikhism.

31:22 – Discussion on the poem “Amputee” from Seva and the connection of the body and hair with family, culture, and identity.

37:40 – Basement Bollywood Boutique, Ruprai’s first written and produced play.

38:41 – Mention of Micheline Maylor, editor at Frontenac House.

45:40 – Reading from Seva.

49:38 – Mention of Dr. Larissa Lai—writer, academic, and founder of TIA House.

50:01 – What is the work like in this cultural moment, doing anti-racism in the academy and/or in creative communities?

51:57 – Discussion of inclusivity in publishing and the literary magazine Ruprai is the editor for, Contemporary Verse 2.

1:01:45 – Feminist critic Sara Ahmed and the importance of being “killjoy” within the context of active feminism

01:04:33 – The importance of remembering histories and paying homage to the archive of anti-racist work.

01:04:56 – Reference to the 1994 Writing through Race Conference and Canadian writer Roy Miki.

01:05:31 – Mention of the archives of Room, a magazine that focusses on publishing women and genderqueer writers and artists.

01:06:57 – Discussion of the labour campaign Not My Stella that occurred in Winnipeg and focussed on unionization and fair treatment of employees.

01:07:40 – Mention of Gayatri Spivak and Homi Bhaba in contrast to feminists such as bell hooks and Audre Lorde.

TIA House recognizes the generous support of the Canada Research Chairs program and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. We also appreciate the support of the Faculty of Arts and the Department of English at the University of Calgary, where our offices are housed, as well as the guidance of Marc Stoeckle at the Taylor Family Digital Library.

TIA House is run by Larissa Lai, Shuyin Yu, Ryan Stearne, Shazia Ramji, Marc Lynch, Paul Meunier, and Mahmoud Ababneh.

Our Intro/Outro music is Monarch of the Streets by Loyalty Freak Music, accessed from the Free Music Archive.

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