Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear"

My facebook newsfeed has been buzzing with youtube video posts from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's recent "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" on the National Mall this past week. It was interesting to watch Stewart's speech - I had never really seen him that serious (scattered, naturally, with comedic relief) about rifts in American society, about the politics of fear, reasserting pluralistic and "liberal" values.

A few days after watching the video, it comes to mind again as I write my essay for Professor Pamela Radcliff on "Communism and Fascism 1919-1945." A few points I want to make regarding the emergence of extreme political movements in times of political/economic/social crisis.

Just for the sake of argument, you could claim that our contemporary world is seeing a lot of the same crises as inter-war Europe. "Endemic" small-scale warfare, economic depression/mind-blowing unemployment rates, violence (terrorism, drug warfare, warfare in general), politicians without solutions...obviously when you add a lot of nuance to these issues it's not the same as interwar europe. But just for the sake of argument, let's take our two anachronistic comparisons and play with the idea that we could learn something from the societies before us about how to deal with crises of meaning.

One thing Radcliff mentioned in lecture the other day really hit home with me: citizens in post-war Britain, despite all of the issues it was facing, the questioning of liberal capitalist values fundamental to their political and economic structure, believed in the system. Trief to effect change within the democratic, parliamentary process.

This type of "revolutionary" sentiment stands in stark contrast to the Bolsheviks, whose radicalist ideology was about challenging all the fundamental structures of liberalism and capitalism. The governance they put in place after the revolution is a new story, but anyways they were (mm...some were) about changing everything.

I think Americans today exist firmly in the former camp, completely and totally unwilling to undermine fundamental social and political structures, and I think this could be bad or good...I really don't know! I'm leaning towards good, but the radicalist strand in me says f it all and let's restart. At least in a long conversation with my best friends I might let me commie side emerge and talk about starting a real revolution.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Thoughts on Fulbright Application...

My Fulbright application is due SOON! (Sept 13th). I've posted some of my musings below about what I'm looking at here....

A few years ago, while conducting research on the King-Crane Commission (see, I kept stumbling on correspondence between the American commission members and some teachers at American colleges in the Near East. Deans at Robert College and at the Constantinople College for Women were not only important sources of knowledge about the Ottoman Empire, its politics and culture, but also the homes of pro-American sentiment. The Turkish Wilsonian League, for example, was established by the faculty of these colleges. Famous pro-American voices (such as Halide Edib Adivar and Ahmet Emin Yalman) were closely tied to these schools. I've been exploring this interest a lot more, and now trying to develop it into a cohesive project for my Fulbright application. Here is a sort-of-summary below.

 I'm looking at the relationship between American protestant missionaries in the late Ottoman Empire-Early Republic, about 1850-1930. The main outposts of the missionaries are their schools, spread throughout Anatolia, the Arab provinces, and of course in Istanbul. Here, Robert College and the Constantinople College for Women are my primary subjects of study.

There are various dynamics that I'm interested in. One, RC and CCW are "lumped" in the scholarship discussing foreign schools and missionary schools in this period. In doing so, the diversity among the foreign and missionary school directives and practices are lost. Scholars skip over this diversity and instead focus on the Ottoman perception of all "foreign/missionary" institutions as a threat and impetus for reform. I think the subject demands a new perspective which delineates the differences among the foreign schools, and elucidates WHY and HOW these schools (though very different) came to be seen as a collective threat to the Ottoman identity and government.

Secondly, I think the school can also be viewed as a diplomatic outpost for the Americans, especially in the period where there is not American consul or open embassy. The school appears in diplomatic correspondence in such functions - it hosts American emissaries, is the almost exclusive source of American understanding of the near east (disseminated through various missionary newspapers), and in a number of diplomatic mini-crises, Robert College is a much more effective negotiator than the embassy. I don't know what "aim" I have here, but it's know, a thing of interest.

Third, I am interested in the cultural, intellectual and political impact of education at RC and CCW on its students. A lot of scholarship has talked about this, but sort of without a way or system of measuring it (sources are a key problem here...). But I thinkkkkkk I would like to engage in a study of the student organizations - probably looking at this with more of a sociological and anthropological perspective on identity formation. This is relevant to point 1, in that it would tell us whether or not education at these schools actually has a subversive effect on Ottoman identity formation.

