Nerd news: Poverty in Djibouti/France vs. Islam

July has brought much excitement into my nerd camp. It started with a call for proposals on H-net Africa for the second edition of Sage Publications’ Encyclopedia of World Poverty. They needed someone to write an updated entry on the Republic of Djibouti, only 900-1000 words so I thought I’d take a go. I emailed the editor. It bounced. Twice.

I quickly went into journalism stalker mode and found another email address. I apologized for not using the listed email, but she didn’t mind and thanked me for my persistence. The Djibouti entry was indeed available, but as I have no Ph.D. I could not write the article without a friend, with the appropriate academic credentials to co-author.

I reached out to my beloved friend, former college peer and in some ways my role model, Annette Varcoe. She’s interested in 19th century American history, I believe areas like temperance, suffrage, and other stuff I can’t even remember. She has no interest in Africa, or the postcolonial age, or the colonial influence of France on exotic locales. Yet, she speaks some French, has an interest in women’s/gender issues and shares my type of nerdiness. Poverty, and perhaps even more so in the developing world, has a great impact on women so there we found our overlap.

The beauty of this proposed project rested in the fact that I had researched the basic statistics on poverty in Djibouti during my capstone project for my international affairs seminar at Lafayette College. I merely needed to update the facts, condense relevant info into the required format, send it to Annette, accept her feedback, and add her name.

We had three weeks to submit. I think we polished seven drafts in five days. We haven’t heard from the copy editors yet, but it was a great collaboration and we worked well together. We also pulled ridiculous amounts of scholarly info on Djibouti not quite connected to our project but stuff that crossed our mutual interests. You know a friend is special when you’re emailing PDFs on female circumcision to each other…

From that experience, I reflected on my need for my own Ph.D. It’s on my list of things to do, but hey, so is “de-clutter the house.” I think the Ph.D. is more likely to happen. I figured I’d bold send an email to _the one person I would most like to study under_ because really, what did I have to lose? I will refrain from naming the person or the school, both are amazing, because I don’t want to find myself embarrassed if when he meets me and thinks I’m an idiot.

Yes, I said “when he meets me.” He not only responded to my email but said to contact him again in September so we could arrange for a visit to campus. At that point, we could discuss my previous work and my future plans.

Finally, today, after taking a week to focus on my health (short version: gained weight and lost some physical strength/balance after breaking my dominant hand this winter) and with that on the right path (talked to my doctor! lost five pounds! feel less achy and clumsy!), I received even more “Good News for Nerds.”

The apparently unstoppable Ally Bishop asked me to drop by her class “Topics in Multiculturalism” to present France as a case study in “Multiculturalism and Religion.” I will be talking about “French vs. Islam” as an avoidance of multiculturalism in favor of unyielding universalism and the roots of the what I would term Muslim discomfort in the colonial empire. This is the backdrop for the laws of 2004 and 2010 which outlaw, respectively, headscarves in schools and face coverings in public.

Exciting stuff for a nerd, right?

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