ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
2016-03-12 12:38 pm
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Keefak: reading politics in natural texts

As you might know if you follow me elsewhere, I'm in the middle of a two week fieldwork trip, heading back and forth between Beirut and Amman to talk and ask about community mobilization, Syrian refugees, and everyday transnationalisms. I've been posting pretty regularly on Tumblr and Twitter, or at least trying to...

But I was using Keefak, a language study app designed for Lebanese dialect, on the airplane here, and found the dialogue on politics really interesting. It's amazing how much a short text can tell is about how people think about politics. So I decided I'd try to record my thoughts on what we can learn about Lebanese citizens and their thoughts on government from this text.

Read on for screenshots of the dialogue and my analysis...

kell siyésé halo malak )
ajnabieh: The Tenth Doctor, from Doctor Who, in academic robes, with the text "it are fact, I know because of my learnings." (it are fact)
2016-01-27 09:50 am

Fangirl moment

Normally when I get media requests lately, it's either about US politics (that is, technically, my position's job...), or more likely about Syrian refugees. So I was more than a little surprised when a reporter from the Ottawa Citizen contacted me...to do a piece on the X-Files?

Yeah, so when I wrote an article about how fans engage transformatively with gender in Mulder/Scully romance fic, I didn't really expect to be getting cited as an international expert on The X-Files. Nevertheless, it was great fun to do the interview, and then to record the video and have a little photoshoot in Scully-cosplay.

If you haven't seen me talking about it elsewhere, here's the article. It also features a snazzy video of me being interviewed in my office: witness the piles of random paper on every surface! The entry tickets from Byblos and the Musée National du Liban taped to the wall over my shoulder! Most importantly, my hand-knitted Scully doll judging me over my shoulder as I talk about her characterization and the MSR arc!

And anyone want to talk about the eps? I've got thoughts about 1) transforming the paranoid politics of the 1990s into the surveillance politics of the 2010s 2) the show's continual hamhanded dealing with motherhood and complex portrayals of fatherhood 3) how goddamn good Gillian Anderson looks...
ajnabieh: A seagull standing on a "no seagulls" sign, with the text FIGHT THE POWER (fight the power seagull)
2016-01-15 03:46 pm
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Community Mobilization in Crisis: My New Schtick

You know how you arrive at a new academic institution, meet new people, and get sucked into new all-consuming vortices of work? Yeah, one of those happened to me. However, it's been a pretty awesome experience, and I'm hoping it'll only continue to be great over the next year...two years...five years...however long...

Anyway. I'm now the co-director of Community Mobilization in Crisis, which is a program being sponsored by the University of Ottawa to develop a certificate program in community mobilization skills, to be offered through a mix of online and in-person classes to Syrian refugees and other conflict-affected communities in Lebanon. We're working with a diverse mix of academic and NGO partners to create a program that will be tuition free for students, will provide them with a living stipend in a situation where it's illegal for refugees to get work permits, can provide a bridge to higher education for youth unable to access formal schooling, and will provide the Syrian community (as refugees, and inshallah when they can go home) with trained, credentialed, and experienced leaders with experience working with NGOs and outside the formal NGO system to get things done and improve conditions for their communities.

Sounds awesome, right? Yeah, I think it is. It's also a huge amount of work: applying for funding, making sure what we're doing is targeted at the right people, looking for more funding, designing an innovative, collaborative curriculum that is pedagogically cutting edge, looking for yet more funding because OMG this thing is EXPENSIVE. But we've got some good vibes from some good funders (fingers crossed, everybody!), we've got tremendous institutional support from the university, and we've got lots of people (students, faculty, administrators, civil society folks) from across Canada, Lebanon, and beyond to put this thing into place. It's a big job, but I think we're gonna be OK.

Want to learn more? My co-director Nadia Abu-Zahra and I were on All in a Day, a CBC radio talk show, in December: you can listen to us talk about the program, and me tell stories about my research trip to Lebanon, here. I'm also planning on making a post of my photos soon, so you can get a sense of the place and what I learned, in preparation for the next trip I'm planning to make in March. And we'll be launching our social media presence in the next week or so; I'll tell you when we do!

Oh, and if you've got a couple bucks lying around you'd like to kick towards us? You can go here and support any of uOttawa's four different streams of support for refugees, including us. Bonus? If you're American, your dollar is so damn strong against ours that your donation gets matched by the exchange rate (US$1=C$1.45, excuse me while I weep about my student loans).

And THAT'S why I've been too busy to blog. :)
ajnabieh: Protesters in Times Square, holding a banner reading "New York To Gaza" in front of a neon McDonalds. (gaza)
2015-10-27 04:00 pm


هوية - hawiyya (n): essence, nature; co-essentiality, consubstantiality; identity; identity card

(From the Hans Wehr dictionary of modern Arabic)

Bethlehem in August.  Marhaba, I say to the man in the cell phone store.  Hal 'aindak SIM card?

Yes, I have, he says.  Passport?

Oh.  I left it in my hotel.  So I can come back.

Yes, he says, then, wait.  You have…he struggles for the word.  Hawiyya?

Eh, I say, yes, I have hawiyya.  Min Kanada, eh?

Eh, he says, and takes my drivers' license to be copied.


We used to travel on our hawiyya, my research assistant says, as we lock our passports (hers Canadian, mine American) into the hotel safe in Beirut.  Once, we were coming here to see family, and the Syrians--it was the Syrians at the airport then--the Syrians stopped us as we were passing through.  They argued and shouted with my father and then, the soldier, he threw the hawiyya across the floor, away from us, to go pick them up.  I was young.  I just remember the shouting.

We traveled on our Canadian passports after that,
she says, and laughs, because it isn't funny.


You know, I had limits on what I can do, says the professor, screening her film footage, working through theory for us.  When I was collecting the data.  I still have the hawiyya, you know.


At the activist meeting, I am listening to two members of the group I study talking.  An older woman recounts being shouted at by someone attending the event she was protesting.  The first thing he asked you is where you're from, the other activist said.  Like a solider! Hawiyya!

She shrugged.  He doesn't need to know the whole story.


I am twenty three and in a service between Bethlehem and Qalandiya checkpoint.  A knot of soldiers appear on the road, stop the service.  Hawiyya, they say.  When I and the other women in the service reach for our purses, they say, bas al-shabaab.  Seeing I'm unclear, seeing the blue passport between my fingers, they say, just the young men.  My passport stays in my bag.  We all stay in the service.  We continue to Bethlehem. 


It takes three tries for the scanner in the cell phone shop to copy my license.  The owner cuts the card to fit my iPhone, puts the credit on, takes my forty shekels.  He hands me back the extra copies at the end.  For you, he says, and puts my hawiyya in my hands. 


(eh - 'yes' in colloquial Arabic.  Any puns with the Canadian 'eh' are accidental but hilarious.)

(service - shared taxi, pronounced ser-VEES.)


(hello yes, this is me trying to get back into blogging, how ya doin')

ajnabieh: Robin Sparkles (character from How I Met Your Mother) in front of a red maple leaf, dancing. (canada sparkles)
2015-04-14 11:18 am
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Research Project: Trusted Traveller Status and Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians in North America

I am an assistant professor in the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa, and I am looking to interview Arab, Muslim, and South Asian identified people living in the US or Canada who hold a North American 'trusted traveller' status, such as the NEXUS card for crossing the US-Canadian border, TSA PreCheck for flying domestically within the US, Global Entry for entering the US after having traveled abroad, or CANPASS for entering Canada from abroad (either Air or Marine versions), for a research project about how race, ethnicity, and identity are constructed in North America. This project has received approval from the University of Ottawa Research Ethics Board (equivalent to a US IRB).

What is the research project this is a part of? )

Who are you? )

Who do you want to talk to? )

What would participation look like? )

I am interested in the project, but don't want to do an interview (because I'm shy, because I'm worried about confidentiality, because I'm too busy, etc). )

How will my privacy be protected during this research? )

In what languages may I participate in this project? )

Do you have any of these statuses? )

How can I contact you?

Lots of ways!

• My email is emily.wills at uottawa dot ca, or emilyreganwills at gmail. (If you're worried about privacy, my uottawa email is probably better, because gmail retains a lot of data.)
• You can contact me on Twitter at [twitter.com profile] ajnabieh, via Facebook here, or on Tumblr at [tumblr.com profile] ajnabieh.
• You can call my office: 613-562-5800 x2426. However, I am not always there during the day to answer the phone, and if I do not respond to a voicemail, it may be that I haven't seen it's there, so email or social media are probably better ways to contact me.
ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
2015-04-13 02:29 pm
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still here...

And about to use the blog to do a professional thing in the next day or two. *waves at anyone still subscribed*

How are you? I'm busy as hell, as befits a junior faculty member; my wife and I have a new baby (old photo here I'll try to remember to post a new one if people are interested) and our big kid is in Grade 1, which freaks me out, I've got a bunch of cool research commitments that involve fun travel coming up, and it's finally, FINALLY spring in Ottawa.

No idea if blogging more is in my future, but I'm around occasionally on twitter ([twitter.com profile] ajnabieh) and tumblr ([tumblr.com profile] ajnabieh, [tumblr.com profile] size16skinnyjeans, [tumblr.com profile] jeparlecanadien), and I'm also on FB if we know each other reasonably well.
ajnabieh: A large orange cat with the text "Christianne Aman-purr, Colbert Report Middle East Correspondent" (amanpurr)
2014-03-13 12:02 pm


I keep meaning to write a post on academic language differences in Canada/the US (prompted in part by [personal profile] jae continually reminding me I'm marking, not grading, when I'm complaining about sitting in front of a stack of papers), but today isn't that day. Have a link dump of interesting things instead.

TessieMC, The Trigger-Warned Syllabus, which does a good job summarizing why trigger warnings on syllabi are kind of not the point. I've given trigger warnings as a teacher--when potentially triggering material will be dealt with in class and isn't otherwise prefigured by the content. (So when I screened a video about the problems of microfinance that indebted people describing their suicide attempts or the death by suicide of their family members, for instance.) I've also been triggered as a student, by something neither the teacher nor I could have predicted (tl;dr if you are a 16 year old undergoing traumatic life-threatening leg surgeries maybe don't read A Separate Peace, which I still haven't finished, btw). And, when I taught an entire course about political violence, I didn't give a single trigger warning, because the content of the course material was already apparent--we read about people killed by police, we read about riots, we read about genocide, we read about violence against women, and I trusted my students to be aware of what the class was about, to be aware of where their limits were, and to make adjustments if they just couldn't handle some of the material. The course title and the titles of the articles on the syllabus was their own trigger warning, in my mind. So I'm thinking actively about this issue, as someone who supports trigger warnings as a concept and also wants to think about how they can function usefully and not dismissively in different contexts.

