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How to...
navigate Islamophobic harassment as a Muslim woman of color scholar in academia

In November 2022, we had the pleasure and honor of interviewing Dr. Mariam Durrani for our How-To series. The following is a transcript of the interview, edited for clarity.

 

Dr. Mariam Durrani is currently a Professional Lecturer in the School of International Service at American University in Washington, D.C. Her research projects engage with imperialism from a decolonial feminist approach. Her current book project examines how students in Pakistan and the United States negotiate the United States Wars on "Terror". She also operates The Roti Collective, which analyzes practices of roti-making and consumption that have transformed through global migration. 

 

In Spring of 2022, Dr. Durrani resigned from a tenure-track position at Hamilton College due to ongoing incidents of anti-Muslim and other kinds of harassment from right-wing elements on and around campus. In this interview, we explore the question: "How to deal with academic harassment?"

Kenzell: What led you to resign from your position and Hamilton College?

 

Mariam: So I decided to resign--what prompted my ultimate decision to resign in early this year, was when I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in December of 2021. And that was the second diagnosis of autoimmune disorder in the last five years since I started working at Hamilton. And so it really forced me to take stock of how this position was harming my person. I knew that it was harming me in many other ways. But this was it. And the harm really comes from two things. Number one is that I had been targeted by right wing factions on campus for my work’s association with Palestinians and Muslim rights alongside my scholarship on race and empire, and proximal to campus through this think tank that's close to Hamilton College. So that was one thing--digital harassment, in the form of targeting my scholarship on right wing media, et cetera. And then the second part was really the fact that when I complained to my department, to the Dean of the College Administration, their response each time was to tell me to ignore it, to not pay attention to it, that it doesn't impact my standing in the college as a faculty member. And of course, this is at the same time that I'm feeling the stress of what it is to be targeted, to be singled out in this way, for my scholarship and for my identity on campus, and what that represents at this small, mostly white liberal arts college. 

 

And so all of that together is when I decided that I had to resign from this tenure track position, that kind of idealized type of employment that we have in academia. And I really think we need to rebrand it, because I think we call it the tenure track, but it's more of a tenure trap, where you get kind of disciplined into being a particular kind of scholar and professor. And for those of us who color outside the lines, we find out pretty quickly that we're experiencing that type of marginalization and are often left to deal with that on our own. And so I can talk about that. But that's kind of ultimately it--it was the racism and the ableism. I think that is associated with racism, where marginalized faculty are dealing with racist conditions, and are physically suffering for it. And that is just accepted as part of academic life. The only way to get out of it, sometimes it seems, is to remove yourself from it. So that's why I resigned.

 

Kenzell: Could you speak a little bit more about the tenure track as “tenure trap” comment?

 

Mariam: So what is the tenure track? I think that’s one way, of course, to talk about it. So it's a particular kind of employment in higher education, where you can eventually apply for tenure, and have secure employment. And so along with that, of course, is higher salary, research leave, all these perks that are really kind of idealized, and that's great. But then when you start to think about what you have to do as a marginalized faculty member, it's very different than other people who are on the tenure track. Right. So I think that's one part of it, is that you have to be observant to the ways that in your department, the college has discriminatory policies. And you're supposed to kind of work around that and be like, “Oh, that's just part of how it is”. 

 

And so an example I'll give you is when I was hired, I was hired alongside another faculty in archaeology. So we were both on the tenure track. I recall that he was teaching a class where there was going to be a trustee member visiting his class. And in the faculty meeting, he said, I was going to teach about inequality in the Bronze Age, or the Iron Age or something. But he's like, I changed it, because I didn't want to talk about anything political when these trustees were visiting. And I almost fell out of my seat. “Do you know what I teach? I'm out here teaching about anti Muslim racism and the war on terror.” And you're worried about teaching inequality in the prehistoric age, just this. And again, this is exactly what it's like, I'm expected to teach these classes of doing this type of really difficult work within this incredibly white institution. And he is a white man, who was worried about teaching inequality as a trained archaeologist, which again, I thought this is what you're trained to do. So you should be able to do it no matter what. But again, these are the kinds of ways that white faculty are disciplined;      he has been led to believe that if you were to talk about these subjects, that would somehow negatively impact his position. And so he's doing this as a protective mechanism. And those of us who are doing the kind of work that we do as global South scholars from the Global South, or in the Global South, that positioning is just taken for granted, as—“Oh, that's why we want you because you're so diverse and so interesting, and our students will learn so much from you. But if you are being targeted, we aren't really going to step up and do anything about it, because none of us have had to face that issue. And even if we did, our way of dealing with that issue is to just not teach it in this case.” 

 

And again, you can go back to the history of anthropology, and of many of these disciplines, that is the way they’ve always done. They can identify and know how the Black, Indigenous, and PoC scholars who see the harm being done and try to address them are most of the time being silenced, but there's a particular kind of deliberate ignorance within the tenure track that is encouraged, that is rewarded. A lot of people who get these Early Career Achievement Awards are people who have been disciplined into following the rules. And those of us who have pushed these boundaries, even the slightest bit, are reminded constantly that we are going too far. 

And another example is, in 2018, I wrote an essay titled “Upsetting the Canon” for Anthropology News on assigning Zora Neale Hurston’s publication, Barracoon, which had been published posthumously. And I really saw it as an incredible text, to teach anthropology and to teach ethnography and to teach the ways that clearly Hurston and her peers were able to understand anthropology in a much more sophisticated way, in the 1920s, and 30s, than their peers who figured it out in the 80s, with Writing Culture. And so I wrote about that, and I titled that essay, “Upsetting the Canon.” And I was advised by a senior feminist anthropologist that I went too far in my titling, and in that essay of simply saying that we should teach Hurston’s text, and that I should have been, quote, “more circumspect.” And when I asked, “Can you please tell me what that means? Or what, what was it?” And she said, “Well, I just don't think you'll get hired, if you write in this way.” 

 

So that's what I call the tenure trap. It's me being able to say the smallest little thing based on the fact that I have been trained to read and teach on these subjects, I am encouraged to be more circumspect. And a white archaeologist is actually instructed to not teach that by the senior anthropologist in the department because of again, how deeply disciplined they are to be complacent to whiteness. And so, I mean, I think these are all the ways that I could go on about how the tenure track is actually a trap. And it really restricts faculty and I don't think people talk about that because we celebrate it so much. And we celebrate tenure and I think we should celebrate it because it's a lot of work that people do to get to that, but it is not equitable in any way, and we really need to call attention to the ways that that is not.

Image description: A screenshot taken from The Monitor, Hamilton College Student Newspaper, featuring a conversation on "Contesting Whiteness at Hamilton" with Dr. Mariam Durrani.

