My First Mentor Meeting: 9/16/19

“As a scholar and teacher of international relations, I have frequently asked myself the following questions: why are there so few women in my discipline? If I teach the field as it is conventionally defined, why are there so distant from women’s liven experiences? Why is the subject matter of my discipline only by their absence in the worlds of diplomacy and military and foreign-policy making?”[1]

[1] J. Ann Tickner.    “Preface.” in Gender in International Relations, (New York: Columbia University Press,     1992), ix.

As a student of International Studies, I consistently spend a lot of time questioning and analyzing the voices participating in the conversation of International Studies. However, as an aspiring researcher, I am currently struggling to understand the role my own voice plays in the conversation. One of the most exciting parts of the Olson Scholars Program is the opportunity to be paired with a faculty mentor who has made extensive, influential contributions to the conversation in areas that spark our curiosity to help us also find our place in the conversation. Thus, I feel incredibly privileged and excited to spend the year being mentored by Professor Ann Tickner. Professor Tickner has spent her career paving the way for Feminist IR theory and has used her voice to create space for the voices of others and for the experiences of women to be a part of the conversation of International Studies. Additionally, she has played a crucial role in sparking my own interests in International Studies and personal desire to participate in the conversation.

While Professor Tickner was unable to meet until yester (September 16th), we began email communication about two weeks before school started. We started off by introducing ourselves and discussing my research interests. Professor Tickner was familiar with the practice due to the fact that she had also read The Underground Girls of Kabul, the book that first introduced me to the practice of the Bacha Posh.[1],[2]Since I had read the book a while ago, I shared how I was currently going through and marking up both The Underground Girls of Kabul and a memoir called I am a Bacha Posh to find any interesting ideas I didn’t catch before.[3],[4] As with any research, in order to participate in the conversation, you have to know what the conversation is. In this case, I needed to familiarize myself beyond the conversation of the Bacha Posh to the conversation of Feminist IR theory. Thus, as soon as I shared my research interests, professor Tickner lead me to a variety of places and scholars to start looking into in order to both familiarize myself with conversations surrounding Feminist IR theory and to find possible broad connections to my topic.[5] She first led me to the International Feminist Journal of Politics where I found many interesting pieces relating to females and masculinity.[6]

Once school started, I met with Professor Boesenecker to discuss my research interests. He recommended that I look beyond the Bacha Posh in order to find my specific puzzle. I emailed professor Tickner sharing how the nature of the practice (an association to masculinity giving girls and women power) has reminded me a lot of women who join the front lines such as Kurdish women fighters.[7] I also shared how I thought about life after the frontlines: how many women combatants who were participating in war (a very masculine concept) are forced to demobilize and fit more feminine roles, the same way once a Bacha Posh reaches a certain age, she has to turn back into a girl.[8] Professor Tickner highly recommended that I look into pieces by Laura Sjoberg who she stated, “has written a lot on violent women and how they are viewed, negotiating between women and soldiers.”[9] She led me to a book that she and Caron Gentry co-authored titled, “Mothers, Monsters, Whores” and the 2015 revised edition, “Beyond Mothers, Monsters, Whores”.[10],[11],[12] She also recommended I look into Cynthia Enloe who has lots of books on militarism and masculinity.[13]

On Monday, September 16, Professor Tickner and I met for the first time in person. She came in with a suitcase of books leaving me with titles that include Women and Wars by Caroline Cohn and Gender and International Security by Laura Sjoberg.[14],[15] We first began by discussing how my research course was going and I shared how we just began learning about ontologies and research methodologies. Since Professor Tickner has written pieces on the limitations of positivist research on issues surrounding gender and Feminist IR theory, she suggested that I read Brooke Ackerly and Jacqui True, two authors who have used positivist methodologies, and Politics and Gender volume 5 (2009) issue 2 and 3, a great forum by those who use positivist methods in feminist research, for a wholistic view. She also mentioned reading her own article, “What is your Research Program?” in International Studies Quarterly Volume 49 no.1 (2005) for her arguments surrounding interpretivist research.[16] We then began to dive into the puzzle I would like to explore. One area she recommended I look into more before our next meeting was the demobilization process for the Bacha Posh and the experience of girls and women while demobilizing and after demobilization to see if there is a puzzle to find there. In the memoir I am a Bacha Posh the author refused to turn back into a girl and continued to live her life as a boy.[17] I am curious as to how her experience differs to those who join more feminine roles.  We additionally discussed one of the most puzzling aspects of the practice which is why this practice happens specifically in Afghanistan and not in other culturally patriarchal societies. For instance, why is “turn daughter into son” the solution to having a daughter in Afghanistan’s society and only in Afghanistan’s society wherein many other culturally patriarchal societies, you tend to see solutions such as infanticide. The latter direction is something I am particularly very interested in and want to explore more of especially since turning daughters into sons seems to be something that would be very taboo for a culturally patriarchal society, yet still exists and, while kept private, is accepted. The discussions we had about my puzzle gave me a lot to explore before our next meeting. We decided to keep up consistent email communication to discuss any interesting findings/ideas and the readings I am doing. Furthermore, we set up bi-weekly in person meetings. I am excited for the coming weeks to keep working on further developing my research puzzle with Professor Tickner.

[1] J. Ann Tickner, email message to Rhea Tuli, August 22, 2019.

[2] Jenny Nordberg, The Underground Girls of Kabul, 1st (New York: Broadway Books, 2015).

[3] Rhea Tuli, email message to J. Ann Tickner, August 24, 2019.

[4] Ukmina Manoori, I am a Bacha Posh. (New York: Skyhorse Pub, 2014).

[5] J. Ann Tickner, email message to Rhea Tuli, August 22, 2019.

[6] Ibid.

[7]  Rhea Tuli, email to J. Ann Tickner, September 2, 2019.

[8] Ibid.

[9] J. Ann Tickner, email to Rhea Tuli, September 7, 2019.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Laura Sjoberg, Caron E. Gentry, Monster, Mothers, and Whores. (London: Zed Books, 2007).

[12] Laura Sjoberg, Caron E. Gentry, Beyond Monster, Mothers, and Whores. (London: Zed Books, 2015).

[13] J. Ann TIckner, email to Rhea Tuli, September 7, 2019

[14]  Caroline Cohn, Women and Wars. (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013).

[15] Laura Sjboerg, Gender and International Security. (London, New York: Routledge, 2010).

[16] J. Ann Tickner, “What Is Your Research Program? Some Feminist Answers to International Relations Methodological Questions,” in International Studies Quarterly 49, no. 1 (2005): 1-21.

[17] Manoori.


1 Comment on My First Mentor Meeting: 9/16/19

  1. Avatar
    Dr. Boesenecker
    October 29, 2019 at 5:20 pm

    Overall it sounds like you had a productive meeting with Prof. Tickner. It will be important to take Dr. Tickner’s advice to broaden out *well* beyond the study of just the Bacha Posh since (a) there is very limited literature and data on just this one practice/phenomenon, and (b) we need to think more broadly than just one instance of things (especially in neopositivist research). Keep thinking about how you could frame your puzzle in terms that point to a puzzle about a broader phenomenon or class of events.


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