On Feminist Philosophers, a faculty member wants advice for how to mentor a minority student who was recruited to a graduate program in ways that sound incredibly ham-handed and offensive, while not being either racist or subscribing to a 'colorblind' philosophy. I've mentioned what I would take into account, but some of you may have opinions on this subject!

Language Log gives some coverage to the language politics of the upcoming provincial elections in Quebec. I don't have anything specific to add, except that the adjective for "belonging to the Parti Quebecois" in French is "pequiste [PQ-iste]" and I think we can all agree that is the literal best political party adjective ever.

Mark Allen Peterson put together a brief primer to Middle Eastern media ecologies. Useful if the term is new to you, useful if the Middle Eastern context is new to you. Media hasn't been a primary area of research for me, but it's becoming one, so I'm absorbing this all as I go.

Kristin Diwan [twitter.com profile] kdiwaniya has a good new report on youth activism in the Arab Gulf. As always, I want to insert migration as a variable into all these conversations--what are migrant youth, both Arab and not-Arab, doing politically? Are they a part of Kuwaiti/Saudi/Bahraini/etc movements? Making their own? But the report is an excellent presentation of what's happening in a region where social movements are less studied.

And finally, for my fellow hoopy froods*, The BBC has re-released the Hitchhiker's Guide text game.

*Disclaimer: I am actually not a terribly hoopy frood.
ajnabieh: Happy woman with broom: FIGHT ALL THE OPPRESSIONS; same woman, dejected, "Fight ALL the oppresssions?" (ALL the oppressions?)
2014-02-13 11:16 am

What Is There To Be Done: Sochi Edition

Like most of my fellow Canadians (and a lot of other people, obviously), I'm paying quite a bit of attention to the Winter Olympics. One of the reasons I'm paying attention, though, is because of the political controversy over the Olympics being held in Russia, for a variety of reasons. The most prominent in the eyes of a lot of European and North American observers is the recent law against the "promotion of non-traditional sexual relations," and the blatant homophobia that the Russian government has demonstrated in defending the law against international condemnation. While the law is terrible, there's the faintest whiff of hypocracy in some of the flailing about it--it's not like institutional homophobia is gone in North America, you know. There's also the fact that there are plenty of other reasons to be displeased about locating a major international event in Russia--such as Sochi's historical and contemporary relationship to the ethnic cleansing of the Causacus, or the abysmal ranking of Putin's Russia on most all measures of civil liberties. Many people are boycotting the games, though others don't think that's a good tactic or have pointed out that many of the attempts to boycott are hamhanded at best and that Russian LGBT activists have not called for a boycott.

But what I'm interested in is that the Olympics provide a reason to focus on Russia for activists for civil liberties, civil society, and social justice. Assuming that we don't only care about justice for different others when they provide an opportunity to feel better about ourselves--which we cannot always assume, but let's be generous at the moment--the Sochi Olympics brings all these issues onto the table, and makes them inescapable amid all of the pomp and circumstance and spandex.

So, in that spirit, here are two calls for political action that have been circulated by Amnesty International, which are specific to the Olympic context in Russia, but are also about generalized opposition to the worst parts of the Russian regime. If we care about what's happening in Russia, then we need to take action to help Russians change the situation.

If you've seen other calls for concrete actions that seem supported by reputable human rights networks, or that emerge from Russian civil society, pass them on--I'm happy to update this post with more opportunities for people to turn the Sochi Olympics into a focal moment for social change in Russia.


Yevgeniy Vitishko, environmental activist, detained on "petty hooliganism" charges, likely to prevent him from protesting at the Olympics. Here is more information about him from Amnesty International, and here is an article from the CBC about his previous suspended sentence being converted to three years of jail time. (I'd like to note, with appreciation, that this article is in the Olympics section of CBC's coverage, meaning that they aren't ignoring the political dynamics of what's happening in the rush to be like OMG CURLING.) You can take action to support him via Amnesty International here.

Elena Klimova is a journalist; she runs a website for LGBTI teens, called Children 404. She has been charged with "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations," the infamous law that has drawn so much attention lately. Here is an article about her arrest from the Russian LGBT Network, and here is Amnesty Canada's write-up about her. I haven't seen mainstream media coverage just of her case yet, though. You can take action to support her via Amnesty International here.
ajnabieh: Robin Sparkles (character from How I Met Your Mother) in front of a red maple leaf, dancing. (canada sparkles)
2013-12-12 11:52 am

You know it's finals because I'm doing math about student last names.

There's a whole list of "totally subtle but surprising things I've noticed since moving to Canada" in my head (did you know that kids' amoxicillan is BANANA flavored here? That's just wrong), but here's one that's particularly odd: the number of students I have whose last names begin with Mc or Mac is really high. Granted, across 110 students, there are only 6 of them, but that's three per class, and that's definitely, like, 4 more than I've ever had at a time. (I also spent a lot of time alphabetizing assignments, so I have to think about last names a lot.)

This made me wonder about relative ethnic makeup. I'm not surprised that I've got more students with obviously francophone last names in Canada than in the US (not least because I teach at a francophone/bilingual university, and a reasonable chunk of my students have French as their primary language), but the Mac/Mc thing is throwing me. Generally, when we think about the European-descended populations of the US and Canada, we tend to assume that they look similar. Do they really, in terms of country/ethnic group of origin?

So I went to Statistics Canada and the US Census Bureau's American FactFinder. FactFinder is great because you can get some pretty specific queries in there; I'm not as experienced at using StatCan for getting data, but I was able to get to ethnic breakdown fairly quickly.

