?

Log in

No account? Create an account
nativeinformant
28 March 2007 @ 05:11 pm
A couple weekends ago, Ed and I just took off to a weird resort in Escondido, about an hour from our house. We went there because we wanted to get away and got a good deal, but we had no idea what was there, except for the fact that it was close to San Diego. Well, it is this super cute little town that seems to be going through a renaissance. Unfortunately the amazing looking crafts museum was closed while we were there, but Ed discovered this amazing little art installation in a very nondescript public park that truly is the most amazing place ever. It is done by an artist named Niki de Saint Phalle, and is called Queen Califia's Magical Circle. Basically, there are so many amazing things to se and so many angles that these pictures barely do it justice, but I thought I would share anyway. We took about a hundred pictures and I could have kept going. The whole thing is not even that big, but I could spend hours there. We also went to the San Diego wild animal park on this trip and did a bunch of wine tasting, but all pales in comparison.

For any of you thinking of coming to visit us, we would be happy to take you in person:







 
 
nativeinformant
So, I have been moving along well with the dissertation. I now have two chapter drafts and am really enjoying the whole process of writing up. I think I am writing relatively good stuff too. However, I am starting to wonder how futile this career choice is for me. I got yet another fellowship rejection today (for those of you who don't know me that well, I am notoriously good at getting rejected for funding). I have finally found the thing I like to do most in the world and I can't imagine being anything but an academic for the rest of my life, but I never seem to get a break. I spent a year apart from my husband, emptied out our savings account, I owe my parents countless thousands of dollars, and all I keep hearing is how competitive the job market is for phd's. I now have no idea what I am going to do next year while I apply for jobs which I am seriously doubting I will get, given my track record. It is quite frustrating and depressing to love something and know that you are relatively good at it, but to deal with a constant stream of rejection. I wonder if this will ever change. I wonder if I will crack under the pressure. I wonder if it is worth it after all, especially since the monetary rewards are so nil even if I do get the job the first time around, or get funding for future research. Oh, well. Just needed to vent a little. Thanks for listening (I mean reading...)
 
 
nativeinformant
05 February 2007 @ 03:33 pm
Hello, dear readers (if there are readers left out there, that is). Sorry for the long absence. I have been busy writing up my field experiences. I even completed a chapter draft! Now I can officially say I am "writing" a dissertation, instead of planning to write one, so yay!

I just wrote about the UAE state and different projects of economic development, and the relationship between the state and different populations. The bulk of this chapter is about how the distinction between citizen and expat plays out on multiple levels.

Of course, since you never know your full argument during fieldwork (because you have no data), once you start formulating an argument, you realize there are major gaps of info that you need to fill in. I am in that situation, knowing very little about the UAE legal system, and especially about laws surrounding naturalization. I will begin the internet searches and all that asap, but I wanted to throw this question out to those of you in the UAE, or those of you who know people there:

-does anyone know an expat who has become a UAE citizen, or know of one? If so, please email me nehavora1 at gmail.

As always all info you share will be anonymous. Also feel free to pass my info along to anyone who might have this kind of info, or any knowledge of naturalization procedures in the UAE.

Thanks!
 
 
nativeinformant
17 January 2007 @ 06:09 pm
Get your head out of the gutter! I am talking about actual cats. We have a new addition to the family, little baby Noor, which brings us up to 3 kitties, and thankfully, I am no longer the only girl in the house:




Noor is quite tinier than she appears in these pics. Maybe this one will give you a better idea of her minisculosity:


or maybe not. anyway, she is fabulous and rowdy and half-siamese and eats too many plants and likes to take our socks and stash them in the boxspring. She is officially our spoiled brat diva-in-training. I will let you know how it goes. So far her biting skills are exceptional but she is not so good at yelling.

I can't believe this is my first post of 2007!

Things are very back to normal here in Socal. I am SO happy to be back in school, excited about teaching and getting very into the dissertation writing process. Hopefully this positive start will set the tone for 2007!

