Peak Reads and Playlists: Dr. Jatinder Mann

Inspired by BBC Radio’s “Desert Island Discs,” the Peter Lang Group presents ‘Peak Reads & Playlists’.

Join us on a journey to the mountain peaks near our Lausanne headquarters where we speak with our esteemed series editors.  

In this interview format, our guests share the books, music, and food that would keep them company if they were whisked away alone to this beautiful mountain setting. They’ll explore the reasons behind their choices, revealing the impact and influence each has had on their lives. Get a glimpse into the hearts and minds of the Peter Lang community.

Name: Dr. Jatinder Mann
Job Title: Visiting Research Fellow, University of Reading
Series: Studies in Transnationalism


> Which FICTION title would take the coveted first spot on your list?

Matthew Gregory Lewis’ The Monk: A Romance (1998). One of my oldest best friends strongly recommended this book to me many years ago, and I have always been so grateful that he did. The imagery in the book is quite spectacular. You are gripped from the first page to the very last. It is an excellent example of Gothic literature. It was very controversial and scandalous when it was first published, which is not surprising considering its subject matter.

> If you were offered the chance to take a NON-FICTION title, which would you choose?

Atholl Anderson, Judith Binney, and Aroha Harris’ Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History (2015). This is a wonderful book that explores the history of Aotearoa New Zealand from a Māori perspective. It covers a very broad historical period and employs an inter and multidisciplinary approach to bring a very rich narrative – both textually and visually (there are some stunning photos in the book) to life. It is a book that I drew on considerably when I designed and taught a course on the History of Aotearoa New Zealand for the first time when I was based in Hong Kong.

> We’re feeling generous so we’ll allow you one more book, your choice of FICTION or NON-FICTION – which one makes the list?

Khushwant Singh’s A Train to Pakistan (1956). There are some books that you read that just stay with you for life and this is one of those books for me. I read it in my youth. It is a novel set in the Punjab (the region of South Asia that my family is descended from) in 1947 during Partition which saw the region divided between the newly created states of India and Pakistan along religious lines (Hindus and Sikhs mainly in the former and Muslims primarily in the latter) after the end of the British Raj (British imperial rule). The associated population exchanges and communal violence after the hasty British withdrawal saw up to one million people killed and up to twenty million dispossessed. I think one of the reasons why this book really touched me on a deep level is that it is about an extremely traumatic event that affected my ancestors, and the legacy of which remains to this day with the very fraught relationship between India and Pakistan.


>The mountain ranges have spectacular acoustics. Which 5 MUSICAL RECORDINGS would you take to enjoy whilst up on the summit and why?

  1. Mariah Carey: Butterfly (1997). If I was ever asked who my favourite musical artist is, I would unhesitatingly reply, Mariah Carey. I have loved her music ever since I heard my eldest sister playing it when I was a kid, and I thought to myself who had the voice of this Angel. But this album in particular has a lot of meaning for me as it was released after she got divorced from a very unhappy marriage, and so it was an expression of her freedom and rebirth. At the exact same time I had just finished High School, which was not a happy time for me, as it is not for many people. So, the album encapsulated my own feelings of freedom and rebirth after a difficult several years. The title song from the album, ‘Butterfly’ is one of my all-time favourite songs of Mariah as it really showcases her song-writing skills. That is one of the things I love most about her, the fact that she is a singer-songwriter, and so her songs resonate with me more deeply as I know they have come from her heart.

2. Shania Twain: Come on Over (1999). Shania Twain is the only musical artist who I have seen live more than once: twice in London, United Kingdom (UK) and once in Ottawa, Canada when I was based there. She is up there for me in terms of best live musical performers. In fact I remember when I was at one of her concerts at Wembley Arena and she was bending over whilst singing on the stage to sign her autograph for fans at the same time. There are not many musical artists of her calibre who would even consider doing this. I also have always appreciated her life story. She was born into very humble beginnings, her parents died in a car crash, she put her fledgling music career on hold to look after her younger siblings, and then achieved spectacular success relatively late in life. This album of her’s was the first that I ever heard and I was hooked. She led the way for a lot of other Country music artists to cross over into Pop music as well.

3. Janet Jackson: Janet (1993). My favourite genre of music by far is R&B, and having grown up when I did, nothing beats 90s R&B. And this album by Janet Jackson epitomises the very best of this. I have always found the artistry behind the album quite incredible. When you listen to it you truly feel like she is telling a story over the course of the whole album. The diverse range of songs on the album is also something that I have always loved about it, from chilled songs to very upbeat ones. For me it is Janet’s best album and inspired a lot of other musical artists I think. The album also illustrates something else which had its highpoint in the 1990s: music videos. The numerous songs which were released as singles from the album quite often had amazing music videos accompanying them. The video for ‘If’ is a good example.

4. The Chicks: Taking The Long Way (2006). I am a huge The Chicks fan. But this album has got to be for me, their best. It followed the over the top backlash that they received from the Country music establishment after their lead singer said she was ashamed President Bush was from her state of Texas at a concert in London, UK. Her comments were made in the context of the United States of America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. I will never forget attending a concert of their’s in the same year that the album was released in Sydney, Australia where I was doing my Ph.D. at the time, and they sang the song ‘Not Ready to Make Nice’ which was written as a response to the backlash that they received (including death threats!) and they got a standing ovation from the whole crowd it seemed, which was absolutely well-deserved. The album is full of defiance and whenever I need to get pumped up for something it is my go to album. It represented a new, mature sound for them as a group and truly illustrated their artistry.

5. The Corrs: Forgiven Not Forgotten (1995). The Corrs are another one of my favourite bands. I love the Irish. I truly admire and respect the impact that they have had on the world, despite their challenging history. And musically there are few other countries in my opinion of its size who have produced musical artists of such calibre. And The Corrs are an excellent example of this. I love their use of traditional Irish musical instruments, their sound, and their voices. But it is the instrumental songs from the album, much more influenced by Folk music than Pop like their later albums, which stand out for me. In fact their song ‘Lough Erin Shore’ from the album is probably my favourite instrumental song ever. I remember having this album on constant replay when I was at college in London, UK.


>We couldn’t let our community feed their souls but not their bodies, so which FOOD DISH would you choose to take with you on the mountain retreat?

Vegetable Pakoras. This is a savoury Punjabi dish and they are one of my all-time favourites. They were something that my Mum taught me how to make and although I only make them a few times a year, namely at major Sikh festivals (Vaisakhi and Diwali), my partner and I (and our friends and neighbours who I often share them with) really look forward to them as they are simply delicious. I think one of the things I love most about them are the numerous ingredients that go into them and if all goes well the amazing taste that they create all together.

Thank you to Dr. Jatinder Mann for joining us up on the mountain!

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