KOONJ: A koonj is a crane. In Punjabi poetry, the koonj cries in pain because it has strayed from its flock. The image is similar to one in Rumi’s poetry: the reed, that sings of separation, the soul that sighs for the One. Shabana Mir – a/k/a Koonj – has been blogging indefatigably since 2005. She started blogging and feverishly completing her dissertation in the summer of 2005. Now a Ph.D., a mother to Raihana, and an assistant professor, she is engaged in a struggle to become fully a part of academic life … and trying to come to terms with the realities of academia, immigrant life, and the compromise that is working motherhood.
Shabana was born in London but spent most of her childhood and early twenties in Lahore and Islamabad. She is one in the long list of distinguished alumni who sprang from the loins of Kinnaird College and the Convent of Jesus and Mary school. After an M.A. in English Literature, she was just getting comfortable teaching English at the International Islamic University, and looking forward to a lifetime at said institution, when the higher education bug bit her. She left Pakistan for the U.K. After an M.Phil. in Education at Cambridge, and a year working in London, Shabana eventually made her way to the U.S., where she met and married her other half, and did a PhD in Education Policy Studies and Anthropology at Indiana University. She did her research in Washington, DC, and was a Visiting Researcher at Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and a Harvard University Pluralism Project Affiliate. She won an award for her dissertation. If you’re interested in reading about her work, go ahead and buy Shabana’s book Muslim American Women on Campus: Undergraduate Social Life and Identity (or order it for your library!) Shabana has worked as Assistant Professor of Global Issues/ Anthropology at Millikin University. She has taught Anthropology, Social Foundations of Education, Educational Anthropology, Comparative Education, and English to undergraduates, doctoral students, and English language learners at Oklahoma State University, Eastern Illinois University, Indiana University, and the International Islamic University. Recently (in 2012 and 2013) she has also trained faculty in research methods in Pakistan at Lahore College for Women University.
This blog connects Shabana to her roots and to her online community of friends, whose existence she admits somewhat shamefacedly (since she still subscribes to the old-fashioned notion that one probably has ‘no life’ if one belongs to an ‘online community’). It also affords her the opportunity to put a human face to the image of an Overeducated Feminist Sufi Muslim woman, amused and shocked that she is married, a parent, an immigrant in the US, and no longer in the 1980s and no longer in niqab.