Kenzell: What was the process leading up to and during the resignation? So the process of collecting information, formalizing your grievances, to eventually submitting the resignation?

 

Mariam: Yeah, so there's one way of thinking about my resignation from January, I decided, after my diagnosis, etc. But there's another way of thinking about my resignation, spanning from the first time that I was targeted, in the sense that one of the things that I've learned throughout this experience is to really make archiving your kind of interactions and experiences as a worker an active part of what you're doing, the same way that every time you have a new activity or a new group, or do a presentation and you update your CV. Similarly, you have to kind of take stock every semester of the various kinds of aggression one might face and to record them. And so in the beginning, I wasn't really doing it quite so proactively. But over time, I realized that only if I were to keep it [encounters of digital harassment]--only if I kept an archive--would I have evidence that these things had happened, that these things had been said to me, that I had approached the faculty to my chair or Dean, and asked for help, and they didn't give me help. So that's one thing is to archive and collect all of this information, and separately from your professional email account on a private email account, or what have you.

 

The other part of it is that these emails that I started writing in 2018, to educate my senior faculty and administration about what I was dealing with, ultimately turned into a publication for American Anthropologist, three conference papers about that before I published my essay about being targeted. And that was all again, part of this archival process that I was trying to create. And ultimately, when I approached a lawyer about my case, and filed a complaint with the New York Division of Human Rights, this was all my kind of evidence, right, this was all the information that I had been gathering for years. So I think, again, just having a record of it is the only way to have a record that it happened, and to have your record of it rather than the way the college presents it. And so the reason that's really important is because when ultimately my lawyer wrote to the college about the way that I was being treated, their response was to say that I had never filed a formal complaint. So the fact that I had sent all these emails did not constitute a complaint for the college because they were using ways to basically get out of any accountability. And so ultimately, when I sent the email in fall of 2021, to the Title IX coordinator, I explicitly wrote an official complaint in the subject line. So that way, she would understand that this is the official one versus all the other ones that I was doing in the past, which they treated as “just for fun.” So that's why the archival process is so important.

 

Now that I have resigned, and I've left, I'm reflecting on this process, and that's part of it is really thinking about how I was not really given this advice when I first started working, that you need to keep a record of all of the interactions that you have, even if it's just going to a faculty meeting or a committee meeting, and somebody says or does something that is inappropriate to actually just make a note in the journal somewhere that this was said, or somebody made this request to me. Because later on, I think it helps to make sense for yourself of what you have experienced. Rather than gaslighting yourself the way that institutions will gaslight you and say it wasn't that bad. I mean, even just when somebody has to say it wasn't that bad when she'd already assumed that it probably was, and you're trying to kind of convince the other person that that's not the case. I recount the stories of these interactions that I had with people.

 

For example, when I went to an event on campus that the college president called “Common Ground” where he would invite somebody from the Democrats and one person from the Republicans. It was this meeting of the political opposites or what have you. So this time they had invited Condoleezza Rice and Susan Rice as these two representatives that were going to find common ground. And for the dinner, that was at the president's house, they invited all the women of color faculty on campus, we all found ourselves at the president’s house. It sounded to me like, “Oh, you’ll get invited to this one nice event,” because all the other ones we weren't really invited to. And then the Dean came up to me, this was about a year and a half after I was hired. And she goes, “Oh, hi, my name is, x.” And I looked at her, I responded     , “Oh, yeah, my name is Mariam Durrani. you hired me last year here.” So the way again is that we're just reminded all the time that you're replaceable, you're just one of many. That you’re forgettable. And then again, ultimately, the way that I was treated, that became clear that they see that tenure track jobs are extremely sought after. So even if you don't treat your faculty well, even if there's high turnover, there's always people who are looking for jobs. And they take advantage of that exploitative kind of nature of the academic market to really not change anything. And so that's just another way of framing this resignation process across five years, and really kind of the learnings that I've had, and just being a little bit more realistic when you take a position like this, what it is that you're signing up for, and making sure that you are able to construct a life outside of work, where you have support and where you have community, because oftentimes at work, you're not going to find that at all. It's just going to be kind of disappointment after disappointment.

 

Kenzell: Yeah. The story about the inviting Democrat and Republican Speaker made me remember my graduation ceremony. They gave medals to former Vice President Biden and John Boehner. So a Democrat and Republican politician, invited together.

 

Mariam: The corporate elites see that as a real concession to the public. Oh, look how controversial we're being right now.

 

Kenzell: Yeah, I thought, yeah, I was thinking that it's really weird for Hamilton to be even doing anything like this. And then I thought about it. Oh, wait, I've seen that happen at other places doing some weird ritual for them to show…I don't know.”

 

Mariam: Their “diversity of thought.” Yeah, the “marketplace of ideas.” 

 

Kenzell: How do scholars that are targeted recognize discrimination, harassment in the workplace? And what kinds of actions are there available to people experiencing discrimination? So yeah, I think the idea behind this question was that it probably takes some people some time to understand kind of what's happening around them or to them.

Mariam: I think keeping a record, keeping your own archive of what people say and how, for example, you're assigned to things. I mean, this is not so serious, but in some ways, it is insensitive. When I started at AU [American University], before I taught my first class, I was asked to be on the DEI committee. Of course, I just started, I have not taught a class yet. I don't know what issues you all have around diversity, equity and inclusion. So how could I possibly be asked to give advice other than the fact that yes, I am who I am and so I guess I will have a little bit more to say about this topic, but again, this is the kind of tokenization that is just par for the course in higher education, right? You are going to be asked to be that person. When I was sent that email by the faculty president, I responded to say, “No, I respectfully declined the nomination.” And then he responded with an email that was educating me on what my service obligations are as a faculty member, to which I responded with a quote from the Faculty Handbook that according to the position, which I've been hired for, which was a one year appointment, these are my service obligations, and I will take care of it. And so women of color are always asked to do more service than white men. So I'm doing my service, don't you worry about my service. And so again, this is a position that I can take now, given my experience, and all of that, but I think this is what I would advise people to do is--when you do get those kinds of emails, when you are being pulled aside to be told “Hey you should think about this,” to record it and to actually journal these events. And I think the other thing is to share it with peers to share it with like-minded colleagues outside of your institution to give oxygen to these experiences, rather than to keep them to yourself. Because then, in a sense that is, of course, how this shows up in the body, right? It shows up as anxiety, it shows up as stress, sleepless nights, feeling like your work is not good enough, and feeling  you have to go back and make sure that you're doing what you need to do.

