Friday, March 23, 2012


Do you see what I see?
I can't hide behind my bangs anymore and I'm still getting used to it. I see more 'things' when I look up. - more socially aware of what is going on in the top half of the world.

While thesis writing, I have been forced to think a lot about the legitimacy of personal observations and ethnographic writing. The freedom to rely on subjective qualitative data is probably why I pursued anthropology, and also why so many people hate it. The haters make me think that I need to prove-things-better by citing someone else who also saw what I saw. Someone who was perhaps also often mistaken for a prostitute. And living off of cheap soup. And naively friendly with pirated DVD salesmen. And got more than they bargained for.

So I read articles and guidebooks to make sure I'm getting it right according to the general public, so I can say "even the guidebook says..." The articles talk about hidden gems of Tangier that I have heard of but never experienced because I couldn't afford them. Things involving fancy dinners up on the mountain and old villas and stables and horses. But no one should ever have to quote a guidebook unless theorizing about guidebooks. I trust my tangerine reflections.

(Tangier: "It's not what it looks like."
Me: "I know what I saw.")

I managed to make my thesis not a love-letter to Tangier but a performance of labor, an appropriate reflection of what my time there might look like on paper. Not a love-letter, even if she deserves one after I abandoned her like a fair-weather friend. Or an absent mother. Or a wife who just needs some space. Performing the labor and abandoning it later.

I could be nearing the end of my academic road. It looks something like Boulevard Pasteur, lined with cafes, mostly, where I go to sit and write everyday, with strange clothes and heavy books, perfecting my sentences and whispering Arabic vocabulary aloud to myself.

After years of it stewing in my brain and months of writing, the sum of my parts is assembled on paper and laminated and bound and will soon start collecting dust in the Kevorkian Center library. It is a monumental achievement in the art of disguising a personal obsession as a scholarly pursuit. It will make you laugh and cry. There are quotes from three guys named Mohammed, cited as Mohammed 1, 2 and 3. I included at least twenty unnecessary references to Beni Mekada. There are pictures. And maps.

My thesis is complete and would make a beautiful love-letter some day, if Tangier ever decides to take me back.

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