Fun with sources.

So far I’ve only found a total of three sources for my topic, which is a little bit daunting – still better than nothing, though, as I wasn’t expecting to find sources as good as I have. As it is, information surrounding queer culture and identity in Han China is fairly lacking in comparison to western countries, so why would Uighur sexuality be a heavily studied topic? I’m definitely excited by what I’ve found, though. They’ve provided me with a decent thread to follow, and they themselves were just interesting in general (who wants to read a bunch of clinical stuff when you’re researching something?).
The one source that I found particularly cool is an essay that was published on Gawker. It was written by Massoud Hayoun, an ethnically Middle Eastern journalist, and it’s his account of his sexual development while spending a year abroad in China back when he was in college. It’s unexpectedly very explicitly detailed – while I know that some people would find that to be an uncomfortable read, I appreciated it. I’ve never been one to shy away from or be bothered by openness towards sexuality, and the way the essay reads feels far more genuine and honest than if Hayoun had tried to remain ‘polite,’ for lack of a better term. Only a small part of the essay focuses on anything related to the Uighur people – a single tale of love lost with a Uighur dude from Xinjiang who was studying in Beijing – but it at the very least provided a brief glimpse into what it’s like to be gay in an “ethnic” community within China (the ending of the story was far from happy, though perhaps not as bad as it could have been). The piece also touches on what currently feels like Urumqi’s mythical gay bar, wherein Uighur drag queens put on shows objectified by the Han patrons due to their more “exotic” qualities. Despite having found several references to the bar, I’ve yet to find it’s name.
Outside of the Gawker essay, I also found a blog entry on Blogspot by Kim Baskin that references the same bar. It goes deeper into what it means to be queer and Uighur, recounting several rather unfortunate stories and once again highlighting the way in which Uighur queens are problematic in their reception inside the bar. Unlike the Gawker piece, however, I’m unable to find any info about the author. I’ve managed to find a brief news article that mentions the bar and (I believe) the owner’s name, so I know that what the blog entry is based in is true, but the rest is based entirely in Kim’s personal experiences. I’m tempted to try and contact Baskin and Hayoun in hopes of hearing more about the bar (or, if I’m extremely lucky, obtain photos/videos of the interior and the queens performing), but I’m unsure of how to go about that. I’m not sure how much additional info I’ll be able to find on the internet, so I should probably start looking into them.
For anyone interested:
Gawker Essay
When Queens Go Ethnic in Gay Urumpqi

Mapping Mania

Today we had a tech lab on using Storymap JS.  IT WAS SO COOL!  To finally do what we’ve been talking about this whole time was invigorating.  What a cool program!  I sensed that most of us in the room felt this way.  All of us were plugged in, and in the best sort of way.  Now I know where the sweetness of this project lies.
I decided to map out all of the buildings that my family members work in, in Center City, Philadelphia.  I chose a map “Open Street Maps: Standard” as my map design, which provided an incredible amount of detail for that particular area of the city.  It was colorful and beautiful.  I put about six locations on the map all within about a six block radius.  This felt a little clunky though.  I was mapping out 3 peoples work places, so I wish there was a way to identify each of the pin points as an individual person (i.e. my moms pins are blue, my dad’s are green, etc.).  I also wish that there was a way that we could draw lines between the points.  How cool would it be to see how their commute route?  I also had an idea of putting the transportation systems that they use on the map to show where they are all coming from, but without a line connecting the spots it seems a little silly.  Also, I was thinking that it would be really cool if we could find the exact distance between each spot.  What a useful tool this could be!
One can use Storymap for so much.  You could map out your vacation, or use it to show your hometown.  The possibilities are numerous.  Another thing that I also noticed Storymaps is lacking is the ability to put multiple media clips/links at one location.  It looks like one has to decide between putting a video or a photograph, etc.  It would be ideal if we could put a street view image with the location as well as a link to the website and a clip of what they do over there.  The way it is, I felt a little confined in what I chose to show.
A cool project I thought of was to map out contemporary photography scene in China.  Are any of us researching contemporary topics?  It would be pretty cool to research and then actually see these places or meet the people running them.  I guess we’re doing this to a degree already, though.
I can’t believe how much fun I had on the computer today.  Usually, I try to avoid the computer at all costs.  Today though I was totally infatuated.  Hopefully today was just as inspiring for my classmates as it was for me.  I can’t wait to meet up with my group and hear about their experience.  I wonder if today’s lab changed their vision of the what our project will be.  Maybe it also helped them to narrow down what it is they want to research and show.
Lets hope xx

Progress… It's a wonderful thing.

