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Monday, February 27, 2012

Sudden Idea

As I was finishing my last post, I had an idea. This may be impossible, I am just thinking this out here in this post. I wonder if there is a way to have my research be completely open. I wonder if there is a way to make a website or a blog or a facebook page or something like that where my research on reading in India can be actively interacted with and contributed to by people in India or Indians in other places.

I understand that there are hurtles to overcome for something like this. There is the sensitive topic of illiteracy, the diversity of languages, English fluency. I don't even know if doing it in English is the correct choice for this kind of thing in India.

But if I could get a group on goodreads or provide a place where I could interact with people or get people to interact on the topic of reading, that would be amazing. I know we have talked about how if you post your results/notes, then people change their answers, but I wonder if the topic being something like reading would allow it to be more freely open, less constrained than it would be if I were discussing marriage or religion or something. I mean, you cannot predict how things will be perceived, I guess.

I don't entirely know the best way to put something together like this. The respondents would mostly just be college students/young adults as they are probably the only ones who would go to internet cafes for something like this. It also would skew the responses to the more affluent because they would be the most internet literate.

I will have to think more about this idea. It may just complicate things. I really like the idea of my project not being all hush hush, though. I don't think the topic really requires it or even needs it.

Visiting Cards

As we have been talking about ethics and stuff in class, I have been thinking about the ethics involved in my project. I feel like as long as I remain super sensitive to people around me and always ask questions if I am doing anything wrong when appropriate, I feel like I can mitigate most of the potential problems of my topic and methods. I mean, I still want to sit down with a few people and brainstorm with them to come up with ways in which my project might cause problems. The big part semi-ethical hurdle in my project is getting my research, results, my project back to the people that have helped and will help me accomplish it. I am still pondering this idea, but one thing I already planned to do that now will take on a new purpose is getting my own visiting cards. I am super excited.

This is a visiting card:
It may look like a simple business card, but in Indian culture this takes on a completely new meaning. Everyone has visiting cards. You give them out to people you meet who you want to do business with or stay in contact with. It is a way to either make business contacts or to give to someone who can see that you are important, that you are successful. It kind of is like a mini profile in many cases. Like this one. I got it from this blog. They do graphic design, so they are technically showing off their talent, but this sample is a good one for visiting cards, in addition to their graphic design capabilities. You notice that in this example it has the name of the person, M. Ali Bhatti, their position, proprietor, the name of their company, Bhatti + Bhatti, and what they do. It also has their address. When the fictional Mr. Bhatti meets someone, he will give them this card.

As soon as I get to India, one of the first things I hope to do is locate a printer and have five hundred or a thousand visiting cards made up. Mine will probably be a lot simpler than Mr. Bhatti's, but they will serve the same purpose. Basically I plan to just have my name, my e-mail address, my blog address, and maybe my facebook or google+ page (depending on if I can bring myself to support those) listed on the card. That way I can give it to anyone who works with me, who I meet who I hope to work with, or who I just want to stay in contact with. For giving back my finished research project, I still will try to collect people's information and notify them when it is finished/let them know the progress. Visiting cards will give me a double layer of protection. Rather than going through the awkward motions of having to find pens and paper scraps that will get lost, the visiting card is official, clean, and easy to read and provide a way for everyone I meet to at least have the chance of following along with my project. Internet access is still going to be a problem, which I as a lone undergraduate student cannot overcome, but there are internet cafe's and things like that. At least this will be some way to make sure that I do not come off as some invading American taking advantage of India for my undergraduate gain. It is so unbelievably important to me that my project in every way possible give back to India. I hope to gain a lot from this, but a major goal of my topic is to in some way to contribute to the understanding and culture of reading in India in ways that will benefit India continuing to establish a solid place in the global world.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sarah, don't you dare grade this! It doesn't count.

I just wanted to say, that right now, Delhi feels very far.

Inquiry Conference

Okay, rather than going on a journal-esque entry on exactly what happened at the inquiry conference (Inquiry Conference?), instead I would much rather just talk about what stuck out to me.

All the presentations that I saw were excellent. I was really amazed at the level of quality of everyone's projects. It was awesome, and intimidating.

It wasn't so much the specifics of the projects that I noticed particularly. It was actually the sheer variety of everything that everyone had done. Going into a field study, I was quite aware of how open ended the program was, however it did not quite hit me until the inquiry conference. Seeing the finished product, what people had done, what they learned emphasized how just about anything can be a legitimate and rigorous project. Not that I previously felt that anything specifically was a waste of time, it is just that in the Inquiry conference I actually saw unfolded how much depth there could be in topics I would never have considered in an academic setting, at least to this degree.

