ajnabieh: Robin Sparkles (character from How I Met Your Mother) in front of a red maple leaf, dancing. (canada sparkles)
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)
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)
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: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
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: A seagull standing on a "no seagulls" sign, with the text FIGHT THE POWER (fight the power seagull)
Inspired by [personal profile] nanila and the Ten Hundred Words of Science tumblr, I wrote a description of my research interests using the Up-Goer 5 text editor:

I went to school to study how people live together and make their lives together good or bad. I wrote a book about how people from a far away place do this in the large city where I lived. I studied how they said things and had ideas about how to live together with people who are different. Sometimes people do not listen to what different people have to say about how they should live together and what is right. I wrote a book to talk about how to listen to each other better when we are different and like different things.

Now I work with people studying how the people who set things up make sure that all the people have the things they need, like houses and water and food. People have a right to these things that they need, but not all people who set things up write down that they have this right. I study how this works in the far away place where the people from my first book are from. The way that the people who set things up get money to set things up and the way that they have set things up to work makes different things happen with writing down the rights people have.

I am also studying people who move between the place where I live and the far away place talk about different things for how to set things up. I want to know how moving between these places changes their thoughts about what is good and what is bad in how their places should be set up.

Sometimes I am a teacher (but not right now). I talk with young people about how people set things up and how they have ideas about how to set things up. I want those young people to think hard about the right way to set things up, and how different ways to set things up hurt or help other people. I want them to know better when to say yes or no to ideas about how to set things up. I also want them to like to read and write and think about these things, because I like to read and write and think about these things, too!

I wasn't able to work out any way to explain the Middle East in the Up-Goer 5 lexicon, but I'm pretty satisfied with "people who set things up" as a substitute for "government," and "how people live together and make their lives together good or bad" for "political science." I couldn't use the word "rules." It was challenging.

Your turn!
ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
Today, in my Intro to Feminist Political Theory class, we made internet memes and captioned photographs as a way of exploring (and hopefully communicating) some of the concepts we've talked about in class this semester.

Why do this exercise? I've got two motivations. The first is that, if you can figure out how to communicate a concept using an ironic collision of image and text, when you don't have a lot of space or a large number of signs to work with, then you actually are demonstrating mastery of the concept. Second, one of the key lines from one of our texts, was when bell hooks exhorted her readers to make a feminist intervention where they are. These funny images are a way of making an intervention; they provide a way to engage with the world, hopefully on the terrain of humor, in a way that cuts through barriers to feminist thought.

I've uploaded a bunch of them to an album here. And, under the cut, here are some of my favorites--the ones that made me, the boring prof, LOL.

From memes from pol 175

Ordinary Muslim Guy, Condescending Wonka, and Others )

ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (marxist feminist)
I'm looking for people who use feminist ideas and feminist theory in their professional lives to talk to my feminist theory class--people who work in an area that is directly related to gender, women's issues, social transformation, or the feminist movement, or people who use a feminist/queer ethical base to drive their work. (And I'm open to any kind of feminism or critical encounter with gender as a social category--in fact, I'd like to hear from people who do things that don't match up neatly to contemporary mainstream American feminism.) Doesn't matter if you're not US-based. If you think this is you, and you'd be willing to record a five minute video for my students about what you do and how it interfaces with feminism, let me know, via PM, email, or comment here--I'd love to bring your voice to my class!

(For the record: it's an intro level feminist political theory class; we've read bell hooks on the feminist movement, Susan Moller Okin on justice and families, Fatima Mernissi on the public/private divide and Muslim social order, Wendy Brown on freedom and post-modernity, and Michael Warner on queer opposition to "normality" and alternate ethical visions. Most students haven't taken previous course work in women's/gender studies, or in political theory.)
ajnabieh: Sign for a store reading "Hot Chick." (hot chick)
Today I started teaching Michael Warner's The Trouble With Normal, a queer argument against gay marriage and other campaigns for normalization in LGBT political life--and for the abolition of sexual shame, and its replacement with a sexual morality that is not moralizing. [Google Books (preview available); Wikipedia entry (has a good summary)]

So naturally it was drag day in class.

Photo on 2012-04-04 at 11.14

I also publicly held myself up as the "right" sort of gay: married, monogamous, breeding, highly educated, white, religious.

I even wear suits.

Photo on 2012-04-04 at 11.15 #2

After all, aren't all of my teaching outfits drag, of one kind or another?
ajnabieh: Sign for a store reading "Hot Chick." (hot chick)
My spring break began *checks watch* OK, technically it won't begin until my office hours are over, but that's not the point. SPRING BREAK, that's the point. Anyway, I wanted to share two things I did this week, because I thought they were both funny, and you might be amused. In both of my classes, students had papers due at the last class before spring break, and no reading assigned, so I decided we might as well enjoy ourselves (hopefully while learning something).

First, in intro to comparative politics, I played dress-up.


(description: a posterboard crown, reading "Lord High Sandalwhag of Khwollop, on my head)

If your first response is to tell me I spelled it wrong, a) yes, I know, but I listen to it on audiobook more than I read it and b) free pangalactic gargle blasters, on the house.

We were at the hinge point where we move from studying concepts of comparative politics to doing case studies, so I decided that clearly the best move was to dress up as the benevolent dictator of a fictional country, tell the class they were a consulting firm, distribute topics we'd discussed in class, and ask them to give me advice. For the record, Khwollop is an island archipelago off the coast of a continent, it has abundant agricultural resources, probably good mineral resources (undeveloped), and no modern educational system, it has three major religious groupings, and two major ethnic groups (one majority ethnic group with a religious split, and an ethnoreligious minority), and rule has historically been through the Sandalwhag, a hereditary position, who is advised by two bodies, a council of elders drawn from all three religions and a Sandalwhag's council made up of members of the majority religion. (If you have recognized this as fake!Indonesia, well, you're wrong; it's fake!Malaysia.)

The students had fun, both laughing at me for wearing a crown and advising me to build an army, develop domestic capacity so Khwollop won't be taken advantage of on the international economy, to build an elected parliament that assures representation from all ethnoreligious groups (possibly along the Westminster model), and to encourage economic development through education and robust social services. Under their guidance, I have great faith that Khwollop with grow peacefully and well.

As for my feminist political theory class, well, they met this morning, at 10AM on the Friday spring break starts, so we took it very easy. We watched Jane Austen's Fight Club (let me know if there are geographical restrictions on that, and I can find another link), Women's Suffrage Bad Romance, read a bunch of Feminist Ryan Goslin and Feminist Harry Potter, and talked about the feminist uses of parody. I think I may make the students come up with a feminist political theory macro project by the end of the semester...

If you've got a spring break coming up, or that's just ending, I hope it was/will be productive and pleasant! I've got two article revisions to finish, about sixty papers to grade, and hopefully some lovely weather to play with my kid in. Sounds like it's gonna be awesome.
ajnabieh: A seagull standing on a "no seagulls" sign, with the text FIGHT THE POWER (fight the power seagull)
Are you living in, from, or an academic/other expert on one of these countries?
  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • Germany
  • Russia
  • China
  • Mexico
  • Iran
  • India
  • South Africa
  • Nigeria

Want to help me teach my students more about international politics?

In my introductory comparative politics course, I like giving my students materials beyond the textbook to give them a sense of what politics is actually like in the countries we're studying. Last semester, this included Skype interviews with friends of mine who were politically involved there, showing short videos in class, and analyzing political speeches and documents. But I want more! (Especially more interviews!)

If you have an idea for a good political video or document to talk about in class, I'd love to see links. And, if you're in/from one of these places, I'd love to have you either Skype into class (8:35 AM Eastern Time either Monday or Wednesday, depending on the country) or record a video of yourself answering a few questions about political culture and issues in your country. Unfortunately it would have to be in English. You can comment here, PM me, or email me (wills at hws dot edu) if you're interested--I'm always looking for ideas!

Things I've used before... )
ajnabieh: Happy woman with broom: FIGHT ALL THE OPPRESSIONS; same woman, dejected, "Fight ALL the oppresssions?" (ALL the oppressions?)
[Details hopefully made abstract enough]

A student in your class says something, without intending malice, that drastically misrepresents the experience of an oppressed group of people they are not a member of, and is pretty clearly false on examination of the content of it. This statement is kind of incidental to a larger comment. (Not the example, but: "Now that gay marriage is legal, there is no discrimination against gay people; therefore, we should focus on migrants' rights, because they are really important" in the context of a conversation about migrants' rights.)

A member of the oppressed group, who has never previously spoken in class, gets a did you really say that absurdly stupid thing look on hir face, and looks directly at the professor, as if to say did I hear that right? Is zie for real?

As the professor, do you:

A) Call on the student making the face, and ask hir, "What do you think of what was just said?" and allow them to make the argument against it.
B) Let it slide, since it's tangential, and go after the main point of the argument.
C) Say something noncombative that manages to convey that the absurdly wrong thing is not true, but tries to salvage the student's point.
D) Tell the student directly that "whoa, that was a really awful thing you said, how can you believe that?"
E) Hope a student raises hir hand to tell the first student "whoa, that was a really awful thing you said, how can you believe that?"


I went with option C, for a variety of reasons. First, option B strikes me as the wrongest possible choice; it would tell the student making the face that the professor is not hir ally, and would allow the offensive thing to exist in the classroom as if it were true, and option E is close, since it, again, says I'm not an ally, and also runs the risk of turning into B when no one raises a hand. So the choice is A, C, or D. Option D might work for some people (I have a colleague who yells at her students when they say racist things, which, since she teaches about race, is a lot), but it's not my style; I'm not a confrontational personality. There's also the fact that I prioritize getting students comfortable with expressing opinions in my class, and being able to make arguments about our subject matter. I want them to be comfortable going out on a limb and trying to say something when they don't get the whole concept. I also want to be able to show them that, even if what they say is kind of incoherent, there's an argument or an idea within it that can be extracted.

Option A, on the other hand, would focus on getting the student making the face in a position to be able to say "what you said, it isn't true, and here's why," which is a valuable tactic and skill for someone wanting to argue back against sedimented power structures. But it would have forced hir to do it, without volunteering. It also would have said, "You, person in group X: explain the group X position on this issue." I, on the other hand, am again the ally here, and I do think that's important to show students.

So, I went with C, in the hopes of both letting the student who said the thing know that there was an idea worth salvaging in it, and in letting the student making the face know that zie wasn't alone. "Now, it's not actually true that discrimination against LGBT people has gone away, but you're saying that, if it's possible to change laws so that LGBT people get rights that had been denied to them, then we should be able to change laws to get migrants rights as well." The student who had made the face nodded vigorously, and I smiled at hir in a way that intended to say I know, can you believe it? Some people are clueless.

I'm reasonably sure that option C was the right choice for me, but I'm curious what others would have done--or if there are other options I didn't see here.
ajnabieh: Happy woman with broom: FIGHT ALL THE OPPRESSIONS; same woman, dejected, "Fight ALL the oppresssions?" (ALL the oppressions?)
I have the pleasure of teaching a lot of intro courses this year. (I'm not being fascetious here; I legitimately like teaching intro courses.) The writing of a syllabus for an introduction to a field is always odd: there's certain material that "must" be covered, certain material that I might find impossible to leave out, and a whole range of other options that tantalize.

One of the challenges I face in introductory classes is presenting a diverse view of political science as a field. Some of this diversity means presenting different points of view and methods of doing political science. But another element of it is teaching that lots of different people can be political scientists, and can do work that needs to be taken seriously. That means paying attention to the identities of scholars and the topics covered in readings.

The narrative of political science as a field is depressingly white-male centric. This isn't poli sci's problem alone--the Western academy is a story of white men writing about other white men. But, particularly because I teach about world politics, the implication may quickly become that only white men have the right to understand the world--and that they understand it better, from their perspective in the West, than anyone actually living out there in the world could. That's not an implication I want to offer any support to. Therefore, I go out of my way to assign work by scholars of color, scholars from outside the US and Europe, and female scholars.

(Except that I also teach courses about gender and politics, where the majority of the literature is by women. I make an effort to assign texts by men in my feminist classes, because I want to make clear that male intellectuals have a stake in the analysis of gender, and that my male students can be feminists too. I haven't yet found texts that fit my assignment needs by people who identify outside the gender binary or as trans, so suggestions here would be excellent, if you have any.)

Since it can be hard to find scholars who fit into the underepresented categories whose work can be easily integrated into the framework of an introductory class, I wanted to put up a list of the readings I've assigned, in case others would find it useful, and to look for suggestions from others.

Without further ado, here's who I teach:

Texts by people of color and women appropriate for introductory comparative politics courses )

Now, to point out the elephant in the room: my, that is a lot of things by white women and men of color! Apparently, the classic book title from 1982 remains true. So, in the future, I'm on the lookout for work by women of color that would fit into my syllabus, as it stands, at least.

In any case, I'm glad I've got some tiny semblance of diversity in my syllabus; I haven't done the math, but I still have a white-dude heavy reading list. And it's not like my students notice very much--I get a lot of people referring to Pitkin as "he," and many of them may not pick up on ethnic and racial clues in names unless I point them out. But, well--fail better, I suppose.

(And if you're curious: in my feminist political theory intro class, we're reading two women of color, one of whom isn't from the US, two white American women, and one white American man. Two of the five are queer-identified. Slightly better there, I think.)


Feb. 14th, 2012 09:57 am
ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
I don't know which I find more upsetting: this long list of tweets and Facebook statuses announcing that Kids These Days (tm) don't know who Paul McCartney is, or this long list of tweets wherein people announce how much they'd like to be brutally physically abused by a famous r&b singer. I mean, the latter is much, much wronger, but I actually expect people to have totally awful thought processes about domestic violence. Whereas I assume they know who the goddamn Beatles are.


One of the things I love about teaching is the moment when your students think things totally orthogonal to what you think, and it opens up a new train of thought. We were talking about long distance nationalism, also sometimes called transnational migration, with my seminar students. Now, long distance nationalism is crucial to a lot of my research on diaspora communities and their politics--but my students are now working through this idea, and they had all sorts of interesting objections to the concept, particularly its normative foundations. I still think that diaspora political engagement is both natural and politically useful, but it was still great to work with them through their ideas. tl;dr teaching is fun.


Dean Dad reported that Arizona is considering two bills, one of which would effectively demand affirmative action for conservatives in higher ed hiring, and the other of which would mandate the use of "G-rated" language. Dead Dad spends most of his time taking apart the absurdity of the first, but I found myself more caught up with the idea of the second. Partially this is because I'm someone who uses YouTube videos of Eddie Izzard routines to teach world politics ("Hitler never played RISK as a kid" is an incredibly useful teaching tool). Partially because I see in this an attack on gender studies, among the many things this could be an attack on: I definitely said the word vagina on the first day of my feminist political theory class. Probably a few times. Not to mention that explaining the sex/gender dichotomy without being able to say the word sex would be, you know, hard.


I have discovered a circle of hell Dante could not have anticipated: translating tweets. Seriously, you've got 140 characters, nonstandard syntax and spelling, use of colloquialisms, huge variation in transliteration techniques when they've been transliterated, and, of course, frequent typos. (It took me literally fifteen minutes to figure out that تسعمية was تسع مية, which is a difference of precisely one space. And I only got it because of context.) The amount of time I have spent sorting through these lately has both given me a headache, and reminded me how much I like translating. In small doses, at least.


I should have something to say about Syria. I don't. Because sometimes thing are just so horrible that there's nothing to say.
ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (marxist feminist)
Has it really been that long? Well, my end of semester, like most academics', was packed. Once my grades were turned in, it didn't really get any easier, since I had to finish the final revisions on my dissertation and get it uploaded to ProQuest. However, that is now over--that's right, it's Dr. [personal profile] ajnabieh these days--and I don't have any papers to return until, ugh, Monday, so I guess I can spare a moment for the interwebs.

This semester's teaching is going well; both of my lecture courses are packed, and the students seem at least minimally engaged. (We'll see how they did on today's geography quiz, and on Friday's critical source analyses, I suppose!) I am realizing, slowly, that I can't expect undergraduate students to understand the whole breadth of things "the state" does already, so I have to, you know, explain what tax and divorce policy have to do with the politics of sex and gender (spoiler: everything), rather than them coming up with it on their own. My seminar was so small it almost got cancelled, but it's grown to a good size (5 students), and I'm quite excited to teach it.

My research is also headed in some interesting places--or at least I think they are! In particular, I've been experimenting with Storyful to organize and record data I'm collecting from Twitter on diaspora advocacy for revolutionary transitions in the Arab world. You can see the three Storyfuls I've published so far here; I think the one on Mohja Kahf is particularly interesting. As a corrollary to this, my interest in how we engage politically in online spaces, and what the methodological challenges to studying politics in digital worlds are, has only grown; so, you know, expect me to ramble about this at y'all at some point in the future. (Has anyone read any of the literature on digital ethnographies? Any suggestions?)

What else? Not much. Oh, I have a bunch of images stacked up for posts, both about food, because, well, what else do I write about? And, if you're at all interested in good indie music from the Middle East and North Africa, Mideast Tunes has been providing the soundtrack to my work life lately. I can particularly recommend Hana Malhas, who has a lovely singer-songwriter vibe in both Arabic and English, and Meen, a hip and funky combo with a lot of energy in their songs. They also seem to highlight metal music from the region, so, if that's your bag, there's plenty there for you!

And with that, I leave you--with fashion posts. Since trivial!fashion!blogging is, really, what I excel at.

professorial fashion, or lack thereof )
ajnabieh: The text "don't ask me, I'm a grad student." (grad student)
I was talking to someone about my fall course recently. Like many end-stage graduate students, I am currently more than a little burned out, especially when contemplating the potent mix of dissertation-completing, teaching, and job-hunting that will be consuming my life for the next, oh, six to nine months. "The nice thing," I said about my fall class, "is that, if I run out of time for prep, I can pretty much stand up in front of the class and bullshit about gender and politics in the Middle East [the title of the class] for 110 minutes without any problem."

"It's not bullshit," my interlocutor said. "It's that you actually know what you're talking about."


Over my recent vacation, my father expressed interest in my dissertation. I offered to let him read a chapter (well, a part of a chapter that I just article-ized) on my Kindle, and handed it over. He handed it back, with six pages of hand-written typo corrections and suggestions for cleaning up the language, and then we sat down to talk about the infuriating Hannah Arendt quote I used as my epigraph. (I chose it because, in the context of my chapter, it is so obviously wrong it makes one want to scream.) I started going off on Arendt's particular use of the notion of the political, and how her position is fundamentally insupportable, just ranting, really, and, behind me, I heard my twelve year old nephew ask my wife if I always talk like this. "Just when she's teaching," my wife said. "That's her teacher voice."


Some people worry about turning into their mothers; Lord knows I do. But I realized recently that I'm turning into my professors. In fact, a friend pointed out that my current styling in the classroom is deeply reminiscent of one of my favorite instructors in college, a recent PhD who hung around for a year teaching, and on whom I had a massive, massive crush. (Hey! She was hot and butch and spoke more than one Southeast Asian language! I was helpless!)

I realize now I'm only a year behind where she was.

I wonder if, when she sat at the head of that round seminar table and waved her hands around, she was as terrified as I am every time I walk into the classroom.

I wonder if every argument she made, she was worried that there was someone in the room who would call her on it, would take her down for it.

I wonder if the obvious fangirling of her that I and some of my friends did gave her the same sort of warm fuzzy feeling that I get every time one of my students friends me on Facebook.

I wonder if the reason she so vigorously kept things (like her political affiliations, and her queerness) as far away from the classroom as she did (much to my frustration) was because it was another sort of danger.