 

And what I've realized over the years is that we already go through so much to get to this point, especially if you complete your PhD you've already experienced some of that. And at that point, it's      so important to heal yourself from the PhD experience, which, again, across the board, I don't know anybody who hasn't had a harrowing experience. And beyond that, then your first job, whether it's a postdoc, or as an adjunct faculty or tenure track, whatever position you end up at in higher ed, to make sure that you're talking to people who are not in the same kind of position, but at other places, and experiencing the different ways that that higher education looks, because that also, I think, does a lot to take one out of the isolationist kind of thing that happens when you when you're being discriminated and targeted. And just to remind yourself that there's a bigger world out there. Just coming from Hamilton to AU, in the last few weeks, I've just realized, again, that I've changed as a scholar because of these five years. But I've done so much work that has connected me to so many different audiences, different communities, through my public scholarship, that carries me in my work now in a way that wouldn't have if I had listened to all the people who said, “Oh, that's taking you away from peer reviewed articles, and that's what you really need to be on the tenure track, right?”

 

I'm so glad, actually, that I did not pay heed to those instructions, and that I continued to develop my work in different ways, including my work on The Roti Collective, which is more of an experimental ethnography project, looking at roti and roti making, and that's connecting me to Food Studies conversations. I just was at the Association of American Studies and presented my work on theorizing the mother daughter relationship within the Muslim American diaspora and thinking about how that is a particular set of knowledges that we don't really value but actually are really important to study and learn from. So I think all of these moves that I've been able to make as a scholar have been because I talked to people about what I was going through at Hamilton and was encouraged by scholars, especially feminist scholars, to value what I was learning from all of these experiences, and to write about it. And that's, I think, again, another thing, it really saddens me when I talk to scholars who have been dealing with discrimination, and then they choose to resign for important reasons, and then disconnect from all the work that they've done. They feel that they can't really claim that or continue that moving forward, because it's not in this very particular kind of employment position. And that I think, again, is such a scam. What a way of convincing all of us that our work is only meaningful if it looks in this particular way or if it's published in this or in these pages or this kind of thing, again, that's just couldn't be further from the truth.

roti1.png

Image Description: A screenshot of the Roti Collective's Instagram post featuring graphic flyer for "Roti as Care, as Craft, as Community" event on November 22, 2021.

Kenzell: Yeah, I remember coming into the PhD program. I think I wasn't super aware back then, coming into the PhD program and interviewing at different places, chatting with professors as a prospective student, and just mentioning, “I'm not convinced about going into the tenure, or going into academia even.” And just the amount of “Oh, okay,” kind of response. Or I think some of them were, “I don't know how to advise you on that.”

 

Mariam: And they don't, at least that's honest. Because, yeah, they've only been directed towards one kind of work. When I was resigning, and I even talked to some colleagues, especially from Linguistic Anthropology, there was a way of talking about it as, “Oh, I hope Linguistic Anthropology doesn't lose you,” which is just such a weird way of articulating this thing, because obviously, that's not what's happening, that doesn't even represent actually, at all, what's happening. If anything, let's talk about how Linguistic Anthropology has this way of creating a separation between the researcher and their data. And that this kind of distancing is produced by the specialized vocabulary, the registers that we use to talk about our work, and I appreciate that from the perspective that it does really allow us to get analytically into really interesting phenomena that otherwise is not possible, given the frameworks that are out there. And yet, I think it's important to recognize that when one does this type of work, that you have to actively resist the distancing that the method produces, right? That the method or the analytical framework actually creates this distance, which is, again, a fact. And then how does one resist that or kind of compensate for that through other methodological moves that one can make that do that. We don't have that kind of a conversation as rigorously as we should in Linguistic Anthropology. 

 

And this was one of the specific ways that I think I want to analyze my experience, and I'm still kind of working through it. But at Hamilton, two of my colleagues are linguistic anthropologists, who have written about inequality at the college. That was their primary field site, where they analyzed the ways that culture became an unmarked way of talking about race. And I learned so much from that work. But the part that I realized was missing is the way that this right wing think tank was operating on campus. And that's the larger kind of context in which this nonlinearization of higher education has been happening within this larger white supremacist context. Both from the perspective that the college itself has a settler colonial history, and has produced all kinds of imperial and colonial US administrators in the Philippines, and going through all of US wars, etc, and state government positions. Then also the ways that they have been creating space for white supremacists. Richard Spencer's mentor was invited by this organization while I was there. So that's happening at the same time. And when the method doesn't really have a space to hold this type of complexity, especially around whiteness, we reproduce these issues. And again, as anthropologists, I know you're also a linguistic anthropologist, this is in a really important part of the methodological conversation that that really can't be had, unless all of the academics that talk about it, talk about their own positioning in reproducing these issues.

 

I mean, it connects back to this--we were talking earlier about this roundtable that I was on at the AAA’s this year and the roundtable was titled Risks and Harms of Field Work and Ethnography. And I started by talking about audience and addressivity. And addressivity being this concept that Bakhtin writes about, where every word that is uttered, is uttered towards someone somewhere, right? There's an addressivity to our speech, in terms of who we're saying it for, whoever that may be. There are other things that one can get into in terms of the audience that the speaker imagines, versus the audience that it ultimately reaches. Barracoon being a very interesting example of something that was written in the mid ‘30s, and then kind of disappeared, and now she's finding all these audiences and being read anew, and we're making sense of it. But at the same time, when we think about Linguistic Anthropology or any other kind of specialized scholarly approach, there's a function to that analytic method in terms of the addressivity that has been produced, which is often a very small group of people that will then receive that scholarship and be able to understand it. And we seem to prize that almost as a kind of mark of our expertise or authority. But then again, that does produce this distancing, such that people are not really able to connect it to anything else. And that's where I find this particular kind of issue within Linguistic Anthropology, where we write about racializing discourses, which is fascinating. And yet that work is not really connecting to [the public’s experience]. And this is not to say that no one is doing publicly engaged work. I know, there's a lot of people doing really amazing work. But again, generally speaking, it's not the case. And that's because of some of the ways that our scholarly approaches create exclusivity deliberately. And then we are not really cognizant of what that means for our work more broadly, in terms of what are the contributions that are being made? And for what purpose? Other than self-promotion? And tenure?

 

Kenzell: What do you think that colleagues and students (or even institutional administrations) can do to better support scholars experiencing discrimination?