More later, but I wanted to get these pics out there before she grows up!
 
 
nativeinformant
30 December 2006 @ 01:03 am
I remember lying in my bed on election night 1984 and praying that Reagan won. I thought the world would end if he didn't and this nothing man-from-god-knows-where did (even though even at such a young age my budding feminist side was a bit psyched). I even had this mini slate board I used to write wishes on and put under my pillow, and I wrote my wish that Reagan would continue to be "our" president. "Our". I was ten years old. Such is the power of charisma. I also remember 1992, watching the nintendo war against Iraq, crying with my high school friends on the phone about the unjustness of the world. And for as far back as that, I remember Saddam. What he did or what he did not do, it did not matter to a 16 year old. He had charisma. He was familiar. He has been familiar for so long. He has shaped our generation and our understanding (or voluntary lack of understanding) of events in the last two decades. I did shed more than a tear when I read the news today. Why? If only for that - the charisma, the familiarity, the inability to understand a world without the figures I have known to shape it for my formative life. What is it about the personality? And how do we take it out of our politics, our ethics, and our beliefs? Why do I feel this way? Of course, I am against capital punishment, but why such a strong reaction when I had none to McVeigh and many others? I must brush up on my Weber (more charisma, in two ways), but really, no joke: what is going on here??? And why even at this not-so-innocent age am I faced with realizing that my (voluntary and fortunate) innocence was still there to some extent? Is it gone now that I recognize it? Part of me wishes so and part of me is too scared to face the world without it...
 
 
 
nativeinformant
21 December 2006 @ 04:10 pm
Whoever can tell me where the following song quote comes from will get a mix of my favorite 90's hip-hop (hint, hint):

"When the East is in the house you should come equipped."

Yes, I am feeling very eastside these days. That's what an extended stint in Jersey will do to a Jersey girl. Now I just have to find a user pic of me and my hair in the 80's...
 
 
nativeinformant
20 December 2006 @ 11:19 pm
I laughed, I cried, I almost threw up, but I made it through! Dubai Creek (discovered thanks to my friend Scott's flatmate Elliot) is supposed to give a glimpse of expat life in Dubai. The back cover describes it as "A novel that combines travel fiction, social commentary and crime mystery." Combines it with the most atrocious writing ever. Here are some choice bits from the book (preferably read out loud to friends while drinking, for maximum impact):

    "At no time did I find any evidence of police unfairness or mistreatment of prisoners or any general anti-western sentiment after 9/11"  - preface

    "The food was great. It was a 'help yourself to as much as you like' international buffet" - p. 21
   
    "All in all, she sparkled more than a Christmas tree dressed up with lights and tinsel. Her strong German accent and very loud voice pierced my eardrums and got on my nerves a bit, so I got away from her as quickly as I could.
    I was much happier when I bumped into Ani. Although, in my opinion, Filipino girls are not as obviously attractive as, say, Thai girls, Ani was a very pretty girl." - p. 27

    "Some time after I had decided that I did quite fancy Ani and wouldn't mind bonking her myself, I realized she was a little vain and quite full of herself." - p. 28

    "I glanced at my watch; it was 8.20 am. I waited, and waited. Eventually it was 8.30 am, then 8.40." - p.54

    "From a girl's point of view I would have thought that Jas was a quite good-looking chap, it was just that he sometimes came across as a stuck-up pompous twat." - p. 59

    "In fact, I had already noticed that two of the shopping centres on the 'beach road' spelt 'Jumeirah' differently: the Jumeira Centre left off the 'h', but the Jumeirah Plaza had it." - p. 69

    "Baron was a very attractive man. I can say that as a one hundred percent heterosexual man." - p. 140

Oh, and near the end, the first-person shifts to an entirely different character. Excellent! All in all, 56 AED well-spent. Thank you, McGrudy's.

