Monday, October 31, 2011

An Open Letter to New Graduate Students

 I find this very helpful! I'm pasting only the main points and not the paragraphs that go with each point, but you should definitely read those (link to original article provided at the end of this post).
Good luck!

"An Open Letter to New Graduate Students"
By Brian Croxall

As we were wrapping up the previous semester, three different ProfHackers wrote Open Letters addressed to groups who were making transitions through higher education. Billie kicked off the series with a letter to 2010-2011′s first-time tenure-track teachers; Nels followed with a letter for the newly tenured; and Jeff wrote to the new department chairs. Today, I would like to address a new group: those students just beginning graduate school, specifically those full-time students enrolled in a PhD program.

Expect to feel lost and out of place for a bit. 

Recognize that graduate school is a job

“Networking” is not just a word for MBAs. While you might think that the “life of the mind” should be played out by yourself, it’s important to know that networking matters as much between scholars as it does between business students. Get to know the people in your cohort, in your program, and in the field on a national level. When you go to a conference, use your time productively by mingling with the other participants. You’ll be amazed at the opportunities this can lead to. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post about attending conferences productively, mingling has led to invitations to write a review essay, to participate in a large project archiving and cataloging electronic literature, and hanging out with senior scholars in my field.

Recognize that graduate school should not be your entire life.

Understand that you’re not locked into a particular field, project, or personality. 

Plan ahead for more than one job. 

Build an online profile.
Build a personal research library. 

Meet your subject librarian. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

On "Meherjaan: A Story of Loving the 'Other'" - The Plot

A little over a year ago, I wrote something that I don't know how to title, but it addresses the issue of "representation," of letting others represent us, of making it compulsory upon film-makers, authors, and others to present to the public an "accurate" picture of a nation or a people, of feelings, of a past. I wrote it in response to a common but not the only Pashtun reaction to The Kite Runner. I've realized that most of the Pashtuns who attack the novel do so without having read the book. How does one criticize something or praise it without having read or experienced it for themselves? How can that be possible when they're only offering the views of other people, not their own?

But that's not the point of this post. I actually want to discuss this great film I watched tonight called "MeherJaan," directed by Rubaiyat Hossain, a Bengali woman whose expertise includes the 1971 Bengal war with Pakistan and women's stories during this traumatic, disturbing time period. I loved the film for bringing women's voices and women's narratives into the story of the war. And that's one of the reasons it's been criticized for: that it "focuses" entirely on a love story, ignoring the reality of the war, the sufferings of the people. But I say, what the heck, why make her socially, morally responsible for presenting an image of the war? Why can’t she use her own creativity, experience, and interest to create something that presents a certain aspect of the war? 

So, here, I'm going to narrate the story of Meher Jaan to you. In future posts relating to this film, I'll discuss the criticism and some of its major themes. Oh, and ... let me mention here that I watched this film this evening on campus where it was being screened with the director, Rubaiyat Hossain, and one of the main characters, Wasim Khan (played by Omar Rahim) in attendance! Do you know how awesome it feels to have met two of the most important people behind the making of a film I like very much? :) Well, it feels more than awesome! We talked afterwards, too. It was just great. Anyway, now to the story. And Just So You Know, I'm gonna tell this story in a very disorganized way, as it comes to my mind. I don't care if that bothers anyone. Sorry.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tips on How to be a Better Woman

My short list of tips on how to be a better woman (much of it may be relevant to men and others as well). This was inspired by the documentary "Miss Representation" (2011). I'm also in the process of writing a poem that was inspired by this, but that seems to be taking a little while and I haven't been in the mood to come up with more lines, so. You'll just have to wait for that, now, woncha.

