ajnabieh: Robin Sparkles (character from How I Met Your Mother) in front of a red maple leaf, dancing. (canada sparkles)
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 Tenth Doctor, from Doctor Who, in academic robes, with the text "it are fact, I know because of my learnings." (it are fact)
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: The McDonalds Arch, with text in Arabic reading "ماكدونالدز مصر"/makdunaldz masr/McDonalds Egypt. (ماكدونالدز)
So, I leave for Egypt in three days. Pretty much my entire brain is chanting MASR MASR MASR MASR MASR MASR all the time; it would be annoying if it weren't so all-consuming. But, as things are starting to slot into place, I thought I'd do a couple of posts on what, precisely, the working political scientist-slash-ethnographer brings with her to go somewhere to do research. With the caveat that 1) I'm only going for two weeks, 2) I'm staying in a big city (Africa's biggest city, actually) and in a decent hotel, so I'll have resources available...

Here's what I'm bringing:


notes on what you see here, and what you don't )

As well as all of the physical stuff, there's also a lot of digital stuff I'm bringing with me...


probably the level of dependent I am on this particular rectangular prism of plastic is not healthy )

So, beloved readers, techies and fieldwork-conductors: what am I missing? What do you bring when you head into the field?

(And, off topic, but: I'm changing planes in Amsterdam with a longish layover, and am meeting some friends for lunch at Centraal Station--anyone have recommendations for things to do near there when you've only got 5 hours and some massive jetlag?)
ajnabieh: Palestinian flag in front of billboard for the movie Prince of Persia.   (prince of persia)
I'm happily back from WPSA, which was a blast; for folks like me, who work in odd corners of the field of political science, it's a tremendously productive place to have conversations that can be difficult to have in larger poli sci conferences. I sat around and talked about how to integrate queer theory into interpretive methodologies! There were multiple panels on feminist theoretical concerns per timeslot! It was awesome! Also, San Antonio is a fun place to be, so there was that.

As planned, we recorded our session, called "It's Not Facebook, It's Fieldwork! Conducting Interpretive Research Using Social Networking Technology." It's largely a conversation between myself and Renee Cramer of Drake University; we had one other participant, who didn't identify himself for the audio, but who made some great contributions. (My sister also gamely showed up, though she doesn't appear on the tape.)

The conversation was incredibly productive; Renee and I found a lot of common problems and reasons for turning to social networks to gather data, and I think made some productive comparisons. (Although, my favorite moment was the exchange "Have you found a better way to save data than to just copy it into Word?" "Nope." "Dammit.") In addition, I got to highlight the work that fan scholars are doing in changing how we think about citation and data-gathering on the internet; acafandom has done some impressive critical work that I think has ramifications for all of us doing research in online environments, and I'm glad to be able to share that.

The audio is just under an hour long; I haven't prepared a transcript yet, though I'm hoping to do so eventually. It's available for download on my mediafire page here, in m4a format. I've tried to edit the metadata in iTunes so that it has our names and my contact info; let's hope that works.

Please feel free to pass the file or this post along to anyone you know who would find it useful!

(PS: I know I did stuff for 3W4DW last year, but, well, since I don't crosspost anywhere, I didn't really know what to do this time. Anybody have particular things they want me to do? Go on and ask; if I get a chance, I'll be happy to!)
ajnabieh: The text "don't ask me, I'm a grad student." (grad student)
I don't think any of you are located in San Antonio, Texas, or happen to be attending the Western Political Science Association meeting there next week, but, well, I want a stable URL to direct people to about this panel, so here goes!

Next Thursday, April 21, at 8AM, I and Renee Cramer of Drake University will be running a roundtable called "It's not Facebook, It's Fieldwork! Conducting Interpretive Research Using Social Networking Technology." We'll be talking about both practical and epistemological issues with using social networking tech as part of our research, whether as fieldsite, source of connections, or as a set of texts to be studied. Renee's research focuses around midwifery and motherhood discourse, and she uses Facebook to follow groups and recruit interview subjects; I work on the Arab community in New York City, and use Facebook to maintain connections with institutions and individuals from my fieldwork. (I also have a sideline in acafandom, which is clearly all about the online social networks.)

If you can't make the roundtable, but are interested in the material, we plan on making an audio or video recording of it, and distributing it afterward, so that other people can use it as a resource. I'll post it here when it's done.

And, to make this a not-totally-pointless post for my DW friends, here's a question: what counts as a "social networking technology" in your minds? Is DW such a technology?

