The Subject of Rights

Jan 2009

This was a graduate course and not likely to be repeated, but I just want to echo the comments made by folks in her other, older classes. Abu-Lughod is well respected in her field and influential in her application of media theory to Middle Eastern contexts, but she does not know how to run a seminar. Her assignment of team in-class presentations meant that at least a third of the class was devoted to drowning, self-important graduate jargon that was often completely off target. Abu-Lughod was always too polite to shut them off, and would immediately attempt to redirect conversation to whatever topics she had outlined in her mind as important to begin with. She assigned mammoth amounts of reading but never gave pointers as to how to approach it, and she favored the few students in class who she had worked with in other contexts. The other difficult thing is that it was clear that she was using the course to formulate her own thoughts on the topic of gender and sexuality rights in illiberal contexts. I know this is a common thing for professors to do, but she often seemed to be unprepared for the depth and seriousness of the issues at hand.