Meet Dr Rebecca Suter

31 August 2011

Dr Rebecca Suter.
Dr Rebecca Suter.

Dr Rebecca Suter is a global academic in the truest sense of the word. Originally from Italy, her teaching at Ivy League universities such as Harvard and Brown in the United States before she settled at the University. At least, for now.

What makes her truly global is while Western and European in upbringing and style, her area of expertise is Asian Studies, and she is highly respected internationally for her work.

Dr Suter's main research interest is in modern Japanese literature and comparative literature, however in her spare time, Dr Suter translates Manga.

So why Sydney? Though she jokes that it is the climate that drew her, Dr Suter explains that it was the people as well as the reputation of the University that made her take the risk of moving halfway around the world to an unknown city in a country she had never even visited. But the gamble paid off.

In 2009, Dr Suter won an ARC grant to further explore what she calls "creative mis-readings of Christianity in Japanese literature and pop culture, with a particular focus on the Japanization of Western culture and the challenges it poses to current views of colonialism, post colonialism and globalisation."

A concern Dr Suter held before moving here is that the research environment would be quite isolated, this has proven to be a baseless assumption. "I was actually surprised that the Asian Studies department is very developed here, and I have found there are many opportunities to collaborate, both informally with colleagues and formally through major conferences, which have been very stimulating."

Further, she remarks that the research environment is far more comfortable and supportive than at other institutions she has experienced. "Research-wise I have found it is very collaborative. In the United States it was my experience that the research field was very aggressive and competitive, which can be good, but I think the aggressiveness stifled collaboration in a way that harms research more than it stimulates it. In Sydney I have found that colleagues are interested in what you have to say for the sake of it, instead of always seeking to tear your theories down."

Another difference, Dr Suter describes is the students themselves. "Sydney has a large foreign student population, which is a bit of a challenge because you have students from all different backgrounds so you need to adapt a teaching style to suit them all. On the other hand this also becomes very stimulating because they bring in their own types of knowledge and backgrounds to the class. I've learned from my students."

Dr Suter also finds the environment beyond the University to be worthy of praise. "Honestly I love this city. It's a really nice place to be. Its a really interesting city, and the University reproduces the city on a smaller scale. I mean, you go on a bus and you hear seven or eight different languages being spoken at once. Nowhere else is that possible."

Source: Our ideas lead the way, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences