|Dr. Michael Thomas Harris received his B.A. in English from Tulane University, Louisiana in 1973. He completed his M.A. in English literature at Indiana University, Bloomington in 1979, and then spent almost three years serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal (September 1979 through December 1981) and traveling in India and Nepal. As a Peace Corps volunteer, he taught English as a foreign language to school children (grades 4-7) at Mahendra Primary and Secondary School in Tamghas, Nepal. After his return to the U.S., he completed his Ph.D. in English literature at Indiana University (1986). His doctoral dissertation Outsiders and Insiders: Perspectives of Third World Culture in British and Post-Colonial Fiction was later published and named a 1994 Choice Outstanding Academic Book.
After teaching at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, Stetson University in Florida and Grinnell College in Iowa, Harris has spent the majority of his career teaching at Central College in Pella, Iowa. During this time, he has published numerous scholarly articles on writers such as Salman Rushdie, Joseph Conrad, Ngῦgῖ wa Thiong’o, J. M. Coetzee, Edna O’Brien and Thomas Pynchon. He also teaches courses on the Buddhist traditions of Tibet and the Himalayas. He is married and has two sons.
Dr. Harris’ Fulbright project, “Animating India’s Cultural Life in 3D: An Exploration of Nature and Technology,” will examine the nineteenth-century accounts of the Buddhist sacred sites that the British Archaeological Surveyor Alexander Cunningham found, excavated and opened up to visits by Westerners. In conducting his research, Cunningham was re-tracing the travels of the seventh-century Chinese pilgrim, Hsuan-Tsang. Dr. Harris will re-trace the journey of both Cunningham and Hsuan-Tsang. The “discoveries” by Cunningham and others activated the Indian cultural memory of its all but forgotten Buddhist past. He will research how those discoveries have transformed these Buddhist sacred sites into pilgrimage centers today, and attempt to understand India’s complex memory of this distant past.