Anyways that's about what I've got so far..."in short." As you can tell its a bit scattered still, but I would really, realllyyy love your input. Does this sound interesting to you? Do you think the Fulbright would find it interesting? Do you know anyone studying this topic, and if so how could I get in touch with them? great, wonderful, I love you, thank you. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Why History

I'm often asked by my "modern-world loving friends" why I study history. What's the point, why don't I do political science or something. Moreover, I'm asked, "why the middle east?" I generally deflect these questions by offering the glazed over standard answer: "Oh, I really like history," or "It's been my favorite class since the 8th grade" or "I like the teachers in my department." All this is true, and is generally the extent to which I humor my question-asker in the cocktail party setting. But as you may have noticed, I've begged the question. So let me expound on the the reason I spend so much time in the past...and in a region so remote to my own upbringing.

 First, Why History? Because it offers us the opportunity to understand that the world could have, and can, be different than it is now. History reduces the biggest decisions of all time, made by larger-than-life characters, into the specific actions of men and women. In doing so, it reveals to us the vulnerability of humanity to itself. It reminds us of the power of the individual in history, and thus the individual in the present and future.

I had this conversation once along the pathway down to Bogazici University. My friend Tyler characterized my need to constantly be reminded that the world actually does change as a direct consequence of humanity as perhaps suggestive of some deep insecurities about human power. While I don't deny this, my liking for history isn't limited to a pathological self-satisfying study of (wo)man's significance. There is much more to the practice of history that I appreciate.

History is a very nice blend of the humanities and sciences. (This is not to say that other fields, say Anthropology or Sociology are not. Actually I really like these fields, too. And draw a lot of inspiration from them). But in history, you get to look at evverryyyythinnnggg as a source. Biographies, memoirs, court records, name it! Friday, I head to Stanford's Hoover Institute to review two sets of memoirs as the "big kickoff" to my senior thesis research. I'm very excited.

Part Two, "Why the Middle East" will have to be saved for later. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

an excerpt from my "essay" aka elongated op-ed/rant

...I should disclose that I have a strong personal affinity to the notion of global citizenship. My college education has groomed me to believe in it, and to act as a global citizen. It was a combination of exposure to these loose theoretical “metaphors” and also a growing consciousness of the precarious situation of non-citizens (stateless peoples) that my affinity for the ideology has shifted. It seems to me, in a period where the most basic of rights are being violated for non-citizens, the priority ought to be ensuring that at least everyone has the protections afforded by legal recognition of their status - citizenship. If we accept this notion, then it follows to adopt the most readily secure form of security available: national citizenship. The institution of citizenship at the national level has become more elusive, but not less valuable. It affords the right to be protected form the increasingly egregious measures taken in the name of national security. In short, I think this is not the right time for idealism, but for grounded legal activism. What I mean, specifically, will be addressed later in the essay....

Thursday, June 10, 2010

paradox of neoliberalism

if neoliberalist critics are pissed that the role of the state in distributing rights and protections and membership has been hijacked by privatization, shouldn't they be calling for a re-strengthening of the state as the proper geography of rights-dispensing institutions?

instead, sociologists are calling for a "capitalization" on the transformations offered by neoliberal globalization. conferring rights via the 'global city,' or rather, just recognizing that rights are being demanded in new neolib, transnational spaces.

how can they at once critique the inequalities that transnational guestworker programs have created and simultaneously acclaim the post-national membership ideal?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Finals Week

I write to you from the Peets next to CVS, as I muse about my finals week schedule this quarter.

What I've been thinking the most about is how much I miss in-class finals. Term ID's, short answers, 2-3 page written essays. Post-final euphoria, hearing people yell and laugh as they exit exam rooms. The feeling of kicking a final in the ass, walking out and being DONE. Summer, beach, sun, awaiting you as you exit Peterson 108.