If you are really a masochist, I would suggest reading this book in conjunction with Robin Moore's Dubai from the 1970's, although this one is harder to find (banned in Dubai and out of print in US -- I got it out of UC library storage). Moore's book is not quite as bad (or good!), but gives you a sense of Dubai's pre-independence smuggling heyday. Both novels can be treated as narrative "artefacts" in terms of my research, so I needed to read them, but I hope you all appreciate what I went through in order to provide you with this amusement (and if you don't find those quotes hilarious, I might have to disown you!)
 
 
nativeinformant
12 December 2006 @ 03:21 am
Hi, everyone. I am back in the states, not yet at my home in Cali, but at my folks' in NJ. During the flight back and my final days in Dubai, the permanency of my departure did not really sink in. Sure I got a bit misty saying goodbye to folks, but I did not go up to my fabulous apartment rooftop for a last look even once before moving out, and I really had no list of Dubai must-visit places to see one final time. But here, in the cold of NJ, a little depression is starting to sink in. The question is, why? During my second dose of Dubai living, I pretty much started to dislike the place. I was getting tired of men staring no matter what I was wearing, tired of the traffic, tired of how difficult it was to find taxis, tired of how expensive it was to go out, disgusted by the racism, disturbed by the nonstop construction and the conditions of construction workers, angry at the censorship of internet sites, angry at the inane discussions on 7 days, annoyed at Jumeirah Janes and license plates and screaming expat children. And yet here I am, transitioning with difficulty, missing my horribly uncomfortable bed in my sterile apartment with no TV while sitting in the most comfortable bed in my parents' guest bedroom, surfing the internet with no blocked sites, an extremely fast connection, and cable.

Will I ever be able to deal with change? And what is my love/hate relationship with Dubai all about? It is this love and hate, and the passion with which I feel both, I think, that is at the core of my ethnographic, not just personal, experience in Dubai. Now, I will take a bit of time to come to terms with being back in my fabulous real life (why is that so hard to deal with?) and then hope that my brain kicks back into nerdy goddess mode. Inshallah this dissertation will start to take shape soon.

Happy holidays to all. And thank you SO much to my cousin and the good friends I have in Dubai for making a lonely girl feel at home...
 
 
nativeinformant
03 December 2006 @ 07:22 pm
So much has happened in the last few weeks. Fortunately or unfortunately, none of it research-related. I finally have an opportunity to show off some pics, though! Where to begin? Being uncreative as I am, I will go chronologically.

    1. I had to say goodbye to Taz :(. I miss her like crazy but thanks to Feline Friends, she has a new wonderful foster mommy and is doing very well. She still needs a permanent home, so if anyone is interested, let me know. Lots of people have flings in Dubai, but this was an affair to remember!




    2. Family visit to Dubai meant that I got to be a full-blown tourist! We went on Arabian Adventures (highly recommended) and had high tea at the Burj-al-Arab (not recommended at all - horrible service and tacky as hell). But Arabian Adventures was a blast - dune bashing, shisha, belly dancing, excellent food, open bar, camel rides, and a great desert sunset. Very touristy, but in the best way. All the family had a great time. Plus, we got a 15% discount b/c my cousin works for Emirates. Other family visit highlights include great falafels at Al Mallah, dancing to Bollywood music in my apartment (pics of that will NOT be posted) and hanging out with my cousin and his lovely family. Visit by parents was preceded by almost a week of alone time with the hubby, where we did a whole different set of touristy Dubai things, including massages, lots of tequila shots, fancy dinners, boozy brunch, and the requisite Indian nautch girl joint. Here are some pics from our desert safari:






    3. INDIA! The family packed up for a quick trip to India following Dubai. Only a week but we did so much. In addition to family visits and shopping in Bombay, we took a trip to Khajuraho (site of famous erotic temple sculptures), Delhi, and Agra (site of Taj Mahal). The amount we did in just a few days is mind-boggling. Here are the main attractions...



Yup, that is a tiger, in the wild! We saw him at Panna national park near Khajuraho. The domesticated elephants find the tigers and surround them. Tigers hate crossing the path of elephants. So we saw the tiger on elephant back!




