A undergraduate I’m teaching this semester – Gender, Science and Technology

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I’m happy to announce that I’ll be teaching Gender, Science and Technology (AZEA 2306) again for the second 2016/2017 academic semester at the Faculty of Arts and Social Science, University of Malaya. Undergraduate students within the faculty (especially in the English and Media Studies department) and international exchange undergraduate students are encouraged to register. All students are welcome to audit.

In this course, students will enjoy the opportunity to explore the exciting ways in which science and technology contribute to our understanding of gender and sexuality. The course will also explore the following themes and subjects:

• Sexuality and technology
• Digital and cyber-feminisms
• Computers, video-games and gender
• Species and gender, consumption of animals
• Feminist science fiction
• Gender and reproductive technology

Call for papers – The Public Sensorium: Gender, Disability, Architecture, and Public Spaces 25-26 July 2017 University of Malaya

This two-day workshop at the Faculty of Built Environment, University of Malaya, aims to bring together scholars and practitioners from different disciplines and fields to examine new and exciting issues pertaining to gender, disabilities, and the public sensorium. We aim to further develop theory and policies for gender relations in public spaces that encompass disability, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, and age. We are interested in addressing matters of self, being, access, participation, opportunities and equality as a way of informing the values behind public policies for inclusive architectural design and urban planning.

This workshop deploys the concept of the ‘public sensorium’ to develop theory and policies that consider ways of optimising public space usage for all bodies and all abilities. The public sensorium refers to the visible and invisible elements of the body that come into contact with public spaces; seeing, smelling, and tactility that constitute the experience of the self in public space. This workshop asks: what is the significance of human senses in public space? How do public visibility, smells, and touch relate to bodies and gender? How can a consideration of human senses make public spaces more inclusive and enjoyable? With limited abilities and senses what is necessary for a person to enjoy full participation in public life?

The workshop invites papers and panel proposals on (but not limited to) the following themes:

● Gender, disabilities, safety, and risk
● Mobility and public transportation
● Religion/sexuality/family/health and public space (**)
● Urban public space and protest cultures
● Youth cultures and outdoor/indoor public space
● Urban renewal and gentrification
● Poverty eradication policies
● Informal and night-time economies in the public space

** Outdoor public spaces include public parks, squares, theme parks, food stalls
Indoor public spaces include malls, places of worship, museums, art galleries, food halls, markets

Women and girls with disabilities belong to one of the most marginalised and under-represented groups in many societies. Therefore, we especially encourage panel proposals on gender and disabilities from established scholars, practicing architects and public policy-makers, early career researchers, and graduate students.

Selected papers presented at the workshop will have an opportunity to be published in a special issue in a high-ranking peer-reviewed journal.

Graduate students who are presenting can qualify for a travel bursary worth RM100. Please contact the workshop convener Dr. Alicia Izharuddin (alicia@um.edu.my) if you are interested in applying for the travel bursary.

Please submit your 250-word abstract to: Dr. Naziaty Mohd Yaacob naziaty@gmail.com and Dr. Alicia Izharuddin alicia@um.edu.my by 15 April 2017. Accepted proposals will be notified on 30 April 2017.

Workshop registration fees:

RM 200 for full-time/employed (early bird registration)
RM 250 for full-time/employed
RM 100 for part-time/employed (early bird registration)
RM 150 for part-time/employed
RM 50 student rate (early bird registration)
RM 100 student rate
RM 50 walk-in attendee

Payment for the early bird registration fee is 30 May 2017
Deadline for registration fee payment is 30 June 2017

Workshop convener and contact person: Dr. Alicia Izharuddin, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaya
Email: alicia@um.edu.my. Telephone: 03-7967 5447

This workshop is supported by the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education’s Fundamental Research Grant Scheme. It is co-organised by the Faculty of Built Environment and the Gender Studies Programme of University of Malaya.

The finishing line

Of course I’ve always known that I’ll get to the finishing line sooner or later. But the actual experience of being so near it, half-running/crawling towards it, and overwhelmed by feelings of euphoria and total disbelief, exceeds the capacity of words and description. I submit my PhD thesis on the 27th of June 2014.

I have micro-managed my way towards the finishing line. Like a marathon runner who has organised the provision of snacks and drinks in strategic places, I wanted to ensure that the submission process is as stress-free as possible. I stayed productive all throughout the PhD, (almost) meeting deadlines for my supervisors’ perusal and kept writing and rewriting, punctuated by me rewarding myself with solitary meals and booze.