Here's the tally: In the US, 35.7 million people said they had Irish ancestry, 4.2 million said they had Scotch-Irish ancestry, and 5.8 million said they had Scottish ancestry. The ancestry question allows for multiple answers, so we don't know if there's any overlap there. This means that 11.2% of the US population has some Irish heritage, 1.8% has some Scottish heritage, and 1.3% have some Scotch-Irish heritage. Now, obviously not every person with Scottish/Irish heritage has a last name starting with Mac/Mc (says an Irish-American named Regan*), but that gives us a potential universe.

For Canada, the stats are different. 4.7 million Canadians said they had Scottish origins, with 568,000 saying they had only Scottish origins; 4.3 million people said they had Irish origins, with 491,000 saying they had only Irish origins. (Canada doesn't have a Scotch-Irish category.) Now, these numbers are lower than the American ones, but it's important to remember that Canada has a population about 1/10 the size of the US population. So, of the entire population of Canada, 12.2% has at least some Irish heritage, and 13.3% has at least some Scottish heritage. The Irish number isn't much higher, but the Scottish is much higher. So the frequency of individuals with some Scottish or Irish heritage in Canada, as a whole, is likely higher in the US (caveat in place because overlap is always possible).

And, in fact, in Ontario (where the majority of my students are from), the situation is even stronger. There are 2.1 million Ontarians with some Scottish heritage, and 1.98 million with some Irish heritage. Ontario has about a third of Canada's population (the GTA alone has 1/6th, which is freaky), but still, this means that 15.5% of Ontario's population has Scottish origin, and 14.7% has some Irish heritage. In New York State, where I've done all my teaching, it's 1% Scottish, 12.5% Irish, and .3% Scotch-Irish; in Pennsylvania, where I'm from, the Irish proportion is about the same and the Scottish and Scotch-Irish are both equally low.

So, conclusions:

1. Yes, it is not surprising that I'm seeing more Mac/Mc names in my classes than I ever have before, because it's likely that a higher percentage of my students have some Irish and/or Scottish ancestry.
2. While the proportion of people with Irish ancestry in the US vs in Canada is fairly similar (a percentage point is usually inside the margin of error), the number of people with Scottish ancestry is much, much higher in Canada.
3. The ratio of Irish-to-Scottish in Canada is also much closer to 1:1 than it is in the US, where it's, what, 6:1? *does math* Yeah, 6:1 if you take only Scottish and don't count Scotch-Irish.

Without knowing anything, I'm going to guess this has something to do with the dynamics of Canada's relationship to the United Kingdom--whether this was about Irish non-immigration to Canada because of the UK relationship in the 1800s (before formal Irish independence from Britain) or high Scottish immigration to Canada (facilitated by the formal relationship), I can't guess. Of course, I'm sure there are also reasons to do with chain migration, and it wouldn't surprise me if there were immigration-law reasons as well. In other words, it's caused by stuff. (Anyone know the stuff?)

Now I really should start grading...

*Regan is the name of my more-Irish side of the family, which is also the only side of my family to have decent genealogy records**. I'm not terribly into genealogy, but I'm glad to know it when someone else has done the work...

**Fun fact: the only ancestor from Ireland whose entrance details I'm 100% sure...arrived in North American at Halifax, Nova Scotia, during the Famine. How she ended up in Glens Falls, New York is anybody's guess. Will that make naturalization easier, do you think?
ajnabieh: A large orange cat with the text "Christianne Aman-purr, Colbert Report Middle East Correspondent" (amanpurr)
2013-12-02 03:53 pm

School's out for the winter

Today was my last day of teaching for this term. (Canadian terms are 14 weeks, so we generally end earlier than US universities.) So, as I settled down to get some stuff done, I opened my "things to do this semester" file that I wrote up in September to see, well, if I've managed to do anything on the list. When I saw what was on it, my first response was to laugh and laugh and laugh with maybe a little crying. But on clearer reflection, it's not so bad. Here, for your amusement, are my results.

CategoryThingComments from the other side
Teaching"Teach everything.  All the things."I did, in fact, teach all the things.
Advising"Work with [MA candidate]"Said candidate is doing well!  She drafted a proposal! Said proposal is being edited! I have hopes!
Research"Map Arab orgs in Ottawa, elsewhere in Canada"lolnope.  Not a thing has been done on this.  Luckily, this is relevant to my research assistant's MA proposal that he'll be writing next term, so perhaps I can get some double duty out of him.
Research"Analysis of tweets on #muslimcandyheartrejects"The coding was completed between me and my RA; this took a couple of versions, so I haven't run the preliminary stats yet or started working on the discourse analysis bits.  We're planning on co-writing the article coming out of this analysis (of a very funny twitter hashtag and the way humor and politics intersect and construct identities) next term.
Research"Auctions: pick long-form coding, design system, code all of it; essay for symposium?"Sadly, little has happened on the fandom auctions research project front, because both my co-author and I have been busy.  Bump that one to next term...
Research"Lots of reading on politics and socialization online"Define lots.  And define whether "reading" includes "downloading articles with interesting abstracts and putting them in the "to-read" folder.  Because if so, definitely.
Research"Lots of reading on expat voting"My library due date is 13 December.  I've got 11 days left.  PLENTY of time.
Writing"Write paper for Borders conference: Sep 20"This did in fact occur, if not by Sep 20.  It was well received at the conference, and I and a few other conference goers are trying to organize some of our papers into a special issue on the topic we share.  So, success!
Writing"Write interview/essay for [academic friend]'s book: Sep 30"Again, done, if not by Sep 30.  I'm hoping the process with its publication will go smoothly, and, in any case, the data I gathered for it is really relevant to other writing I'm doing.
Writing"Finish book revisions: Oct 15"lololol you are funny, to-do list, I find you very very funny.  No, seriously, I have made progress on this, if not as quickly as I've wanted, and January 15 for having a completed draft seems plausible, if not guaranteed.  But it's slow.  Did you know a dissertation introduction and a book introduction are very different creatures?  I do now.
Writing"Expat voting paper: Dec 1"Sigh. No progress got made in taking this from conference paper to article, which makes me sad.  This is definitely #1 priority for next semester.