It seems like those kinds of finals have phased out of my life, and instead I have twenty page papers and research summaries replacing blue books at the end of each quarter. This blogpost is doubtlessly overly sentimental, and I fully expect that in the coming year I will have yet another encounter with an in-class final, but for now I miss the comfort of regurgitation. In those in-class finals, yes, they are grueling and exhaustive, but you only have to understand events! things! "Explain: Iran-Iraq War" At most, we get asked for a comprehensive essay on "pan-arabism in the 20th century," etc. But in these research papers, there's no cushion or easy fallback on specific events. I have to actually think. A lot. I have to actually argue, engage in the discourses of 20 different books, scholars and their theories.

For now, I'm just missing the comfort of an in-class summary of what "happened" that one time, that one place...

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to feel like as I move into my senior year I am challenged and capable of some higher engagement in scholarship. But it's a little exhausting, no?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Linguistic Anthro!

The past few days have been absolute whirlwinds of learning! So much learning!

Friday, I attended a Linguistic Anthropology conference  - Sandrizona: a joint project between UC San Diego and University of Arizona Linguistic Anthro grad students. The research in the anthro department has been incredibly impressive, and participating/getting involved in this department has been such a great experience this quarter because

1. the PEOPLE are incredibly supportive. Professor Kit Woolard, all the grad students in my seminar, made time today to listen to my feeble undergraduate research project, give me excellent feedback and wow...I'm ironically speechless about this, haha. It's just amazing the extent to which professors and grad students make themselves available. 

2. their RESEARCH is so cool! Anthro is all about people - most/all of the research is fieldwork, intensive interviews. listening to their research is like getting a 2 hour window into a world (Cartenega? Barca? Estonia? Yucatan?) that I otherwise would probably never know about. 

Also, today while I was presenting my latest project on Minorities and Nationalisms in Egypt, a grad student in the lit department, Nadeen, came to listen to my presentation since SHE is a COPT! Woot!! I was in the middle of saying, "Hmm, I am still working on grasping the extent to which Coptic is spoken at homes, in business, etc." when Nadeen raises her hand, chimes in and goes, "I can answer this question, I am a Coptic Egyptian." 

I freak out with excitement/nervousness. You always get nervous with these things because of course you don't want to get it "wrong" - you are studying someone else's culture, language, identity, history, and you are certainly at risk of messing it up. But she was so kind and helpful. 

Ok that's enough ranting about how great people are in this department! I'm just happy to have found them :).

Friday, April 23, 2010

Inter-communal relations and Nationalisms and Egypt: 1882-1922.

Update: Presented at the Conference, had an AMAZING TIME listening to the other students in my panel present their research, and had lots of fun presenting mine as well.

Below: Claire and I with Dean Artis.

Note: This is a rough-ish draft of the introduction I will give tomorrow at the UCSD Undergraduate Research Conference.

Last quarter I conducted research for a colloqium on modern Egyptian history under Professor Hasan Kayali. We had a great deal of freedom to locate our particular interests within the very wide topic of "modern Egyptian history," which refers generally to the period following Napoleon's 1798 invasion of Egypt. As my thoughts were still very much involved with the nationalism in Turkey right now and its effects on the Kurdish minority, I essentially applied many of these curiosities to the Egyptian case study.

The period of my study is from 1881-1923..."ish." This period encompasses three movements which have since been classified as part of the nascent Egyptian nationalist movements - contributions to the idea of a growing, evolving definition of Egyptian. The most basic version of the question is "What kinds of Egyptian nationalisms are these?" This is not a new question! Trying to ascertain the religious, racial or ethnic, territorial characteristics of these movements is a pretty basic goal for most of these studies. However, what I wanted to do was ask these questions via the lens of religious, racial/ethnic, social minority communities in Egypt in this period.  The idea was to figure out of it was an Islamic movement via the role of non-Muslim communities -- if non-Muslims participate and are embraced in the rhetoric of the movement - then, well, it's not exclusively Islamic. If non-Arabs are embraced, then its not an Arab movement, etc. I chose Copts, some 500k Christians with long residencies in Egypt; Jews, around 20k (1877 numbers); and finally the Syrian immigrants - some 35k mainly Christian Maronites.

