Lylaah L. Bhalerao

Fourth Year

Lylaah L Bhalerao comes to ISAW as a Fulbright scholar (All Disciplines Award 2021-22) from London, England. She has a background in Classics, having received a BA (2020) and MPhil with Distinction (2021) in Classics from the University of Cambridge. It was at Cambridge that Lylaah began to specialise in ancient art and archaeology. During her MPhil year, she developed a particular interest in decolonising methodologies and challenging the 'classical' canon, having become aware of how the discipline of Classics has historically been implicated in colonial and racist cultures and systems. These ideas culminated in her thesis "Displaying Greece in the British Museum in the Era of Decolonisation."

Lylaah is committed to critical, cross-cultural approaches to ancient art and heritage, and it is this that brings her to ISAW. She is also a member of a group of early career researchers working on Critical Ancient World Studies, with an academic publication and a textbook for school children in the works. Having grown up in a mixed Hindu-Muslim family, but then trained as a Classicist, she is particularly interested in how Islamic and Hindu cultures interacted with the Greco-Roman world: from the Aphrodite of Knidos to Yakshi and Lakshmi figures in Sanchi, from the Parthenon Mosque to Ayasofya. At ISAW, Lylaah intends to further expand her knowledge of the ancient world beyond traditional Classics, and to specialise in decolonising heritage sites in the east Mediterranean and sculptures from those sites that have ended up in American and European museums. Building on her MPhil thesis, she also hopes to develop curatorial skills, thinking about how we can display ancient sculptures in cross-cultural, conversational ways and decolonise exhibition spaces.

Lylaah also believes that academia can and should be activist, even in studying the ancient world, and considers herself an academic activist. She is a strong, vocal advocate for anti-racism measures and decolonisation within the disciplines and institutions that deal with the ancient world. She presented her thoughts at the inaugural SPEAC conference at Bryn Mawr on addressing inequity in the ancient world, speaking on how to be an academic activist in the field of Classics. She is happy to speak to young people of colour interested in studying the ancient world and help them navigate fields where they may find they are underrepresented.