So the total is not that bad, I suppose.  Not on this list but still relevant is the paper I presented this past weekend at a workshop, which wasn't new material but was a new presentation (in fact, of the one new chapter I'm writing for my book--so this was a good time to try to work it out coherently).  Nor was the roundtable I and a friend are organizing for next year's APSA, which has taken a lot of email time, nor is that special issue that came out of the conference I mentioned.  So this looks like I might just barely have been productive this semester, on balance.

One of the speakers at the new faculty orientation in August said, "look, just admit now you aren't getting any research done this year."  That does seem to be my trendline.  However, I have also learned that if I can carve out time when I don't need to be meeting student needs (and defend it against my desire to be The Most Available Teacher Who Is Always Helpful), I can definitely get writing done.

In any case, I don't get any grading turned in until Dec 11, so between now and then?  I can totally write two syllabi, two revised book chapters, and plan the five articles I want to write next semester.  Right?


ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
2013-11-04 02:29 pm
Entry tags:

Not all students are like me.

This is a mantra I tell myself: not all students are like me. I remind myself of it a lot. Not all students are like me: therefore, I should not be surprised that they balk at being asked to read 150 pages a week. Not all students are like me: they may not be interested in doing extensive research papers, so I should make sure that they have opportunities to do different sorts of final projects that allow them to meet the educational goals I have for the class. Not all students are like me: they may not abhor the idea of group work, so I can provide opportunities for small group work in class and on projects. Not all students are like me: they may not feel comfortable speaking up in class, so I should provide alternative means of participation integrated into the classroom.

Some of this is temperament: I was a future professor, of course I'm different from my students who may not be the types to want to read and write and do research all day. Some of this is opportunity: I was living on campus and away from family, working no more than 15 hours a week, in a very traditional university environment; I'm neurotypical, I studied in my first language, and in an environment that was culturally matched to my experiences and identities. My students are not like me, and if I assume they're like me, I'll structure my courses in ways that don't do them justice and don't help them master the material.

I think I've learned this lesson, but then again something hits me about. This week it's this:

Why do my students want to do the reading so damn early????

I was always a "do homework the night before" type. I still am; the evening before I teach, you'll find me curled up on the couch prepping, and not a minute earlier than that. (Sometimes, if I'm very organized, I'll start prepping for Monday's class on Saturday evening.) I plan my schedule week-by-week, and usually day-by-day. One of my classes is scheduled Wednesday/Friday; I don't even think about it until Wednesday morning, unless I have grading to do.

Except my students all seem to want to do their homework so far in advance. When I hadn't uploaded the entire semester's worth of reading in the first week of class (because I had to find time to do all the necessary scanning), they started getting antsy. I get emails about the readings for Friday's class on Saturday (asking details about how to write their reaction papers). Students have been bugging me about this Friday's reading since last Friday (and I legitimately couldn't tell them what it would be, because I hadn't chosen it yet--we're doing topics they generated at midterm).

I can't really be mad, because they want to be responsible and on top of things. But it's very hard to remember that not all students are like me when they're asking me to do things differently than I want to do them.

Deep breath. Not all students are like me. Time to upload more readings.
ajnabieh: Robin Sparkles (character from How I Met Your Mother) in front of a red maple leaf, dancing. (canada sparkles)
2013-10-10 02:10 pm
Entry tags:

The problem with dialect.

My son, as a student in the public school system in Ontario, receives daily lessons in French (20 minutes a day in kindergarten, which will become 40 minutes a day from first through sixth grade). French is one of his favorite parts of the day, and he'll frequently say "do you know how to say [word] in French? It's [mot]!" or, say, start counting objects in French. I think this is brilliant, obviously; Ottawa's bilingualism is one of the things I love best about it.

The other day, he said to me, "Mommy, do you know how to say 'see you tomorrow' in French? It's ademay!"

It took a second for me to work out what he said, but I replied cheerfuly, "Yes, it is, à demain! Did you learn that in French class?"

"Mommy, no," he said. "It's ah-deh-may."*

Because he's learning Canadian French, and my French (which people tell me sounds very good) is French French, so he corrects me because I don't sound right.

Which, from his point of view, I don't.

This is going to be a very long process of linguistic acculuration, I think...

*I cannot for the life of me figure out how to render these two words differently so as to communicate the difference. I think the French vowel is quite short and nasalized, while the Canadian final vowel is equally nasal but much rounder and longer? French ah-deh-ma' vs Canadian ah-deh-may-ng? Why can I not properly remember IPA?)
ajnabieh: The open doors of a subway/metro car, with a sign above them, reading "lilsayyidat faqat" [Ladies Only] (sayyidat faqat)
2013-09-26 09:32 am

Links, links, links...

