Names, Technology, and a Degree

I am in London, but I have to keep on reminding myself of that. There are seconds when my body sits in room 137a in Goldsmiths College’s main building, but all I could really see is Zibqeen’s valley stretching towards the place I call Palestine and they call Israel. All I could see and hear is Im Ali’s face and her timid laugh. Why am I here? I need to continually search for a convincing answer for it doesn’t come easily to me.

For the coming six months, I will sit in classes and type up letters on lit screens. I will read books in a language I don’t own (and luckily, one that doesn’t own me) and will have long cognitively engaging discussions that will fail to scratch the surface of my whole being. What will I get in return?

I will gain the power of naming I guess, for she who has the power of “naming” has all the power; I rediscover that each and every day. I will be able to label the things I have learnt through people, experience and intuition with names that the world of academia understands and accepts. My personal conclusions after long conversations with people in the south will become “discourse analysis of naturally occurring talk”. Im Ali, Mervat, Zainab, and Haitham will become “research participants”, and in less progressive research institutions; “research subjects”. I will no longer be just Muzna, the name which nobody has ever needed to add a suffix or a prefix to it; it is never Ms Muzna, never with Al-Masri following it, never with a Dr. preceding it (and that will not change, don’t worry), but for the purpose of proper names, I might become “an anthropologist, interested in middle eastern issues and anthropology of violence”. Interested would be too mild a word.

I will also gain the power of excessively used technology. “EndNotes”, “Nvivo”, & “social bookmarking”, were just the appetizers I was introduced to last week. My six year old laptop with a windows 98 operating system is already useless. Browsing the net to buy a new laptop, I discover that modems are no longer built in; I have to pay extra to get that old unnecessary tool. I was still on dial up in Lebanon! But a few years after I return, what I get now will be already out of date.

.. and I will have a degree; one that will open the door for higher paid jobs and recognition, in the world of those who own the power, for my now “properly named” endeavours.

That is if I manage to hold on for the coming three years.

Im Ali, in front of her second makeshift "dukan" in Zibqeen


Maha said...

Am I allowed to be happy that you're writing again even if your most recent addition isn't teeming with excitement?

Names and naming ... interesting, Muz ... has propelled me to think of all sorts of names and identities we stick on things, people and ourselves...

didi_international said...

I admire your resistance, your courage and insight....
Names and degrees only matter so much as how you work to deconstruct discursive arrangements, Do you agree? And, wouldn't Foucault agree?
Best of luck to you,

Muzna said...

Thanks Diane, I am not sure what Foucault would think of that, but I guess I have had second thoughts about this post now as I am struggling with readings on violence. I still stand with my point in the importance of my work being well rooted in my community, but at the same time there is a practice of scholarship that is only achievable when you can distance yourself a little, both emotionally and conceptually. What do you think?
Been to your blog and it warmed my heart. will be back there soon I am sure.