Office Hour: Tea Time with the Prof

Hi there! I’m Samuel Cai, and I’m the blogger for Office Hour and Blogside Manner. For Office Hour, I visit professors at the best university in the world and talk to them about their jobs here at Brown!

This week, I talked to Professor Sarah Besky, who is incredibly engaging and fascinating to talk to. She’s also a bit of a fast talker, so my fingers got a workout taking notes for this interview!

Teaching: Professor Besky teaches within the Anthropology department here. She was first introduced to the subject of anthropology in college, in a class on Northern Ireland. She appreciates that anthropology is telling stories about other people’s lives, discovering patterns and norms, uncovering why people do what they do, and finding the meaning in things. She particularly enjoys the anthropology department here at Brown because of Brown’s commitment to the liberal arts and flexible thinking and interdisciplinary engagements; she appreciates that Brown privileges open, free thought, and attracts the kind of student who cares about the world.

Research: Professor Besky’s research focuses on two regions of India: Darjeeling and Calcutta. Her research emphasizes the role of tea in the development of these regions of India as well as the relationships between femininity and masculinity in these regions. She spent over 3 years in Darjeeling before publishing her book The Darjeeling Distinction, and she continues to go there twice a year. More recently, she has shifted her focus to Calcutta, and she investigates the taste of tea, and the implications of fair trade tea and tea auctioning  within the lens of masculinity.

Professor Besky is so enthusiastic and passionate about her work, and her subject in general. When I shifted the conversation to a project I’m doing on voluntourism, she didn’t miss a beat and continued to talk with the same vigor and energy she had throughout the whole interview. She has a fascinating way of looking at the world and is definitely worth a conversation with!

Have a professor you’d like to see covered on Office Hour? Send me an email at!


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