Masks of Venezia

If there were one object to symbolize Venezia it would not be the gondola or blown glass beads. No, if there were one object to symbolize Venezia, and really Italy as a whole, it would be the mask. Masks are used to deceive or exaggerate, all for the purpose of depicting a character or characteristic. According to Hooper, symbolism is an essential aspect of Italian culture. Politicians endlessly speak in metaphors, putting on a mask to hide their true intentions, like Silvio Berlusconi kindly speaking of AS Roma captain Francesco Totti, after Totti spoke up against Berlusconi’s campaign. His kind words doubled as a threat, something Italians clearly understand and do in their own lives as well, according to Hooper. Masks also represent the great history of theatre in Italy, and particularly Venezia. They symbolize what occurred on and off the stage in a time where nobles ruled the theatres.
Teatro la Fenice and their construction history perfectly illustrates the use of metaphorical masks. With two fires along with changes in power and revolutions, the theatre changed over time, putting on new masks with every alteration. During our tour of the theatre there was an obvious difference between the foyer and theatre itself. Walking in, the surrounding was Neo Classical. Before the last fire, the entire theatre incorporated this style. Neo Classical was out of place in Venezia but this was an intentional change. Being that the Teatro la Fenice was a private theatre for the nobles, the theatre was designed to make a connection between the nobles and the Greeks and Romans. It was a mask to heighten the importance of the nobles.
The first change to the theatre occurred in 1797 when France conquered Venezia. The end of the republic took place when Napolean came in and was symbolized by the destruction of 6 noble’s boxes in the theatre to create one Royal Box. This Royal box remained until 1848 when there was a revolution against the Austrian power. The people repossessed the theatre, destroying the Royal box and replacing it with the original design. Unfortunately, this didn’t last long and when Austria reclaimed power, the Royal box was once again set in place. This box became a sign of control, a mask of power. It acquired it’s final form after 1946 when a plaque of the Lion of San Marco replaced the King’s emblem. The open book in the lion’s hand states that Venice is in peace. This Royal box was more than just a place to watch the theatre; it was a notion of power, a reference to peace, and held more scene changes than the stage itself.
After the second fire in 1996, the theatre put on its final mask. Aldorossi perfectly replicated the previous change from Neo Classical design to Baroque style inside the theatre itself. He made one change to the base color, changing it from brown to blue representing the importance of water to the city of Venezia. The original change from Neo Classical to Baroque was once again to represent and exaggerate. This new style was a mask to remind nobles of the splendor of the republic. The design is heavy and elaborate, creating a magical experience of exploring a gold plated forest. It’s rich and exudes wealth, power, and beauty. Walking through the door I felt as though I stepped through the doors into a past world full of glory, which is exactly what the Baroque style intends to do.
Masks surround the history of Venice. As Hooper mentioned, they are essential in the theatre form that developed in Venice, the Commedia dell’Arte, they were part of noble’s rituals with their ancestors, and they were part of popular noble culture with the created of masquerade balls. Beyond physical masks, Italians relied on metaphorical masks, speaking and understanding through symbolism and use of “dietrologia”, or determining true meaning behind things. Teatro la Fenice captures the importance of this masked society through its history and preservation.

Motive Behind Terrorism

Writers, Krueger and Maleckova, argue that economic deprivation is not a root cause of terrorism. Does education affect participation in or support for terrorism?

Kruegar and Maeckova use statistical data and thoughtful interpretation to argue that economic deprivation is not a root cause of terrorism. The statistical data used in their writing supports their claim and shows that educated people are in fact more likely to support terrorism. Realistically, the writers argue that in order to carry out the attacks, one must be educated enough to complete the plan successfully. Well-educated people are more likely to be involved and passionate about politics and because terrorism is most similar to “a violent form of political engagement” it makes more sense that the people participating in terrorism are more likely to be educated. Finally, the two mention Jessica Stern’s observation that education in some countries, for example Pakistan, in fact encourage the youth to join extremist movements and therefore, more education may not be the answer.

