Saturday, May 29, 2010

Chapter 1


This is an excellent first chapter draft. You have written with a clear structure in mind and explained well how the thesis will develop from this period. I have made some specific comments upon your manuscript where I have found parts unclear or in need of further work. But in general I think you should now put this to one side for the moment so you can continue to work on drafting later chapters.

Good work!



Dear Inaya,

Please find comments on your draft chapter in the attached. I’m very impressed with this work and have simply raised some questions to try and further strengthen the situating of the approach within the existing literature – especially vis-à-vis the way you are drawing on political economy. Overall, it is looking strong.



Upon receiving these emails from my supervisors, I have to admit I did feel a swell of, hmm, gratefulness (for want of a better word than pride). But after I stepped back and saw the bigger picture, I burst my own bubble and reminded myself that the only important thing is what I have learned throughout the process of writing my PhD thesis.

That life, and anything we do in it, is a learning process.

And afterwards, finishing the first chapter seems like just any other day of learning how to be a better person.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Looking up makes us try harder.
Looking down makes us think
of the things worth trying for.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stupid is as Stupid Does

Recently, there was a moment where upon admitting not knowing something, I was laughed at. Finally, you don't know something, the person said.

But funnily though, I felt not an ounce of shame. I honestly wanted to know. I honestly accepted that I know little and I am here to learn.

I don't think there's any shame in learning. I'm more afraid of not asking questions than I am of looking stupid.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Too much change is not good.
Just ask the climate.

Michael Scott (The Office)

Think Twice

Intelligence shouldn't intimidate, it should inspire.
If it is intimidating, maybe it's the wrong kind.


You don't have to be rich to be arrogant
and you don't have to be poor
to recognise suffering


In disagreements, it's not about who speaks the loudest,
it's about who makes the most sense


And the people bowed and prayed
to the neon god they made

Simon and Garfunkel (Sound of Silence)

Idea-based Leadership

I think the best of leaders are actually those
who stay in the background
and let other people grow to their potentials.
Because their ideas live on
even after they seize to exist.


Hak berbanding lurus dengan kewajiban.
Not one or the other. A balance of both.

Curing Ignorance

I think conflict comes from ignorance, not difference.
Be informed on things u disagree with the most.
Google is a start.

And I Continue Reading, Still

The more I read
the more I realise
I know nothing

And So It Begins

Every good idea begins with the basic statement,
'That's interesting.'

Glass Half-full

So what I hear when I'm being yelled at
is people caring loudly at me

Leslie Knope (Parks & Recreation)

Subjective Well-being

If you can't stop desiring the things you can't get,
pause and imagine if you lose the things you already have.
Happiness is a state of mind.

Head and Heart

I think studying is not synonymous to learning:
studying needs head, learning needs heart

Wisdom of the Young

Age has little to do with maturity.
Maturity involves the will to admit mistakes & learn.
I know more children better in that than adults.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Inevitability of Judging

Throughout early adulthood (well okay, until very recently), I dubbed myself as a non judgemental individual. Whenever conflicting ideas arise, I usually observe and come to my own conclusions silently. Rarely do I speak up unless requested and I often begin my argument with 'Well, for me-'. I was indeed reserved to the idea of judgementality because I had assumed that it included an air of 'knowing that we are better than other people.'

One day, an intelligent (former student) friend of mine asked, 'Don't we need to be judgemental to know who we are?'. I pondered.

And true to my nature, I began reading and reading to find an answer. And as it turns out, he was right.

The definition of 'judgemental' or 'judgement' is 'the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing.' (Merriam-Webster)

I began thinking, if judgement is a process within which we evaluate conditions based on comparisons, then it is mandatory to judge (compare) in order to choose. Without comparing the pros and cons of a given situation, we would not be able to concur anything - thus, never making an informed decision.

Justru, judgementality is needed to be able to know where we position ourselves in this world. A framework we use to guide ourselves in taking consequential steps to move further in life.

Indeed, judgement is not a choice. It's a prerequisite to knowing who we are.