These temples were built around 1100, and there were about 85 of them, all completely covered in intricate sculpture (not just erotic but every imaginable aspect of life). There were Hindu and Jain temples and even some multi-denominational ones. Only a few remain but the effect is still breathtaking. So much so that the following attraction, which requires no introduction, faced strong competition for best spot in India...




Overall, the trip was too short and I fell in love with Delhi. The historical sites (especially Qutb Minar and Red Fort), the museums (the handicrafts museum was a gem), the shopping, the world-class restaurants (we ate at Bukhara, possibly the most famous restaurant in all of India, where I had the most expensive martini of my life - over 800 rupees, or about $20 USD), the orderly streets (compared to Bombay), and the beautiful Hindi. I will be back! The one thing I hated about the trip, though, was the plethora of Hindu revisionist tour guides we encountered. I sense an article coming on...

The following pic is of tea at the Oberoi 600 meters from Taj Mahal. The best service ever and amazing Mughal style architecture, with a bit of French colonial excess (and you can't beat the view!). This puts the Burj-al-Arab tea to shame.





And so, my friends, I am back in Dubai, but for a very short time. My research is drawing to a close, and I am anxious to feel settled somewhere once again (and I miss my baby boys). Thank you to everyone for everything you have done to help me out while I have been here. It has been a wonderful experience that I will look back on fondly. If you still want to talk to me before I leave I will be here for another week. My next post focusing on research stuff will be made from the US (based on time constraints and a bit of paranoia due to recent events). Take care all, and watch this space! I won't be gone too long. XOXOXO
 
 
nativeinformant
08 November 2006 @ 12:35 pm
Please somebody claim her before I get too attached! Or start a "send Taz to America" fund for me! Yes, I have named her Tazneem (aka Taz, aka taz the spaz):

 
 
 
nativeinformant
05 November 2006 @ 12:52 pm
I have a new roommate:



Some nice man found her outside the building and brought her in. He was not from Dubai so I said I would take her and try to find her a home. This pic doesn't do justice to how tiny she is. She could take a nap on a dvd with room left over! I cleaned her off, got her the essentials (although her litter box is a takeout container since my spinney's had litter but no boxes). I am guessing she is about 5 weeks, but she is potty trained and playful and cleans herself regularly, so she's on her way to being a functioning domestic cat. Anyone want a kitten? Only problem is I am falling in love with her. She's on me every second I am home and has the cutest mew. I need to take her to the vet, but doing that in a taxi is a bit daunting!
 
 
nativeinformant
31 October 2006 @ 07:35 pm
So, I'm sure all of you have read in today's news about a subcon man who killed his family and committed suicide in Sharjah. Suicides are on the rise in Dubai, especially among Asians. Meanwhile, there are raging debates (for the first time, some might say) among all kinds of residents about the politics of different nationaitlies, labor exploitation, gender issues, and Islamic culture all over the internet. For examples, take a look at this and this. Now, I have not been here that long but I see changes, and a paradox among the changes, just in the past year. First, life is getting worse for those who are not European or Arab, Western-educated, with accomodation and moving expenses factored in to their salaries. Rents are rising, salaries are not, Indian and Pakistani economies are gaining strength, and many subcons are going back or dismissing the option of coming here in the first place. Something will have to change soon, because to make the thin profit margins of most of the companies here (esp. those in real estate, construction, import/export), the lower salaries versus high education of subcontinental middle-management is necessary. And, as I have posted before, it is not so simple as these people "going back" if they don't like it. Some people have put their life savings, and their family honor, at stake for this opportunity in the UAE, an opportunity they were often lied to about, and one that often finds them in debt for many years with high family expectations back home. Add to that the unhappiness of loss of extended family, long working hours, and stress of loss of certain freedoms here, and the high suicides are not surprising.

On the other hand... we have been talking about this so much more, and so much more openly, online and in private social situations. The online community is flourishing, and is less self-censoring than other media here. The level of discussion generated about these issues is promising, and even though people's worst sides often come out, to me this seems a new phenomenon, if just in volume. We are talking about the disjunctions and difficulties of so many different people living in such a unique society, something we have not always done in the past. And, despite the incidents of censorship and blocked sites, and CID visits, things are changing. There is a definite *community* of people online who may never get the chance to interact offline given the stratification in the workplace, culturally, and socially, that there is in the UAE.

