Indira S. Somani, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the Dept. of Media, Journalism and Film at Howard University, Washington, D.C. Somani studies effects of satellite television on the Indian diaspora, specifically the generation of the Asian Indians who migrated to the U.S. between 1960 and 1972, and their media habits. She has been published in the Journalism Studies, the Howard Journal of Communication, Journal of Communication Inquiry, International Communication Research Journal, Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, and the Asian Journal of Communication. For the fall of 2011, Somani was awarded a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research Fellowship to study the Western influence of Indian programming in India. Somani is also an award winning independent producer and director of documentaries. Her most recent production, Life on the Ganges (2016), is a 10- minute documentary short about the life of one boatman, who rows tourists along the Ganges River in Varanasi, India, particularly around Dev Diwali when people from all over India travel there to bathe in the Ganges to wash away their sins and purify their souls. The film has been screening in film festivals all over the U.S. Another production, Crossing Lines (2007), is a personal essay 30-minute documentary about her struggle to stay connected to India after the loss of her father, and about how Asian Indians maintain and preserve their cultural identity. The film has won numerous awards, screened in film festivals nationally and internationally, screened on PBS affiliates, and has also been distributed to more than 100 university libraries in the U.S. through New Day films. Somani brings 10 years of broadcast journalism experience as a television news producer to the classroom, most notably with CNBC and WJLA-TV, the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C. She has been a leader of the South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA), where she has also won several “Outstanding” awards on her coverage of South Asians in North America. Prior to joining Howard University, Somani was an Assistant Professor of Journalism at Washington and Lee University (Lexington, VA) and American University’s School of Communication (Washington, DC). Somani earned her Master’s in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University in 1993, and her Ph.D. from the Phillip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland, College Park in May 2008.
Leena Jayaswal is an award-winning photographer and documentarian with deep expertise and interest in issues that intersect race, representation and identity. Her films have been broadcast throughout the country on over 100 PBS affiliates through National Educational Telecommunications Association, and through New Day Films. She was awarded the prestigious Gracie Allen Award from the American Women in Radio and Television. Crossing Lines is currently part of the Smithsonian’s Beyond Bollywood exhibition that has been traveling around the country. Her work has been featured in critical film festivals and newspapers for the Indian diaspora. Her award wining photography has been nationally recognized in galleries around the country, with solo shows at the International Visions Gallery and Gandhi Memorial Center in Washington, D.C. Group shows include Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, The Washington Project for the Arts/ Corcoran Gallery of Art, Arlington Arts Center, Asian Arts Initiative, Lexington Art League, Hillyer Art Space, California Institute of Integral Studies, National Geographic, Studio Gallery, and Photoworks. Jayaswal has photographs in group collections at Center for Photography, En Foco, Light Work, Photo Center Northwest and the Asian American Arts Centre. Jayaswal’s work has been reviewed in the Washington Post, The Washington City Paper and India Abroad. She has worked with famed photographer, Mary Ellen Mark and was the official photographer for the Patsy Cline Museum. Currently Jayaswal is co-directing, co-producing with Caty Borum Chattoo a feature length documentary, Mixed, on what it means to be mixed race in America, with funding from The Norman Lear Foundation and the Shirley Brownrigg Trust. Jayaswal is a Professor in the Film and Media Arts Division of the at American University. She is the director of the photography concentration and the Inclusion Officer in the School of Communication. Her website is www.leenajayaswal.com
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