Yesterday, day 1 of my workshop at Lahore College for Women University on ethnographic methods for faculty, was exhilarating if exhausting.
Since my arrival in Lahore, I’ve had the luxury of vegetating indoors, out of the incandescent day. We have power outages every other hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But life goes on. While I was whining about the heat in the workshop room, my nephew Taha was sitting for his final A-Level examinations. My niece had her freshman year English Language college exams: her mother was anxious because Izza’s seat was located far away from the ceiling fan. Izza’s exams were held in a government school classroom with no airconditioning (public schools typically don’t have airconditioning). It was 113 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday. Izza is 16 years old, and has taken to studying for her exams all night, and sleeping after the exam. It’s a good strategy because the nights are at least relatively cool. Both Taha and Izza are high-performing students mashaallah. Despite the physical challenges of studying in such heat – I can’t seem to hold a thought in my head – they are both pleased with how well they did on their exams. I am in awe of Pakistanis who battle on through all these hurdles. I want to say more about this, I really do, but I find myself tongue-tied when I observe all this.
At my workshop, I had attendees from LCWU, Forman Christian College, National College of Arts, and other institutions. They were faculty in such areas as Political Science, Literature, architecture, and textile design. Airconditioners struggle, sometimes ineffectually, against the overwhelming heat, so multiple fans buzzed noisily around us. Yet these academics, a mixed gender group, were through three hours of workshop, incredibly focused, and exceedingly eager to engage with anthropological notions such as cultural relativism, ethnocentrism, and othering. They critically responded to my presentation with rigor and courtesy, laughing with good humor at my lighthearted teasing. Resources are often sparse and usually uneven. When people complete doctoral degrees, publish articles, and teach several classes a semester in spite of the difficulties that surround them, you have to admire their tenacity. The appetite for knowledge is palpable here. I wonder if I would be an avid scholar if I had to contend with these hurdles day in and day out.
Today, on day 2 of our workshop, we will use my own ethnographic research as a case to examine fieldwork issues. I am excited to connect with my attendees’ energy again, though I am a little nervous regarding my ability to field all of their searching questions. It is good to see this in the homeland and to be at the heart of it all.