Daily Diary Thursday 7/22

by sabrakeller on 24 July 2010

We started off our day meeting at nine in the morning in the courtyard. We were all a but tired and some of us were recovering from the trauma of an episode with burnt toast but we managed to make our way over to the Virtual Knowledge Studio.
VKS building
The Virtual Knowledge Studio (VKS) is an institute of social history that both serves as an archive of historical documents, (is houses original Marxist texts, propaganda leaflets, artifacts from the squatters movement like cloths and tools used by squatters, work from oppressed scholars, ect.) and as an institute of social research that, that helps researchers to develop new scholarly practices that “supports researchers in the humanities and social sciences…in the creation of new scholarly practices and in their reflection on e-research in relation to their fields”. E-research as I understand it when applied to the Humanities and social sciences focuses on the role of the internet and advanced communication technologies in human interaction and social movements.
Meeting
When we arrived there, Clifford gave us a brief introduction to the topic of e-research and transitioned into his own research on the role of openness in the production of collaborative knowledge. This was done in an attempt to give us insight into the process of scholarly research, so that we might be better prepared to develop our own projects. What I found most helpful was seeing the attention that had been paid in defining all terms that might be problematic or ambiguous within the research focus. Clifford made a point in telling us to be mindful of the way in which we frame our question, and to never assume a causal relationship without having clear, measurable evidence.

Clifford’s research is focused on the disruptions that openness can create in collaboration, and how these disruptions bring to light the existing social practices as well as causing the emergence of new practices. Our program is functioning as a case study for his research, and the work that we do here, using our blogs and the research wiki to communicate our ideas, is a practice in using open collaborative communication to develop research.

After the presentation we transitioned into talking about our own projects, and the current state of our research questions since arriving in the Netherlands. The initial plan was to have a one on one meeting with Rob and Clifford, but because of time constraints we were forced to have a group discussion. While I was initially disappointed that we weren’t going to have a more focused examination of our work, I felt like seeing everyone’s process helped me reflect better on what I was doing, and how I presented my work. The best piece of advice that I took from our discussion is that we shouldn’t try to perfect and crystallize our research question before setting out to answer it because the process of our research, and our methodology will influence how we form and direct our question. Research is a recursive process, and so we need to be open to change and readily adaptable.

After this totally enlightening and inspiring meeting with our program coordinators, we left the VKS and moved onto the second part of our day in which we visited a Turkish mosque to learn something about the immigrant Muslims in the Netherlands.
Outside of Mosque
Arriving at the mosque we were treated to a traditional, I’m guessing Turkish, meal, and then showed into a community lounge area for coffee. While we waited in the lounge area playing banana grams and munching on yummy cookies (thanks to the small food mart located within the mosque) I couldn’t help but be surprised at how generous and accommodating everyone had been so far. I know a certain amount of the openness must be a result from the special relationship the UvA has with this mosque, none the less I was mindful that we were being allowed into the center of their community.

At two we headed to the prayer room where we were allowed to view 2:00 prayer. Being both secular and female I was a little uncomfortable with the experience and couldn’t help but wonder why I was being allowed in, especially when a Muslim women would not have been allowed to be in the same position.
Prayer Room
After prayer we were allowed to have a discussion with the Imam of the mosque about the position of immigrants in Dutch society. He explained that the mosque we were in was affiliated with a larger organization called Milli Görüs that aims to help aid integration of Turkish immigrants and other Muslims in the Netherlands and around Europe. As an organization that has over 30,000 members in Europe Milli Görüs helps in everyday practicalities of Muslim life, including Islamic religious instruction, and naturalization issues. Its body of lawyers also helps defend any possible issues of discrimination in the workplace.

We were allowed to ask questions and at the end of the discussion were put into the awkward position of explaining, “what we first think of when we think about Islam”. While I believe that everyone answered honestly I know few if not all of us censored our answers for the imam. To be honest I don’t think those types of questions are entirely fair, because while many thoughts might occur to me when I think of Islam, like controversy, violence, passion, devotion, radicalism, I absolutely don’t believe that any one of those things can accurately describe the entire impression I have of Islam. They’re only pieces to a much larger story. And so when forced to answer such a question we’re forced to come up with a far more calculated answer that the nature of the question requires and in a sense answer falsely in order not to impolite or offend. What I wish we would have done, myself included, is push at some of those less comfortable issues, like the fact that us girls were allowed to sit in on a prayer service, while a Muslim women would be required to stay behind clouded glass.

After our meeting with the Imam we headed to a café to have a further discussion with Mirjam. She explained a little about the history of immigration from turkey and morocco as well as talked about some of the problems of immigration in the present, such as Moroccan men marrying women from Morocco and making it harder for new generations to learn Dutch culture and language at home.

After coffee break number two we all went our separate ways, left to reflect on our experience and what small understanding we had been given into the complexity and tension of the role of immigration in the Netherlands.

This is until we met once again to enjoy our first group dinner! We went to the lovely Bloem eten & drinken where we were served a totally fabulous three-course meal. I felt like we did a great job keeping our composure in a nice restaurant. Though we all got a little rowdy after the Jenever shots were passed out. (Some mention was made of not defecating oneself in conjunction with sucking on plutonium) It was fun night, and a really satisfying end to a long, long day.
puff pastry starter (finally some tasty vegetarian options!)


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