Suicide Terrorism is a strategic form of coercion. It is not a random act influenced by psychological motives. Timing of each attack and the length of terrorist campaigns prove that each attack is not random. The similarities between intended goals of terrorist attacks and intended goals of sanctions and military campaigns prove that non-state actors and state actors behave analogously; suicide terrorism and economic sanctions are driven by the same strategy, not psychology.   The targets of suicide terrorism are all democracies, proving that the targets are thoroughly studied and chosen to meet the organizations strategic goals. Although some suicide terrorists may be suicidal, poor, uneducated, or highly victimized, psychology is not the key driver of their actions; it is the strategic power of the terrorist organizations themselves.

The Effects of Non Movements

Westernization has not created a peaceful world order although it claims to do so. This is brought up in Minoo Moallem’s article “ The Ethnicity of an Islamic Fundamentalism: The Case of Iran”. Before taking the course Women and Gender in the Middle East, I would have found this confusing, and might have ventured to disagree but now I completely understand. It takes me to a girl interviewed in Mehri Honarbin-Holliday’s piece “Becoming Visible in Iran”, Marian. On page 102 Marian contests, “ It is naïve of a woman to want it all and have it all, terms such as ‘liberated’ and ‘free’ are difficult statements. They become meaningless when you translate them into reality”. This statement caught me off guard. It surprised me that someone would see liberation and freedom and say they are meaningless and don’t apply to reality. It made me question, is this how many women in Iran feel, or is this specific to Marian? Personally, I understand Marian’s critique, but from reading the other interviews, I feel many young women in Iran want liberation, they want freedom, and they have the power to make those changes. It might be naïve if only a few try to change the social structure, but it changes from naivety to power and influence when the women effectively make changes and make changes together.

Mehri Honarbin- Holliday’s piece conveys the effectiveness and the strength of the women’s non-movement in Iran. All these women are not working together, but working alone, in their own lives creating change in society as a whole. These girls see they way their mothers live their lives, they experience the way the men in their family behave and they desire to change their familial circumstances. Some girls, like Saanaaz, stand up to their fathers and it is understood that either the parents need to change their ways, or the children are going to do what they want anyway behind their parents back. I wonder if this is a legitimate motive for change on part of the older generation as far as inside the family institution but also in the government institution.

My first reaction is to see that this idea that the youth are going to do what they want whether they are allowed to or not wouldn’t affect the government. Turning back to the article on Islamic Fundamentalism, these rules and motions seem to be ultimately set in stone. Khomeini stresses that religion must serve the people and the people must devote themselves in service to religion. He turned his Islamic fundamentalist ideas into political law. The youth might be challenging their devotion and service to religion but more likely they are challenging the role of fundamental Islam in the law. The many women activists who spoke out in Honarbin-Holldiay’s book show this challenge to the government. Narggess activates for women’s rights and goes into detail with the many things that make women fall short of equality with men. Shokoosh is working specifically with disbanding the stoning of women. The law is unjustly slanted to make it nearly impossible for a woman to escape the punishment of stoning for adultery. Parastoo is fighting for the right for women to enter sports stadiums in Iran. Her actions remind me of Pariva who was caught playing football with girls and boys on a field at the university. Pariva started the game with just the girls and the boys joined in, but the women felt the weight of the punishment being exposed to indecent men wanting to take advantage of the women’s weakness in the government.

All these women activists come from this new wave of youth. One girl, Maaha offers an interesting perspective about the difference in generations. Maaha explains her family as an “intellectual family with a nationalist sensibility”. This could be interpreted in different ways, but she goes on to explain that her parents love Iran and even call it Vatan (meaning motherland) even though they disagree with some of the fundamental interpretations in the law, but they get frustrated when her and her generation say they want to leave Iran and escape. Maaha explains that her parents and their generation have the goal of developing Iran, not leaving it behind. This made me question, is this generation of youth concerned with changing Iran for the better as a whole or are they more concerned with changing the status quo within there family?