So two sections of the project emerged. First was compiling the information I could find about the three minorities I selected. The "what" question. To what extent do we see Jews, Syrians, and Copts participating in these three nationalist movements? The natural question to follow was "why." If there are (which I say there are) patterns, continuities and evolutions regarding who gets included in the nascent definition of an Egyptian national, then..why? Why is it that Syrians and Jews are increasingly excluded and Copts are increasingly INcluded?

Well, what I hope to show in the the ten minutes is that what Syrians and Jews have in common, what the Copts don't - are levels of socio-cultural integration. Syrians and Jews either fail to or don't care about associating with the Arab Muslims peasants who comprise the vassstttt majority of the population in Egypt at the time. They often do not relate to that indigenous character linguistically, economically, or socially.  Finally, they INSTEAD associate with a European identity against which Egyptians were asserting their narratives. The Copts, on the other hand, have a record of residence in Egypt that precedes the Arabs, and their level of social integration is so high that European observers often can't tell the difference between Copts and Muslims.

Thus one could situate my argument with a fairly typical approach to history of this region - I encourage you to think less along the lines of religion, to move away from the preponderance of religion as the sole or dominant element of identification. Instead perceive social integration, in ways a product of religious identity but not limited to, as the determining factor in who gets included or excluded from the idea of "Egyptian."

Wish List of "Stuff"

1. subscription to foreign affairs (only $18)!
2. "                    " the economist (slightly more expensive)
3. for more places on campus to have free copies of the nyt again
4. maybe...a KINDLE?!
5. iPHONE? / or new phone in general...
6. one round trip ticket to Turkey, please.

not like it's my birthday or anything. actually it's my sister's birthday, hehe. but sometimes its just nice to write down some things you might like for one day when you can redeem yourself a gift.


No, not the school kind! This quarter I'm lucky enough to do a research project with Professor Ev Meade in the history department and a great group of undergrads on human rights issues. The group is split up into 3 tracks: immigration and detention policies, immigration and reproductive rights, and finally, the death penalty. My interest is in the first of these tracks, and each week I'm given an assignment to research a few specific cases and particularly their press coverage (local, domestic, international).

It's all very new to me - the methods of conducting newspaper archival research, using new tools and new programs, and realllyyy learning a lot that I had just never touched before.

This week, I was assigned to find newspaper coverage of two related cases: Kim Ho Ma and Kestius Zadvydas. Ma and Zadvydas were connected by a Supreme Court ruling in 2001 regarding INS detainees commonly referred to as "Lifers." Some 4,000 immigrants fell into this category by 2001 - they are stateless; ordered for deportation from the States, BUT their countries of origin refused to accept them. (Cuba, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Lithuania are the most common national groups represented by the Lifers).

Ma's mother escaped from the killing fields of Khmer Rouge, while 8 months pregnant, first through the minefields of Cambodia, then tot the Philippines and finally to the States. She settled in Seattle and filed for asylum. But 20 years later her son became heavily involved in gang violence and was then sentenced for deportation. The 2001 Supreme Court ruling was in favor of Ma and similar cases like Zadvydas: decreeing that the government could NOT hold deportees indefinitely just because their countries wouldn't take them.

In response, Ashcroft and Bush leaned on Cambodia (by threatening to withdraw all visa privileges for Cambodian diplomats to the States) to accept Ma. He was deported in 2003.

Well anyways that's the gist of the story. I don't know exactly where it's all going (the larger research project), but it's pretty interesting to hear about all the different kinds of stories woven into immigration law.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Thoughts on the University of California

These past few weeks have been an absolute whirlwind at UC San Diego. Almost every day I've been on campus in the recent weeks, there has been some sort of protest, movement, activist organization. This is NOT the "norm" for UCSD, and actually as a result of all this I've sort of strangely come to appreciate the "boring" political non-activism we used to be infamous for. Some peace and quiet go a long way - creating safe and tranquil environments for people to focus on their studies -- yeah, I miss it a bit.

Since it's impossible not to think of "real pain, real action" when it's staring at you or shouting at you, I've spent a maximum amount of time just fully lost inside the issue: thinking almost constantly about it, talking almost constantly about it with friends and faculty.

Anyways I'm going to just blog a bit about things that were said today at the the March FO(U)RTH for Education rally that really struck me.

