daliaabbas

The Discipline of Political Science (Part 1)

In Uncategorized on December 30, 2012 at 11:27 am

A couple years back, the department of political science at my university started an honors school of political science. This entailed grouping together promising students enrolled in the field of study and giving them extra classes that would prepare them to write an undergraduate thesis.

While I reject the underlying premise of the program, that being only a selected few should have to depress themselves with a sixty page paper that would probably result in the students getting less sleep, having frequent existential crises and pulling half their hair out, I can say that I am grateful for the experience of being admitted into the school.

One of the classes required for this program was a class on theory, a dying out and less prestigious sub – speciality in the academic field of political science. I took this course last semester, and I can genuinely say that it completely challenged everything I had studied prior to this class. We started out with critical theory, dabbling into Marx, Lyotard, Derrida and Butler. We looked at binary oppositions, debated about the power relations inherent in linguistics and discussed the neo-liberal agendas laden in positivist and empiricist lines of thought. We argued about the advantages and the disadvantages of deconstruction and looked into the ways Foucault would probably argue that all what we had learned thus far was a result of discourse theory.

I’d find myself going home after every session of this class and feeling like my brain had been fried. To add to all of this, our final assignment was to write a 20-30 page paper on how we view the discipline of political science, upon being exposed (more like submerged) in all of this theory.

In the following posts, I plan on sharing a condensed version of my paper on how I view the state of the discipline of political science. I think my views may be helpful to anyone who is considering studying  political science at the university level as it may give perspective on the contested nature by which people view the discipline. Theory, I think, is a potent and neglected tool by which political scientists can use to unearth important power dynamics embedded in political phenomena. My essay focuses on the neo-liberal and positivist trend in the discipline, and how this has led to an abandonment of the prioritizing of the teaching of theory in political science.

Travels in Turkey

In Uncategorized on August 14, 2012 at 7:14 am

I haven’t found a better way to describe being in Istanbul than to compare it to my experience with meeting an intelligent cousin of mine, twice removed. Mature, wise beyond her years, personified by a familiar yet seemingly distant culture and confident about who she was, seeing this cousin of mine always aroused in me feelings of both happiness and envy. Living in Turkey for the past two months has given me similar feelings -only this time I’m having a lot more inferiority issues.

Many people have asked me what I’m doing here. I’ve spent the past couple months in Turkey as part of a cultural exchange program. I lived with a Turkish family, helped their children improve their English speaking skills as well as assisted them with their summer English homework. In return, I got paid, got to live with the family and benefited from picking up the language and understanding  their culture from their daily interactions. All of this is done with the intention of giving one the opportunity to gain an in-depth perspective of life in Turkey.

So far, I’ve been exposed to such a wide variety of cultural experiences that I’m having trouble figuring out where to begin. Every time I tried to start a blog post, I would end up opting out of revealing my thoughts on such a public platform, and instead write in my private journal. I only have about eleven days left in this beautiful and not-so-distant land from where I’m currently based in Cairo, so I have decided to try and sum up my thoughts on my experiences in the coming weeks.

Stay tuned. 🙂 

On Voting and Deciding not to Boycott

In Uncategorized on May 24, 2012 at 10:24 am

For most of this month, characterized by frenzy debates and ridiculous campaign posters, I decided at an early point that I would not cast a vote in Egypt’s first presidential elections. Two nights ago, however, I changed my mind.

Why did I initially not want to vote? Three reasons: first and foremost, as a political science student, the L word (legitimacy) carries a lot of weight with me. For me, voting= legitimacy to the organizing body of the elections. To give my legitimacy the current governing body, The Supreme Council of Armed Forces, (S.C.A.F) was and still is problematic. This is the same governing body that is responsible for countless deaths, copious amounts of violence, and overall, the major fail of Egypt’s security situation over the past months.

Second, none of the candidates running in this election appealed to me. The dissemination of information regarding each candidate’s plans was poor, with a debate (an inadequate one at that,hosting only two of the candidates for whatever reasons) being scheduled a mere 11 days prior to the election.

Third and finally, the powers of the president are still not clear to me. This can further be elaboratedhere, in this article written by Hani al-Aasar, which, in simple terms, explains how we have candidates that are basically running for a position without a job description.
So why did I decide to vote? For the sake of not being deemed politically irrelevant. My answer to this can more eloquently be justified in a blog post found here

In this blog post, written by T. Foad regarding the effectiveness of a boycott with the parliamentary elections held last year, Fouad writes:

“But while in the case of a referendum, a boycott may be a valid tactic if the referendum requires a minimum turnout to be valid, it isn’t the same with general elections. Lack of participation can further distort election results leaving the boycotting groups susceptible to political irrelevance. The truth is the electoral process is one of the most effective government tools in achieving conflict resolution and when unfair, one of the most effective tools in suppressing opposition. Collective decisions are sanctioned regardless of election turnout.”

At the end of the day, my logic is that a candidate will be chosen, and taking myself away from that process will not prevent that from happening.

That said though, with this election I refrained from telling others my choice of a candidate, simply because I did not feel strongly enough about who I voted for to propagate him as a choice to others.

I’d like to conclude by extending my utmost respect and appreciation to those who chose NOT to vote. Your voice may not be counted in the final tally; however, it is definitely recognized by myself and others who share your sentiment of doubt and hesitation regarding these elections.

Note: This blog post was not written with any intention to influence others;rather, I intend it to explain to me what the hell I was thinking if I regret voting a couple of weeks, months, or years from now.