 

Mariam: First, let's talk about colleagues who have positions where they have authority and need to step it up, and actually take all the learning that we have so much evidence about. For example, making sure that the hiring process is more humane. I'm seeing more and more where job ads, for example, will only ask for a cover letter and a CV. And then from there, in the next few rounds, when you ask for more information, depending on who kind of gets through, I think these are the kinds of small things that actually can be done very easily. But there's a kind of just complacency, a “this is just the way we've always done it” kind of approach. That makes it harder, I think, when I've applied for jobs, and people have gotten back to me with some feedback, or personalized email. I mean, again, this is the basics, right? It does not require any funding to do that. There needs to be ways that departments (and universities, but really it starts at the department level) that you're allocating resources for the challenges that the department is facing in a much more direct way rather than as a reaction. So I think typically, higher education has a more reactive policy of when a problem comes up, then we'll come up with a solution. When there is some terrible incident of a hate crime on campus or something, that's when there's this move, let's have a teach-in and let's have a statement, etc, etc. When there are certain things happening, those who have the authority, the responsibility, need to actively plan for that. And that's specific to the context and much more situated but I think that needs to be there. 

 

There needs to be support for graduate students actually, just as you were saying for career possibilities beyond academia, that needs to be something that I think departments are, again, actively investing in from the very beginning. When they recruit students to say that, here's one set of opportunities, and we're also going to provide workshops for these other kinds of jobs and invite people who are doing this type of work, to be the kind of mentors or talk about their process. All of this needs to be, again, ways of de-exceptionalizing academia as an employment space. And also letting people feel that they have options, because there was a moment, for example, last year, before I got this job at AU, where I was thinking that it's just not possible that after so many years, I am only qualified to do one job. This is ridiculous. And the fact that so many people are convinced of that is sad, but it is built into the training for exactly the reasons that you said that there isn't this kind of proactive encouragement that we need to help students imagine for different kinds of career paths, especially given the state of higher education. This is something that needs to be done more and more, as we are seeing higher education is going to be targeted. It has been an active process for years. The right-wing kind of outrage machine that specifically targets higher education has been funded for at least the last 15 years, if we don't count going back to the passage of civil rights legislation in the late 60s. I mean, really, that's how long they've been organizing. So I think that on the flip side, there needs to be this kind of consciousness that this is an issue that all faculty face, especially faculty who teach on issues that are deemed some kind of “anti-American” or what have you. Then what are administrators and colleagues doing around that, and what are scholarly associations doing for that? Should there be a legal defense fund in the AAA [American Anthropological Association] or other organizations to support faculty? I mean, again, I wouldn't necessarily trust the AAA but should there be a legal defense fund, in general, to provide support for those who are being harmed? I think these are, again, just some ideas that I've been thinking about. And even just for myself, I ultimately paid about $5,000 for my legal funds, and I was able to raise about half that amount with help from friends and colleagues. But that's a lot of work. All of this is external to everything else that I need to do, including as a single mom. So there's a lot to be done. But I do think it starts first and foremost with faculty who have positions who are tenured, and who could actually do more than they're doing right now.

Kenzell: How do you work with students in various spaces? So moving from colleagues and the administration to what is the role that students might play?

 

Mariam: I think the first place where that position starts for me with students is in the classroom, in the syllabus, where I try to make sure that we're bringing in things that are happening in the world, in the US, in the local context, and then also on campus and analyzing it. In the past at Hamilton, there would be times where there would be an issue, and somebody published something in the newspaper like a letter to the editor, and that was really controversial. And I would bring that in, especially into a Linguistic Anthropology class. Great, let's do discourse analysis on this document, let's figure out what's going on. How is it being misinterpreted? Why is it being misinterpreted? How do we understand it so these become really direct ways of helping students kind of make sense of what's going on and how to understand the situation. 

 

Also at Hamilton, I remember, somehow I got a hold of some of the archives on an incident I think in the 20s where there was a play that was going to happen on campus by a group of students and that play the n-word was going to be used. And this is 1929 or something. And there were about five or so black students on campus, and this was an all-male campus. So these young men wrote a letter to the college administration saying you need to do something to make sure that this play doesn't use this word that there are consequences to, when the campus officially sanctions racial slurs being used in whatever capacity. Such an excellent letter. So we analyze that letter. And then we analyze the response that was given. And we thought about that in relation to contemporary examples, where students request that the administration address something, and then we look at the administration's response. And so this becomes a way of just helping students make sense of where they are and what they're observing. Beyond that, I think, in my experience at Hamilton, when I resigned, I initially was only communicating with faculty colleagues. I sent my letter to the department and to the dean notifying them and I got some ridiculous responses, including a response from a senior faculty member in anthropology, who literally said, “I know that you've had problematic inflection points during your time.” Again, let's talk about the neoliberalized language to talk about targeted harassment as problematic inflection points. So at some point, maybe I'll write about that somewhere, because it's too good. But I was only communicating with them. 

 

And then I think at some point students were like, “We heard that you're resigning. Don't you like us anymore?” which is a very student thing to say. And my response was to say, of course, that's not what's going on here. And I posted my resignation letter on my door, on my office door. And then I also posted it on my public Instagram account. So I didn't post it on Twitter, because I knew what Twitter is for--my students are not on Twitter. But they were on Instagram. And so that got around. That was shared, and that was kind of all over the place. And that led to meetings with students where they decided that they wanted to annotate my resignation letter. So because the letter was written using a more legal kind of language that actually I had gotten edited with my lawyer to make sure I hit all the points that I needed to hit. But then the students created an infographic out of that essay that I wrote in American Anthropologist, and then they organized a teach-in the library. And it was attended by 300-400 students. And then they went and crashed the faculty trustee dinner, and yelled at the trustees for a little bit, which is great. I don't know if it will do anything. But it certainly shows how students respond. And I connected back to what we did in the classroom, where we did read letters, and we annotated them. And we tried to understand how racializing discourses are encoded into these archival documents, such that when they saw all these things, they were ready with the skills to analyze the letter for themselves. And we had a meeting, I remember where they annotated it, and they're like, can we go over with you and make sure that we understand. “Y'all are just doing homework for fun at this point!” A whole life project that you've just taken on. It was great because I think they learned so much and regardless of what happened in my case, that learning will hopefully go forward with them in their workplaces, and any experiences that they see. I hope that's what they learned.

 

Kenzell: Hearing how involved the students got, I feel at some point, that kind of dies--I guess it doesn't die. But there's a process of professionalization that occurs in graduate school that makes you renegotiate your act, I guess.