Ivan Evans noted that while today was a small victory, our generation has yet to fully experience and have a real, big victory. I think he said, "When you win, you can fight forever." (Evans' own story is amazing - an apartheid fighter in South Africa turned Sociology professor, a passionate, articulate guide in the past few weeks to the Black Student Union@ UCSD and I think a role model to many people right now).

"When you win, you can fight forever." What does this mean to me/our generation? Maybe by adding in Obama's recent statements on healthcare, I can get to my point - he noted that what's at stake here is not only change to healthcare, but the legislature's ability to do anything at all. We were captivated by Obama who physically and rhetorically embodied something different, because our generation's political experience is chalk full of the same old, of "the man," the "system" and those vague "administrators" making final decisions, outlasting outrage and really just doing whatever. (Iraq War, No on 8, now healthcare). Maybe it's too much to speak for anyone but myself, but surely I have believed less and less in my actual ability to enact change at a high level.

(Which is partly why I've given up trying to change things at that level. Note that despite my ridiculous and retrospectively unbelievable involvement in community activities K-12, I have almost completely given up political activism since coming to college).

Fights that I believed in have been lost by the persistent, relentless tide of sameness perpetuated by the "power structure." The privatization of the UC is now that fight, and certainly we are at risk of losing this fight to  administrative NOTHINGNESS. Just think of how all of this has happened! We've made an uproar in the past, gotten riled up and demanded change. The Regents and Yudof just dont do anything, and then we just get STUCK, stuck, stuck in their system.

We have to conceive change as actually, physically, tangibly possible and demand it now.


Second thought is the coalition-building on campus, which is very characteristic of every social revolution. I'm curious to see how things play out.super rough timeline of the building:
black student union- +> mecha and LGBT +> students for justice in palestine + all browns (filipinos) +> allies (sympathetic asians/whites)

What is amazing about this mini-revolution is the character of the leadership!  Today the people to take the stand in front of the thousand(ish) students were transgendered, brown, black, yellow, one of the UCSD black alumni called it last Friday, "The Rainbow Coalition."

Okay those are some very jumbled thoughts! I'll hopefully get back to this later and make it worth your read.

Friday, February 26, 2010


I have never felt more ashamed, appalled, or confused about my University. What is happening here? What happened to decency, respect?

Monday, February 22, 2010

places to study

Now that I live off-campus, and BUDGET CUTS HAVE KILLED OUR LIBRARY HOURS, i've been working hard to find new places to study. My criteria for an excellent study spot are: 
1. well-prices coffee and snacks
2. spacious tables
3. lots of power outlets
4. moderate overhead noise
5. location-view

With these standards in mind, I recommend to you: 

PANNIKIN coffee and tea, Downtown La Jolla; 7467 Girard Ave., La Jolla, CA 92037; 858-454-5453
drinks and snacks are moderate-expensive - i've generally only ordered house coffee. they dont have any other coffee blends(no french roast, vanilla, etc...). as for the food selection, they have a chocolate-marshmallow smore-like bar that is quite delish, but i wouldnt highly recommend the quiche or hummus plate. 
seating is excellent here! i'm a big fan of the set up - compartmentalized into different vibes. there's an outdoor seating area, perfect for sunny san diego sunshine-y days and generally people meet out there to chat and talk. it's a pretty international crowd so you'll get to eavesdrop on a lot of different languages, as well. inside, you'll find a fireplace, lots of outlets, and a cool chess board in the back.

CLIFF HANGER CAFE at Torrey Pines Gliderport. 
drinks (coffee $2/cup) and sandwiches (about $7) are pretty pricey, but the view is great. just sit here and watch all the paragliders/hanggliders take off from the gliderport. 

next up is LESTAT's in normal heights - hillcrest. 

My #1 recommendation for its good prices, 24/7 hours!!!, comfort and overall greatness! the one catch is that its pretty far from campus: a 15 minute drive, only worth it if you're going to get at least a few hours of work.  pictured left is hamish with the lestas menu. on the bottom shelf you can peek at their specialty cupcakes!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Kurdistan Oil, Cont'd


So, BIG life changes in the past month! Moving back into the country, home and then south to San Diego. Big life changes, but some things are good and stable. I've sought out all those good, stable, dependable things in an effort to counterbalance all the change. And now I'm at the end of a month of de- and re-stabilization. Here's a short (and hopefully sweet) recap of my findings...