I accepted the pain that I chose to inflict upon myself but I made sure that stress brought about by de-motivation and procrastination were kept to a minimum. Looking back, I am impressed, incredulous, and grateful that I have made it this far.

The finishing line is nigh and I am wordlessly overjoyed.

2013: Let’s celebrate the banal

In the last three years, this blog served mainly as a repository of my writings. But this year, I’m going to attempt something different; I’ll begin to post photos of my cooking and the less than artful snapshots of my life on this blog. Perhaps at times, if I am feeling reckless, I may even write something more personal, reflections on my life as a person-academic-feminist. I am neurotically private about the publication of the more personal details of my life online so these may be less frequent than I will initially envision. I will still publish articles and bits of research here. But I thought posting pleasures of the banal will ‘humanise’ the tone of this blog and hopefully, the author herself.

Writer-researcher, in residence

It’s been sometime since I posted anything here. Much has happened since my last post; my return to Malaysia last November, beginning my fieldwork research in Indonesia the following month, attending feminist events in Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia, and establishing links with the region’s feminist activists in the process. Because many important events have happened in a short span of time, on average every other day, it becomes difficult to gain a reasonable perspective on them. More difficult still when I am bereft of a proper workspace, a room of my own, to think and write. Since moving back to Oxford last September, I have been working in various places, positions, and lighting – on the sofa, bed, and now at a desk too low and a chair too hard. I’ve become a Goldilocks of sorts. Being a creature of habit, changeability does not suit me. As a result, writing becomes a painful endeavour. When I write it is because of a flash of inspiration that needed to be documented into words immediately, or because I need a small sum of money to buy new clothes and shoes. Because I have been moving and travelling a lot between now and last year; Twickenham, Warsaw, Oxford, Hong Kong, Kota Kinabalu, Singapore, Jakarta, and soon, Jogjakarta, there is no place, a home as it were, to return where mind and body slip into a comforting space where the best ideas and articles are put down, where all the books are within reach, the chair and posture just right, the lighting just so. I need a study, however small, to call my own. A desk and doughy chair, and a lamp beaming over my fingers as I type, type, type.

‘Love’ mail I get

In this day and age, when you’re an academic it is always good to have information about your research interests published online. Who knows, you’ll get asked by the media to give your expert opinion on topics you know intimately about, prospective students become inspired by similar research and seek your consult, and then there’s the general and ever curious public who wonder what it’s like in the ivory tower and at times do things to topple you from that tower. A few days ago, I received a short email that contained many searching questions:

Dear Alicia,

I come across your profile on SOAS and I’d be interested to your views on Islam, gender and politics? Why do you think, as you mentioned, there is a gender inequality in Muslim society? Do you not think there is inequality in the UK society? How film is going to help in this?

Cheers,
MN

Very patiently and interestedly I answered:

Dear MN,

Thanks for your email and query. Gender inequality is a social problem that cannot be reduced as a problem with religion, and particularly not Islam. There are great many factors that contribute to gender inequality (which is rarely separated from other forms of social inequalities such as classism, racism, etc.) in Muslim societies – laws that are not enforced to protect the interests of women and girls, traditional gender roles which are enforced on women and male chauvinism that devalues women and femininity, war and conflict (women and girls tend to be the most vulnerable during these times, especially during the post-conflict period), and poverty. And as you can see, these factors are not unique to Muslim societies, but can and continues to occur in ‘Western’ societies (that also have Muslim communities).

Yes, there is a serious problem with inequality in UK society. Namely in terms of class, and it starts from the acts of classist injustice at the highest rungs of society and politics and seeps into other forms of inequalities. The Con-Dem government has exacerbated poverty levels by taking away public funding in places that need them most. If we’re talking about gender, class, ethnic, and immigration-related inequality rolled into one, take the example of funding cuts on ESOL classes for migrants to the UK. Most migrants who enter the UK with lower levels of education, lower employability status, and as adjuncts of better qualified migrants are female spouses and family members of male migrants. Inability to speak English will mean fewer work opportunities, lower self-esteem, and heightened racist panic.

About film, particularly fiction film; It doesn’t “help” in ending social inequalities in a direct way since films are things produced through a compromise of multiple factors (marketability, creative (and sometimes political) vision, and censorship constraints) but it holds up a kind of mirror reflecting the way society works. How we talk about gender (and our messages about gender inequality, whether implicit or not) comes to life on screen. I hope not to overstate this, but I believe that film is but a social barometer that gives us an understanding on how and what kind of images of women and men are being imagined, accepted, loved, and rejected. The more we see images of gender in a particular way (namely stereotypical images of women as sexual objects characterised by narrow standards of beauty, housewives who do the washing up and childcare, and mere adjuncts to important characters in film) the better we understand how women and men are expected to be seen in society. Hope this helps.