It all returns to this notion of a non-movement. Many of these women are fighting for change within their own family. They are standing up to the fathers and brothers, they are rejecting the lives their mothers lived hoping to change their future outcome. They are changing their parent’s reactions, feeling successful when their fathers can tolerate their actions rather than scold. But I still have the question, are these women satisfied with only changing the perception of their own family, or do they have wider goals of changing the views of their government? There are many women activists fighting for change in the government, but as Raya points out, many of the youth are not studious or political enough. They aren’t going to university for the sake of books and learning, but rather to interact with the opposite sex. I think this shows that many women are satisfied with changing their role within the family and by coincidence, this is creating a movement among the youth that is affecting the governments decisions. Both actively fighting for direct change in government and actively fighting for change in the family is making a wide and obvious change in society as a whole.

Excerpt From My Piece “Oppression by People, Not Religion”

“Of course there are women who choose [the hijab]. There were American ‘negroes’ who were in favor of slavery.”[1] These are the choice words of France’s minister for family, children and women’s rights, Laurence Rossignol, expressed during an interview in March 2016. The minister was concerned with clothing companies designing apparel specific to Muslim women, claiming that it promoted women’s confinement and oppression. When the interviewer pointed out that many Muslim women choose to wear the hijab, Rossignol replied with the statement above. This incident is not uncommon in France or other countries around the world. We see it every day in the states but it is sometimes more difficult to pick up on. For example, Women’s Global Initiative an organization started and promoted by George and Laura Bush is all about helping women in the Middle East gain a network and personal success by promoting equality and democracy. In an interview with CNN, Laura Bush states that women in the Middle East, due to low education rates and high rates of isolation, need to gain a broader network for success because they don’t have the same opportunities as American women.[2] Helping women succeed and attain freedom are great sentiments, sentiments that people like Rossignol and Bush share, but those sentiments carry subliminal messages that Muslim women need help to better their circumstances. Are these women truly oppressed by their religion? Through unbiased research and a clear understanding of Islam and a woman’s place in the religion, one can find that no, it does not inherently oppress women but rather people interpret and use religion to oppress. Islam often comes under fire for how women are treated in its name, but if we look back to the creation of the faith, we see that Islam does not necessarily deserve that blame.

[1] Sarah Lazare, “”French Minister Trashes Muslim Women With Anti-Black Slur: Will She Be Sacked?” Alternet. March 30, 2016. Accessed April 14, 2016,

[2] Laura Bush on Women’s Global Initiative.” Interview. Accessed April 14, 2016


The Fulfilling Path

I often ask myself when my desire to see and understand the world truly began. Growing up I had the opportunity to see more of the world than most of my companions, but I know my thirst for understanding did not start on those family vacations. I was too young to acknowledge the culture on a more thoughtful level. My desire to travel and see the world seemed to be similar to everyone else, nothing challenging, only beautiful and romantic. My dream travel experiences had always been eating crepes by the Eiffel Tower or sunbathing on the beaches of the Caribbean. I had no intention of ever stepping foot in a Mumbai slum or walking on streets once filled with protesters shouting “down with the USA”. But at some point in my life, that all changed. So I ask myself, what made that change? How could a dream to see the Coliseum in Rome change to a dream to experience a community riddled with extreme poverty? Although this change felt dramatic, I believe it has always been a desire within me, but it took years for me to be confident enough to admit what I truly wanted out of life.

Life has two main paths: the easy path and the difficult path. My life has two paths: the easy one and the fulfilling one. I have never shied away from a challenge.  One of my most telling memories is of me at only 4 years old. I sat on the stairs for at least an hour and a half, tears streaming down my face, shoelaces in hand, attempting over and over again to tie my own shoes. I was determined to complete the task 100% on my own and I was not about to let my parents lovingly take the laces from my hands to make the bow for me. I was going to tie my shoes on my own and I was not going to move from my spot on the stairs until I did. This determination has stayed with me through the years. I never chose the easy decision because I knew the feeling of fulfillment was more gratifying than completing a task to get it over with. I have never quit when things became difficult, but if I found I needed to release myself from an obligation, I only did so if knew I was leaving something behind for something more fulfilling.

Drone Blowback in Pakistan

Drones have been a controversial subject since their introduction to modern day war fair.  The civilian casualties and potential blowback affect often carry the conversation on why this act of warfare should be forgotten but what I never knew was  that people’s true reactions to the drones are fabricated or completely unheard.