 

Mariam: I mean, grad school is, I think I said before, it's harrowing. It is. Every year, somehow or another you're told that you're not doing enough, that you're not gonna make it, so then you make yourself fit so you can get through this. “Okay, this is an obstacle I got to take care of, I got to do my exams, my comps [comprehensive exams], I need to put my committee together. I need to manage the politics of my committee members [I had so many politics in my committee].” And actually between my two programs at Penn, people's personal relationships were shaping who could be on my committee. And there was a moment where my primary program and the Education school almost kicked me out. And then I had to bring in somebody, fortunately, again, thankful for Stanton Wortham. He was assistant dean at that time, and he was able to step in, because Nancy Hornberger and Betsy Rymes were trying to mess with me, and at this point, I'm done, pretending that these things didn't happen. They did. And I literally have not spoken to the educational linguistics department since I graduated from Penn [University of Pennsylvania]. So that tells you something that was in 2016, and it’s 2022. So the kinds of discrimination that one faces in grad school can be incredibly discouraging. But you have to make sure that you have a community of thinkers that are aware of all of that, and don't gaslight you and actually listen to what you're going through and affirm that and give thoughtful feedback, advice, help you, encourage your work. Because again, the work is bigger than that. The work is bigger than these advisors who are largely irrelevant, and continue to wield authority in these pretty petty ways. So I think one way is to just make sure you're doing what you are all already doing. I mean, honestly, this is so great that you all have already created this collective. And I'm sure it's providing so much support already.

 

Kenzell: It's been pretty fun so far. The next question--what led you to publish about the harassment? And what role does scholarship and the sense of application of academic expertise have in dealing with this harassment and institutional problems?

 

Mariam: So I decided to publish. So I had written these emails that have been turned into conference papers that then were kind of ready when there was a call, I think, by the Multimodal Anthropology section. In AAA, they were doing a forum on race and the digital. And so there were a few of us that they had asked, and I was one of the people that they asked for that, knowing that I had been presenting this previously. I really saw it as an opportunity to, again, publicly archive my narrative around this but with an analytic kind of a framework that allows other people to also understand what's going on here. So that was fantastic. Then when I wrote that, I mean just to go back a little bit. 

 

When I was initially thinking of writing it, I remember I spoke to some friends, including Negar Rezavi, who had also done her PhD at Penn. Her research focuses on Iranian foreign policy discourse in DC. So another topic that isn't necessarily welcomed in the imperial university. But at the same time, she understood what's at stake in terms of having an archive of this and she really educated me on the importance of publicly archiving my experience. So I had that encouragement. And then at the same time, the week that I submitted [the article] I remember, I was targeted by The Daily Wire. So it was also really stressful that week, I really felt a lot of anxiety about being more public about the fact that I'm being harassed. Well, am I inviting more harassment? And this is where I think publishing it in AAA, for me, provided a little bit of a cover because who's going to really go pick up American Anthropologist and find this work, right? It's not being published in Newsweek, or whatever, Washington Post with me, or some really public space. So that kind of also, I think, gave me a little bit of feeling that okay, it's out there, but it's not “out there, out there.” That was helpful, I think, but then I spoke with people about it. So I thought that putting it into an academic kind of publication would again, substantiate my claims, and show that this analysis passes a particular kind of academic criteria. So that gives it some authority. And it does in the sense that when I spoke to faculty linguistic anthropologist, mentors, they were saying, “Oh, that's really great. I learned a lot from reading it, you should publish it in another place. Let's extend this from an essay into an article length piece.” And I was just like, I am not terribly excited about publicly documenting my harassment again, and again, I'm surprised that this is the way that you're reading the success of this publication, as an opportunity to continue to record all the ways that I'm being targeted. I'm not going to do that. I'm not interested in that. I mean, it was really again, for the purpose of producing it in the sense that I could then cite it in my complaint, as evidence, and I remember, my lawyer was saying, “You're an expert on your case. I don't need to speak. You just need to speak. You've already done all the research, right?” I was my own investigator, I was doing it for them in a sense. And again, just because I had to. Who else was gonna tell the story the way that I understood it was happening. So I think it's complicated in the sense of: Yes, I did publish it, but I think it produces a series of problems that are in a sense, kind of indicative of how the tenure trap works, where even when you are writing [about your own harassment], any publication is only read in relationship to what it can do for your next publication, rather than pay attention to the content of what I said, and help me think about what to do about this.

 

But it reminds me of Toni Morrison's quote. There's always another distraction, there's always another way that your labor is going to be extracted for the purpose of educating somebody who is again, willingly and actively not trying to change how they understand the issue. And so at that point one has to be thinking, “Is there another way that I can use my energy that will be more beneficial to me and to others, rather than this kind of tax that I'm paying, and nothing is really even getting done?”

Kenzell: Do you think the publication ended up at least being effective for the goal of making a public archive?

 

Mariam: Absolutely. I mean, it's great. Last night, when I was speaking, I can always say that I've written about it, if anybody wants to see it, I don't have to go over it again. Right. In that sense, I do think that's why oftentimes people do have these kinds of public archives, right. So you can just direct folks to that rather than having to go over it. And at the same time, actually, I think the Hamilton College, there's two student newspapers, there's one that's called The Monitor, which is the social justice newspaper, and then there's The Spectator, which is the more kind of general one, and they really did a lot of work to investigate my case. And I was one of nine faculty who resigned last year. And of the nine, six were people of color or queer faculty. And so that was, again, indicative of a larger systemic issue. I really tried to use those opportunities in talking to students about it, to point them to all of these things, so that way people can do their own work. And learn about it. But yeah, I'm really glad I wrote it. I'm very glad that I wrote that even though it was very stressful. Many, many times, I was like, should I have done that? Did I really just do that?

 

Kenzell: Yeah, I can imagine. This next question is kind of sparked by a bunch of other faculty that also resigned that year. I'm wondering if there's a sense for the people that were targeting you if they think they’ve “won” or if you've ever thought about that.

 

Mariam: There’s two points that provide some answers about what's going on with that. The first is that when I resigned and the student newspaper wrote their article, they did interview the executive director of this group called the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI). So they interviewed this character, and he was a faculty member at the college right.  So him, and three other faculty originally created this, and there's still one standing faculty member in the history department, who was part of that group. So they asked him what are your thoughts about this? And he said, “Well she flatters herself into thinking that we would do this, but we did get a fundraising boom or bonanza.” I think about that, of course. So he said that, and that was published in the newspaper, which really irritated me. I mean, even at that time, that's basically success for them, right, that they were able to do that. That said, I recently spoke with the editor of The Monitor, the sort of social justice newspaper, and kind of gave an update on my case, because ultimately, my complaint with the New York Division of Human Rights has been dismissed. And they said that the evidence I presented was too speculative, because there isn't an official website that says, Hamilton College and AHI are like, partners in whiteness. But for those of us who understand how this works, of course, there is an affinity there. In this conversation, the student editor told me that after everything that happened last year, including the teach-in and the protests, that it's become very unpopular for a student to be affiliated with that place. So they're having a hard time recruiting students. So in this interview, I go even harder in talking about how ridiculous that place is to further contribute to any “negative propaganda” about that institute that I can. I think this is where students are invested in making sure that AHI is unpopular, because AHI does not only target faculty, they target students, students on campus, student organizations, their protests. Of course, DEI, as we know, is just a scam. It's just for the purpose of appearances. But this is the way that it's managed by these external actors, and higher education kind of is aware of it. 