So, what to make of this paradox? The divide between haves and have-nots is increasing on a daily basis in lived experience here, and yet in many ways divides across nationality, race, class, and gender are decreasing online. What is going to happen here? How are things going to change, or not change? I feel we are at the crux of something, and am looking forward to seeing what that is... (Inshallah)
 
 
nativeinformant
11 October 2006 @ 01:33 pm
Those of you familiar with anthropology know that the crux of our research is fieldwork, that elusive space between objectivity and subjectivity that we occupy when we go into the "field" and live among the "natives" for an extended period of time, existing simultaneously as insider and outsider, getting the sense of the "daily texture" of life in a place, learning the language and customs, and eventually going back to our ivory towers to produce "thick descriptions" of said native life.

The traditional fieldwork picture would have looked something like this: White man travels to tropical island/village/hamlet/etc and lives in the finest piece of real estate there (still quite a step down for him), collects a group of native informants to tell him about native life, translate for him, teach him the language, and show him around. Slowly he would foray into the village huts themselves, dining with the natives, enjoying their hospitality, and eventually interviewing them and participating in their rituals, chores, and festivals. In return, for he is to some degree aware of the power and economic differential between himself and his subjects/objects of study, he would bring Western items such as pens and toys and clothing for the people, and even pay them sometimes for their time. This is the traditional field -- a place of isolation and hardship, of the attempted bridging of supposedly different cultural understandings, and of the production of knowledge about the "other." Things have changed quite a bit of course with the end of colonialism, the rise of reflexivity in anthropology, and the entry of women and "native" anthropologists into the mix, but this idea of the field as a space of difference remains the touchstone of anthropology's unique disciplinarity.

Cut to me, 2006, Dubai. I came of course with the assumption of difference. I have posted before about how Dubai actually is extremely similar to Orange County in many ways, so difference was not as much as expected. I also came with the knowledge that I am a privileged Westerner and therefore obliged to compensate my informants for their time and knowledge. I expected meetings in which the roles were defined, the taker of knowledge and the giver of knowledge defined, the ivory tower far away and the texture of daily life easy to see all around me. WRONG!

I'm still thinking these things through so I don't have a clear analysis of what is going on, but I do have several observations of fieldwork practice that are turning my understanding of the field upside down...

First, when I was here in the beginning I was focused on the gold industry, so would go to the offices of prominent gold merchants and have meetings, observe the goings on, etc. I felt like I was intruding upon their time, but I was treated as a guest. I would be given water, tea, dates, even sandwiches upon arrival, apologized to for having to wait even 2 minutes, and often sent home with somebody's car and driver. My arrival in the gold souk seemed to be a respite for people from their regular routine and the presence of a female was so unusual that I got even more special treatment. Oh well, I figured. This is because I am "studying up." These are wealthy individuals who have more privilege and power than I do, and because I am a woman, there is an added element of having to look after me. When I interact with middle-class Indians, things will be different.

So I come back to the field, ready to interview said middle-class Indians. First thing to hit me is my recruitment practices. I put up ads on the internet boards that I frequent. No "traditional" sampling methods for me. Not having much to offer in terms of compensation for time (Dubai is bleeding my dollars away!), I offered a free coffee. So many people responded saying they would love to meet, have coffee etc. So the meetings happened in coffee shops in malls around town. They are still going on, so those of you reading this that want to be interviewed let me know! Anyway, my first job was to buy the coffee before we began the interview. Very few people let me buy them coffee! In fact, almost all insisted on buying ME coffee, saying that I was their guest in Dubai. During the interviews, I was asked many questions about my project, about living as an Indian in the US, etc. And then after the interviews, I inevitably received a text or email thanking me for letting me share their stories! This is a very different field indeed, and plays with my notions of privilege and give and take. Many Indians are sharing their stories for the first time and happy to have an ear, and many are using me to learn from instead of me just learning from them. Also, while most Indians here are remitting home in rupees and significantly less well-off than my American dollars self, many are in positions of greater wealth and privilege than I will ever know. And this field is more expensive than my home in many ways, and contains many different forms of ivory towers (and minarets). And I float in and out of "difference," "culture shock," and comfort, familiarity, and feeling more at home here than at home.

