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Sayantani DasGupta, Senior Lecturer in Narrative Medicine, Awarded Two Grants for Her Work with Incite’s Pedagogy of Listening Lab

Sayantani DasGupta, senior lecturer in the M.S. in Narrative Medicine (NMED) program at the Columbia School of Professional Studies, was recently honored with two prestigious grants from Columbia University’s Office of the Provost for her innovative work through Incite’s Pedagogy of Listening Lab, which aims to revolutionize educational practices by enhancing listening skills across diverse disciplines. DasGupta was awarded the Dialogue Across Difference Seed Grant and the Cross-Disciplinary Frontiers Courses grant.

Originally trained in pediatrics and public health, DasGupta serves in multiple academic capacities at Columbia, including at the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society and the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race. Her work focuses on race, gender, health, and social justice, making her an influential voice in the academic community. The recent grants recognize her contributions and promise to further her mission of fostering inclusive and effective communication through the power of listening.

The Pedagogy of Listening: An Interdisciplinary Teaching Lab

The Pedagogy of Listening Lab, led by a collaborative effort between DasGupta and faculty from the Columbia School of Social Work and the Columbia Oral History Master’s Program, explores practices of listening that value the knowledge and experience of the learner, thus contributing to more inclusive teaching strategies. This lab operates through Incite, an interdisciplinary institute at Columbia dedicated to producing knowledge for public action by fostering collaborations both within and outside the University. 

Dialogue Across Difference Seed Grant

The Dialogue Across Difference Seed Grant will fund the Pedagogy of Listening Symposium, scheduled for fall 2024. This full-day event will be open to educators and students, providing a platform to present and workshop the Pedagogy of Listening Toolkit. The toolkit, comprising 10 modules, is designed to strengthen listening skills through practical exercises, resource materials, and theoretical knowledge. It emphasizes listening across power dynamics and is intended to support anti-racist and anti-oppressive educational practices. By centering lived experiences and enhancing dialogue across differences, the symposium aims to cultivate an environment of mutual respect and understanding in challenging conversations.

Cross-Disciplinary Frontiers Courses at Columbia

The Cross-Disciplinary Frontiers Courses at Columbia grant program supports the development of a new course titled Power, Justice, Praxis: Listening Across Difference. This course, launching in spring 2025, will introduce students to listening practices grounded in theories of power, privilege, political difference, and personal identity. The course will also include practical listening labs and explore critical questions about the nature of listening, its impact on communication, and its role in fostering transformative intersubjective experiences. It will be available to both undergraduate and graduate students across the University, including SPS students in the M.S. in Narrative Medicine program, reflecting Columbia’s commitment to interdisciplinary learning and the cross-pollination of ideas.

“Our campus, and our very country, is experiencing a crisis of listening,” explains DasGupta. “This crisis is not simply between individuals of differing political viewpoints or identities; true listening is being impeded by structural forces that center certain voices and marginalize others, deem certain lives valuable and others expendable.” 

DasGupta believes that the practice of justice-oriented listening is critical to oral history, narrative medicine, and social work, while the teaching of listening is central to all their pedagogies. Her hope is that with the help of funding, the Pedagogy of Listening Lab will promote a new, justice-centered practice of listening.

“The Pedagogy of Listening Lab does not suggest hard-and-fast answers to the multiple current-day crises of listening,” says DasGupta. “Rather, it poses new and complex questions that trouble easy understandings of listening that acknowledges power and privilege while centering mutuality and intersubjectivity, and promoting witnessing and healing.”

About the Program

Columbia University’s Master of Science in Narrative Medicine prepares health professionals, writers, and scholars to apply the skills and values of narrative understanding to improve outcomes for both patients and caregivers. It offers a rigorous and in-depth study of close reading of creative texts, illness and disability narratives, narrative ethics, philosophy, creative writing, and other perspectives. 

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