 

There is something also to be said about this last midterms, and the way that Gen Z voters have really turned out again. This is where I'm really glad that I'm teaching. I'm really glad that I'm talking to young people who are seeing the world that they're in and are really dissatisfied with this condition and the state of affairs. And I think, yeah, these kinds of right-wing groups on college campuses are preying on young people. And it's really the responsibility of faculty who understand that predatory approach that they're taking and really offer a substantive powerful alternative. And I feel that once I started working with students, we were all in agreement that AHI needs to go, that institute needs to go, the faculty who affiliated with that institution should be boycotted and anybody who tries to affiliate with that place should be publicly known as doing that work. And how do they create that? And that's on them. That's their campus. I have left and I told them even at that time that I'm leaving, but I really do think that you      are the ones who can make that change because the administration is not doing it. They're not doing anything. So that said the college did hire three new senior administrative positions—all three black men—the first time in the college's history to have a black Dean. So they are doing again their DEI version of “Last year we had these resignations, so this year, we've completely changed the admin.” So I mean, let's see, let's see what that does. But it's so unfair to those new administrators, right, this is exactly what they do is that they bring in administrators, especially people of color, and then they're like “Now fix it, fix our centuries of discrimination and racism.”

 

Kenzell: The next question is from us as junior scholars looking at the job market--were there any red flags that you ignored during the interview process or campus visits, as in what should academics look out for during the job search process? What questions should they ask of their potential departments to get a better sense of the culture and environment? And I think building on that, thinking about also the feeling in the universities that, “oh, there's always someone to take up the position” even as this was a pretty public thing that happened at Hamilton, with a mass resignation. And even then they're able to draw in three black guys for their DEI. It's obviously hard for people in academia to turn down job opportunities, right. But at the same time, how do you understand the situations you're getting into? Or do you think there is a way to understand them beforehand or are they just everywhere?

 

Mariam: I think it is important to assume that there's a little bit of it. I don't think you can find an institution that is outside of these problems right now. Especially given the corporatization of higher education. So just to kind of go back to the question in terms of what did I saw during my job interview process? My campus visit was December 18th and 19th of 2016. So this is a month after Trump was elected. At that time, I had a postdoc at the Harvard School of Education     . And I was a postdoc, part of the diversity cohort, there were three of us new postdocs so I was in a really weird place at that time, in terms of how long is this going to go on at Harvard since it was a two year postdoc. But the state of jobs was such that I needed to go hard, both years. So as soon as I landed, I was already doing job applications and got a visit. So that was great. When I went for the visit, it was like a foot and a half of snow. Alright, so this is when I flew into Syracuse airport, I was picked up by two department colleagues in person, because it was just this very quiet airport and very cold. We went to this hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant that had been in that area for 30 years. And the menu was in Chinese on the walls, and the whole thing was just, ethnographically fascinating, right? Okay, I'm just gonna try it out and see what happens. Of course, an interview doesn't mean anything, a campus visit doesn't mean anything. That's it. I was trying to be really proactive about asking “Where am I going, what is this place?”

 

I specifically requested to meet two women of color faculty, because they had not signed me up to speak to any people of color on campus. I went myself on the faculty webpage. “Hey, can I talk to this person in Women’s & Gender Studies and this person in the Political Science department?” And that was great. That was actually where I tried to ask people, “What is it to be a woman of color here? How are you supported?” And it was very telling. I think the senior faculty member that I spoke with said, “It's really hard. You do realize that right? This is going to be…” So I had that very realistic view from a colleague from the very beginning that I again explicitly asked to get. I was not given that by the department, they didn't think about that. Then on the last day I think we were at dinner with the Anthropology department and I brought up something that had been part of Trump's campaign about the Muslim registration system, right. He had made that a part of his thing. And again, as somebody who studies the racialization of Muslims, I was very connected to that conversation and concerned and wondering, what would it be like to be here as a Muslim faculty member. This is where sometimes the liberal anthropology professor can kind of throw you for a loop. So one of the people at the table was like, “Oh, if there's a registry I'm gonna be right up there with you. I'll be in line.” Okay. And so I felt that alright, well, that's kind of a show of solidarity, right? I don't know if it's true or not, but okay, that was something he did say. Flash forward a couple years later, and he really didn't have a lot more to offer. It was just this type of superfluous thing to say at a dinner. “Oh, yeah, I would totally do this.” And then when the moment came, he kept asking me, “What do you think you should do?” And I'm just like, “I don't know what to do. I'm the one being targeted. You figure it out. You're the senior faculty member. Go talk to people. Call all your friends and ask them, ‘What should I do?’” Why are you asking me and again? I'm sure if I told him to go call people, he would have done that. But again, this is where it's just kind of absurd, right?

 

So I'll tell you another incident, which is that in the second year, I started teaching in September of 2017. October, my daughter was eight years old, in the local elementary school in the village [of Clinton, where Hamilton College is located]. Now, this is where I am. I do think maybe I was naive. But I really didn't expect this. Nobody told me that that village was going to be as racist as it was. Nobody gave us the advice to try to find housing in Syracuse, for example. So we rented a house from a professor who was on sabbatical. And I enrolled her in the elementary school. And I thought it would be convenient. The campus is right next to it, I'd be able to be around and everything. In October, she came home, she was eight. She said, some kids came up on the bus, came up to her on the bus and said, “We're gonna have you arrested.” The kids who said this to her were younger than her. They were six and seven, two white boys. And she said, “Why? I'm just reading my book.” And they responded and said, “Because you're black.” And then she came home and told me the story. Then I went to the school, I spoke to the principal, and I said, “My daughter just said, this happened today. What are you going to do about it?” The principal's response was so disappointing. First, she was like, let me verify that this happened. Why would an eight year old make up a story like this? Then she did her little thing. I think she first said that maybe the boys were confused. And of course, as you remember in the story that I just told you, the first thing they said was “We’re gonna have you arrested.” And the second thing they said was that it’s because you're black. And I don't know which part…again, it's the rationalization that people are looking for, whether they learned that from their parents, they get that messaging reinforced that anyone who's not white should be in jail, and they don't have any kind of more nuanced reading of race, that they did to make these kinds of statements like that. And that is how race operates. In a context like that, we’re going back to Charles Mills, his analysis of race, where it's your location in that socio-political system. And within the socio-political system of rural New York, anybody who is not white is suspected and will be criminalized, including an eight-year-old girl on the bus. 