It made me think a lot more about my own project, what I could do with it, what I need to do with it. I liked the organization of Megan, Peter, and Maddie's projects. I liked how well thought out they were. There were still things they didn't know, things they didn't think of, but all in all, I really liked how solid they seemed. There was an Idea at the heart of what they were doing, something that drove the rest of the project. That is why it didn't really matter that there were certain things that were unexpected issues. I wish I had asked questions more about the Sanskrit guy's methods and things. Thinking about it hours later, I realize that in some ways we have very similar projects. I didn't really agree with his conclusion and I think his conclusions could have really benefited from a heavy, heavy dose of cultural context, but he seemed to have fairly solid methodology to what he was doing. Also, he seems absolutely brilliant, but I he should never be allowed anywhere near English education. I think he might still actually believe in a canon. Dangerous indeed, haha. Rachel's project really got me thinking about the ways in which my project as an entity will relate to India as a place/culture. Ironically her presentation did not affect me quite like the others because of the profound impact her projects have already had on my own since I have been following her work for some time now. Actually the biggest feeling it inspired in me was a mild sense of regret that I do not have time to go for another field study or two to continue whatever I work on this summer. But that is not a hard regret. India will still be there and there will be other opportunities to return, perhaps even to work on similar ideas. Just none of them will be quite as convenient or as familiar as the field study model. Also, interspersing field studies to India would have really helped make learning Hindi easier. Anyhow, Kristin...Christin...uh, Ms. Cardon's? presentation really got me thinking. I hadn't considered all the ways in which I could start working on things now. I had kind of thought of it before, as I have expressed, but listening to her today kind of got my mind working, thinking about new ways I could push these next two months to the limit in actually starting on this project, not just in reading and formulating methodologies, but actually starting to get some initial research and feedback to temper my project, rather than doing a bunch of background reading and hoping I am on base with my assumptions.

I am grateful to the presenters and that they took the opportunity to share their ideas. The experience of attending the inquiry conference was a surprisingly good experience, especially in the context of my field study. Confession: I attended the inquiry conference...a year or two ago? but it didn't go very well. I showed up for a session, fell asleep five minutes in, woke up two speakers later and just got up and left. All I remember is that the first person who I saw five minutes of was talking about the difficulties of teaching English in a school in Ghana or something. I didn't get very much out of that inquiry conference.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Through the methodology assignments, I have realized that really, there is no reason I cannot begin my project now, sort of. I am not exactly sure if there are rules to this, but I am going for it. I am developing some light, easy-going interviews/surveys for a few people I know to sort of get my bearing on reading in India. I know a few Indians here, hopefully they can point me to a few more, and I have randomly run into a few people online that I know from India whom I hope to e-mail or chat with online to get a generally idea for the feel of this area.

Any information I got from this would of course be colored by the fact that most people I know are very well educated, in America, or going to be in America in the near future. Thus I am not quite sure how much their reading experience differs from the general Indian reading experience.

Thinking about this, as I work on finalizing my project into a proposal, I am probably going to limit it in some way to something like just North India, or people who's first language is Hindi or English, as will be the case in Delhi. Granted, there are a lot of different states represented in Delhi since it is the capital I am just not confident that I will be able to get a representative sample large enough to confidently label it as reading in India rather than just a subset. India shares a lot of culture, but there is also a lot of difference between each of the states.

I dislike how scientific that sounds. I really am not happy with how scientific this sounds sometimes. It isn't that I do not want to be scientific, because that kind of is the way to conclude things, I suppose. I guess the bigger issue is that I do not believe that I know enough or that I can know enough about the people I am working with enough to even label them as something. I also know that I am not going to be able to interview or survey or interact with enough people in time to really get "scientific" data. Plus that just sounds so mercenary to me. My goal this summer is not to draw broad conclusions. I don't expect that I will be able to declare with confidence the state of reading in India. What I am going for is more like context, experiences, ideas, guidance. I wonder sometimes if that perspective will end up cutting me short in the end.

I think what it comes down to is part of the reason I ultimately chose to pursue English. I am more interested in the inquiry. I am much more comfortable with observing things and then making observations, trying to see how things ultimately connect.

I think it will probably just end up being a scientific ethnography, or at least the attempt at it, but I like to think how I think about it makes a difference. Maybe I just need to come to terms with the post modern and identify the role it will play in my project.

Monday, February 20, 2012

I Am Alive

Blah, I kind of fell off the horse there for a week or two, sorry about that. I had a small existential crisis about my project and got stuck in a rut for a little while there. I have talked to a few people about (thank you Rachel) and I think I know where to go moving forward.

