ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
This is a blog/journal about being an ethnographer.  It's a blog by a white, non-Arab, non-Muslim woman about Arab and Muslim women and men.  This is a feminist blog, but maybe not the way you think of a feminist blog.  This is a blog about Brooklyn, about Manhattan, about Palestine, about Egypt, about Jordan. 

Welcome to [livejournal.com profile] ajnabieh .

***

Who are you?

My name is Emily Regan Wills, and I am a graduate student at the New School for Social Research in New York City.  My dissertation focuses on the Arab communities of New York; in particular, I'm interested in political discourse, the way that individuals debate and talk about political and social issues that matter to them in everyday life.  My dissertation uses ethnographic methods, which means that I study Arab communities by joining them in their daily lives and trying to understand how they themselves understand their lives. 

On this blog, I won't talk much, or in detail, about my fieldwork; I will only talk about people I actually know with their permission.  I might tell stories of anonymous daily encounters when they seem relevant.  Mostly, this is going to be a space for me to talk about what I'm learning, and to comment on news stories, blog posts, and other things I see with an eye towards what insight my fieldwork can bring.

***
Where does your blog name come from?

Ajnabieh--اجنبية in Arabic--means either "foreign" or "foreigner."  I had learned the word in Arabic class, but I really learned it when I visited Palestine in 2005, as a part of the Women in Black International Conference in Jerusalem.  After the conference, I spent a few days in al-Bireh, the sister ctiy to Ramallah, with a young Palestinian woman who worked for a human rights organization, and her mother.  The young woman had just graduated from college in the US.  Her entire family had been living in the US, but she and her mother had been unhappy there, and had wanted to come back to Palestine.  So, her father remained in the US, along with several of her siblings, while she and her mother came back to al-Bireh. 

It was August; it was hot.  My host took me visiting in the afternoons, to meet friends and relatives.  She would walk into their houses, be greeted, and turn and introduce me as al-ajnabieh.  I would, very politely, say assalam aleikum (peace be upon you, a traditional Muslim greeting), and prove I spoke poor conversational Arabic.  We would be given cups of sweet tea, and would sit down.  Someone would ask me where I'm from.  "Brooklyn," I'd say.

"I went to a wedding on Atlantic Avenue," my interlocutor would say.  Or: "I have a cousin who lives on 68th Street."  Or: "I used to live on Fourth Avenue."

Halfway around the world.  We were talking about the R train. 

It was on that trip to Palestine that I became interested in the relationship between Arab diasporas--particularly circulatory migration, migrants who go and come back repeatedly between places--and Arab political discourse.  How does the diasporic experience change Arab political life, both in the US and in the Arab world?  It was that experience of being ajnabieh that brought me to where I am now, intellectually. 

I spend a lot of my time now with recent Arab immigrants.  At some point, they usually ask me where I'm from.  I used to answer "Kensington," which is the neighborhood where I now live, or "Philadelphia."  But that's not the question I'm being asked.  In Bay Ridge, the right answer is that I'm American.  I'm not Palestinian or Lebanese or Egyptian or Yemeni; I'm American, which means I am, in many important ways, ajnabieh.  It's an identity I hold on to, because it helps me remember that I'm a visitor in the communities I work with, but a visitor that shares many important commonalities with them.

***

What's all this Livejournal business?

If you haven't used Livejournal before: well, it's a blogging platform that's also a social network.  I happen to love it, and have been a member for years.  I chose to use it as my blogging platform because, well, I like the interface, and I know it well.  I also use it because it allows a sense of community with other LJ members who read it, in some very concrete ways.

However, you don't have to join LJ to read my blog.  You can post comments using "OpenID," which ties your posts to your Blogger or Wordpress or other internet identity.  Or, you can comment anonymously--but anonymous comments are screened, to avoid spam.  

ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
احلا و صحلا.  تفضلي، تفضلي

Welcome.  Have a cup of tea.

Shay Filistiniyeh/Palestinian Tea

(recipe taught to me in al-Bireh, by a friend)

One bunch fresh mint (garden mint, not peppermint, spearmint or chocolate mint)
1/8-1/4 cup sugar
1 black tea bag (Lipton for authenticity's sake)

Light the stove using a match, because your stove doesn't have an automatic lighter.  (If you are Emily, be terrified the entire time you are doing this.)  Put a saucepan full of water on the stove, and let it come to a boil.  Add in the sugar and the mint.  Pick up the teabag, and dip it in the water until it is brown.  Discard teabag.  Serve in glass cups to guests. 

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ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
Ajnabieh - The Foreigner

March 2016

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