Anyway, I think most of us, including myself before anyone else, would find this helpful, so take heed and be haaaaapppppyyyy!
  • Measure people’s values by their accomplishments, not by what they look like.
  • Stop reading, watching, and otherwise supporting those books, TV shows, and movies that support racism, sexism, xenophobia, or if they depict any gender, sex, race, religion, or people in a negative light with the pretext that they are presenting reality.
  • Be critical of everything you read, watch, and hear by viewing it from at least two different angles.
  • When you’re watching a movie or reading a book, ask yourself what the roles of the women, men, homosexuals, inter-sex individuals—and other races—are in the movie/book and why they are what they are. Is it good or bad? Is there any truth to it? If it’s bad and there’s truth to it, should it be changed? If yes, how?
  • Replace “he” with “she,” and watch the response not just from others but your own self, too. Do this even when talking about God. Does it change anything?
  • Be a mentor to others.
  • Listen to others.
  • Tell other women they inspire you and that you support them (if you really do).
  • Work with women, not against them. Similarly, work with men, not against them. Don’t compete with anyone. Don’t try to beat anyone.
  • Protect those around you, especially children; be cognizant of their presence, and respect their feelings.
  • No one but yourself can represent you the way you want to be represented.
  • Think about two or three (or more) problems in your community – or your country or the world, but start small. Consider some practical solutions for them. What is your role in solving these problems?
  • Remember: You are not voiceless. Represent yourself.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Gender Performance in Pashto Music: An Outline

Dear readers, I finished my outline for my study of gender performance in Pashto music. I expect to add more points to it as I complete the paper (I have only just started, and all I've got is the annotated bibliography, the assignment that's due tomorrow). I'll post the annotated bib another day. Feel more than free to offer feedback and suggest any readings or Pashto music videos/songs or Pashto films that offer an insight into the performance of gender (or sexuality), whether you think it's an accurate portrayal of the culture or a distortion of it, whether you believe the performers are Pashtun (men or women) or Punjabi.

Many, many thanks!

~ Qrratu

Overview: Gender Performance in Pashto Music and Media

South Asian musics have been studied and analyzed widely, and, to a large extent, women’s and men’s different roles in music production have been an important research focus. However, minimal attention is given to the study of Pashto music, particularly to Pashto music videos and gender issues. This study hopes to fill that hiatus by focusing on how Pashto music videos portray heterosexual women and men and their sexualities. Most videos I analyze appear to present both genders negatively, emphasizing the woman’s seductive “nature” and the man’s sexual urges, thereby sexualizing both. However, by surveying the role of music and music videos, such as conveying a message to their audiences, I offer other ways of interpreting this presentation of gender performance. For example, is the sexuality of women and men as expressed in Pashto music videos a response to the perceived suppression of sexuality in public in the Pashtun society? The study attempts to answer questions such as: is music intended to offer a portrayal of the culture in and about which it is produced, and, if so, how do Pashtuns respond to this depiction of their culture? Are cultural norms manipulated in music videos so as to produce an imagined, possibly an ideal, culture or society? How can the popularity of those music videos that defy cultural standards contribute to these queries and offer a different, nuanced understanding of the ideals and practices of the culture? The study also explores racial elements, such as the privileging of certain skin colors  over others, by analyzing some Pashto lyrics to determine beauty ideals for both genders as well as to understand notions of masculinity and femininity in Pashto music and music videos. Emphasizing the role of those who perform in these music videos, called "damaan" in Pashto, I also discuss how particularly the female performers ("damaaney") negotiate their sexual and cultural identities to create space for themselves in the music industry in a society where they are traditionally stigmatized because of their careers. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pashtun Nationalism Online - Part III: Outline

So, this sis my potential outline for the term paper on Pashtun Nationalism. Feedback is absolutely welcome and will be appreciated!