We had a meeting with Eric the other day to try and narrow down our topic further, and it actually ended up with us having a bit of a breakthrough moment right after the meeting. We had settled on the idea of exploring feminine identity in Uighur China, but we were still a bit scattershot – Teiji was focusing on beauty standards, myself on queer identity and its relations to the feminine (drag queens all the way), and Elise was looking into feminine health issues. The obvious challenge came in trying to build one cohesive narrative from what we had – I could fairly easily relate my topic to Teiji’s through drag queens/drag entertainment, but Elise still fell somewhere outside the core focus. After Eric suggested looking into aesthetics, though, it all came together.
While we were talking after the meeting, the idea of looking into fashion came up, which Elise was quite interested in. She decided to ultimately switch her individual focus from health to Uighur fashion, and now we’re all set to go. I can relate queer identity to Elise and Teiji’s focuses through drag shows in what is apparently the only gay bar in Urumqi (fashion and makeup and all that tie in very strongly), and Elise and Teiji’s focuses tie together through notions of beauty and high fashion (I guess? I know what I want to say with that but I don’t really know how to put it together properly in words). I’m personally really excited to llok into this further, but it’ll be hard to find adequate sources. I’ll likely need to find photos or videos of the drag queens performing within that particular bar, but due to its underground nature and anticipated social media barriers (and let’s not even start with the language barrier) it’ll definitely be an uphill battle to find some. Or there’s the possibility that photos/videos simply don’t exist on the internet – either way, it’ll be rough.
Aside from all that, Eric and Zhihong brought up something that was a bit disconcerting. As a group, we had been finding a lot of tensions between the Han and Uighur population, and we were told about how the current state of affairs in Xinjiang isn’t all that sunny between the two. We ended up talking about how we need to be careful about what we ultimately choose to publish and include in our project, as we could potentially end up putting people we interact with while travel in danger of being arrested if the PRC doesn’t approve of what we ultimately put on the site. Scary stuff.

First meeting!

On Wednesday, we had our first meeting with Eric and Zhihong, and luckily, it cleared things up a lot. Even though I ended up changing my topic, I’m happy with it and our project now seems a lot more coherent and connected. I was also reassured by the fact that we are able to focus our research on modern times, though we must still use research to contextualize.
My topic changed because, the more we talked, the more clear it became that it no longer fit. I think this is mainly due to one of our members dropping the class. When she was part of the project, my topic of healthcare meshed well with her topic of education. But after she left and our topic continued to evolve, my topic didn’t make sense with the other subtopics. So, due to our focus on aesthetics, using sources like pictures and music videos, to prove our point, I have shifted my focus to the fashion of Uyghur women. I’m really excited about this: I think it will be fun to look at trends and analyze what they represent.
So, the first meeting went well. My whole team agrees that we feel a lot more focused, and like our project has finally come together. Since all three of our topics are so related, I’m sure a narrative will emerge.

StoryMap Tech Lab

We had another Tech Lab this morning in order to go through an introduction to the StoryMap tool. I think that this tool is going to be a great way to illustrate our research projects in a fun, interactive, innovative way. I was really surprised how easy and fun it is to create StoryMaps. The tool was very intuitive—I do not expect a great degree of difficulty from our team members in picking up the basics of this tool. I think my team is relieved to now be able to actually play with the StoryMap tool, which will help to plan the project in a more effective and more detailed way.
What I am most worried about is making sure the citations are accurately attributed to content within the StoryMap. I do, however, think that a larger bibliography page on our class website will be effective.
At this point, I’m getting more and more excited about what these projects will look like in the end. I feel like this process is pioneering a new method of academic research at Guilford and will make our school stand out.
I think the next step is to work on research until we have a basic idea of what each person is saying. From that point, we can figure out how many slides are needed for each person, complete the writing for each slide, find the media for each slide, and organize the citations. I see the last piece of the project being the actual StoryMap data entry. It seems that it will be much easier to organize and edit outside of that tool and that once we begin to enter it, we will probably want to be entering a near-final draft.