It was the literature review that kind of made me panic. Not the literature review itself, but how it applies to me. Looking at reading and writing in India from a sources point of view has been really, really difficult. Mostly because there are two sides the the problem and they rarely meet. The English major side is obsessed with the post colonial. There are hundreds of papers and books on the topic, but as they are coming from the English academia perspective, they are all about the themes and writing methods that are in a given text. No one ever really talks about why the book was written in the first place or who might actually be reading the book and what that means. On the anthropological side, it could be that I just do not know quite where to look, but from all the databases I have searched and what not, it seems that anthropologists have not thoroughly studied reading much. I was not even looking specifically for India. I just was looking for ethnographies or studies about reading. I am sure that anthropologists study this kind of thing, but I have the feeling that all the sources that would be useful to me are subsections buried in the chapters of specific ethnographies or general anthropological texts. I have a few books about literacy in India, which will hopefully be helpful.

I am coming to terms with the fact that I may not be able to use my sources to focus/narrow my topic. I was kind of hoping that I could feel my way along with what others have studied before and pattern my research methods after them. However it seems like I am just going to have to make it up as I go along.

To make up for this, I am going to see if I can work the network of Indian people I kind of know who live here in Provo. I am going to do some super informal interviews with my friend and any Indians he knows to talk to them about my project. I want to ask them a few questions about reading and just sort of point blank ask them what they think I should do or how I should approach it. I figure in the field I can try to be all subtle and sneaky, but here in the U.S. with people I know, I might as well just come out with it and ask them what they think of my project. Hopefully this will guide my efforts as I redouble my efforts on getting my project set.

As my three English classes start getting heavy, I am falling behind in my reading. I am not too worried though. There are about eight more books that I am absolutely determined to read. All in all a few thousand pages. I can manage that. Basically a few covering different topics on the history of India, an analysis of India's current situation, some texts about religion, a travelogue, and a book about the history of New Delhi specifically. Also the one or two books I have been able to dig up that in some way discuss the literacy and reading in India. And if I have time I have a history of Indian literature in English. I feel that at this point, considering that I am not going to find some great studies or ethnographies about studying the reading/writing habits of an ethnic group, the most important thing I can do to prepare is to increase my general knowledge about Indian history, culture, geography, and religion. I hope focusing on orienting myself to the location rather than my specific method first will help me to think on my feet and develop things as I go rather than try to adapt my specific methods that someone else came up with to my location. I don't know.

Also I am working on my Hindi via Hindi films. I can begin to pick up words, but I can't follow when they talk at normal speeds. We will see what I can do in two months. Not that I plan to try to operate in Hindi to any degree, but I feel it would help.

Also, also, I am working on memorizing the major gods and goddesses, which is going well, as well as state names and capitals, which is going...not so well, but I will master it!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Taxi No. 9211

So I am in the unique position this semester, actually I have been since last semester, I am just doing something about it now, where I have to have a Netflix account and watch movies. It isn't a class assignment per se, but my things will be better if I do it this way. I am struggling in my Hindi class because I can read and write passably, but I cannot speak for beans. So basically the only way I have available to me is to rent Bollywood movies and watch them to try to pick up the language. It actually really helps a lot. I cannot watch them without subtitles, but I can feel at least my listening abilities in Hindi improving. The problem is I have no time for these shenanigans. I get a new movie in and it is a total drag because it means I have to make time to watch the dag blasted thing. Like I said, it is a unique problem.

Tonight I watched Taxi No. 9211. I do not intend to write a movie review, in fact I don't really ever plan to do that here. It isn't really relevant. The reason I mention this one is because unlike so many Bollywood movies that feature the rich and famous and their awesome rich and famous lives, one of the two main characters was a poor taxi driver. They spent a lot of time on his life and his challenges. It was fascinating to get a view of how his sort of everyday life went. It felt so familiar to be in a home like his. It made me so homesick (obviously that isn't the right word, but I don't know the correct one) for India. I miss it so freaking much! I am so excited to go back I can't stand it. I want to go now! Anyhow, pardon my emotions getting the better of me. The marriage of the main character was also very interesting to me. They never said, but I assume it was an arranged marriage. The dynamics of how they interacted was what seemed to me would be an arranged marriage. Also, the other main characters relationship was a loved based one and she turned out to be a gold digger. Coincidence? I think not. The reason this is important to me is because of how good their marriage was portrayed. They really cared for each other. I know it is a movie, so obviously the relationships of the characters are whatever they want them to be, however I find the dynamics of arranged marriages so fascinating. They are not perfect. I have personally seen many awful examples of the problems of arranged marriage, but they can also work. I am excited to learn more about them and see how they work in practice under less constrained circumstances. I think in the West we automatically assume that they are these awful, loveless, abusive relationships where people are just miserable and only love their children. That happens, but I want to see the everyday situations. I know arranged marriages that have turned out quite well. Just because they are not initially love based, doesn't mean that they cannot grow to be love based. Because we as Westerners are so stuck on the concept of whether or not we are "in love" with the person we are marrying, I think we miss how mutual commitment to a relationship can turn it into something great. I mean, how can you really know that you love someone after a few weeks like apparently a couple in my ward does? Obviously in an arranged marriage you only know them for like five minutes, but the difference is, with an arranged marriage, they don't go into it expecting perfection. They don't have the delusion that they in any way really know their spouse. I think Americans fall into that trap so easily.

