ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (marxist feminist)
At my local library, they're handing out Summer Reading passports. I remember those, from elementary school on: getting checkmarks for books I read, the race to read more than anyone else (yeah, I was that kid), and then, getting older, the lists of books I had to pick from in middle school and high school, all of which were severely below my reading level, and which usually got banged out in the last week of vacation, after having spent the summer curled up with more Serious Works Of Literature. (I had a thing for John Barth in high school. Don't ask me why.)

Like most academics, I think of the summers, primarily, as time to get work done without the regular stresses of the academic year. No students, no meetings, nothing to do but read, write, and research. That's a beautiful thing--especially given that, though I had no teaching commitments this past summer, I did have a number of personal things get in the way of my work.

So I'm making a summer reading list. (And a writing list, but it's more in flux.)

On it so far are:

  • Voices of the New Arab Public,, by Marc Lynch. I am happy to report that, after having wanted to read this book since it came out in 2006, and had it out from the library since January, I have finally read it. Expect a review this week, if I'm organized.
  • Peripheral Visions: Publics, Power, and Performance in Yemen, by Lisa Wedeen. I'm a Wedeen fan in general ("fangirl" might be the more appropriate term, if you catch my drift), and I read a few chapters of this before it was published, and found them incredibly exciting. She's an excellent writer, and Yemen is certainly relevant to the news these days.
  • Democracy, Human Rights and Law in Islamic Thought, by Mohammed Abed al-Jabri. Both Lynch and Wedeen draw on Habermasian frameworks in their two books above. I've been thinking about the necessity of working through questions about the Habermasian public spheres, and about al-Jabri, who also uses public sphere frameworks. There's an article in there, and I think this set of three books is going to poke it out. Inshallah.
  • At least 1-2 recent books to write reviews of.

Why the last? Well, because there was a fairly hilarious, IMHO, piece in the most recent MESA (Middle East Studies Association) newsletter, aiming to guilt us all into writing review pieces for the Review of Middle East Studies. When I say "guilt," I mean it:

Why do we write? Is it for tenure? For the tiny audience of specialists to which we each belong? ... Or, do we write in the hope that someone, somewhere will engage with our imaged worlds? And, if so, do we not then have the responsibility to read and critique the work of others in the hope that our work will receive similar attention? ... You will tell me that we have way to much to do; that there are too few of us; that reviews are undervalued by tenure and promotion committees; that print publications are headed for the trashbin of history....Perhaps. But in the meantime, think about it.

Just for you guys, I went and got it out of the recycling bin so I could transcribe that. I hope you're amused.

The thing is, I do agree with the general point: reviews are good academic citizenship. Plus, I would like to read something new, something to remind myself that I am, actually, interested in Middle Eastern politics and Things That Are Not My Dissertation. I picked up a wide variety of things in my latest library run: an edited collection on Gulf politics and a general reader on women in the UAE to go with my mild obsession with the politics of small states, an ethnography of Moroccan garment workers that seems to be marketed to a mainstream audience, and a book on marriage and the Egyptian state, which I have a suspicion will work its way onto my fall syllabi. My plan is this: if I don't feel strongly one way or another after 50 pages, I'll put them aside. If I find them horrific and disasterous, I'll write a review. If I find them amazing and brilliant, I'll write a review.

Of course, I'm planning on doing a little of that other sort of summer reading...

summer reading

(Click through for a list of titles. I picked them up yesterday. Two of them are ready to go back already. Om nom nom, books with pictures in them.)


Any recommendations for things I should be reading this summer? In either category, *g*.

Also, it's probably a little late for this, but would any of the other academic folks on my rlist want to start a false-deadlines-and-feedback writing support group for the summer? I know there are other similar things going on in blogland, but I'd be happy to coordinate a group on DW.
ajnabieh: Sign for a store reading "Hot Chick." (hot chick)
My wife is always so pleased when it gets to be the end of the semester: "Now you're on vacation!" she says.

"No," I say. "Now I have three months to do all the work I should have been doing since January." Am I right?

In any case, the semester is over, grades are handed in, papers are returned, and I'm faced with three months of gloriously unscheduled time. Hooray! I've been putting together my personal to-do list for the summer, and it looks like this:

1. Arabic! I haven't had a serious Arabic class, um, since undergrad (no offense to the professor in my grad school classes, but two hours once a week is not sufficient to really teach a language), and my vocabulary has gradually shrunk down to a really absurd level, and my grammar is all instinct at this point. Time to get back in shape. The plan runs something like this:
  • Work my way through all of Cowen. If I do the whole book--which is only 25 lessons--I'll have run through the entirety of the basic grammar of the Arabic language. I'm three lessons in now, and do not yet have a headache.
  • Podcasts. The goal is 1-2 a week, just to keep me listening to Arabic. I'd like to catch up on ArabicPod, since I do really like those guys; I've also added a daily BBC Arabic podcast and a twice-daily World Radio Japan news podcast. (I looked at Al-Jazeera's podcats, but all of them are, like, an hour long. My brain maxes out around 15 minutes.)
  • Provided I finish Cowen, working through Advanced Media Arabic, which I bought years ago and have never had the time/energy to be dedicated to.

2. Articles! Er, my original goal was to finish revisions on the article I had accepted, get another chapter article-ized and off to a journal, and maybe work on turning a non-dissertation-related conference paper into an article. Except I finished the first two of those this week. Well, I'm doing very well on my goals, aren't I?

3. Chapters! My goal is to have a complete dissertation draft by September 1; that will require, er, a frightening lot of writing. As in, a chapter and a half, and the whole chapter still has a lot of missing fieldwork to do. But I have a plan. And a lot of vodka in the freezer. I'm sure that will help.

4. Reading! I swear, during the semester, I only read what I've assigned my students and things that are immediately relevant to what I'm working on (and very little of that). This summer, I'm aiming for big-picture reading. I've got Manuel Castells's The Politics of Identity to finish, which is related to the chapter I'm trying desperately to get done. I'm intrigued by the work of Mohammed Abed al-Jabri, and have his Democracy, Human Rights and Law in Islamic Thought out from the library. (Half-wondering if there's an article in comparing his work to Habermas's, and I haven't even read him yet.) I also have Foucault's Archeology of Knowledge that I started last summer, fell in love with, and then ran out of time to read through. But the prospect of reading Foucault on the beach makes me happy. And there will be other things that dribble through.

I've also read a lot of fiction in the past week, much of it just for fun, but some of it relevant to the topic of this blog, so look for a book post sometime in the next bit!

5. Course Design! I'm teaching a course called Gender and Politics in the Middle East in the fall. I've projected that I'll be teaching this course once a year (or maybe every other year) for the remainder of my academic career, and therefore am excited about getting to develop it for the first time. In theory. In practice, I usually find course development to be a headache, especially from scratch. So many variables! So little time! So many lacunae in my own knowledge, and yet not enough time or energy to read everything ever written on anything related to the topic!

So, what are your summer plans? Any big, interesting projects?


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

March 2016

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