Thursday, October 30, 2008

(Re)entering the discourse

I've been silent on this blog for a long time. I've never really managed to get it to the point of being a regular thing.

That's at least in part because I've been too busy sorting myself out to deal with the things that have been on my mind in a more cerebral (and therefore, in my world, requiring writing down) kind of way. It would appear that I have cleared up some mental RAM, however. So I am now in a position to take stock of some of the more pointy headed kinds of things that are on my mind.

One is my research, upon which I need to build a masters thesis.

Then there's the state of my countries, and the world in general, which by rights, is not one topic, but occupies the same part of my brain. And since this is my blog, I get to declare it one topic.

And of course, there's the issue of domesticity, and within that, gender relations in the home space, different ways of organizing homes, the dynamics of extended families, and just how to get housework done more efficiently, so that it takes up less time.

Today I'm going to stick to the research part. I still haven't been able to identify exactly what it is that I want to find out, and it's kind of difficult to plan your thesis research without knowing what the question is.

I've decided on a situation that interests me: a private all-boys school, with a female principal. In Pakistan, no less. I have anecdotal evidence that this is a relative rarity anywhere in the world. I have to figure out where to get real data on the numbers, but that's mostly to support my assumption that this is an unusual phenomenon.

I'm interested in this one principal, in particular, partly because she's just cool. But also I see her opinions on what kind of men her students should grow up to be as being kind of counter-culture.

Now I need to flesh out my vision of the Pakistani context with evidence from the literature (if it exists). And I need to figure out how to get at the questions that I'm interested in answering. Articulating those questions would be a good beginning, but I'm struggling with that for now.

What I have so far is this: What happens when a liberal feminist becomes the principal of an elite all-boys school in Lahore?

Now I could compare this with how things were when the principal at this same school was a man, although gathering data on that might be kind of difficult, given our tendency to generate massive amounts of paperwork with little or no coherent organization.

Or I could compare it with a different elite boys school in Lahore, or several boys schools.

Or I could track down other female principals of all boys schools, figure out where they stand on feminist issues, and what their vision of the ideal student is.

Or I could see how everyone else's perceptions of this particular principal have evolved over time, or are informed by her being a woman.

What gets me most excited is the degree of variance of her vision of "good men" with/from(?) the yardsticks that society at large, parents, teachers, and the students themselves use to gauge whether someone is a "good man." And how this variance plays itself out in organizational dynamics, in curricular priorities, etc.

But how do you turn that unwieldy mess into a "real" research question?

1 comment:

Northeast Iowa Mom said...

Wow. Metrics for this will be interesting... You're thinking mostly anecdotal data here, right? Self reporting of attitudes. I guess you could survey boys who have graduated after 4 years under this principal, and compare them with boys who graduated the same year under other principals, on their beliefs about what makes a good man or a good woman, though I think this question will grow more interesting as they age through adulthood.

Too bad you don't have another 60 years to write your thesis because then you could get marriage success rates, success rates of their children (male and female), data on their dealings with women in the workplace, and so on.

KEEP POSTING, please? I'm glad you are reviving your blog(s)!

Verification word: nishecka. It's a kind of traditional knitted scarf made in Siberia, out of... um... the fur fibers from sled dogs. How's that?