I wonder if she had to fight the desire to smile every time we called her professor, because, God, I'm the professor now.


How do we decide when we are bullshitting, and when we are experts? This is the moment when impostor syndrome is at its most powerful, when we are totally unsure whether this thing we do is a fluke or because we really have mastered the material we've covered. Once you're at this stage, there isn't anybody left to give you clear marks on your work, to tell you that you're doing it right or wrong. I don't know if I'm an A student anymore; there are no more As, and that is a terrifying revelation, isn't it?

So the only thing to do is go forward. Put your head up. Send your articles to journals and pretend like doing so doesn't make you want to cry. Don't show weakness, because students are sharks and blood in the water is a scary, scary thing. Wear your sternest suit and make sure you've got things planned out. And know that every time you cross that threshold, it's not the students you have to prove your worth to; most of them have assumed it, because your name was next to the course title.

It's you. You need to know you deserve it. You need to prove it to yourself.
ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (awda times square)
(I made myself some more icons. And yet this one came out blurry. :( Oh well.)

When I was creating the syllabus for the course I taught this semester, The Middle East in Diaspora, I struggled to find syllabi for similar courses online. Therefore, I'm putting my entire reading list online, for other scholars to be able to find later and refer to.

Here's the course description:

Migrant communities bring the politics of their homelands with them into the diaspora and create new political realities in the countries that receive them. This course traces how immigrant groups tied to the Middle East are engaged politically outside their countries of origin. What sorts of transnational political linkages have they made, and what effects do these connections have on politics back home? What sorts of communities have been built in the diaspora, and how do these communities interact with the politics of their new homes? Cases include Turks in Germany, Arabs in France, and the Israeli, Iranian, and Arab communities in the United States.

Functionally, it was a course on Arab-Americans, with comparisons made to France and, to a lesser extent, Germany. This was largely a function of my own background and linguistic competence (I speak French and not German). The last four weeks' topics were determined by the students via a poll; I wouldn't have taught the section on elections, though when I tried to find research for it I got incredibly mad about the lack of good literature on the topic.

I ordered two books for my class: Bakalian and Bozorgmehr's Backlash 9/11, and Stephen Salaita's The Uncultured Wars. If I were doing it again, I might make them buy Louise Cainkar's Homeland Insecurity as well, because I really like it, and, as you can see, we read a decent chunk of it. All other readings are given in full citation format.

14 weeks of readings on Middle Eastern migrant communities in the West )

If any of my readers are interested in any of these readings, I have most of them scanned, and can pass them along. Or if you have suggestions for future iterations, I'd love to hear them!
ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (3w4d)
As a teacher, I'm always struggling to figure out good assignments that will cause my students to think, engage with the material, explore their own interests, and, hopefully, present me with papers that won't bore me out of my goddamned skull while I'm reading them. (In case you didn't know, most professors consider grading the single most awful thing we do for our paychecks. I don't know, I think scanning articles for uploading is worse; occasionally papers are interesting.)

This semester, I gave my students an annotated bibliography assignment. Twice during the semester, they have to find 10 sources having to do with Middle Eastern diasporic communities, write a properly-formatted bibliographic entry for them, and then a short paragraph about how the material relates to class. A source could be anything--an event, a blog post, a YouTube video, a book.

I got a huge number of interesting sources from the students in their first round of assignments. From my perspective, this assignment worked--the students learned (mostly) how to use Chicago style to cite sources (a big problem in my previous classes), they read and watched other interesting things about Middle Eastern diasporas, and now I have a bunch of cool recommendations to read for later. I'll have to ask the students if they liked it, but this one might be a keeper for future classes.

(Incidentally, my attempt to do response papers was a total failure, as most of the class simply hasn't turned them in. Folks who are/were in American universities and colleges as undergrads: are several short response papers (2-3 pages) a part of your experience of humanities and social science classes? What types? I'm mystified by the fact that my students don't seem to understand that they have to do them.)

Here are some of the highlights from the assignment. From my students' computers to yours!

graphic novels, interviews, and YouTube videos )


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

March 2016

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