For my fellow academics, do you think about social networking as something that plays into your research or career trajectory, or is it something entirely other? Something I'm puzzling through for this panel is the public/private distinction, which is radically eradicated by using a "personal" technology for "professional" purposes--lots of my research "subjects," for instance, know about my son's hilarious opinions on vegetables, and the terrible pop music I listen to while editing srs bznz chapters about their lives. That would seem to change the research process in some way--but I'm not yet entirely sure how.
ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (marxist feminist)
I have an ethical proposition:

If you're incapable of having sympathy for someone you're writing about--don't write about them.

Amazingly, this post isn't inspired by the recent fandom-explosion on the topic of racism and inappropriate uses of tragedy in fanfic. (If you haven't seen this, and are interested, ask away and I'll point you to the right places. It's train-wrecky to the extreme.) It's inspired by a book I just finished reading, that, for obvious reasons, I'll refrain from mentioning by name. The book is very useful to me, because it includes data on a topic I'm working on, in a time period I both wasn't personally around to see, and from a different perspective than the other things I've seen. But about twice a page, I come across a statement that makes my jaw drop--that makes me think, "Did ze really just write that?!?!?"

It's not that the statements are out-and-out *ist (where * is the identity of the folks being studied--obviously you can make a good guess based on my work). It's more that the author, as a general principle, seems to feel that the assessments that those who are politically active in the community make are "alleged" or "supposedly." Moderates "believe," while more radical groups "feel" their political conclusions. One group faces "exploitation," the other "mistreatment." They "drape their causes in the mantle" of the ideologies they use, or find it a "convenient position," rather than actually believing those ideologies are useful to explain their political problems. A group is "in principle secular and democratic," which seems to imply that they would cease to be such in practice. A particular cause is central because "clinging to [it] is comforting," not because it's an important political issue that had broader political support than any other issue. The trend here is to devalue the political opinions held by members of the group under study, to subtly suggest they're the result of paranoia, misperceptions, un-American values, or perhaps even conspiracy.

It's clear the author has a preference for which political tactic these groups should take. I don't share that preference. Nevertheless, I don't begrudge hir that preference; of course we all have political preferences on the political questions we study. If we didn't, we wouldn't be political scientists, or even political beings. But I do begrudge that, rather than stating this preference outright, the author undermined the alternate argument throughout the text. I do begrudge that the alternate viewpoints aren't given the respect of a thorough treatment. I do begrudge that the bias in the text goes entirely unmarked.

I'll admit that I had a very uncharitable reaction to the text. In particular, my response was "I should never read texts about [ethnopolitical identity A] by someone with [ethnopolitical identity B]." But that's crap, and I know it: I know plenty of people of [ethnopolitical identity B] who've written brilliant stuff on [ethnopolitical identity A]. Sometimes I disagree with it, but it's worth reading. This isn't a problem of identity, really--it's a problem of crappy writing.

I think the root of this problem is the inability to have sympathy with the subject of one's writing. Not sympathy in the meaning of pity--not to feel sorry for one's research/writing subjects--but sympathy in the sense of being able to understand what they're feeling, and looking to see their perspective. To represent what is thought, and felt, and argued, and believed heartily by the people you are writing about: this is what we are called to, as writers of fiction, as writers of nonfiction, as researchers studying human beings, whether contemporarily or historically, through their actions or their texts.

I've been doing fieldwork on the Arab-American community in New York for two years now (sidenote: TWO YEARS? REALLY? *boggles*). I don't agree with everyone I've worked with, every cause I've documented, every political perspective I've written about. I've attended protests and organizing meetings for groups whose politics I agree with only in part. But that doesn't mean I'm exempted from explaining what their politics means to them, and what claims to validity it has. If I also, either at the same time or in a different piece of writing, want to lay out my objections to their politics, I may do so--and I should do so clearly, and in an aboveboard manner. But to dismiss them so casually through my writing is to do poor research.

Manuel Castells, in his book The Power of Identity, writes the following:

[S]ocial movements must be understood in their own terms: namely, they are what they say they are. Their practices (and foremost their discursive practices) are their self-definition. This approach takes such away fromthe hazardous task of interpreting the 'true' consciousness of movements, as if they could only exist by revealing the 'real' structural conditions. As if, in order to come to life, they could necessarily have to bear these contradictions, as they bear their weapons and brandish their flags. A different, and necessary, research operation is to establish the relationship between the movements as defined by their practice, their values, and their discourse, and the social processes to which they seem to be associated.

This is my guiding principle for studying social movements: to document them as they understand themselves, first and foremost, and unpack their discourses in order to understand them. We aren't duty-bound to only study movements, communities, and subjects we agree with fully. We are duty-bound to represent our objects of study so that they might recognize themselves, and not feel dismissed, denigrated, or ignored in works that are intended to explain them to others--even if they disagree with our conclusions.


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

March 2016

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