I.                    Introduction
a.       Khushal Khan Khattak’s verse (17th century)
b.      Introduce the questions to be asked and answered
c.       Methodology and sources
II.                  History
a.       The Durand Line (1893)
b.      The creation of Pakistan (1947)
III.                The Objectives of Pashtun Nationalists
a.       Define nationalism; identify Pashtun nationalists
                                                               i.      Secular, anti-Pakistan, pro-Afghanistan/pro-independence, pro-Romanization of Pashto script, pro-Pashto
b.      Survey the different types of nationalisms (ethnic, national)
c.       Discuss the goals of Pashtun nationalists
IV.                Pashtun Nationalists’ Media
a.       The Internet
                                                               i.      Virtual communities, including Facebook
                                                             ii.      Blogs
                                                            iii.      Others?
b.      The role of the Internet in instilling a certain love and appreciation of Pashto and in “converting” some Pashtuns to nationalists
V.                  Discussion and conclusions
a.       What does it mean to be Pashtun online?
b.      Who is the “self” and the “other” in these discussions, and who decides?
c.       Other questions

Friday, October 14, 2011

My Heartbeat - Kashmala!

< Pre-post: Sorry in advance about the empty spaces! I'll have to fix that another time. Thanks for understanding!>

So, beloved readers, I went to visit my family last Thursday and returned Monday night. It was a wonderful time. Seeing Kashmala truly makes me happy. Not having her is simply akin to not worth living. I have these big philosophical questions like what's the purpose of life after all when I don't have Kashmala near me to pinch every other minute or to watch her do all these cute, precious, addddorable things. Really, it's just not worth it. I want to cry when I think of her. I no longer have the pleasure of looking forward to going home from a tiring day at school just to see Kashmala's face and hear her cute little talks. And it's not like I can excuse myself from my dumb work every 15 minutes to bug Kashmala now :(

I still have her in my life, and that's still something to treasure, of course. But she's not physically with me. I am over a thousand miles away from her, and I can't afford to visit her every weekend. I love her. I miss her. I need her. Seeing her last weekend felt SO beautiful. She's grown up, though -- a little bit, and she's learning to form long, complete, meaningful sentences. She's very intelligent (mashaAllah, tf, tf - akhir khwarza da chaa da, kana? :) (i.e., she is, after all, my niece -- k, kidding) charta nazara na shi), growing more and more beautiful, and is so clever she'll make you laugh like crazy with her tricks and ideas. My whole family is amazed by her. Tf, tf, mashaAllah. With my nephew, we could all understand his intelligence because he was being raised by several college-going aunts, each one with her own interests and skills to pass on to the nephew, and then a grandma and grandpa and parents who were no less valuable. But Kashmala doesn't even have all of us to educate her, so she's just turning out to be naturally intelligent and all :D She gets that from the most intelligent man alive, though - yes, that'd be my father, God bless him infinitely and give him a long, healthy, peaceful, happy life along with my mother. Aameen.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Re-viewing the Niqab

I am a being in the making (or being in making, without "the"? um.). The more I learn, the less I know, as someone once said. This is in relation to so much of what I’m learning these days and what I’ve learned before, but in this post, I’ll specifically talk about my constantly changing views on the niqab, the full body-covering among some Muslim women. Click here for a picture of the niqab.

I cannot remember a year in my life during which I had the same views on this issue for that entire year. And I’m not ashamed to admit that my views and ideas on virtually everything (no, really, everything) are never the same. This scares me as I go into academia :p I imagine I’ll be asked questions in the media, and I’ll say one thing that I completely reject a couple of years later. But I shouldn’t worry about this. I’d hope that my audience is intelligent and reasonable enough to look at the date I said X and the date I said -X. If not, there’ll clearly be a lot more people to teach than I currently imagine. But let's not worry about that, k? I'll figure out how to handle that when the time comes, ka khairee.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Miss Representation: The Naturally Seductive and Dangerously Sexy!

This is such an important video I couldn't help sharing it here. You can see part of it on Youtube and the rest here.

I especially like the part where one of the females says something like, "People tell us that the media gives the public what they want - but, no, that's not true. They give us what their companies want, but they want to blame it on us." Right on, girl!


Pictures from Swat: a typical Pukhtun home

Dear readers,
This post on the typical Pukhtun house has been transferred to the new blog. You can access it here.

Swat Visit 2011 – a typical Pukhtun village home

Thank you!

~ orbala

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