Excuse me ridiculously long list of readings, I am trying to LEARN here!

Do you know how frustrating it is to READ about actor-based models of transition to democracy when transition might ACTUALLY be taking place? Pardon me, Samuel P. Huntington, but your book that I’m currently being forced to read was first published in 1991 and I do believe what is going on MIGHT be more relevant! Never before has studying politics detracted more from my ‘keeping up with’ politics. Truly, developments have been hitting my BBC homepage (now Al Jazeera) at a rapid pace and between readings, midterm studying and term papers, it has been impossible to keep up. Not to mention, it’s incredibly disheartening when my sole focus right now is reading outdated literature, while thousands of students my age are defying an imposed curfew in Cairo and fighting for their rights across North Africa and the Middle East.

So what the hell is happening? Tunisia, one of the most stable (yet authoritatively repressive) regimes in Africa was ignited by widespread protests when a young male, Mohamed Bouazizi, was arrested for operating a produce stand illegally.  After being publicly humiliated by the police (a common experience) Mohamed was embarrassed, frustrated, and struggling to support his family with his produce sales. Denied any recourse he did an unthinkable act of protest:  he set himself on fire. Mohamed is representative of the desperation felt amongst Tunisia’s unemployed and his actions sparked protests so massive and fearless that as of January 14th, Tunisian President Ben Ali  “temporarily” stepped down and fled to Saudi Arabia, while his long-time opponent Rachid Ghannouchi has returned to Tunisia after 22 years in exile. Just as I was catching up with Tunisia coverage, Egypt exploded.

Photo from CM Coexistencemag.com

Suffering (much like Tunisia) from poverty, high unemployment and little freedom of speech or political expression, the people of Egypt have joined the call for change. How significant are these protests? HUGE- Al Jazeera reported that at one point, protesters were attempting to push a tank into the River Nile. Thousands have gathered in Alexandria, Cairo and other major cities calling for President Mubarak to go. Twitter, Facebook, SMS and Blackberry Messenger have played a key role in spreading the word about protest sites and warnings of security forces. (Remind you of a certain Green Revolution that took place a little over a year ago?) Government attempts to block  communication are largely unsuccessful, and protesters are now defying a national curfew. Not only would  regime change  be monumental for Egypt itself, but affects across the Middle East could be unprecedented.

Oh, and thousands are now gathering in Jordan and Yemen calling for the ousting of their repressive regimes.


So, how do you stay informed without perma-gluing your butt to the couch and your eyes to BBC, essentially foregoing your BA diploma? Here are a couple of my tactics:

1. Al Jazeera live stream has constant Egypt coverage as it plays out, allowing you to plug in at the library and drown out the mindless chatter around you:

Girl in library: I mean, OHMYGOD, I cannot believe that she was drunk enough to FALL into the PUNCH BOWL—

Me: Uhmm excuse me could you keep it down? A REVOLUTION IS HAPPENING!

2. Too mangled after studying to actually READ anything else? Try the BBC’s coverage in pictures…That’s right, you’re never too old to learn from pictures.

3. Facebook. Yeah, you know you’re going to go on anyway, and hopefully you have at least one friend who’s tuned into this craziness so your feed provides you not only with status updates but protest updates too.

4. Twitter- same thing goes. Plug into some of the more active tweet feeds from students in Egypt taking a stand.

5. Podcasts. Bless you for making transit tolerable and informative.

6. Have to do research for a paper? Can you twist that paper topic to somehow complement your need to watch live coverage?

7. Screw it, live coverage and glass of wine here I come.

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5 Responses to “Excuse me ridiculously long list of readings, I am trying to LEARN here!”

  1. Dave Semeniuk

    Me: Uhmm excuse me could you keep it down? A REVOLUTION IS HAPPENING!

    This is how I’ve felt this past week – a distinct lack of awareness among my colleagues about what is happening in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere.

    I’ve had the live feed from Al Jazeera playing on my laptop all day. I also find that once woken up by my phone’s alarm, I open up the browser app and start reading the live blog posts from the evening before.

  2. Elysa Hogg

    What a nice way to start your day totally caught up on the developments! I think within my program students/professors have been pretty aware,but outside of that…NADA

  3. AJ

    chipping in with a faculty perspective…
    i think it would be extremely good to find ways to pull these happenings-on into one of your research projects, and i’m certain your faculty would be delighted, as long as it pertains to the course in some way.

    (of course, this reminds me of one of the biggest exam traps out there – current events questions and students falling into the trap by providing their opinions on said events but not analysing them (and their opinions about them) using course materials. as i tell my students, your opinions are beautiful. they are not (insert name of discipline.))

    it is sad when readings – which are so very important to liberal arts education – and ‘the world’ appear as two distinct things. i’ve been musing a lot lately on readings, and students doing or not doing them – the barriers and benefits to doing so, and what i can do to emphasis the importance to the curriculum that they hold. i’ve also been musing a lot on what it is that we’re teaching – not only the empirical information in the world that pertains to our discipline (such as political revolution) but the disciplinary perspectives through which those of us in the discipline analyze and understand these things.

    bummer you have to read huntington. i’m not a political scientist, and i’m sure there are excellent historiographical reasons to read him. i’m sure that it would be deeply irresponsible for the prof not to have you read huntington (just as it would be incredibly irresponsible of me to simply omit important texts on the grounds of being outdated, or difficult, or dare i say, sleep induce-ingly dull.). but still. bummer.

  4. Elysa

    Haha! It was/is a bummer. However, I was delighted this week when the Professor pulled in some live BBC coverage to our lectures to illustrate what’s going on in Egypt and relate it to some of our actor-based and transition theories. Kudos to her for sure!

    I think sometimes it is just the nature of academics- we sometimes need to read very out of date, very boring text to get a theoretical understanding in our field. We do end up all the better for it (most of the time) and it can help us understand what’s happening in the world better when we have the strong rooting in theory.

    On another note- I happen to be in a seminar where there are students from geography, political science, theology, psychology and journalism. You cannot IMAGINE the analysis we come up with when there’s so many disciplines present in one room! The ability to see text from 5 academic perspectives has been one of the most enriching experiences in my degree, as like you said, it gives you a completely different perspective outside of the tunnel vision we sometimes get.

    I have to agree with you, we (students) complain about readings to no end, but there is a huge importance in doing them. This weekend, there was just TOO MUCH! (162 pages for an undergrad 300-level class…really?) and it was beginning to get a little frustrating when I felt at times (cough, Huntington, cough) I could have been learning from reality.

  5. Jody Wright

    Great post Elysa! Love it! Thanks for keeping it real (and ungluing your butt from the couch for long enough to share your tactics with us! 😉

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