I attended a lecture by OU’s new IAS professor, titled, Drone Blowback in Pakistan.  The professor is originally from Pakistan and travelled to the country over the winter break to conduct research.  He wanted to find out if the US drones in Pakistan were radicalizing the population, a common thought among those against drone use. What the professor found surprised him and surprised the people in the lecture as well.

Waziristan, the region in Pakistan on the border with Afghanistan is where the most drone strikes have occurred.  This is the location in Pakistan most affected and therefore, one would assume, the area most against the strikes.  The professor did something few others are able to due, because of security reasons or inaccessibility; he interviewed Internally Displaced people from Waziristan and asked them for their honest opinions of the drones.  The people were incredibly nervous to meet with him, some asking multiple times that he was not recording him, and never speaking with him over the phone.  The true reactions of drones are not accepted by the government.  So what was their true reaction?  They were in support of the drones. 

The people of the region praise the strikes for finally giving them their life back by ridding the region of the Taliban.  They said that the “civilian deaths” are not true civilians but rather collaborators with the terrorist, they were never random civilians.  They also said that there is no blowback in the region.  The suicide bombers kill women and children all the time so if there was blowback it would be against the army.  The quote the struck me the most was of a man who said, “Drones did not displace us, the Pakistan army gave us 24 hours and made us leave”.

After attending this lecture, my impression of drone strikes has changed dramatically.  I could never decide if I was for them or against them, I still don’t know how exactly how I feel about their use , but this information was shocking and left an impression on me.  The fact that the government is promoting a culture of hatred towards the drones and is silencing those who feel differently is concerning and must be something we consider when we get news from the region.  A news source, infiltrated by propaganda, should take a back seat to first hand opinions coming from the region, unfortunately, those true opinions are nearly impossible to hear.

Thoughts on My Last Day Abroad

Here I am, it’s my final morning in Istanbul. I’m sitting on the outside patio where I had my first breakfast a few weeks ago. I cannot believe that it’s already time to come home. The time I had here truly wasn’t enough. I don’t want to leave because I don’t want to forget. The feeling here is magnetic and I don’t want that to fade, but as I cross the Atlantic tomorrow, it will fade, and with everyday it will fade even more, I just hope that while the magnetic pull disappears, my memories and experience won’t. This trip has changed me in many ways that I didn’t think it would.  I’ve taken away two very important things that I think will change my life, and although they seem very different from each other, I think they are more connected than they seem. This trip has made me think about my career and what I want to do in life. It’s made me question, “Where is my passion?” Not just “What is more convenient?” And as childish as it sounds, I think it’s just as important, it’s made me think about relationships. In high school, relationships are a big deal. I’ve been lucky to have some great relationships along the way but this trip opened my eyes to what’s out there and what’s in my future. It’s made me step back from what has consumed my heart all year long and appreciate what’s to come: the unknown. The unknown is mysterious and exciting. It’s intriguing. Yes, it brings pain but pain is not the opposite of happiness, it’s the result of happiness. So in a way, whatever pain I might experience might just be worth it. There’s no need to fear the future, only to be excited.

Back to My Roots…Sort of

As an international study major, my passion and focus is in South Asia and the middle east.  I try to go to every event/lecture/or presentation that has to do with anything relating to these two areas of the world.  Every elective I take, I try and find one having to do with anything about these cultures, but the funny thing is, I’m minoring and practically fluent in Spanish.  I am from Albuquerque New Mexico and have known Spanish for quite some time.  I know a lot about the Spanish speaking world and as far as studying abroad, it would be the smartest option to do so in a country that spoke Spanish.  But I unfortunately tend to “ignore my roots” and put my focus in other countries and other areas of the world.

This year was different.  My Spanish class awarded extra points for lectures we attended that had to do with the Spanish speaking world.  Looking back, I am so glad she had this incentive because I was able to learn so much about a culture I had been learning the language of for so long.

I attended the lecture “Challenges in Latin America”. This was a panel of teachers (my Spanish professor being one of them) discussing the major challenges that different regions of Latin American faces.  My professor spoke about the challenges Mexico faces specifically with the drug war.  It was because of this event that  I decided to write a final paper in one of my classes on the effects of the drug war on the citizens of Mexico.

