Faculty of Social & Historical Sciences


Meet our LAHP Studentship Awardees: Rafael Fuentes Tarin

24 July 2020

Find out more about Rafael and his research in his spotlight interview below.

Rafael Fuentes Tarin

1) Hi Rafael, congratulations on your successful application of the LAHP! Tell us a bit about yourself…

I was born in Spain but grew up in Equatorial Guinea where my family spent twenty-odd years. I love travelling and left home early. After spending some time in France and Sweden, I came to London and met my girlfriend, with whom I live in the company of an ever-growing collection of plants. I am passionate about reading and enjoy hearing about people’s life stories, which I think led me to study Anthropology. 

2) How did you feel when you found out you had been successful in securing the LAHP?

It was actually quite funny because I was in the middle of an online seminar when I received the news and I started shouting and jumping around. To secure the award meant a lot to me because it is a really competitive field and every year candidates present really compelling research projects.

3) Tell us a bit about your research.

I belong to the Anthropology department at UCL. My research explores a change of calendars in Sikhism and the on-going controversy it has created among devotees in India and its diaspora. A new solar calendar named Nanakshahi has replaced the long-established lunar calendar Bikrami which is also used by Hindus. This was followed by an intense political disagreement between the supporters of the new chart – who support the creation of an independent Sikh nation-state named Khalistan – and traditionalists, who oppose it and would like to remain part of India and continue using lunar calculations to determine religious festivals. Detractors claim that the Nanakshahi calendar generates new understandings of the self since it relates personal and communal time to a different set of astronomical features. As of today, parallel calendrical systems are found in Sikhism resulting in confusion and social differentiation on sectarian basis.

4) Why did you choose to study at UCL?

Last summer, I met my supervisor Lucia Michelutti and discovered that we have a lot of common interests. I had recently finished my master’s degree and wanted to continue working on the topic of my dissertation. I was delighted when she agreed to help me with my investigation, UCL has a great reputation for academic research. I was aware of the work of other anthropologists in the department and believed I could benefit from their guidance. 

5) What song would you like to contribute to the Joint Faculties lockdown playlist?

James Blake – ‘Barefoot In The Park’ feat. Rosalia 

Find out more about London Arts & Humanities Partnership (LAHP) Studentships