 

So when you start understanding what's at play, and again, given the fact that my background is in education, and thinking about race, and Muslim students and education, I don't need to stick around for the next thing that's going to happen to my daughter. Especially after what the teacher and the principal sent to me, I was like, we need to get you into another school so I don't have to spend the rest of the first year on the tenure track worrying if my daughter is being harassed in school. That meant then that me and my partner basically drove her every single day, either him or me, to Syracuse, spent the whole day in Syracuse and then came back. And this was my first year. And everyone in the department knew that this was happening. The college knew that this happened. There was no move to maybe even just compensate me for the gas that I was spending every day to drive her to and from school. So these are the ways that, maybe I could have decided right then and there to leave. Maybe I should have. Maybe in retrospect, that's kind of how I can think of a change, right? But at that time, as a single mom, who got a tenure track job, who went through everything…I had my daughter four months before I started my PhD, I was just grateful to have a job. And I was like, I'm gonna make it work for the next year, then we bought a house and moved to Syracuse and we were trying to make the situation work. Then I was being bombarded by one thing or another, every chance, and no support. And again, the department saw all this, and I was very public about this, and I told a lot of people that this was happening. At least I didn't hide it. No, I didn't feel ashamed about it, of course, why would I? Why would I feel like I had anything to do with the situation that I was in, I was just responding to the situation with what I could. And over time realizing that my employer or my colleagues were not recognizing the challenges that I was facing. And it wasn't a good place. And so I don't know if one can know that in advance sometimes. But I do want to share the story so that way other people who are moving into these kinds of situations, ask a lot of questions, especially in terms of living in rural areas, making sure that your family has support, and expecting a certain degree of harassment, because that is the state of affairs that we're in right now.

 

Kenzell: I’m sorry to hear that this happened to you, especially the experience that happened to your daughter.

 

Mariam: Yeah, I think her education about race, because of everything that's happened…I'm very curious to see how she reflects on that as she gets older. And makes sense of all of that. Because of course, at that time, I'm just doing the parent thing. And nobody [knows in the moment], as one realizes, Oh, yeah, that's what happened.     

DM Infographic.png

Image description: A screenshot of an Instagram post featuring theinfographic poster made by one of Dr. Durrani's students Maya Funanda based on Dr. Durrani's essay "Digital Infrastructures of the Internet Outrage Machine" published in American Anthropologist in 2021.

Kenzell: Well, moving on into maybe brighter horizons, how did you arrive in your current position? And what other options have you been exploring?

 

Mariam: So this current position, I think, is serendipitous? In some ways, I really don't know how it all worked out the way it did. But it really just makes sense, I think, for a number of reasons, that I'm not in a tenure track position. It's a term appointment in the School of International Service at American University. I am teaching in the intercultural and international communication program, which to a linguistic anthropologist sounds like “but isn’t all communication intercultural? what is this anyway?” So that's how I've approached teaching. It gives me an opportunity to help students understand what culture means and how many things are invisibilized in the process. And how do we pull that apart and really get into it? So that's been great. My research focuses on how the war impacts higher education. And I think being in a School of International Service is in a sense, not a typical location. But it is giving me an opportunity, I think, to make connections around my work with a very different set of academic projects than one would in an anthropology department, for example, where it's always like, “What is the anthropological concept?” Right, this fetishization of anthropology versus I think being in this particular school, where there is, for example, a research cluster that focuses on Empire and now thinking, Okay, what does it mean to do anti-imperial scholarship, from a school that's training people to work for the empire? What does that mean? How does one do that work? I think I was telling you, just before this, our conversation today I had a meeting with a group of faculty for a committee and on the committee, I'm working with somebody who is an expert on counterterrorism. And I think me and him having to work together again will be ethnographically very rich, to see how we think about education, especially in an international studies bachelor's program in 2022. What should students be learning? So in that sense, I think it's just really great that I am being challenged to think about my work. And my teaching in an environment where I think this perspective is needed, is really critical, and is actually welcomed. There's an understanding that there's something that I am bringing that I think is unique. 

 

That said this is not the only thing that I'm interested in doing right now, I'm continuing my work on the Roti Collective. I have my own podcast episode that I need to produce soon. So I really want to continue developing that work with a series of experimental lectures and workshops in the DC area. Developing that, I also am imagining a feminist research collective with other feminist scholars in the DMV [DC-Maryland-Virginia area] and trying to imagine what that would look like? How do we push our work both in terms of expanding and learning, and also connecting it to current conversations? So thinking about the nexus of research and policy around anti-imperial scholarship, how do we bring that into a more public view? What would that look like? And especially in this area, I think there's something to be said about being in Washington DC doing this work. That is really exciting for me. I am continuing to work on my book project. The other thing I'm able to think about it in a different way, where previously, it was writing the book, imagining that I would find an academic publisher, because that is the document that would then help me secure tenure. Now, I'm no longer invested in thinking about this project for that purpose, thinking about the tenure trap. Now, I'm not worried about that. So what can I say? How can I write? How can I think about publishing, where perhaps I do go with an academic press, but maybe I don't. Maybe I go with a trade press, or somewhere else, where the work is getting to a different audience than a very niche group of scholars. And I know that a lot of people are doing that work. But I think having more examples is just great. So that we junior scholars have had those examples to think with for themselves in terms of how do I want to present my work after the dissertation?

 

Kenzell: I think we ended up talking about a lot about the next question when we were talking about the tenure track earlier, but the question was, during the pandemic, both the “great resignation” and the practice of “quiet quitting” open the conversation about people's relationships to their employers and labor itself. How do you think academics can rethink their own relationships to employers and labor?

 

Mariam: I think there's a difference between the work you do for an employer and your life's work, and being clear with yourself (or trying to get clear with yourself), or otherwise just figuring out what that means. That is one of the ways that I have started to think about my work. So there's the work that I do in terms of teaching three classes, I'm on a committee that is going to talk about x, and then I show up for the meetings. And that's work. And then there's all this other stuff that I'm interested in doing that I'm developing. And it's going to take time. And I feel like that's the other thing that the publish or perish model can never accommodate for is that sometimes ideas need to sit and develop. And you have to find the right communities to talk about those ideas in order to figure out where to go next. My dissertation was originally looking at the experience of students who migrate for higher education in Pakistan and in the US, and so I really focused on migration and mobility within the higher education space and what kinds of contact zones are there. As I have developed my work, both during the postdoc and then over the last five years, it's much more now focused on thinking about imperial racialization through these policies and programs based on the War on Terror apparatus in higher education. And I think that has then connected me on Twitter, especially in terms of public scholarship with Muslim students, for example, student activists in India, who are encountering kinds of racialization, the Modi regime and Indian systems of discrimination, what that looks like. 

