British Association for American Studies


60 Seconds with Shima Jalal Kamali

The U.S. Studies Online 60 Seconds interview feature offers a short and informal introduction to a postgraduate, academic or non-academic specialist working in the American and Canadian Studies field or a related American and Canadian Studies association. 

For the next week we will be spending time with the postgraduate BAAS conference organisers Shima Jalal Kamali,  Sima Jalal Kamali and Anna Maguire, just in time for the conference on the 15 November.


Where are you right now?

Sussex Library cubical, catching up on my readings.

If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of America, where would you go?

I would go back to the 1920s, Harlem, New York so that I could experience the Harlem Renaissance and meet Langston Hughes (I have so many questions). I would go to as many rent parties as I could go to and hang out with the social and literary crowds.

Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?

Obviously Langston Hughes, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Ella Fitzgerald, J.D. Salinger, Amiri Baraka, Elvis and finally Robin Williams (although I have no idea if this would work but I guess it’s my “fantasy dinner”, right?)

You’re stranded on a desert island, but luckily you pre-empted it. Which book do you take with you?

Does it have to be a book? Can I take a collection? Seeing as I pre-empted being stranded, I would take my Harry Potter collection, which is nicely packed in a treasure box format J.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

I would say this summer going to Beinecke Rare Books and Library in New Haven, Connecticut to see the Langston Hughes papers; it was a dream come true!

What advice would you give to early career academics?

I am not sure if I should be giving advice but I remember the advice given to me by someone close, so I will just pass it on. The advice is simple: do not give up! If you ever encounter a wall, do not walk away; find a way to cross it, even if it takes time.

What is the most exciting thing you have planned in the next six months?

Going back to do more archival work in the United States and also planning and organizing the next BAAS PG conference at Sussex coming up in November.

How did you come to your current area of research?

In my undergrad poetry class, I read Langston Hughes’ poem “Cross” and I remember telling myself then that I will one day devote my future research on him and his work. So here I am today, although certain events delayed this promise, but I guess dreams take time.

What profession other than academia would you like to attempt?

Oh WOW, tough question because I have a tendency to have a list going back to my childhood regarding the professions I would love to pursue. However, right now being asked this question I would say becoming a professional photographer.

What book is currently on your bedside table?

The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes, it is a collection of short stories.

Be honest; how long has it been there?

Ummm…two weeks!

What’s in your fridge right now?

I am actually planning to go shopping this afternoon so technically not much! However, thank you for asking because I was being lazy and trying to escape by giving into takeout food once again.