As a hijabi woman that has lived most her life in America, I am always acutely aware of the fabric that is draped around my head. At times it has made me a vulnerable target of Islamophobia, but that is only a small portion of the challenge I frequently find with it. Wearing the hijab in the United States is like walking around as a Muslim billboard, and it has often made me a spokesperson for an entire faith. My actions, opinions, and interests are attributed to over a billion other people on this Earth—which can be a blessing in some ways but overwhelming in others.
For three years, the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) generated significant friction between American Indian groups in North Dakota and the U.S. government. The construction of the pipeline was most often viewed through an environmental lens; however, certain sections of land on which the pipeline is built also hold spiritual significance. The Meskwaki and several Sioux tribal nations, among others, believe the environmental hazard the pipeline poses to the water’s purity directly threatens their ability to use this space for sacred rituals. In a Washington Post article one advocate equated the spiritual significance of the land to that of Bethlehem for Judeo-Christian religions. Still, in January 2017 the pipeline was approved by executive order, and in April 2017 it was completed. More recently, President Donald Trump announced the plans to dramatically reduce the amount of land included in the Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah, which also generated a concerned response from local tribal leaders. As in the DAPL case, the land affected by the change has religious significance to a number of American Indian nations, who originated the effort to create the Bear Ears National Monument. In an NPR interview, a Ute tribal leader expressed his concern that the reduction could damage the land’s historical and religious integrity. Despite legal challenges, the Bureau of Land Management has drafted plans to move forward with the reorganization of the Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante land.
The Mahane Yehuda Market, colloquially referred to as the Shuk, bustles on Friday morning. Customers jostle with each other while fighting the clock. As bubbies (grandparents) elbow their way towards the best challah for their precious kinderlach (children), young adults crowd the many bars, and children beg their parents for candy and juice, it’s hard to imagine that by 3:00 p.m., the hustle will have died. As Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, approaches, the franticness increases. Vendors try to get rid of their last pita, veggies, and fruits. They shout over each other. The exclamations of shome (eight), tesha (nine), and esser (10) serve as a reminder of the numbers I’d learned in class the day before.
Incredibly jet-lagged, I made my way to my first full day of class in Tokyo. Professor Joseph Shaules of Keio University kept me fully attentive during his class on cross-cultural understanding of Japan despite my lack of sleep. One of the first things he brought to the class’ attention was the existence of Oz moments. When coming into an unfamiliar environment, anything could trigger an "Oz moment." An Oz moment is an instance when you see something that makes you think to yourself, “I’m not in Kansas anymore.”
On the outer edge of southwestern Havana lies a large neighborhood, somewhat like a New York City borough, called Marianao. Within Marianao live a variety of vibrant migrant communities, mostly black Cubans, who have moved from the countryside to the city in pursuit of opportunity.
I live with a Catholic and a Protestant.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, observers became optimistic about a future of increased civil liberties and religious practices in the former Soviet states. However, in recent years, this hope has faded to a realist recognition of the complicated situation of religious practice in the region, especially in Russia. In the wake of increasing restrictions on religious liberty and the evolution of a symbiotic yet troubled relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian government, it is worthwhile to ponder the future role of religious institutions throughout the region.
My introduction to French feminism took place at the dinner table, when my host father nonchalantly asked me what I thought about Catherine Deneuve’s statement. Reluctantly, I had to admit that I had no idea who Deneuve was and what the fuss was all about.
When I was preparing to leave for Amman, Jordan last fall, one of the most common questions I heard was “Is it safe there?” On the other hand, responses when I said I was coming to Costa Rica this semester were nearly all positive, focusing on the natural beauty, beaches, and my Spanish skills. This is probably because Costa Rica has cultivated an image as a land of peace—it is a popular tourist destination, has a stable government and political system, and most relevantly, Costa Rica does not have an army. However, Jordan shares the first two characteristics, and is still perceived by most people in the United States as a dangerous place to go. After having been in both Jordan and Costa Rica, it’s fascinating to see how discourses of danger, conflict, peace, and safety actually play out in both countries.
Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall”—an often anthologized poem and favorite of high school English teachers—famously asks whether “good fences make good neighbors.” Even though I haven’t read the poem in years, those words immediately came to mind while on a Black Taxi tour with my Post-Conflict Drama class last week. The driver took us through West Belfast, a community whose deep sectarian division can be seen in the menacing 18-foot high peace walls topped with barbed wire which physically separate the Catholic Republicans in the Falls Road community from the Protestant Loyalists in the Shankill. As in Frost’s poem, the wall in Belfast marks a generations-old boundary. Dating back to the late 1960s, the peace walls were originally constructed as a safety measure to prevent violence between the two warring communities; gates between the neighborhoods were closed at dusk to prevent nighttime crossover. Now, 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement (which marked the end of Northern Ireland’s decades-long Troubles), the peace lines still stand.