Thank Christ someone else made a SharkNATO joke.

Given that I'm a social scientist who is now spending a reasonable amount of time pretending to be a media studies type, I should probably read this new book of analyses of single episodes of TV the way that undergrads in media studies programs are asked to do it.

I am so glad Cairo Gossip getting purchased by a larger Cairo media company didn't make it suck. Here's some snark about Haifa Wehbe that also has some vague political connotations I don't feel like unpacking.

The Egyptian government is seriously considering blocking Whatsapp and Viber? Prepare for another revolution, yanni.

I feel like someone asked me for recommendations for speculative fiction written by Middle Eastern writers. I don't know of a lot of it, but this looks good. (Also: if you don't know Saladin Ahmed's work, you should.)

There is apparently a news story going around about Tunisian women going to Syria to perform sexual services for the jihadist forces fighting there??? MuslimahMediaWatch takes it down, without dismissing the possibility that something's actually happening which is being twisted.

I haven't read the whole of this new report on Muslim-American youth media engagement, but the précis clicks well with my own observations and research. God, I gotta get my book out…
ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
2013-09-23 02:55 pm

The Daily Struggle

(manually x-posted to [tumblr.com profile] ajnabieh--can I make DW do that for me? That would be awesomesauce.)

(Also thanks to the random stranger who gave me paid time! Now I can put off buying it for a few months! \0/)

I leave post-it notes on my office door when I’m running somewhere and I think a colleague or student might swing by and I want to tell them I’ll be back, don’t leave. If I think the occasion is likely to occur again, I keep the note on the back of my door for posterity.

I noticed a difference in tone between two of them today. See if you can spot it.

ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
2013-09-20 02:29 pm

New Article! (+ hi there)

First, the fun bit: I have an article in the new (well, earlier-this-week) issue of Transformative Works and Cultures, called Fannish discourse communities and the construction of gender in The X-Files. (That was the original subtitle; the original title is a quote from one of the posts I analyze, and I'll leave you to guess which one.) I've been told it's both accessible and interesting, so there's that. I haven't had a chance to read the rest of the issue yet, but I'm looking forward to Lori Hitchcock Morimoto's piece on fan subjectivities, Shannon Farley's piece on translation theory and fanfic, Craig Norris's piece on fan pilgrimages, and Juli J. Parrish's work on metaphors and meaning. Thanks to the editors who put the edition together--it was a very professional and helpful process throughout, and I appreciated it.

And, random other things from my life:

  • The rentrée/start of the semester is always exhausting. The exhaustion amount goes up when you're teaching new preps. It goes up again when you're at a new institution. Which probably explains why I want to collapse at the end of every work day, and why all I get done on my evening commute is stare blankly at my phone.

  • That being said, I adore my commute: one bus, usually not that crowded (I get on and off far enough on either end that I've always gotten a seat, though sometimes people have to stand), one block from my house, two blocks from my office. The downside: it only comes every 20 minutes, so there's often quite a wait. Luckily I have the timing worked out for the morning commute; I'm sure I'll get better at timing the afternoon commute eventually...

  • Tasks I have managed to master conducting in French: ordering coffee, pastry, or lunch from the really epically delicious café on the first floor of my building; asking for a book I had brought from the off-site facility in the library; introducing myself at a staff meeting. Tasks I have not mastered conducting in French: understanding the full content of a multi-hour staff meeting, most of which I don't have historical context for and sometimes conducted heavily in acronyms. Tasks I have not yet mastered but have shown improvement in: elevator/hallway small talk. It's getting there.

  • Elements of Canadianness I have shown improvement in: paying with a chip card (or even by tapping); being chatty and oversharing with random strangers (I'm a New Yorker, THIS IS VERY DIFFICULT). Elements of Canadianness I have not yet shown much improvement in: understanding exactly where on the milk bag to cut and how then to pour without spilling (I think the organic milk bags from Costco are bigger than our jug); apologizing for things that are someone else's fault; understanding what it means when my thermostat reads 19.

  • Though I don't yet know if I'll do anything with it, I started a tumblr, [tumblr.com profile] ajnabieh; I figure it might be another ethnographic space for future work, who knows. BUT, the actual fun thing is that I also created a side-tumblr, [tumblr.com profile] size16skinnyjeans, for my occasional outfit blogging thing. And maybe Thinking Thoughts About Clothes In The Academy. Who knows. If you can think of critical/feminist-y/academic-y fashion blogs I should follow, or things that might be relevant to my research interests, lemme know. Or just, you know, follow me and watch me reblog things...

  • I think that's it for the moment. How are y'all?
ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
2013-09-04 11:37 am

What I'm Reading Wednesday

(Hello from my finally-set-up office! It only took the entire month of August. Do you like my new icon? I'm proud of it, even if the text is illegible--it's from here.)

What are you currently reading?
Turncoat, a mystery novel set in 1800s Upper Canada (what we now know as Ontario), which is largely about US/Canada tensions in the post-1812 period. Also murder. Helpfully, the Ottawa Public Library puts maple leaves on the spines of books of Canadian Interest, so I can go through the shelves and pick out genre reading that also will serve as acculturation! I'm also reading Transnationalism: Canada/US History in the 21st Century, which I picked up at the book exhibit at the American Political Science Association meeting this past weekend, as well as all the readings I'm setting for my classes (in US politics and political violence).