Being next to the water is universal-ish. The San Diego bay was a bit reminiscent of Istanbul, sans the 10million extra people, skyline of minarets, nightly fireworks and palaces. Nevertheless, it has a similar effect on the psyche.

Below are some pictures from a night out with my older sister Stephanie. We dined at Peohe's Restaurant on Coronado. The food was not bad, but also not amazing. Cool design in the restaurant and nice because it's right on the water.


And the San Diego sunset...something I really looked forward to, and didn't let me down in the least :). How ridiculously lucky I am to live in a place where I can run along this every day? 

I went back to the bay this weekend and got even MORE stabilization via suburbia: 


ah the rows of houses and cars, little coffee shops, the newly paved everything, shiny libraries and neatly planted trees. oh, SUBURBIA! 
and finally, the most stabilizing of all forces, the family...a couple of pictures from this weekend and one from christmas because i couldn't find a more recent whole-family picture.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What's Happening to Oil in Iraq?

Oil Company Near Settling Over Contract in Kurdistan

I came across this article as I was scanning the NYT this afternoon, and I thought I'd blog a bit about what's happening to hydrocarbons in Iraq (at least so far as my limited knowledge will allow me!)

Thus far a federal hydrocarbons agreement has not been reached. Yet weekly, we're seeing notices of oil companies staking out contracts in Kurdistan -- why? How?

Essentially, the way I see this, the northern Iraqi regional government (aka Kurdistan regional government aka KRG) is settling contracts as part of a stability move. By getting major companies from major companies (In this case Norway, but they've got companies from as diverse a mix as Korea, Turkey, UK, Australia, US...), the KRG is insuring that important and rich people have a stake in their continuity and stability. It seems like a pretty good strategy, except ...there's no federal hydrocarbons agreement! This article is just talking about oil in Dohuk, which is an "undisputed" KRG territory - but if the KRG starts trying to doll out contracts for say, will be chaos for everyone.

Until a federal hydrocarbons SHARING agreement can be reached - should the KRG be contracting with international companies, further mixing up the mixed up mess in Iraq oil interests? I'm skeptical.

On the other hand, investment needs to start ASAP because the country needs the revenue to start rebuilding. The KRG is, well, leading the way.

A last thought on something else that comes up in the article -- PETER GALBRAITH is getting quite a cut of the revenue.  This is a little bit interesting! Galbraith has a long history with the Kurds - often being the only American diplomat advocating for them (in the gap years between Operation Provide Comfort and the Iraq War - as things were "touch and go" between the Kurds and the US)...Galbraith has been a strong advocate for Kurdish autonomy (sometimes, I stress, the only American advocate for Kurdish autonomy who spent long periods of time IN Kurdistan before 2003) and now, he's cutting a profit for it. Just some food for thought.

Friday, January 22, 2010

My One Month Anniversary : Back in America

A couple of days ago, I realized that I've been back in the U.S. of A. for almost one month now. One month ago today, I packed up and left Istanbul, marking the end of a 6 month adventure in an amazing country.

So, what are my thoughts now? Of the past month, of those six, of the's a slew of them.

On the past month: It's all just sort of "happened." Essays, work, sorority life...all just started happening and I got completely lost in it. It's been a rough adjustment, if you could even call it that. Almost nothing is as I expected it to be, and I've spent the past month in half a daze, going through the motions and completing all the tasks but my heart's been out of it for sure.

On Wednesday I had a strong and strange epiphany over a killer black tea at Peet's Coffee: it's time to get a move on now. Time to take control of my own damned life and make something with it! I'm here, this is how life is now and it is high time to move forward.

I flashed back to my birthday (was it only 4 months ago?) and the amazing feelings of empowerment that came along with my travels through southwestern Turkey. I tapped into those memories, reminded myself of how capable I am and briefly chastised myself for not doing enough with my life for a month. 

So, I wrote myself a long letter and 10 succinct, important goals, packed up my stuff and started on my new adventure.