In a classic case of being different and the same, I have just written a very navel-gazing (classic anthropologist style) post about how the classic anthropological field is non-existent. Oh well, more I am sure later...
 
 
nativeinformant
02 October 2006 @ 10:02 am
So here I am, back in Dubai to continue this crazy fieldwork thing. What a roller coaster of emotional ups and downs it is to live for months in one place and then in another and now back again. I had this epiphany before I came here back in January that I am the child of immigrants and yet completely unaccustomed to living abroad or travelling extensively. I commend all you expats out there, because if this tiny sliver of experience I am having for the first time in my life is any indication, it is a damn hard thing to do, and I can't even imagine doing it when it is not voluntary, nor when you are not a privileged Westerner with all the perks that come along with that, especially in a place like Dubai.

Anyway, the jetlag means I am up at 5 am or earlier every day and in this limbo state between when the day gets started here and when my friends and family back in the states are just getting back from their work day. I truly feel like I am living in two temporalities at once.

So some first impressions being back in Dubai after an absence of only 3 months:

- Ramadan is quiet and lovely and the whole city feels different. It also feels more like a community since we are at least sharing a change in routine to some extent no matter what we do. This is my first experience of Ramadan in a Muslim country and I know it is not like most Muslim places, but very interesting and I am glad to be going through it (though I have to say I do miss the clubbing!)

-construction! my goodness the Burj Dubai project has progressed so significantly. The construction site right behind my apartment building is also totally different and there are a LOT of changes in my neighborhood. There is a brand new hotel on Mankhool street and a whole bunch of new hotel apartments in the Golden Sands area.

-weather: it is much cooler in the evenings and I have been enjoying walking around much more. Dubai is a walkable city in Bur Dubai, Karama, and Deira areas and this is so easily forgotten. Being able to walk is a joy and I am also saving a lot of money, I think I have been in one cab total since I got here a week ago.

-Blending in and not blending in: it is amazing how different aspects of one's identity become salient or insignificant based on context. I grew up feeling so conscious of being brown in a white world, and here I forget that I am. Yet I am SO much more conscious of being female here. I have to think about what i am wearing depending on where I choose to go (not that it stops the stares no matter what I wear - SO much more frustrating after a summer of being ignored!). I have plans to do a bunch of research in government and real estate offices. I have so far been almost exclusively doing work among Indians, so I am interested to see how my perceptions of myself will change being around more Emiratis.

-transience: this place is so different than any other I know or have heard of. Half of my friends from a few months ago are gone, but I have already made some new ones just in a week. Things just seem more intense here. People make and lose friends faster. I imagine the dating scene must be similar as well.

OK, this is not the usual well-thought-out intellectual post I aim for on this blog, but I needed to spit out some thoughts, get back in the game, and establish the fact (to myself most of all) that I am back in Dubai and need to get some work done!
 