And in fact, my presumed idea of judgement, is actually by definition 'arrogance', which refers to 'an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions.' (Merriam-Webster)

Then it hit me.

By definition, you can judge without arrogance. The aspect that bothered me was not the observation, comparison, and furthermore formulation of opinion. But the arrogance of thinking that our choices are better than others'. When in fact, they are mutually exclusive.

Rereading my writing, my process of developing thought so to speak, I realise that it is in fact judgement. The analysis in my thesis, my papers, my lectures: they are all forms of judgement. My choice to become a mother, a wife, a student, a lecturer, is a result of judgement towards the opposing conditions (i.e. not having children, not getting married, not choosing the academic field). The list goes on to all the decisions I have ever made in my life.

Then the point is not not judging, but not being arrogant. If we made consequential choices, we would not seek external validation - because the choices were internally validated. We would not need to feel superior to those who disconfirm our decisions. Because decision-making is a process of gathering data and finding a solution, based on observation, that best suits our conditions.

It's true then, the joke that said: 'Non judgemental people are judgemental towards judgementality.'

Because judging is inevitable. But arrogance is.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

That Fine Line

There is a fine line between 'giving up' and 'letting go':
It's called 'things you can(t) control'.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Silent Majority

I spent the day reading about history and the modern world. I found out that 62% of the world's Muslims are Asian. Yet what is perceived as Islam by the world are those of Arabic culture.

We are under-represented, if not misrepresented.

Another thing I learned is the underlying difference between Sunni and Shia: Sunni believes in the Sunnah and Shia believes in the rightful figure of Muhammad's successor (Ali)). 85% of the world's Muslims are by definition Sunni.

We can go into a long theological debate, but I want to focus on one thing.

The media is focused on portraying a linear, monolithic Islam that is culturally homogeneous (Arabic) and dogmatic. See Hollywood films, see how the news represents Islam (e.g. terrorism, turbans, veils). I am not suspicious and puritanical enough to claim it's a conspiracy but it's naive to not think that it comes from ignorance about the characteristics of the larger population of Muslims in the world.

I have high hopes that the world is changing, by means of the notion of pluralism and democracy, at least. An example is Esposito and Mogahed's book on Who Speaks for Islam? and Mogahed's subsequent appointing as Obama's advisor for Muslim affairs.

I am not saying that the 'pluralist' Muslims are better than the rest. I am saying that the current media representation does not provide a comprehensive picture which may lead to bigotry. I know I'm late in jumping the wagon, what with Edward Said's Covering Islam in 1997, but I do think it's still an ongoing process worth prolonging the discourse. For all citizens of the world wishing to live peacefully in general and for the silent majority of Muslims in particular. Everyone deserves to be heard. Let's listen.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Nilai Rasa

I wish I could express myself in writing in Bahasa Indonesia as fast as I can write in English. I am not a native English speaker and I am Indonesian. My thesis is about Indonesia. And yet, when it comes to expressing myself, I do it faster in English. Words pour out of me. I do not stutter in finding the right word as I do in Indonesian (Embrace? Merengkuh? Memeluk? Carry? Bopong? Gendong?). I read one of one of my students' blog and I am in awe with his grasp of the language.

I don't have that linguistic connection to be able to retrieve words like sekelindan, derau, sangkil, meracau to explain myself in writing (or verbally, for that matter) as many journalists and academics do.

Nilai rasa.

The first language I learned was English. My parents brought me to the States when I was 2 years old or so and returned 3-4 years later. I couldn't speak a word in Bahasa Indonesia. So maybe that's why.

But I wasn't raised in an English speaking country as an adolescent. I'm stuck in an intermediate level of English. So it's not exactly ideal in terms of being an English speaker either.

Alas! I am a student and I will learn how to. I promise, when I finish my thesis, I'll sit in a Bahasa Indonesia literature course in FIB, UI and learn how to write in advance Bahasa Indonesia.

