Imagining Diversity and Plurality

Monday, November 26th, 2012, 14:51 WIB

 A Reflection Essay

 Roma Ulinnuha--ICRS-2009

Blessed with the end of summer and the breeze of fall, I have impressed the time when student could keenly involve their academic projects within society. What I mean here, albeit the different outcome of their sandwich program, one could fully concentrate on their objectives. Of course, in this sense, while enjoying fragrant scenery as a stranger in the city, one still occupies its own motif on creativity and productivity whatever it might be based on. In this academic occasion, I just share my own little recognition in terms of the program effectiveness.

Since PhD programs are time-bound for 4-year completion or longer, in my view, one must manage their time balancing academic activities. For those who are ready with dissertation proposal in its truest sense, sandwich time, is just a perfect time to write the dissertation. In an exception to students who change their minds on the final projects, the chance is just manifest. I do agree with my advisor, Dr. Wening Udasmoro in that while attending additional courses on related fields of study focus and interests, students must strive their limit carrying out the project writing. This position, again, varies one student into another.

In Berkeley, though a city is one of the most liberal states in America, the hospitality of the citizen is not absent. People mostly welcomed question and help though some argued the existence of the legacy of the old conservatism and race issue. But this was a place of investigation began. I enjoyed meeting different people with distinctive statements and variety of backgrounds and issues. In its truest sense, I got a fact of assumption, voices, and criticism that not only beneficial for my academic research but also for life. 

So it explained my focus on dissertation ethnography and writing during my sandwich program. Parting temporarily from both office and family positive burdens in Indonesia, I was firmly transforming those energies into academic settlement. Notwithstanding its limitation on cultural adjustment on custom, food, and fashion, particularly on the first initial month of arrival in Berkeley, the academic atmosphere and weather were just more than my expectation.

My professor of theory and method, Prof. Munir Jiwa has unrelentingly supported me with material enrichment and framing. Discussing Islam and the West encounter post 9/11, advice and sharing in his classroom along with colleagues from Pakistan, Canada, and United States were enlightening. I lived in a Harry Potter-dormitory-like hall in Berkeley; I enjoyed hospitality and most of the Benton mates were kind, helpful and inspiring for their sturdy study and social activism. Some of our hall mates were full of efforts of charity, education and empowerment.

Having a stroll down to the city of Berkeley on book browsing and daily needs, I was thankful for the help of community on friendship and social gathering. Even, in some degree, the gathering was projected to initiate caring and sharing to other people. Such idea brought the community help providing sanitary and water for people in Africa. The social involvement, I think, is significant for one who manages its time for sandwich, while at the same time one may enjoy cultural experiences and academic achievement. This also answers criticism that sandwich is just another day of break time of daily routine. Allow me to argue that a precious time such as sandwich shares multi-interpretable discourses referred back to intention, trajectory and outcome. In respect to ones’ various intentions on the program, I just could not understand leaving sandwich program just for imagining being sojourners and the technology of strangers.

Based on my free choice, I received the advice from Director of ICRS, Dr. Siti Syamsiyatun, the Associate Director, Dr. Wening Udasmoro and Prof. Dr. Bernard Adeney-Rissakota for the venue and host of my sandwich program. I have browsed though some places as well, such as the recommendation of Prof. Dr. Terry Murphy of George Washington University, my co-teaching a few months in my class before my sandwich program began; I found it significant the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) Berkeley for its vast consortium on inter-faiths program and schools.        

This blessing of chance led me to the acts of responsibility and discipline based on choice. Berkeley, in particular, provided me with abundant references, faculty members, students and academic atmosphere. As short as the sandwich indicated, this resembled not only academic but also life. Mirroring both my research and contemporary Indonesia, I do love both diversities and dignities; this retrospection I hope leading to appreciations, respects, justice and equality for people regardless their colors, point of views, disciplinarities, backgrounds, and faiths.  

I was inspired much on how to (re)define the philosophy of home and hope. Minh Ha (2012) addressed this in the response of what Julia Kristeva stated on the existence of otherness in the 21st century. Minh Ha further stated that home equaled the presence of the secure, mother, and women, while for people—of here and there—should reconstruct the home itself. The author aesthetically argued that the home actually is here. That is, as Minh Ha argued, the home that builds interconnectivity and interdependence in the wisdom of twilight converging the day and the night, the East and the West. Minh Ha further stated the coming of diversity and building hybridism in the city. To sum up, the play comes into the reality type of opportunities energized peace and harmony, albeit the ever present obstacles of obscurity, in that the celebration of diversity manifests in the name of our children of the world as unity.