 
Current Location: Dubai
Current Mood: sleepy, yet completely awake
 
 
nativeinformant
So, today marks the five-year anniversary of the World Trade center attacks in NYC. I woke up this morning, as most Americans, I am guessing, to news coverage of solemn remembrance ceremonies, narratives of friends and families of people lost on 9/11, and footage of the planes flying into the buildings.
Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, Cheney was on the news yesterday admitting that there is no proven connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, nor are there any weapons of mass destruction, nor is there any connection between Saddam and Al-Qaida. Yet we are doing a "pretty good job" in Iraq!
Therefore, the "war on terror" is still justified, as is our presence in Iraq, according to the government, pundits, and a lot of Americans. Along with the justification for increased fear-mongering about the lack of security at our airports, borders, ports, etc. And meanwhile, nothing has happened on American soil in the 5 years that we have supposedly been at war. Nothing, that is, except for Arab and South-Asian looking men being detained for no reason, civil liberties being eroded, people being pulled off of planes for speaking Arabic, and a slew of other "suspicious" activity.
So, every reason for being in Iraq is refuted, there is no terrorism to speak of against America, and here we are, hundreds of thousands of civilians later, with two toppled governments overseas, and the possibility of expansion into other Middle Eastern countries based on a supposed war that is being fought.
Why? The sentimental pull of 9/11, its fortification of a particular kind of American identity (non-brown), and the branding of Arabs, Islam, and Arabic as perpetually suspect allow for American military action overseas to be justified, no matter what the facts of the matter are. This is blatant racism, yet it is hardly ever called such, except for in isolated incidents. So, pulling someone off a plane might be racist, but since there is a "real" threat from Islamicists, screening Muslim men is a legitimate consideration. But tell me what is the "real" in the threat, please, because I have yet to see it, and things have gotten so blurry that it seems as long as there is a Middle East, and as long as there is Islam, Americans will think there is a threat. What is this besides racism? If you paint with a broad enough brush, everyone is a potential terrorist, and we are in a renewed stage of American expansionism, or if we are calling things by their true names, imperialism.
 
 
 
nativeinformant
30 August 2006 @ 10:03 am
What is the role of language in questions of security, identity, and civil rights?

Today's BBC World news reports that a passenger was harassed and forced to change clothes on a Jet Blue flight from NYC to LA for wearing a T shirt with an Arabic slogan on it (actually an anti-war slogan). Passengers have also been reported to be restrained for speaking Arabic on planes and there was an incident with a UAE couple speaking Arabic on the London Eye as well.

In the UAE, there's an opposite issue going on right now with expat residents claiming that emergency services should not just be limited to Arabic as it is a multi-national society despite the strong restrictions on naturalization. The notion that expats should at least try to learn some Arabic is often expressed by nationals and was so in my interviews as well. On the other hand, many expats said they never had a chance or reason to learn since all business is conducted in English or Hindi, languages that nationals themselves often use.

In the case of the US, there have been debates raging for decades, especially here in California, about bilingual education and its impact on national identity and culture. Many right-wingers feel that Spanish in particular is a threat, and advocate denial of services and education to non-English speakers. The result is that American kids are losing native languages and also missing out on the chance of learning new languages. On the flip side, the government sees the problem with lack of language skills when it comes to its foreign policy interests. FLAS programs in Arabic and Farsi are growing, and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Central Asian language programs are at capacity in our universities.

There seems to be a fine balance therefore between maintaining linguistic hegemony for the sake of some perceived "pure" identity that is at threat of hybridization, and the practicalities of multi-lingual knowledge for global interchange, political power struggles, and international business. Language is of course a huge factor of belonging, with immigrants working very hard to make sure children maintain cultural identities by teaching them language and other "cultural" skills, and nation-states attempting to police the borders of national identity through markers such as language, dress, riutals, etc. But language is also just as often presented as a neutral, innocuous thing -- everybody does it a bit differently, but we all have it so we are all just the same underneath, etc, etc.

Anyway, just thought I would put this out there and ask others for their thoughts on the role of language in the types of issues we have been discussing on the UAE boards, in academic circles, and at the dinner table. Please share your two dirhams (up from two fils due to rapid rise of cost of living)!
 
 
nativeinformant
28 August 2006 @ 03:21 pm
Not exactly related at all to my research or Dubai, but Ed and I had a blast coming up with a list of things that suck and things that rule this weekend, many of which were discovered to suck or rule during our weekend in LA. Feel free to contribute your own!

