Visiting Pakistan

I’ve been in Pakistan for a week now.

It’s delightful to see family and friends when I visit Pakistan. Still, I can’t help always getting a little overwhelmed with having so many people in my life all the time. Much of my regular workdays in the US are spent alone – as in, not in close contact with anyone, and any contact is usually of limited duration and depth. When I am here in Pk, and am trying to arrange each daily schedule with invitations, visits, tailor-visits (not to mention work), I find myself lacking the emotional stamina and mental focus to keep it all together.

I think I sometimes come across as a little cold because I will not do multiple visits a day, and I am trying not to go out in the devastating heat almost at all. But I confess that my focus is on work and, most of all, my parents. If I end up outdoors and busy with visits too often, I will end up neglecting them, so I keep my engagement calendar busy but not too busy. Inevitably, I will offend a few people in the process. 

New Creative Section in Anthropology of Education Quarterly!

Delighted to re-post from Sally Campbell Galman’s blog on a new development in the top journal in Anthropology and Education, Anthropology & Education Quarterly, where Prof. Galman is Editor and I am Associate Editor.

 

Send us your art!olbannerleft

Call for Papers – Ethnographic Short Fiction, Poetry and Creative Non-Fiction

Anthropology and Education Quarterly

 Anthropology and Education Quarterly (AEQ) is seeking ethnographic short fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction for a new creative section of the journal focused on alternative productions and representations of anthropological work in education.
The field of anthropology is rooted in the search for multiple truths. Stories (Bell, 2003; Solinger, Fox, & Irani, 2008; Yosso, 2006) and poems (Maynard & Cahmann-Taylor, 2010) provide avenues for scholars to make sense of their findings, honor the traditions and experiences of marginalized communities, explore the tensions of researcher positionality, and trouble the authority of knowledge(s) and its representations. Furthermore, creative approaches to anthropological production can open the otherwise closed space of the academy, communicating findings in ways that provoke both thought and action among the wider public. 
Submissions should draw on rich, rigorously collected ethnographic data. Additionally, they should represent high literary quality. Short fiction and creative non-fiction should be no longer than 5000 words, and poetry should be limited to 1-3 poems. Please include biographical information in a separate cover letter so that the work itself remains blind for review. Please submit to aeq@educ.umass.edu. Submissions will be considered on a rolling basis, and will be accepted or rejected but will not receive reviewer comments.

A new legacy on campus

Please check out my new article at the Ask Big Questions blog!

“Recent comments by Donald Sterling and Cliven Bundy force us to acknowledge that America has a long, long way to go in embracing its diversity. On campuses, blackface andnoose incidents, the Phyllis Wise Twitter affair, and numerous other news-of-the-week stories demand we take a good hard look at campuses. It is clear that campuses, which are mirrors of American public life, are not what they should be. …” 

 

 

‘Just right’ British gender: J.K. Rowling and Enid Blyton

beauxbaton23

My bedtime reading these days is ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.’ A few weeks ago, I was (re)reading ‘Last Term at Malory Towers.’

For those of you who do not live in a time warp, the latter is by an extremely prolific British author, Enid Blyton, who published between the 1920s and the 1960s. If you have read Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers and St. Clare’s series, Harry Potter’s dorm stories with their focus on school discHp4gf_029Durmstrangipline, food, and social relations will ring familiar. When I was growing up in Pakistan, Enid Blyton’s books were all the rage. I consumed them hungrily (though my English teacher cautioned us that they were not particularly well-written).

Anyway, in ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,’ we meet the visiting foreign students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. Beauxbatons students are hyperfeminized (in the film, all vila) while the Durmstrang kids are hypermasculine, gruff, and dark (I mean, Malfoy almost went there). Beauxbatons is, of course French, while Durmstrang is somehow Northern European.

The British students at Hogwarts, however, possess a ‘just right’ gender quotient. Sensible nerdy Hermione and tough hex-queen Ginny sniff at the feminine wiles of Fleur Delacour. Ron and Harry are uncomfortably weirded out by Victor Krumm’s “grumpy” good looks and lack of humor. The Hogwarts / British students are perfectly balanced in the middle. The men have eyebrows that are not terribly noticeable and the women are not excessively attractive. Just right.

Enid Blyton, mostly writing in the 1930s-1950s, uses American and French characters as foils to the perfect British balance of third-year-at-malory-towers
gendered culture. The American Zerelda Brass (Third Year at Malory Towers) is obsessed with her appearance, wears (gasp) makeup, hates sports, dislikes getting sweaty and muddy in the lacrosse field, and looks forward to a career as a famous film actress. The English girls, with their rough and ready ways, their forthright (um, rude?) manners, and their sensible, tomboyish ways are shocked and amused by their American friend. Zerelda means well, but she gets into a lot of trouble until she learns to become “sensible.” The unscrupulous, funny, mischievous French students (Claudine, for example, in St Clare’s) must also learn English and sports (and that “English sense of honour”).

Gwendoline Lacey, though English, is considerably wealthier than the other Malory Towers girls: her task is to become a good deal more sensible and middle class, less attached to her notions of femininity (braid your hair! get in the pool! stop worrying about your skin!), and eventually, to face the fact that she will be employed as a (gasp) secretary or something.Harry-Potter-and-the-Order-Of-The-Phoenix-rupert-grint-17184344-1920-800

Rowling’s writing is way, way, way better than Blyton’s but both writers position British / English gender as being just right, moderate, neither too feminine nor too masculine, in contrast to their counterparts elsewhere in the world. Rule, Brittannia, in gender moderation.

Trick mother’s day question

2014-05-08-happymothersdayOn this ONE day of breakfast in bed, flowers from low-wage moms in Colombia, and mother’s day discounts at various stores, answer me this question:

Which would you rather have: a) overwhelmingly positive associations in the public imagination as the universal symbol of sacrifice and love, TV commercials about diapers, peanut butter, laundry detergent, and Pine-Sol centered around motherhood, and flowers once a year? Or would you prefer b) actual things like more maternity leave, childcare, vacation time, and a shorter and more flexible work week?

And yes, it’s a binary because clearly we can’t have them all …

A divided heritage – Pakistan today and yesterday

Mira Sethi talks about a Pakistan of the innocence of the past we have lost.

Increasingly, as the bad news from home rolls in, I find myself biphone-2011-11-12 031acking off from talking about Pakistan to Raihana. What shall I tell her? How can I honestly tell her about the past without telling her about the present? It breaks me into two, but how can I avoid telling her the whole truth? As I live my predictably safe life in the United States, part of my heart is continually reliving my parents’ trauma of no less than three armed home burglaries. How can I tell my daughter about my childhood and adulthood in Pakistan without telling her that now, going to Pakistan, I feel like I’m conducting guerrilla warfare – ducking into the grocery store to pick up bread and keeping an eye 10310657_650801698303093_5095080523172767115_nopen for anyone who happens to be eyeing me or my family too closely? I feel like I am guiltily concealing the truth from her, and some day, some day when she is ready (when she is cynical? political? thick-skinned?) I will tell her all.
I promise. Soon. When the terrorists have gone. When peace has re-settled over the land. When law and order return. When corrupt politicians have fled. Until then, I will sport my divided heritage and my denial that anything has changed at all. I have already given up so much. The Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Gujrat of my childhood have been ripped apart, shredded, chunks of them gnawed away by hungry wolves. They are already gone, taking big chunks of me with them.

 

 

033-073

Sometimes I am struck dumb by the goodness flowing through the soul of the world. What probably keep me from floating off  are the materialism and the micro-egos that darken and veil the piercingly radiant love.