I just* got home from a 3-day trip to Austin, Texas to attend and present at an academic conference.
- This was my first time in Texas.
- This was my first time attending and presenting at an academic conference.
- This was also my first real solo trip, i.e. not visiting family or a friend.
- I had an acai bowl for the first time… and hate to admit how much I really liked it and want it again.
- I had a (double-checked) VEGAN bacon cheeseburger and it was probably the best veg. burger I have ever had both in taste and form. Form is important.
- …But I can never become a full-time vegan. I tried vegan ice cream on my last day in Austin because it was 70 degrees out and I was hot dragging my luggage around downtown. But OMG, nasty. How do people eat that? I tried to be polite to the server. I had a little taste, said my niceties, and bolted out the door after about 30 seconds of pretending to look around the store.
- I bought a Longhorns baseball cap even though I have no connection to UT or college sports. I do however hate wearing sunglasses because it messes my hijab (that was the rational justification). But mostly because it has an emblem of a cow on it.
- I look super cute in it, too.
- I prayed Tahajjud for the first time in months. I had an emotionally exhausting day the first day of the conference and just really needed to talk to God at 4:30 in the morning. It helped. See #13 below.
- I shared with a small group of people, some of whom I will most likely never see again, how I sometimes feel like an exoticized/token Muslim back home and how imposter syndrome has continued to follow me. I’m usually hesitant to share in spaces like this because I am well aware of the fact that I have not had to really struggle, but I was like, “This may be the only academic conference I ever attend, so let’s carpe the heck out of this diem!” I’m glad I did; because after the session, a professor whom I have been wanting to connect with reached out to me! She said she would send me an email and actually did!
- I saw many images of cows… and a cow head hanging on the walls of an historic hotel. My initial reaction was excitement because “OMG there’s a longhorn!”, but then quickly turned to sadness when I realized how it must have gotten there.
- Sadly, I did not see any longhorns that are still alive and thriving.
- But the highlight of my trip was confronting and interrogating a Neoliberal, Orientalist “senior” scholar. Telling me to my face that Islam does not educate women was what set me off. Sadly, that was just one of the many deplorable things he said. I’m usually pretty diffident. But after the emotional day I had the previous day, I was in no mood to take his crap. I refused to quietly listen to what he was spewing. Classic “White Man’s Burden” Syndrome. Not only was he ignorant, he did not back down from his ego-maniacal globalist agenda, talked over everyone else, and was frankly a bully (the term is offensive to bulls). When he skipped over me during our group introductions, I just smiled and shook my head. I tried to respond with respect, but I did not hide the fact that I was rolling my eyes the entire time he, a white man with absolutely NO knowledge of Islam OR the Middle East, basically lectured a group of Muslims about why the Middle East has not lived up to his globalist agenda. In addition to his conflation of Islam with the Middle East, he did not seem to understand that the region is suffering from political turmoil CAUSED BY WESTERN INTERFERENCE or flat-out INVASION. They kinda have other priorities, okay? Like, just trying to survive, maybe? I wanted to be all like, “You need to read Edward Said like yesterday, buddy!” but I didn’t, because I knew the only way I could would be in a caustic way. There’s a real problem with superimposing your ideas on a group of people that have different experiences than you. Even if you have lofty ideals, you can’t force democracy or anything really on a people. Even America is struggling with democracy to this day. But it’s a struggle that we as a nation have the privilege to do on our terms, without any foreign influence.
- PhD: To do or not to do? That was the frame of my mind during the entire trip when I was not angry or eating. I learned a lot about the trajectory of an academic life that makes me uneasy (uneasier than I felt before), and yet, I know that I want to do research and need the training only a PhD could provide.
Overall, even though this trip provided more questions than answers, it was cathartic and confidence-boosting, both professionally and on a personal level.
*I started writing this post on Sunday morning and am only now publishing it a day later.