The Fellowship Gathers

This Wednesday, the fellowship of the earth met once again for an illustrious and exciting meeting of the minds. Our powerhouse of a team met for a team meeting to decide how we would move forward with our newly agreed upon topic idea. We decided to break up into three individual tasks that will eventually come together to form the greatest project of all time.  Each member of the project has decided upon a point that they are really excited about and are happy to be working on. Austin will be studying Marco Polo’s travels and taking a critical look at what it means for him to the be the most well known traveler. Sam will be taking a look at other travelers and how their stories relate or clash against the white European narrative of Marco Polo. I myself will be working on looking at the Mongols and the Mongol court and the history they left behind and their records of the places these travelers visited. Ideally when we bring all of our information together we will be able to paint a detailed and beautiful image made up of multiple narratives showing what these travels were really like.
I am really excited to get started on this project, while I am starting to worry there wont be varied  resources to help me on this journey I am incredibly interested in my topic. The mongols interest me greatly and I think that getting to study the history they created and wrote compared to the popular narrative is an opportunity I can’t wait to really get started on. Once again however I am feeling hesitant and a little anxious to the amount of resources I have. My first research steps are going to be in acquiring and looking through the book titled The Secret History of The Mongols. It has been recommended to me numerous times and sounds like the perfect first step for me embarking on this project. My next goal will be searching for research papers written on the secret history of the Mongols, in an attempt to find more sources and detailed analysis.
I must say I am much happier with this project then our original idea as I feel like we can really dig deep on this subject and pull out some new and creative ways of looking at the silk road. The topic is also just incredible to me and  I can’t wait to read over travelers descriptions of their amazing journeys.

The Head and the Heart: Finding Balance

Hello again!
It has been a while since my last blog post, so I’ll begin by catching everyone up to speed: it’s been a busy two weeks! The pace of the semester finally picked up, which of course means that all of my classes got exponentially harder. I have had trouble finding the time to sit down and do diligent research for this course, what with the other readings and the map test that Eric and Zhihong assigned us.
However, I am still excited about this project! All of the interlibrary loans that I requested for my research have started to come in, and seeing them sitting in a cute (albeit towering) pile on my desk is certainly inspiring. The team that I am a part of is also chock full of really intelligent and fun people, and every time we meet (even if we just end up talking about the reading that is due that night) I am reminded of the potential we have as a group.
In the sparse amounts of research that I have been able to get done, I have been finding commonalities of various shamanic traditions throughout our chosen region. Many of the books I have on Shamanism are actually more focused on shamanic figures on the western world, so I of course have had to filter those out. Hopefully our group will meet this weekend and we will discuss our new knowledge of storymapping.
Moving forward I really plan on pushing myself to find balance with this project: even when I’m feeling overwhelmed I still need to take the time to sit down and get a little bit of research done every few days.

this week… :/

I have been struggling with creating momentum for my research this week. The combination of other work and some road blocks in research have slowed me down this week in terms of the Tongue Team project.
The two main subjects I wanted to look into this week were the pillow-like oven tools for breaking bread and the stamper (chekish) used to make puncture designs in the naan bread. I expected, since these tools are used today, that there would be a fair amount written on both of these tools. I suppose I was wrong, or I have not found the right kind of search or type of source, yet. I googled “kashgar chekish,” “kashgar naan stamper,” “naan chekish,” “naan stamper,” and came up with mostly recipes and small portions of information on the cooking of naan in Kashgar. While this is fun to read and somewhat useful, I have not found what I was hoping to find: history and cultural influence of these tools. I am slightly disappointed and discouraged, but will try again and shift my focus and search in the hopes of better results.

The Process: 3

Videos, more than anything, have been the most helpful so far. Because we are studying food, seeing the food itself and how people eat it has been a great way to better understand what we’re looking at regarding food cultures and customs. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do as much research on my specific topics as I’d have liked. But there has been some great resources that I’m excited to look into once given a free afternoon.
Hopefully that afternoon can be tomorrow and I’ll have more substance to put into a blog post. Until then…

Old Friend

Blogging has been hard to keep track of.  I think I need to set an alarm or something to remember to do it.  More and more I’m questioning my scheduling tactics–I don’t write anything down.  I just rely on my own memory.  How much more productive would I be if I scheduled out blocks of time to do specific things?  Organization, I’m finding, is key to being a TA.  I’m fairly organized, but there are certainly areas in which I’m lacking.
This week I have greatly enjoyed the readings on Islam.  We read a piece written by Seyyed Hossein Nasr on Islamic religion and history, as well as some writings on and by Rumi.  Islam is very unfamiliar to me, but what I read I loved!  Many of the ideologies we read about reminded me of what I know about Hinduism.  There is something about non-dualistic religions that strike me as beautiful.  Islam is that, but pays particular attention to God.  These readings hit close to home for me.  More than that, they fueled a fire from within that I’ve left to dwindle over the last few years.
I first encountered Rumi in my yoga studies–there is always a Rumi poem that comes up in practice.  It is cool to read about Rumi in a different context.  In yoga, we only take what applies to our own life.  In the context of Islam, every line is relevant.  What does this say about the importance of presentation?  Is it ethical to read the words of Rumi in all scenarios?  How can I apply these thoughts to our map project?
The project…isn’t going too hot at the moment.  The Map Test really set us back.  Hopefully this weekend we’ll be able to dig our teeth in and get a clear picture of where we are at before starting Fall Break.