Anyhow, I am not trying to necessarily argue for the arranged marriage. There are many reason why going into a relationship blind, especially with the way gender roles often work in India, is a terrible idea. However, the more I learn about it, while I may not necessarily agree with it or envy it, more and more I find myself coming to admire and respect many of the aspects of the arranged marriage and all the effort and ideology that are involved in making them work. In many ways, rather than breaking India of their bad habits with our Westernizing influence, I think Americans have a lot they could learn from the Indian arranged marriage that would improve our American "love marriages." Wow, this was such  stereotypical ideal field study blog learning journal entry. How disappointing. I have been trying my darndest to avoid doing this. The question, the exploration, drawing the conclusion, and finishing off with an open ended growth moment or epiphany. I apologize. I will work harder to not do this in the future, lol. I can't stand it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Recently I have kind of been gearing up my efforts at really learning Hindi. I don't think I will accomplish all that much while I am here as I do not really have anyone to talk with. I hope this summer I will be able to practice speaking a lot. Anyhow, today in class, actually after class one of my classmates who is actually from India asked me to look over one of his assignments for a writing class. He actually writes very well. He is an extremely intelligent person. His vocabulary and accent are excellent. You can kind of hear it, but it is more an afterthought than anything else. Lately in class we have been working on translating stories from a children's Mahabharat. (As an aside, I do not know why in English they call these books the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. In my Hindi class and most Indian sources I have worked with, they are referred to as the Ramayan and the Mahabharat. For comparison in pronunciation it is like rah-mah-yah-nah and mah-hah-bu-rah-tah versus ruh-mai-yan and ma-ha-bar-ut, well, that was actually kind of butchered, but I think I get my point across? For clarification that is how I refer to them in my head.) We are translating these which has been a very interesting experience. However when I was looking over my friends assignment, I realized the most of the problems were just translating his Indian English into American English. This is where the experience gets difficult for me to describe. It wasn't that he was writing things like "We to the store are going. You are coming with?" or something terribly broken like that. It was just a different way of writing, dare I say a different way of viewing things? He used a lot of big vocabulary, he phrased things in a very round about way, he used a lot of references to idioms and foreign phrases. From what I have seen in India, this is a fairly common way of writing in English. But the thing that blows my mind is that it was so different, but not necessarily wrong or weird. There was no problem with spelling or grammar, it was just in the diction, I guess. This idea has set my mind on fire tonight. How can there be this thing that is so similar, but so very different? Any American who ran into his writing without any context would be left scratching their head. They might even struggle to understand what he is trying to say. I do not have a name for this translation that is not really translation. It amazes me that people can speak the same language and yet a completely different language, even using the same vocabulary. This different mindset has me fascinated. I want to learn as much as I can at this different way of conceptualizing ideas and expressing knowledge. To me it represents more than a difference in colloquialisms. British English writing does not have the same foreign feel that Indian English sometimes does. I think it gets down to a different way of conceptualizing people and the world. I don't know if this relates back into m-time or p-time or not. Maybe this is just another sign of this idea. Most of the literature I have read does not write in this very Indian way. I am going to keep my eyes open for more examples of this before I head to India so I can start formulating some theories on it. I also now have a new mini project to work on in country: become more fluent in this kind of English so that I can better situate myself as a useful intermediary between my culture and that of India.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Separate Journeys