There was a time at the end of the lecture for questions but at one point, one of the professors asked one of the audience members a question.  The audience member was an international student attending OU from Columbia.  She asked him how he felt about his time here and whether or not he felt discriminated against because of where he was from.  His answer was very interesting.  He said that he felt that there is not a lot of focus on Latin American culture.  He said that Americans in general only focus on Mexico or Spain and don’t seem to take the time to realize or understand the different cultures of the other countries in Latin America.  I was intrigued by his answer but I was also disappointed in how true that statement was, even in my own actions.  I never took the time to learn about Latin America and I am an IAS major with a minor in Spanish.  Of all people, I should be the one focusing and learning about that students culture.  It really opened my eyes to how many different cultures I had been missing by ignoring something so central to my learning.


Festival of Light

Christmas songs blasted from the speakers of my small Volkswagon bug as we zoomed down the highway to Chickasha.  We were in a caravan of about 6 cars full of American and International students.  I wasn’t sure how the night was going to turn out but as we were sining “Jingle-Bell Rock” at the top of our lungs, I knew the night had turned out a success.

I am the multicultural chair for my sorority and had been working all semester on creating an event that we could do with international students.  Many of the girls in my sorority do not have as much opportunity as I do to meet and interact with the students who are here from abroad so I wanted to create a fun event where we could all get together, learn about each other ando ur cultures, and enjoy some good old fashion Christmas traditions.  I paired up with a good friend of mine and his fraternity to put on a fun event.  Many months went by and we ran into road block after road block trying to set up an event until finally I was close to giving up.  We couldn’t seem to pair up with any international organization on campus and were about to call it quits when I took a step back and really thought about what my goal was.

My goal was to have an event where we could all have fun and interact, getting rid of boundaries.  Boundaries of countries. Boundaries of culture. Boundaries of international students and american students. Boundaries of greek students and non greek students.  Destroying these boundaries didn’t require a big and fancy event, it required friends.  So we decided to text our OU cousins and any international students we knew. We texted the international students involved in the greek exchange program.   We told them to invite all of their roommates and all of their friends.  Pretty soon our event on Facebook had upwards of 50 people interested in going!

We planned the night perfectly.  Everyone was going to meet for hot chocolate and cookies before we all piled into cars and took a short road trip to Chickasha to see the Festival of Light.  It was free, fun, and the 45 minute car ride forced everyone to talk and get to know one another.  The night could not have gone better.

Everyone who came had such an amazing time.  It was one of the best events I had gone to all year.  It was smaller than the OU cousin events so we all got to know each other.  I got to speak spanish with two people from Columbia and got to sing Christmas carols in a horse drawn carriage with two friends from Germany.  I met one guy from India and we talked about my plans to study abroad there in the future.  We all took many photos throughout the night and by the end of it all, I truly had made many more friends.  The Festival of Light was a success.


New Year, New Cousin

Something I love about the OU Cousin program here at OU is how each year is different.  Each year you get a new cousin and get to share new experiences.  It’s also a great learning experience.  The first year, I was new to the whole program, I didn’t know how to treat it.  Now I know how to make the most of the program.  I see the importance of becoming true friends with your cousin, planning times to hang out outside of the scheduled events.  This makes the program feel more organic and less forced.

This year I am “sharing” a cousin with my best friend.  There were not enough international students for every american student to be paired.  It has been great because we have been able to do the most we can.  If one of us cannot go to an event, the other will go, making sure our cousin never has to miss out on something she wants to go to.

I have also learned the importance of communication.  Last year I was not expecting to have as much communication with my cousin.  I thought we would only meet for events.  This year I know that that communication is important to the whole process.  My cousin and I speak weekly and we are really trying to form a real friendship, not an artificially forced one.

All in all, I love this program and each year I love it more.  It’s a great way to meet so many people and learn about so many different backgrounds in just a matter of 4 years.  I plan to do this all four years that I am here and I can’t wait to see who I’ll meet next.

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