Friday, June 10, 2011

Fawzia Azfhal-Khan

I have the best boss. Her grace, talent and intellect help make it a pleasure to go to work. How many people can say that? Do you? Today’s Awesome Woman of the Day is Dr. Fawzia Azfhal-Khan. Fawzia is Director of Women and Gender Studies, Full Professor of English, and University Distinguished Scholar at Montclair State University in New Jersey (where I teach).

Fawzia is a cultural materialist who works at the intersection of Feminist Theory, Cultural and Performance Studies, and Postcolonial Studies. She is author of 5 books, a frequent contributor to scholarly journals and a published poet and playwright. Azfhal-Khan is a Contributing Editor to TDR (The Drama Review), and serves on the Advisory Board of SAR (the South Asian Review). She is also a trained vocalist in the North Indian Classical tradition. Her music videos exploring themes of gender, religion, class , set in Pakistan, can be viewed on youtube (FAK Lahore, FAK Payal, FAK Smokescreen, FAK Sacrifice). She was a founding member of the experimental theatre collective Compagnie Faim de Siecle, with whom she toured and performed in Europe and North America. Her current research work is focused on Pakistani Popular Culture and she teaches classes on Muslim Women prose writers, , Global Feminisms et al.

Afzal-Khan received her BA in Lahore, Pakistan, and her MA and PhD in English Literature from Tufts University, Ma. She has also been a Visiting Professor at Harvard University. Among her many achievements, she was recognized by American Muslim Alliance with its Excellence in Public Life Award Presented in Appreciation for doing a superb job as an author, artist, and performer in connecting the past with the present, and for using her art to reinvigorate multifold linkages between truth and beauty.

Her latest publication is a controversial memoir entitled Lahore With Love; Growing Up With Girlfriends Pakistani-Style. The novel weaves through Fawzia’s life and its memories as she searches for an identity in the post-colonial chaos. “For women growing up in Pakistan’s patriarchal, segregated society, it is not surprising that female friendships take on a deep, enduring resonance... These relationships, formed in adolescence and nurtured into adulthood, gave me the strength to be defiant, developing a wry sense of humour to weather the contradictions of daily life in Pakistan, and memories to sustain me as I continued to straddle two continents and two cultures,” she said.

In one of her most widely-read texts, the author confronts a common assumption that Muslim women don’t—or can’t – have a voice of their own. Fawzia Afzal-Khan aims to break that idea into tiny pieces with a book: Shattering the Stereotypes: Muslim Women Speak Out (2005). The book is a compilation of works written by different Muslim women, with a forward written by Nawal El Saadawi. In the introduction, Afzal-Khan explains that this books aims to counter the negative attitudes and ideas about Muslim women that are still proliferated post-9/11. It’s divided into works of non-fiction, poetry, journalism, religious discourses, fiction, and plays. Many of the authors in the book use 9/11 as a catalyst, writing about its effects on their lives or examining the effects it had on other Muslim women’s lives. The book is a powerful one, and it successfully shatters common stereotypes I’ve witnessed that Muslim women aren’t American and aren’t willing to speak up for themselves.

So my question is, how does your boss and or co-workers inspire you? If you can’t honestly say that they do, what part may you play in actively moving yourself to a place where you are loving what you do and are becoming?

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