And so for example, I got an email from some activists on Twitter saying, “What do you think about what we're going through? And how do we understand this as racialization because it hasn't really been used, hasn't been popularized, in talking about the experience of Muslims in India.” And so that, for me, is my life's work. It’s actually making sure that these frameworks are publicly available so that young people who are encountering racialization regimes have resources to connect them to. And that's not just in terms of work that I've done, but also anything else that I can connect them to. And how do we kind of expand that? That's very different from my job, right? Whether or not this work is recognized as my job does not give it more or less importance for me.      I'm starting to articulate and develop for myself–how do I do that work. And this is actually where the Roti Collective is great, because when I start talking about roti, people immediately kind of get it, they're like, oh, right like that. That's, that's another way of thinking of using this decolonial feminist approach to thinking about the knowledges that are so diminished, and kind of invisibilized.

 

And so that's just kind of one thing—thinking about your work that you do for your job, and then the work that is your life's work, or something that is kind of really driving these other things and not losing that. Because you have to do what you need to do to get paid. But I do think that, then we have to kind of recognize that the labor that we do outside of our work is valuable, and find ways of valuing that, whether that means doing it with people. And there's again, energy that you get back from doing this type of work with others in a collective format, and elevating that type of work, doing more of it, prioritizing it, making sure that especially I think for scholars developing your public scholarship, no matter what you do, this is something that should just be a part of graduate training. It's really sad that it's still kind of an opt-in, opt-out model. But at this moment, I'm so glad that I've been doing that work, because I can see how that learning is now coming in interesting ways for my research now that I would have lost, I think. And I think my friends who haven't done that work have a really hard time communicating the research outside of a very small group of people. And that's really telling.

 

Kenzell: But last question, what advice do you have for people looking to move out of their current positions in academia?

 

Mariam: So building up the last point, I think making sure that as you're developing your research agenda, your scholarship, that it has a broad set of audiences that you're aiming for. As hard as it is to have multiple projects going on at once, which, of course, is a really challenging thing—to keep cultivating it a little bit at a time. Sometimes it's not so much that we spend hours of your day doing this or that or more of, oh, you showed up for this meeting that is every first Friday of every month, and you're just part of that conversation. So when something else comes up, you're there. I think those kinds of things are really important.

 

And an example of this would be, at Penn, there were a couple of us who were doing the joint program between anthropology and education or communications, or whatever other program that people were in. And that was really fantastic. We ended up taking this class on documentary filmmaking with John Jackson. And I had never taken a filmmaking class before. I just thought, when am I going to get a chance to do this? Let me do it. And I often sign up for a lot of things with that approach. But it turned out to be again, an incredibly important space that I was in where we learned how to make films, we learned how to make podcasts, and we organized a film festival for six years. Eventually, I was the director for the festival, for CAMRA, which is a multimodal research collective. And the program that I had kind of developed for undergraduates ended up going on to receive a Mellon Foundation grant. So all of that was extra to my courses. All of that was extra to my research assistantship. All of that was also extra to being a single mother. This is an entirely extra set of things that I took on. However, I am so grateful at this moment that I did that because it gives me an idea of the kind of scholarship I can do when it comes to making films and exploring that. For example, I'm talking to somebody who's making a film about Muslims in America and thinking about how to center youth, which is something that's often lost when people are talking about Muslims or Islam. The way that Gen Z Muslims are understanding the racialization that they've experienced, kind of putting that forward. So I think cultivating your interests really broadly and expansively and not only within the prescribed guidelines that your advisor or your department can give you for research is critical. And you will find spaces pretty much on any campus where that's being done. And if you don't find it, maybe find it on another campus close by, wherever it's being done. Because for people who are doing this type of work, I can say, especially for Penn, they would be really excited to have more people come in and share work like this. Now, not every university has all of this going on. 

 

So one other way of kind of going about it is to really [go outside of academia]. I remember the last year of grad school, and also this last year, I started doing this thing where I would have a weekly meeting with somebody who's not in academia, or who has left academia, or some type of regular thing just learning about how people apply for academic degrees in other fields. Sometimes you will hear about something and you think, “I definitely don't want to do that.” Which is also a good learning experience to have—“Oh, yeah, I am not interested, that kind of work.” And then sometimes you meet somebody who is doing something really kind of innovative and exciting. And you're like, “I'm not going to be able to do that yet. But maybe in a couple years, I can come back to it so let me keep an eye on how they're developing that project or that work.” And I think that's where this idea of a feminist research collective, it's something that me and some friends have been thinking about, we don't know what it's going to look like yet, would you register as a 501(c)3? Would it be as a consulting business?  The logistics are important, but then there's also just creating the mental space where I'm imagining it. I don't know when I'll be able to do it, or what it'll look like, but just kind of starting to think about it. So I think that that's one other thing—networking—even though that's really      again, not fun, but it is practically really important, if you're trying to imagine what you can do outside of academia. 

 

And then also like the ACLS [American Council of Learned Society] public scholarship fellowship, there are these particular programs, now where foundations are also creating opportunities for scholars who want to be placed for a year or two, doing this type of work, as part of the government or with a nonprofit. I think those positions, those opportunities, are there and I think if people are interested, reach out to those program coordinators. It's just really reassuring to know that you can do many different things instead of this one thing, which takes an eight month hiring process. It's absurd again, the things that academia gets away with. It should take two months max, there should be a timeline that people give and to get that job done and move on and let people make decisions about their lives rather than just waiting. Oh, who knows? And even just the calculation of going through the process where it's Fridays are the days that you typically hear back. So with me and my colleagues, you'd ask, “Oh, did you get anything on Friday?” Okay, now we have to wait till next Friday, because we know we're not going to get an email from a department during the week. So these absurdities are just taken as part of the culture and are silly, but talking to other people will remind you of the fact that, no, this is just weird. This is not the way it's supposed to be.

Kenzell: Thank you so much for sharing your insights and time with us. We appreciate it a lot and Aruna is glad to be able to be one of the digital archives documenting your story.

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Image description: A homepage for The Roti Collective Podcast on Spotify.

Read more by Prof. Durrani:

 

See also some great interviews done by Prof. Durrani’s students:

Cite as: Aruna Global South (2024). How to...Navigate Islamophobic Harassment as a Muslim Woman of Color Scholar in Academia. Aruna Global South How to Series. April 28. [website link]

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