What did you recently finish reading?
Line and Orbit by [personal profile] dynamicsymmetry and, uh, I forget if their co-author has a journal to link to? This was my airplane/bedtime reading while I was at APSA . Space opera funtiemz, 10 out of 10, will read the sequels as fast as they write them. Also, I ended up falling into A Lexicon of Terror, about the Argentine Dirty War, and being unable to emerge until I'd read the whole thing, despite the fact that I decided about a chapter in that I wasn't going to be assigning any of it in my Political Violence class. It's an excellent read about horrible things.

What do you think you’ll read next?
I need to read Every Twelve Seconds, an ethnography of an industrial slaughterhouse, before the ILL due date hits, since I need to pick what I'm assigning for class. No clue what fiction will be next on the list...
ajnabieh: The Tenth Doctor, from Doctor Who, in academic robes, with the text "it are fact, I know because of my learnings." (it are fact)
2013-07-19 02:42 pm
Entry tags:

Fandom Auctions

My friend [personal profile] memories_child and I are starting a research project on fandom auctions, particularly fandom auctions to support disaster relief after specific natural disasters. The project is pretty cool, and hilarious for me since suddenly I’m doing all this freakin’ quant work (lololol I’m coding comment threads, what is my career), but I’m excited to both get the early quant data together, and to then be able to dig into the more interpretive side of the research.

At the moment, we’re limiting ourselves to 1) panfandom auctions 2) specifically focused on disaster relief for specific natural disasters, such as after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 or the Japanese earthquake/tsunami in 2011, 3) which were held on LiveJournal or Dreamwidth. I’ve found as many as I can, through following signalboosts, links, my own memory, and Fanlore, but there might be some missing. And, so, I turn to you, friendly readers. Here’s my list; do you remember or did you participate in any fandom auctions other than these? Or can you think of major auctions that don't quite fit the criteria but that we might be interested in?

[livejournal.com profile] help_haiti
[livejournal.com profile] help_chile
[livejournal.com profile] helpbrazil2011
[livejournal.com profile] help_nz
[livejournal.com profile] fandom_flood_ap
[livejournal.com profile] help_japan
[community profile] help_japan
[livejournal.com profile] help_pakistan
[livejournal.com profile] fandomaid
[livejournal.com profile] help_syria

In addition, have you ever participated in a fandom auction as a mod, a bidder, or a seller? We haven’t yet gotten to the interview phase of research yet, but if you’d be interested in talking to one of us, or if you just want to share your experiences, let me know! That would be awesome.
ajnabieh: Sign for a store reading "Hot Chick." (hot chick)
2013-07-10 05:49 pm

Arab-American Book Awards

This was my second year as a reviewer for the Arab American Book Awards, administered by the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn. Both years, I've served on the poetry committee, which means I've gotten to read a variety of really lovely poetry by contemporary Arab American poets. This year's winners have just been announced; if you like poetry, I can highly recommend both the winner and the runner up. They're very different books; Hala Alyan's Atrium is full of poems that are sharp and swift, with lovely jogs of language and incredibly piercing moments of emotion, by a new, young-ish poet. Etel Adnan's Sea and Fog, on the other hand, is two long prose-poems, with rolling language that pours over you, written by one of the great Arab-American authors of our period. Many of its phrases have stuck with me, and I found myself having to stop and take a breath quite frequently reading it--just as one does when swimming in the ocean. They were very different poetry-reading experiences, but both fabulous.

I was planning on finishing this post by offering to send some of the many, many books of Arab-American poetry I've picked up from reading for this prize to anyone who wants one...and then I discovered I've packed them already. Nonetheless! If you think you'd like a book of modern poetry sent to you in the mail in August, once I've unpacked, drop a comment here, and I'll PM you for your address once I've found them in the great un-box-en-ing. There isn't a one that I've read for the prize that I wouldn't recommend to a poetry-loving friend...like y'all.
ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
2013-07-01 09:13 am

Egyptians Abroad Join June 30 Protests

Yesterday was a major political event in Egypt; millions of people turned out on the streets to demand the resignation of the president, Muhammad Morsi. The "Tamarod" (Rebellion) campaign is an interesting case of social mobilization, and a powerful rebuke to the behavior of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of the past year; it also raises important questions about the limits and strengths of electoral democracy for determining what counts as representing "the people." That said, I don't think I, in particular, have anything to add to this conversation; I'm following Mada, the new news website from the team that used to run Egypt Independent, as well as the new Egypt Independent, and journalists on twitter like [twitter.com profile] bassem_sabry and [twitter.com profile] ghazalairshad. If people want me to do a links roundup, I'm happy to put one together.

Although I spent yesterday glued to my twitter feed following what was happening on the ground, my deepest focus was on protests by Egyptians outside of Egypt in solidarity with Tamarod. Egyptians abroad have been highly political mobilized by Egyptian politics over the past two years; the hashtag #egyabroad on Twitter is always active, presidential candidates campaigned in diaspora communities, and activists from Egypt have traveled to diaspora communities to present their work. None of my writing on these actions has come to print yet, but I generally argue that demonstrations and actions by Egyptians abroad serve to figuratively transport the diasporites participating back into their homeland, and to extend the political ground of the homeland fully into diaspora. Yesterday's protests fall into this category; the Egyptians around the world who joined in objecting to Morsi's rule were a part of the demos of Egypt, and were engaged in claiming the right to judge his policies.

