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Dr Arun Sood

Dr Arun Sood is Lecturer in Global Pre-1800 Literatures.  His research and creative practice is underpinned by varied interests including the intesections between postcolonial and environmental writing, oral cultures, diaspora, global romanticisms, and cultural memory studies. His books include Robert Burns and the United States of America: Poetry, Print, and Memory, c. 1786-1886  (a critical study of the Romantic poet and song-collector Robert Burns in Global contexts);  New Skin For The Old Ceremony: A Kirtan (a 'road novel' exploring notions of home, heritage, and belonging among the South Asian diaspora); and Searching Erskine (a non-fiction artbook exploring the intersections between art, ecology, and place released with an audio component).  His essays and reviews have appeared the Guardian, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Times Literary Supplement. 

Arun was appointed Lecturer in Global Pre-1800 Literature at the University of Exeter in 2023.  Previously, he was a Fulbright Scholar at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C; Kluge Fellow at the Library of Congress; and Lecturer in Romanticism at the University of Plymouth, following the completion of his AHRC-funded PhD at The University of Glasgow. 
 Summary of Recent Activities
  • Arun is currently co-editing an Edinburgh University Press cross-journal special issue on 'Race and Racism in Scotland' set for publication in 2024. He is also editing a special issue of the Edinburgh University Press peer-reviewed journal The Burns Chronicle on 'Burns and North America', forthcoming 2025.
  • Arun was recently awarded an AHRC IAA grant for the project Resisting Silence: Revealing everyday lives of plantations through material, oral, and archival histories. The project is co-led with museum curator Dr Marenka Thompson-Odlum (Pitt Rivers Museum) and archaeologist Dr Ashley Coutu (University of Oxford). It focuses attention on the neglected landscapes of colonial estates on the island of St Lucia (a British colony between 1814-1979), and the lives of enslaved people who laboured on them.  A major follow on grant is in preparation.
  • Arun recently published and released a creative non-fiction book and accompanying  12" vinyl album titled Searching Erskine which explores the intersections between place, landscape, and memory through a focus on the uninhabited island of Vallay in the Outer Hebrides.  It has received attention from several shows on BBC Radio 3, BBC 6 Music's Cerys Matthews Show and BBC Scotland. The album was also The Guardian's 'Folk  Album of the Month' in March 2022.  Plans to tour the accompanying project exhibtion are currently underway.
  • Arun published his debut novel New Skin For The Old Ceremony with award winning pyublisuher 404 INK in September 2022. The novel explores the intersections between personal histories and broader colonial legacies among the South Asian diaspora in Scotland. 
  • In April 2023, Arun's article “We were amused by an itinerant singing-man”: Print, Writing, and Orality in Mungo Park’s Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa" appeared in Eighteenth-Century Fiction
  • Arun is currently  preparing his second monograph, Scottish Print Culture, Cuba, and the Caribbean, c. 1700-1800, co-authored with Cuban novelist, translator and scholar Dr Félix Flores Varona.

Research interests

Dr Arun Sood’s research spans across a diverse range of Global anglophone literatures and encompasses both critical writing and creative practice.  Key research interests include:

  • Orality and Print 
  • The Global Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
  • Cultural Memory Studies 
  • Folk culture and Balladry 
  • Postcolonial Ecocriticism / Settler Colonial and Indigenous Studies 
  • Place, Heritage, and Diaspora 
  • Scottish and American Literatures in Global / Transatlantic Contexts 
  • Anglophone Caribbean Literatures 
  • Sound Studies 
  • Island Studies 
Sood’s first monograph, Robert Burns and the United States of America: Poetry, Print, and Memory, c. 1786-1886 played a pivotal role in situating the songs and poetry of Robert Burns within Global contexts, with a particular focus on how they travelled and transformed in the early American Republic through a close examination of diasporic oral cultures, American print editions, ballads, poetic imitation, tributes, celebrations, and statuary  culture up to the Civil War period.  Employing cultural memory theory throughout, the book’s analysis of how Burns’s songs were simultaneously appropriated by white confederates and African-American abolitionists (including Frederick Douglass) during the Civil War period attracted much attention having been the subject of several editorials, a play, and a BBC documentary.
Since then, Sood’s research has expanded to inform a steady track record of publications, with a more recent turn to exploring eighteenth century texts through critical indigenous and settler colonial frameworks, demonstrated by his latest article in Eighteenth Century Fiction, which offers an indigenous-centred method of reading Mungo Park’s 1788 text Travels in The Interior Districts of Africa.  Currently, Sood is also preparing his second monograph, Scottish Print Culture, Cuba, and the Caribbean, c. 1700-1800 co-authored with Cuban novelist, translator and scholar Félix Flores Varona ;  and co-editing an EUP cross-journal special issue on 'Race and Racism’ (forthcoming 2024).
In 2022 Sood published a critically acclaimed debut novel New Skin For The Old Ceremony: A Kirtan which explores changing notions of home, heritage, and belonging among the South Asian diaspora in Scotland. It follows four estranged friends who reunite for a motorcycle trip up the Isle of Skye in the hope of coming to terms with how their lives have splintered since a transformative ride in Northern India fourteen years earlier, The book is presented as a Kirtan - a classical Indian form of storytelling focusing on music, shared narration, and spiritual ideas, and is structured around 12 tracks from a Leonard Cohen album of the same name.  it recently featured as Damian Barr's 'Book of the Week'. 
Sood’s next major collaborative research project is to develop an ongoing collaboration with museum curator Dr Marenka Thompson-Odlum (Pitt Rivers Museum) and archaeologist Dr Ashley Coutu (University of Oxford) which combines literary analysis, archaeological evidence, oral history, music, and archives to address the neglected sites of Caribbean sugar plantations, with a particular focus on the island of Saint Lucia.  

Research collaborations

Resisting Silence: Revealing everyday lives of plantations through material, oral, and archival histories is an ongoing research project in collaboration with museum curator Dr Marenka Thompson-Odlum (Pitt Rivers Museum) and archaeologist Dr Ashley Coutu (University of Oxford) which addresses the landscapes of former Caribbean sugar plantations as 'sites of forgetting'.
The project focuses attention on the neglected landscapes of eighteenth-century colonial estates on the island of St Lucia and uses archival research, oral history, poetry, and archaeological evidence to reveal more about the enslaved peoples who worked on the estates; as well as generate responses to the legacies of plantation slavery using a community-centred approach.  The project  aims to bring eighteenth-century material culture into greater dialogue with texts and archives, in specific relation to the commemoration and cultural memory of these neglected sites and landscapes. 
In phase one of the project, documentary evidence from the St. Lucia National Archives and the Colonial Office papers at the UK National Archives were consultued before a one-month period of of fieldwork on Balenbouche Estate, Saint Lucia.  A number of poets and artists including Kendel Hyppolyte, Jane King, and Robert Lee were invited to participate in workshops at the former sugar plantation site, comprising of site walks, engaging with colonial archives, and examining recently excavated material culture and objects from both colonial and pre-colonial periods.  This resulted in the poets and artists composing responses to the site – which has all come to inform an academic article currently in press, as well as a chapbook which will be released alongside an exhibition and suite of audio works currently in production.
Plans for a major follow on grant bid are currently underway, as well as exhibitions in both the UK and Saint Lucia. 






Research supervision

Research supervision
Arun welcomes research projects in the following areas:
  • The Global Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
  • Global Romanticism 
  • Transatlantic Studies 
  • Orality and Print 
  • Cultural Memory Studies 
  • Postcolonial Ecocriticism / Settler Colonial and Indigenous Studies 
  • Place, Heritage, and Diaspora 
  • Scottish Literature in Global / Transatlantic Contexts 
  • Anglophone Caribbean Literatures 
  • Sound Studies 
Arun particularly encourage applicants interested in working across disciplines, forms and genres, and would be happy to hold initial discussions with potential applicants.  