I am still trying to get my stride back, but while I do that, I have been reading a collection of short stories called Separate Journeys. Each story is written by a female Indian author from a different part of the country. The stories have been interesting, although not for exactly the reason I at first anticipated. The introduction to this book makes a big point out of the fact that each of the authors comes from a distinct background with different literary and cultural attributes as a result. My perception of Indian literature is rapidly expanding. It seems like, so far at from what I have observed, English is a fundamental part of Indian writing, but it is also just another language among many languages. Most of the major languages have a huge body of literature. I find that idea fascinating. Regardless of what I ultimately end up doing specifically for my project, I am going to devote a certain amount of time to try to hunt down the sources of these books. One of the stories suggested that there was a massive pool of Kannada literature, except while I was there in India I never saw anywhere that sold books except for in English, with maybe a single book case devoted to the most common regional language. I mean, I was not actively looking, but I feel like if these were such prolific writing communities, there would be more evidence of it. Maybe I just am not looking in the right places. The posh malls cater to the rich, obviously, and so it isn't surprising that the majority of their books are in English. The thing is, I only ever noticed two kinds of book stores while I was in India. There are the super posh ones and then the small, warehouse like black market book stores. Well, black market is kind of harsh, I guess, because they do sell legitimate copies of books. But they also sell a lot of pdf print off kind of books where I am pretty sure neither publisher nor author sees any royalties from them.

So when I get to New Delhi, I am going to have to be on the look out for other outlets for books. I am going to have to ask around, but the things I have thought of so far are: book stores, "black market" street book stores (obviously), book fairs (like the Sunday book sale I mentioned in an earlier entry that existed in Hyderabad. I feel bad, but in pursuit of my project I am willing to go out on a Sunday and buy books, if it comes to that), book carts, book stalls, yard sales?, literature events, college stores, national libraries, and local libraries. Perhaps talking to publishing houses might also help to see which book seller people they sell their books to might uncover some leads.

I am finding that in my research I am struggling to find sources talking about Indian readership. There isn't much, but there is plenty for a field study project that involves literary criticism. However, while enlightening and something that would be productive to read in preparation for my time in India and discussing literature with people, it doesn't really help me ground my project in the current research about reading in India. I mostly have been hitting the databases I use as an English major, which is probably part of the problem. The study of English is interested in why people read, but usually is more abstract/attempting to be universal, which isn't terribly helpful. I think I will have to talk to a few of my anthropologist friends to see if there are any databases that they recommend particularly (Rachel, here's lookin' at you kid, among others). Perhaps they will have more of what I need.

Anyhow, I talk like I have completely narrowed it down, but I haven't quite yet. Emma Roberts is out. As much as I would love to do that, I do not think I have the temperament to go run around the country and accomplish things. I am not good at being spontaneous like you would need to be in order to make that work. Besides, I really do not think a summer is enough time to make that work. I think the Urdu poetry thing might be out as well. I am in love with the idea, but I don't know if I could quite tie it together in something meaningful. Okay, I think I could, but I guess I am not sure that I could learn Urdu well enough in time in order to actually work in translation, which is what I would have to do. And it wouldn't be text book Urdu, it would be artistic, high Urdu written in handwriting from two hundred years ago, not printed, with all the irregularities and complexities that go along with it. I think it would be fun, but I would probably end up writing a paper about the experience of how hard it is to translate and interpret poetry, not really write something meaningful about the poetry. The remaining three ideas are kind of iterations of each other. Some are too broad, some might be too narrow, I will have to work them out. I may just end up creating a hybrid out of them or something. I think locating some actual resources about what and why people are reading will be helpful to giving me some really healthy perspective on what direction I should go. Although I guess thinking about the topics, I am going to need literary history, not just literary anthropology. Blerg. I don't know where to get that.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


I think I am currently encountering something that I may encounter in the field, so maybe this is a positive experience in retrospect. I just have kind of been stumped on what to write about. A few days ago I had like three or four posts bouncing around in my head that I should have written down and now they are gone. Having the experience of needing to press on and do stuff with this project when I am not feeling terribly inspired has been enlightening. I sill don't know quite what to do about it, but I am learning about it at least, for what it is worth.

My reading mood died somewhere about three-fourths of the way through January. I was on fire. I am so sad. I have so much to read still that I want to read. Just when I sit down to read it is like pulling teeth to make myself do it. I blame everything else I have to read. I also think I need to go through and logically organize which books I am going to read first. It has been kind of random so far. I have a backlog of about forty sources I have identified. I have started going through some of them I just feel mentally flat lately. I can't get my mind around them. I have narrowed down my project ideas, I think. I just need to really make a decision and start pumping stuff out.

I just need to sit down and ponder India for a little while, I think. That is what inspired my ideas. Maybe I will get them back that way. Right now my mind just feels dark. I don't even understand