Q&A with Professor Mariam Durrani

Q&A with Professor Mariam Durrani

August 29, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


– Okay, so let’s go ahead
and get this started. The first question is, what surprised you most
about Hamilton College? – I’d never really been on a small liberal arts
college campus before, so one of the things that surprised me is how familiar it was for me given that I also grew
up on military bases. My dad was in the Army, and so there’s a
particular kind of culture of people who get stationed
in a relatively isolated area where you kind of rely
on each other a lot. You know a lot about each other, there’s a lot of care also,
when things are going on, people kind of find out really quickly and the conversation happens
very quickly of what to do. So I’ve found that to be surprising, but also very familiar to my upbringing. So that’s been nice. – I know that you have certain
standards for your students and what do they gotta do and what do they have to do to
be successful in your class? – It’s really important to
be vulnerable in anthropology because we all come in with
very particular ways of thinking and part of what anthropology
requires you to do is to question that way of thinking. So that’s scary, and it can be very, kind of paralyzing sometimes. But the way to get past it is to not be afraid of being wrong, finding something that you
need to change about yourself, and being vulnerable in that way. So I feel like being
successful in anthropology, a lot of it is about being really open and not holding yourself back
because it’s a scary thing. One really important way to be successful is also to be open to your professor and share when you’re having struggles, share when you’re working
through something, and that way they can help you. And that’s what we’re here to do and that’s also the benefit
of a liberal arts college is that we are very much interested in doing that with our students
and have time to do that. – Have you had time to
explore the Clinton area? – A little bit, I always liked
the Clinton Farmers Market. I don’t always get a chance to get there, but when I do it’s really fun. Sometimes I feel like farmers markets now are in parking lots in other places, but the kind of charm of Clinton is that it is very much
in the village green, and there’s a band playing, and when it’s beautiful out,
like the weather upstate, you really can’t beat it
compared to any place else. So it’s nice, and families just
hanging out, and good food. – Have you been to any of the smaller restaurants down there? – Oh, there’s a great gelato place. – Oh yes, the gelato place! – That just opened.
– Yes, yes. – That’s an amazing place, I highly recommend the dark chocolate. – I think they change up
their flavors every day or something like that. – I hope they never change that one. – What’s your favorite courses
to teach here at the campus? – So I like to teach all of
my classes, first of all. They’re all fantastic. But what I really like to teach is this class called
Anthropology of Muslim Youth. It’s a really kind of
important question right now to think about how Muslim communities are experiencing the
contemporary kind of moment. So in that class I find that students, when they finish the class,
they’re kind of like, I never knew 80% of what
we’ve discussed in this class. In the sense of like,
you’ve grown up in America, but once you start seeing from
another person’s perspective it really illuminates
what you haven’t seen or haven’t paid attention to
because of various reasons and how important it is do that, right? Which is kind of what
anthropology is about. And the other thing
that I do in that class is we have a podcast assignment. So I have a podcast assignment, actually, a few of my classes, where students create and
direct and produce a podcast. And I find that to be a
really fantastic complement to the traditional paper. Sometimes when they get that assignment in the beginning they’re just like, this is so hard, how am I gonna do this? And then they all end up doing it and they’ve actually learned so much. – If you were to have dinner
with anybody, who would it be? – So I think right now I would consider myself very fortunate if I could have dinner with Congresswoman
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I find her kind of courage at this moment to speak truth to power
inspiring for myself, for thinking about what any of us can and should be doing at this moment. I would love to just sit and hear how she works through that
process of doing that work. Also she has great fashion,
and I would love to be like, so how do you get the bargains
and still look so fly? So, yeah, that’d be really fun. – What kind of things are you doing with your students in terms of research? – So it’s really great. I get to be involved in student research in a number of different ways. So I have students in my classes and the research topics that they choose and working with them on those topics, especially when they’re podcast related, that’s really fun to
see how that plays out. I also teach seniors in anthropology so I advise senior thesis projects. But one that comes to mind right now is there’s a number of different
research grants available on campus for students
interested in research, right? There’s the Emerson Grant,
and so Shavell Jones, who is an anthropology major– – Oh Shavell.
– Yeah. So he’s doing a project with me right now where he is looking at race in Japan and looking how different people who are biracial or from outside of Japan experience race in Japan and he’s doing a historical study of it. It’s fantastic that students
have that opportunity to really go deep into an issue
that they’re interested in and it’s really fun to work
with them on those issues. – Awesome, well professor, thank you for taking
the time out of your day for this question and answering. – Awesome.