Research through practice

In addition to publishing in traditional academic venues, Arun also enages in practice-as-research; with a particular interest in fusing field recordings and oral histories with original compositions in order to broadly explore the intersections between sound and memory.
This process was most recently demonstarted in the critically acclaimed album, book project ,and exhibition Searching Erskine, which can be listed to in full here.
Searching Erskine is a 12-track album that blurs the boundaries between ambient, modern-folk and contemporary classical, released with an accompanying book that responds to the uninhabited island of Vallay, which lies approximately two miles off the northwest coast of North Uist. On foot, it can only be accessed at low tide across vast tidal sands
This project is the  result of the channelling of voices, original music, oral histories, spectral sounds, and field recordings from the island.This is a project about ruins, land, memory, and the intersections in between.
—— "This gorgeous sonic tribute to the abandoned island of Vallay, where the artist’s grandmother once lived, is filled with folk memory and longing" JUDE ROGERS / THE GUARDIAN
—— "Arun's new record traces the story of his ancestry back to the island, and he does it with fragments of memories spoken and images conjured through sound and field recordings, strings and electronics and tape loops that ebb and swirl like the tide." ELIZABETH ALKER / UNCLASSIFIED / BBC RADIO 3 
About Searching Erskine 
In 1905, antiquarian, industrialist, and pioneering archaeologist Erskine Beveridge built a Georgian mansion on Vallay in order to excavate prehistoric duns and finish his book on North Uist. The mansion gradually fell into disrepair after Erskine’s son, George Beveridge, drowned in 1944 while crossing the tidal strand, leaving no heir nor work for the small population of crofters, groundsmen, and housekeepers who departed the island shortly after.
Arun’s grandmother (gaga), Katie MacNaughton, was one of the last islanders to leave, and these song tapestries locate his family story in a palimpsest of cultural, natural, and historical layers that comprise the now uninhabited island.
The 64-page book features visual artwork from artists Emile Kees, Rosalind Blake and Meg Rodger. These sit alongside Arun’s introductory essay, poems and extensive notes exploring the making of the album, which features contributions from musicians including Rachel Sermanni (guitar and vocals), Alastair Smith (synths, organs, tape loops and sonifications) and Alice Allen (cello).
An exhibition of the artworks featured in the book and a new sound installation and film by Arun will ran at the Taigh Chearsabhagh Arts Centre in Lochmaddy, North Uist, in 2022, with plans for a further tour currently in preparation.
This approach to sound, memory, and heritage also informs  Sood's ongoing research project Resisiting Silence, whereby a. number of Saint Lucian poets and musicians were asked to respond to field recordings of the sites of neglected sugar plantations on the island.  Plansd for an upcoming exhinbition are currently underway. 


External impact and engagement

In recent years Arun has increasingly worked in partnership with cultural institutions, community groups, and policy-makers on both national and international levels. 

In particular, his research and practice has informed the investigation and intepretation of historic sites, cultural landscapes and material culture.  Partnerships of this vein have included working with Glasgow Life and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to develop civic and institutional strategies towards engaging with the legacies of the transatlantic slave trade; as well as working on decolonial curatorial initiaitves the The Box Museum  and inidigenous North American partners and artists in the lead up to the 250th anniversary of the Mayflower sailing.

More recenty, Arun has been working with the Ministry of Tourism Saint Lucia and the The Saint Lucia Archaeological and Historical Society to co-develop strategies and initiatives towards the neglected sites and landscapes of former sugar plantations. 



Arun's various research projects, publications, and creative outputs have featured extensively in national and international media, including The Guardian, BBC 6 Music. BBC OneBBC Radio 3, The Conversation and Electronic Sound Magazine and Caught By The River.


Modules taught include:

EAS1035 - Beginnings: English Literature before 1800

EAS3234 - Citizens of the World

EAS2102 - Satire and the City: English Literature 1660-1750

EAS3003 - Dissertation


Arun Sood is a Scottish-Indian lecturer, novelist, and musician.
He was born in Aberdeen to a West-Highland Gaelic-speaking Mother and Punjabi father, and has since lived in Glasgow, Amsterdam, DC, and now South Devon. 
Twitter/ X:   @arunskisood

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