Things that rule:

R2D2
cats
Prada sunglasses
spicy tuna rolls
Galaga
tart n tiny's
owls
massage chairs
Stephen Colbert
our Prius
Six Feet Under
Tivo
Long Beach airport
Thai Elvis impersonators
Grey Goose martinis


Things that suck:

wind socks
drum circles
Star Wars prequels
garden clogs
PT cruisers
Labradoodles
Citibank
Glendale
other Priuses
Rush
Marlboro Lights
Emmys
 
 
nativeinformant
10 August 2006 @ 12:24 pm
In an effort to procrastinate writing the dissertation and to make some money, I am teaching a course on Anthropology and gender this summer. This is the first week, so we started with the usual basic texts dealing with questions of representation of the "other" in anthro, including Said's Orientalism. The students had a little trouble with it, but seemed to get a good grasp by the end of lecture. I also found this great video of an interview with Edward Said on his concept of Orientalism (aptly titled "Edward Said on Orientalism") and showed it to the students today. I expected them to be bored and doing other things but halfway through the video I turned around and they were all watching with a lot of interest. The video was excellent, touching on the way that US media demonizes Islam and produces the Middle East as a homogenous, threatening place full of terrorists. The thing is, the film was made in 1997! How completely (and sadly) timely that I showed it today in class considering all that is going on. It seemed like it was made yesterday, not pre- 9/11. I just wanted to take this moment and acknowledge how amazing Said was (controversy and all) and how great his work is as a teaching tool. My students are going to look at the news differently today (at least those of them that read the news!) and that means a lot to me. Also, for teaching undergrads (and family members!), I want to recommend Said's Covering Islam, and excellent and accessible book on media representations of the Middle East.
 
 
nativeinformant
07 August 2006 @ 10:11 am
I have been trying and trying to organize a first draft of a dissertation chapter. I am feeling very stuck, overwhelmed by data, and behind on reading. So, during jury duty last week (a very "citizen" moment for me!) I started catching up on some academic reading. I found this excellent quote by Graham Burchell in Foucault and Political Reason. I know it's very nerdy for a blog post but I'm finding it quite profound so I thought I'd share:

"Precisely because there is nothing more historical than truth, the historian of the present must have a concern for it, must be attentive to its different forms, must be curious about its real and possible transformations, must be meticulous in describing the shapes it assumes, must be accurate in the accounts he or she gives of it and must be willing to be disturbed or even changed by it."

I find it very apt especially looking at what is going on right now in Lebanon and the completely opposite versions of truth that are coming out of, for example, UAE papers and US ones...
 
 
nativeinformant
27 July 2006 @ 12:08 am
I admit, wonderful husband and cats aside, I have been missing Dubai quite a bit, griping about the lack of stuff to do in the suburbs, the heat wave which seems unbearable without the a/c I have grown so accustomed to, and the fact that everything seems to cost in dollars what it cost in dirhams in Dubai (esp. cigarettes -- bad me!).

But, an Indian professor here in Socal had pointed out to me before I left for fieldwork that there is this trend of Dubai Indians relocating to Irvine. I found that very strange, until I did a little comparison of the two places. Here's some food for thought (or reason to cry for me):

1. In the 60's Dubai was nothing but sand; in the 60's Orange County was nothing but orange groves
2. On the UC Irvine campus, buildings built in the 70's are considered historic; on Sheikh Zayed Road, the World Trade Center (which hails from the 80's I think) is considered historic
3. In Irvine, one company owns all of the housing, and sets rents accordingly;  In Dubai, basically Emaar, Dubai Holdings, and Nakheel (all involved with the govt to some degree) own most of the housing, and set rents accordingly
4. In Orange County, the two major forms of entertainment on the weekend are shopping malls and beaches; same for Dubai
5. In Orange County, there is a largely ignored but completely necessary underclass of Mexican migrants who take care of our lawns, cook our food, clean our homes, and build new shopping malls; for Dubai, substitute Indian/Sri Lankan/Filipina
6. Orange county uniform = oversized designer handbag, oversized designer shades, $200 jeans, and tank top; Dubai uniform = oversized designer handbag, oversized designer shades, $200 jeans, tank top, and abaya
7. In the OC, no one is a real blonde; in Dubai, also doubt it
8. In the OC, Asians are taking over; same with Dubai!

Both are deserts, but somehow the sand is better in the one I'm not in...