PS: I can't even bring myself to write this post in Indonesian. I tried and it felt superficial. Terkesan meracau (ha!).

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Subjective Truism

Our life always expresses the result of dominant thoughts. That's why people demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.

Soren Kierkegaard

via Dedy N. Hidayat

One of the things I agree with Kierkegaard is his idea that truth is in subjectivity. He also admits that this attempt is not scientific. That truth is not objective.

I read truth as a peacefully resolved dialogue with(in) ourselves. Be it belief in a Supreme Being, faith, religion, or simply trying to understand life. Kiekegaard's, or the existentialism, line of thought is in agreement with Descartes' 'I think therefore I am'.

We think. It's what differs us from other species. In science, 'truth' can be found inductively or deductively. In deductive logic, one tries to prove a theory by means of empirical evidence - objective reasoning. In inductive logic, truth is found through observation, and furthermore theorisation. In Islam, it's the first verse of the Quran. 'Read', which is a concept that is repeated in other verses, such as 'those who are able to read the signs'.

I choose to search for truth subjectively. Through observation and thinking. Making sense of the signs that pre-exist. And in subjective truth, there is no concept of true and false, but valid or invalid.

In this logic, since it is not objective, I will never be entitled to say 'Saya lebih benar, karena...'. Because what is subjective could always be argued against.

I don't claim to be an existentialist. Neither am I claiming that what I believe in is truism for every human being. I don't think any of us will ever be equipped to claim that. I do however, find a resolve for my inner dialogue answered in the sentence 'For me my truth, and for you, yours.'

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


You can make more friends in two months
by becoming more interested in other people
than you can in two years
by trying to get people interested in you.

Dale Carnegie

via Muhammad Andri Mulia

The Not So Dark 'Dark Ages'

There was a period in my life where I was a horrible student. All through my high school to the first years of university. I was the student sitting in the back of the class, reading another book that had nothing to do with the subject. The one who skipped a period pretending to have an ulcer, because I didn't like the teacher (and the subject). The one whose single achievement was winning the essay competition on what's wrong with Indonesia's education system (ha!). I've always seen it as 'the dark ages', a phase where I wasted a lot of time; a time where I should have been more focused and determined.

I see some of my students who embody that ideal. They move fast, know what they need to achieve in order to progress further in their career. I smile upon their potential and promised success, because I know they will be better than I will ever be.

I was having yogurt with my 20 year old brother one day when we were talking about my PhD and the fact that I'm 27.

I: Tapi ada lho mahasiswa yang dapet beasiswa yang sama kaya aku, umurnya 25 wew.
Z: Kok bisa?
I: Ya lulus SMA langsung S1. Lulus S1 langsung S2. Lulus S2 langsung S3.
Z: Ya tapi kan dia emang rajin, Ka. Kaina kan sempet males-malesan banget, terus mutusin mau usaha dan berubah. Dan akhirnya sekolah dan sampe kaya gini.

I pondered on his argument and the logic behind it.

I guess it really is a personal journey. Life shouldn't be seen as a string of results, but a test as to how hard we try. It's not that other people are better than us or the other way around. But how we surpass the trials we face in life and come out a better person. A better person than we were yesterday, not a better person than somebody else.

When seen through this perspective, then my so-called 'dark ages' are not dark at all. It was a period where I questioned who I was when I was 17 and the education system did not give me answers. If it weren't for reading those philosophy books and reorganising the way I saw life, I would not be the person I am today.

So all those mistakes, all those regrets, when seen from this perspective are the aspects that mold us into more conscious human beings.

And it makes sense now, why I don't (well, rarely) compare myself to other people. Even if they're smarter, have achieved more, if they're wealthier or if they're salary is twice mine.

Because life isn't a competition. It's a journey, for every single one of us, to learn how to 'work our way around life'. It's never about the quantity of success, it's the quality of how these things make us better people. So let some people be more 'quantitatively fortunate' than others, because quality then becomes relative to each person.

After all, life is not about what we have, but what we do with what we have.