Here's the list of protests I was able to count yesterday, based on what I saw on social media. I'm also including links to some of the tweets/posts with best photos of the protests.

cut for length; protests in North America, Europe, and Australia, with links to photos )

For the record, this gives me a count of at least 22 cities worldwide. I may be missing some--if you know of one I missed, leave me a comment or send me an email or tweet! But here are some preliminary analytical thoughts:

  • I had the passing thought as I looked at these of "but are there any protests in the Gulf?" And then the immediate answer, "Duh, of course not." Public protest is, if not banned, highly restricted in the Gulf states where Egyptians emigrate, and Qatar and Saudi, in particular, have been major supporters of Egypt under Brotherhood rule, which makes the possibilities for protest even smaller. But this actually is a conflicting effect. Something that my interviewees mentioned when I was in Cairo is that people who emigrate to the Gulf are different than people who emigrate to Europe or North America--they tend to care more about money and financial safety, and less about freedom and rights. They are also less highly educated and less political. Now, this might be a stereotype (and people I heard it from, who identified themselves against the type of people who go to the Gulf, themselves talked about the possibility of moving there, so obviously the idea is not exactly like the practice), but it probably also has some interesting implications for what the political engagement of Egyptians in the Gulf might be like. Another truism, this one in policy circles, is that Egyptians in the Gulf voted for Morsi, while Egyptians elsewhere voted for Shafiq (his secular but Mubarak-allied opponent). So how can we untangle suppressive protest environment, possibly different social attributes, and different political views in understanding the position of Gulf Egyptians during moments like these? If your answer is, "[personal profile] ajnabieh, that sounds like an excellent grant proposal for a research trip," you read my mind.

  • The protests that got the biggest circulation (that I saw--I obviously might be wrong) on social media were London and New York. My networks are New York-centric, though.

  • New York, Washington DC, and Los Angeles are all in the top five largest cities for Arab population [eta: in the US--I don't know about largest cities for Arab diaspora population outside the US]. The ones that are missing are Detroit and Chicago. Without going deeply into the Census data, a glace at the AAI profiles tells me neither of those cities have large Egyptian populations. That suggests this isn't a pan-Arab mobilization--it's an Egyptian mobilization, and it's only happening where there's a critical mass of Egyptians. (Even though there aren't a lot of Egyptians in either Chicago or Detroit, there are still *some.*)

  • Again, something else I've noticed in my research: Egyptians in Egypt who are themselves a part of the transnational class are promoting and circulating images of protests abroad. That picture montage I linked above the cut was posted by Bassam Youssef, the satirist, and both Egyptian Streets and Cairo Gossip had posts about protests. So Egyptians in Egypt who are politically engaged don't differentiate between diaspora action and action at home, at least not in the aggregate.

In any case, watch this space for more info as it happens...
ajnabieh: Sign for a store reading "Hot Chick." (hot chick)
2013-06-27 01:08 pm
Entry tags:

Whoo-hoo! Employment!

OK, since I now have a physical contract in my actual hands, I feel confident enough to make this announcement publicly:

I got a job!

Starting this fall, I'll be teaching at the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa. It's an awesome job and a really great department for me, because it makes room for a bunch of those attributes that make me, shall we say, a quirky job candidate. First, I'm teaching American politics, which is where a lot of my research focus is--but I'm not an "Americanist" in the sense of having been trained specifically in the study of the US only/primarily. Luckily, since this job isn't in the US, it's a chance to work on American politics within a comparative politics framework, and that's not considered unusual. Second, the department is very interested in research that incorporates normative methods, ethnography, interpretive methods, and other modes of conducting research that are less-appreciated on this side of the border--so the fact that I do that sort of work isn't a downside. It's a big department, which means the fact that I don't fit narrowly into any of the subfield boxes is OK, since they can handle having some people who bounce around, which a department of six people can't. And, finally, it's a bilingual department, offering BA, MA, and PhDs in English and French, and requiring that all its faculty teach in both languages (at least sometimes). While my French certainly isn't up to teaching-standard yet, it's an exciting challenge, and one I'm looking forward to.

My job!
an iPhone selfie photo of me standing in front of the Faculté des Sciences Sociaux/Faculty of Social Science building, University of Ottawa, with the letters FSS over my shoulder.

My family and I are gearing up to emigrate, which is both a huge production (we need a spreadsheet listing the exact contents of every box we're bringing, along with its estimated value in Canadian dollars) and not that awful (it's only 4 hours from where we live now to Ottawa, and US citizens with job offers have a remarkably easy time getting work visas). We've rented a house in the neighborhood of Westboro, and registered my son for senior kindergarten at a local school. In other news, holy crap, it's all real.

Our House!
Me, my wife, and Mr. X, who is very large now, standing outside our new house. I'm standing weird because I sprained my ankle the day before--turns out two years away from urban living is not good for your walking-everywhere ability.

Mr. X and his "Canadian Leaf Cookie."
Mr. X, whose hair is quite hilarious, experiences culinary nationalism in the form of a maple leaf cookie. He's gotten very good at pointing out when he sees those "Canadian leaves" on everything.

I can honestly say that I wasn't entirely certain I was going to get an academic job--no one is guarenteed one, not in this market, and I was realistic about my limitations, quirks, and red lines. Now that it's happened, I'm still a little dazed, and I'm not certain when it will start feeling real. (Probably just about September, I'm guessing.)

So, I'm just pleased as punch. (And freaking out about teaching classes of 45-60 undergrads. And suddenly having major-research-university research expectations.)

Is it possible to end this post without a Robin Sparkles gif? I don't think so.