Best regards,
Alicia

Perhaps I hit a raw nerve somewhere with my carefully thought-out reply, because the reply I got from MN was terse, accusatory, and frankly ridiculous:

Dear Alicia,

Thanks for taking the time to reply to my email. I appreciate what you voiced in your email. But allow me to enquire further what is your responsibility when Muslim women are labelled as victim? And when France and Britain use familiar language towards Afghanis and Iranian women and yet humiliate them in public places? Would you voice against the current French regime’s decision to humiliate Muslim women who wears Hijab – daily? Or would you stop at “the ways film as ideology and social practice work toward maintaining and subverting domination and gender inequality in Muslim societies?” Will you merely focus on the Muslim societies and not domestic violence and issues women face in the UK? Should you not talk about the humiliation towards to the Palestinian women and girls in the name of the state Israel? And wouldn’t you care about the voiceless women and young females of Gypsy background in Europe and North America who are displaced by the states? And would you talk about and join protests against treatments towards women who cannot enter in the Westminster because of their gender? And finally, what is the meaning of your thesis title “”Construction of ‘new’ Muslim femininities and masculinities in post-New Order cinema “” and how would it help people?

ask all of these questions merely to mention the academic dishonest which only applies to some people and not to others. Because I care about humans and honest scholarships.

Sincerely,
MN

To which I replied:

Dear MN,

Thanks for your reply. I get similar things said to me by people like yourself. If I was a scientist in the biological sciences, you would be asking me, “What am I going to do about climate change?!!”. Or perhaps not, because anything in the sciences would be considered worthy for study.

For film and media studies, people are quicker to dismiss, discredit and invalidate our scholarship as petty, insignificant, fluff. That’s because people are quite ignorant, Malcolm. And I sincerely hope you’re not one of them.

You may be pleased to know that I’m also a feminist activist and probably know more about and have done more for Palestinian and Roma women than yourself, but I also happen to believe in scholarship for the sake of intellectual growth which cannot be quantified as easily as world peace. But does it matter to you that I’m a feminist activist in my neighborhood, because you’d be asking me to sort the injustices that occur on the other side of the world.

If you’re frustrated about gender inequality in France, Palestine, Iran, and wherever else, perhaps you should go out there yourself and do something about it rather than telling me that I should be focused on X, Y, and Z instead.

If I can offer one valuable advice for you that will answer your enquiries and future ones, it’s this: if you care so much, YOU do something about it. It’s not just a Muslim woman’s “responsibility” to care about Muslim women and the injustices we face around the world, but also for people like yourself to care by stop labeling us all as mere “victims” and speak up yourself against injustice rather than piling on the “responsibility” on others and blaming them for apparently doing nothing. Volunteer at a women’s crisis centre, stop expecting women to “fix” gender inequality on their own, stop telling Muslims to “get ourselves in order” and not checking your prejudices, read more about gender, feminist politics, and Islam, and educate yourself rather than taking an anti-intellectual stand. Hope this helps.

Best,
Alicia

Will be back very shortly!

It’s a been an experientially short week (you realise there are too few hours in a day when you have tons to do!): started my job lecturing sexuality in Southeast Asian cinema last week, insisted on having a social life however sad, and curating Feminist Week on Loyar Burok this week. I noticed that I haven’t written a thing for the month of October, but this will be sorted with very soon. Stay tuned, my lovelies!

This is an opportunity for you to delurk and say hello

Most times when I write I have an imaginary audience in mind, an audience whose intelligence I would hate to insult. But if I want to be really honest, I would say that blogging is actually one big lonely exercise of making oneself feel rather important and soliloquies  – a kind of shrine to oneself – which is why I want you, Dear Reader out there, to delurk. Take a moment from lurking and reveal yourself, wave, say hello, share a bit about yourself, share what it is that brings you to this blog and what keeps you coming back. In return, you can ask me questions about anything.

Really, anything.

I have succumbed to the power of Twitter

A rather ironic turn of events is how I describe my belated subscription to Twitter. For some time I was quite clear to myself about not using Twitter seeing that microblogging as they call it may spell the imminent death of blogging and shunning Twitter was a mini protest against that. And thus my happy prejudices about the self-indulgences of Twitter continued until I realised that my online friends were having micro revolution parties without me on Twitter, and I would not allow that to happen. Yes, I am that sad but we are in the midst of many revolutions right now thanks to social media. It would be a shame to miss the party.

Follow me on Twitter @AngryMalayWoman