“At exactly which point do we start to realize
that life without knowledge is death in disguise…” (Talib Kweli)
From the moment we started the program, my topic was already close to me and my heart. Growing up, I never really learned much about my cultural background form my parents and this always left a void for me. As most curious childs/teens, questions like “who am I?” and its numerous variations can very much swell our very being. The lack of positive representations of Islamic societies and the way in which my early education tended to minimize these alternate histories only made that void wider. It took time for me to really understand how I could access information on these narratives and, for me, this project has been a step in that longer process. As I don’t want to over essentialize cultural heritage as being born “within,” rather than a thing that is taught/learned, I am very happy with what I was fortunate enough to have access to learn and explore.
The things that I have learned throughout this program have definitely been more abstract than tangible. While I am extremely happy to have learned how to use Neatline, Omeka, and ArcGIS, I think learning how to manifest my ideas in such a short amount of time has been very rewarding and important. It’s hard to really separate the tangible from the abstract because even in the process of learning tangible things like how to use ArcGIS or Neatline, I was also re-working on abstract things like the value of patience, humility, and being able to sustain a long-term vision in order to overcome short-term obstacles.
When I think about my experience with this program, I think that the timing is definitely something I would have changed. Even just an extra two weeks would really go a long way with such a big task as creating a website. Also, while the individualized tool review/live demo was very helpful, I think maybe having a group session where we mess around with a tool can also be useful just in terms of building confidence. I know for me, I was very intimidated with the tools I had to use and maybe getting my feet wet with the class as a whole would have helped demystify the complexity of some of these tools. However, at the end of the day this was an independent project, so either way I think I learned what was intended.
Moving forward, I will definitely hold the lessons and tangible skills/information I have learned close to me. I am happy to say that I will be pursuing further research on a similar topic to what I did in the program. I plan to do research during the semester on Yemeni identity in relation to Indian Ocean history and post colonial studies. As Yemen is much larger than Hadhramaut, it will be interesting to learn more about other parts of the country’s history and how migration, the political landscape, etc. are connected with identity.
Overall, all the failures I had during this program were not really failures. I don’t think there was ever a time that I didn’t learn something that if not immediately applicable would help me in the long-run academically and also in life. Even the presentation affirmed the importance of being able to express myself clearly and concisely, because even the best of projects can be overlooked if not presented optimally. I am very happy with how my project came out and the atmosphere we were able to build during our time, and I hope that this continues with future members of the program and DH community!