Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fence: Prelude to Understanding Terror.

Finals, May 1st:

Cross cultural text draped across my knees, I bend over study guides. Its 11 pm at night. The door burst open. “Priyanka, Osama is dead!” I stared at her frazzled hair and bewildered look. And then I go back to staring at my guides. “He is DEAD”. I watched her pull on a sweater, looked at herself in the mirror, tidied up her hair, and paced in front of me. “I got to go! I’ll see you in a bit!” I ask her where she is going, dropping my book on my bed. We were interrupted by cheers outside. We both peered out the window: “U-S-A! U-S-A!” We saw boys screaming and storming to the American University shuttle. “Watch this!”:

“We are celebrating at the White House. I got to go!” She ran out the door, grabbing her bag.

I walked outside my room. The floor was empty. As I heard the cheering outside, I felt uneasy. Three hours later, I received a tweet that a mosque was attacked in Pakistan. Suicide Bomb. This certainly is not the end.

The next couple of days my roommate and I sat on her bed while packing for the summer and watched clip after clip of a juicy story: woman shielding Osama, Osama’s body discarded in the ocean, no autopsy completed by outside source, pornography found in Osama’s compound. Funny this was to happen right when our first year was completed.The war of incompetency we declared it. Just earlier that year, she and I were ambitious students in Professor Jackson’s infamous University College World Politics class. Professor Jackson once asked us the question: Should the world order be set up in nation-states or as different tribes? The entire class wrote about nation-states however one student wrote otherwise and was rebuked. However, looking back on it, I think the nation-state does not answer all the questions pertaining to sovereignty. How does the nation-state order describe Al-qaeda? This summer, I plan on getting my hands on everything I can about this issue. Thus the beginning of a series about this War on Incompetency.

Regarding the celebrations that my classmates took a part of: I am 100% proud of my citizenship of this nation. Very proud. My parents have come a long way to give me what I have. It is America that has inspired them for decades. But one thing is certain: any citizen of this nation, regardless of stature, gender, age, or creed, is a representative of this country in the confines of our borders and beyond them. The celebrations, when broadcasted, was a portrayal of the American people to other nations. Thus, we must be careful how we act. The bombing that ensued 3 hours later was a direct response to the celebrations. Cultural diplomacy is key. Thus when I mean WAR OF INCOMPETENCY I speak of CULTURAL INCOMPETENCY. It is the lack of knowledge or care for another culture.

I am currently reading The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright and then the ethnography Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson and then some more. We live in interesting times in which Anthropology is more important than ever. This is not classical anthropology that describes tribal dances in New Guinea. This is applied anthropology: looking past the text books and reaching past disciplinaries. This is connecting the dots between policy and prayers. As the hegemon expands into the pockets of Bedoin tents and seizes the internet, a culture clash halts our world. West meets East. History of Colonies, not too old. This is a history that needs to be pulled piece by piece like Abrahamic wool until exposed and read in our hands. This is not the first time.

Come, this is where the path diverges.


  1. I met Benedict Anderson once, I spent a week at the Rockefeller Center in Bellagio, Italy with a bunch of academics of all over the world discussing cultural agency. He is a very eccentric brilliant man who wore shorts in the winter and disheveled clothes and who tried to haggle prices in the chi-chi boutiques of Lake Como. I'll never forget that week.

  2. not sure why ur comment is pertinent here, marvette.

  3. ??????????????? Not sure why you are so bitter and can't see the importance of personal vignettes. "This is applied anthropology: looking past the text books and reaching past disciplinaries. This is connecting the dots between policy and prayers", as you so eloquently said. It is much more than an intellectual exercise and anybody willing to share an experience that humanizes the ethnographer and brings him to life should not be chastised. Or is your commentary beyond this?

  4. Dear Marvette,

    your statement about the individual was not very pertinent because it did not talk about the importance of meeting him other than the fact that you met him. the only thing pertinent about that was the fact that you were there hearing him speak about cultural agency. would you like to add anything else or is that it? when commenting please add some information about the topic so it is relatable. also, I am not bitter. it was not pertinent. that is all.

    and do not ad hominem on this website because this is not a social networking site. its an academic excersize.

  5. I stand corrected. Thanks for the clarification. It is indeed an academic exercise.