Showing posts with label netherlands. Show all posts
Showing posts with label netherlands. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Nomination for University Teaching Prize -Erasmus University

Am honored to be nominated for the annual University Teaching prize by Erasmus University Rotterdam! The event will take place this September the 4th with Mayor Aboutaleb of Rotterdam as the guest speaker. Having heard so much about him, am looking forward to hearing his thoughts in person. 

It marks 8 years of teaching at this university for me. Been quite a journey so far. Since I joined the at that time new international program in Media and Communication in 2009, I had the opportunity to design several new courses in alignment with my interests and expertise which really helped me engage the students. Exciting to have a classroom which is so international and diverse. What I love particularly is building relationships with the students, given the small classroom format. Got some interesting questions from the university press - read the full interview here.
Looking forward to many more years of teaching.





Friday, December 9, 2011

Does culture matter? Business practices across the Netherlands and Middle East

A few months ago I was contacted by the Netherlands Institute of Beirut to see if I would be interested in talking about culture and business in the Middle East. This is part of their upcoming initiative to create bridges between the Middle East and the Netherlands, starting within an academic setting. Part of this commendable drive it seems to me is a response against this growing Islamophobia within Europe which is of course deeply troubling. What better way than to engage the youth across these borders in areas of common interest. I like the idea that instead of going there to be preachy about intercultural harmony and respect, that we choose a topic that the youth are genuinely engaged with and from there see how culture actually matters. So of course it’s of little surprise that the topic that youth in the Middle East seem to be interested in is that of business, social media and globalization. And for good reason. Like other young people across the globe, I believe they are more concerned about how to shape their identities online and are striving to capitalize on these new digital platforms to create collaborations and sustain relationships. Perhaps some of them want to embrace entrepreneurship and experiment with their ideas online given that they’re entering an economy that has little to offer them and instead of chasing unpaid internships indefinitely and pricy master and doctoral degrees, perhaps they can be drivers of their own fate. But of course it’s worth communicating ones skepticism about overplaying the role of social media in this process. Much like the over hyped role of twitter in the jasmine revolution, I definitely do not want to communicate that this is their digital ticket to liberation and freedom from the current economic plight. More importantly, I do not want to get stuck with exhausting notions of culture as nation bound which is common when one is doing a “bridging” of cultures where on either end of the spectrum lies the Middle East and the Netherlands. Before you know it, we often get ourselves wrapped up with the typical discourses on religion and values and social customs, exoticizing the other and walking away with a reaffirmation of difference rather than commonality. On the other hand, one does not want to discount it completely. So I was very excited to see the Economist article on the Magic of Diasporas where it talks about how the youth from emerging markets are leveraging on these digital platforms to circulate ideas and connections that foster trust and propels business opportunities. The bottom line here is that the migrant is not a dirty word and that current protectionist policy is doing more damage within borders by blocking flows of people (and thereby fresh thinking) from different cultures. It talks about how crossing real and virtual geographies enables creativity that is essential to staying ahead in the game. We need to shift from our monocultural outlook and comfort zone, allowing us to view the typical as something that could be exotic again. I liked the way it framed geographies of diasporas over nationhood, geographies of innovation and networks over the usual notions of class and culture. Anyway, I digress... So when I first started to prepare for these workshops at the University of Jordan and St. Josephs in Beirut, it started with a couple of innocent workshops with students. Now its grown to conducting workshops with the Leaders of Tomorrow, a non profit for the youth at the King Hussain Cultural Centre in Amman to the Chambers of Commerce in Beirut where I'll be addressing mainly business people from Lebanon. I am keenly aware of my dearth of knowledge of their context and their current practices. But that said, I believe that my vagabond lifestyle of moving from India to San Francisco to Boston to New York and now the Netherlands may be of some interest as well as the fact that I shifted careers quite dramatically and have leveraged on multiple social media platforms in my work and personal life to move ahead. I hope that by personalizing this talk and drawing from my range of cross cultural experiences in work and my private life, and providing ample opportunities for them to share theirs, we'll be able to jointly see what these bridges can look like…less nationalistic I hope and more about reproduced social practice that is shaped through certain policies and politics. Looking forward to this adventure...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Dutch government WANTS YOU to party!



The residential street of Gashouderstraat seems like any other in the Netherlands. There is a play space at the corner; houses have large windows and cycles lean precariously against anything resembling a post. A few potted plants scatter the footpath. And then it starts to unravel. A herb garden emerges on the sidewalk and we are told that we can access sage to thyme for our evening meals. This community garden effort has government backing. Nothing transforms a space as public gardening – an innovative strategy to create ownership of public property. Although seemingly an oxymoron, the idea of keeping things “public” requires certain privatization or belief in appropriating spaces as ones own. It’s been working across cultures, especially as a means of urban renewal in areas from the Bronx in New York to out here. After all, a sense of ownership comes with responsibility. You live a little longer here and the stories start to emerge of how a boy of 11 collected signatures from this street, as he wanted a play space at the corner. Dutch give bureaucracy a remake here as they apparently responded within 3 weeks to this effort. A children’s park was born. In some ways, this socialism comes with a very capitalistic drive – ownership, private property and freedom to shape your environment. Stretching the time spent here and you realize that it’s not just the material shift in public space but the temporal community gatherings that foster material investment in public space. In other words, the local government doles out petty cash for a street party to foster neighborhood feelings, with the very pragmatic logic that if people are bonded, communal change will be positive. And so we party for social change…Proost I say!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Does Culture fail to Shock?


When moving to a new country, there is much talk about “culture shock,” where inadvertently you discover that not everyone has heard of Shah Rukh Khan, forget Koffee with Karan Johar; where walking is interpreted as a sign of your cycle having been stolen and where Nutella wins over peanut butter as a choice of spread. But the truth of the matter is that this is not really a “shock” to the system as for it to jolt you, it has to confront you immediately.

In fact, momentum and pace is at the heart of such eureka moments, which, contrary to popular belief, creeps up on you at the most unexpected of times or perhaps never! You could be walking by the Marijuana Museum in Amsterdam everyday, oblivious to the fact that there is, after all, a museum on this much-adored weed. This term “culture shock”, although a cliché, is in fact barely representative of what one goes through when one shifts geographies. After all, we don’t just travel with our material luggage, we move with our well-encased worldviews that neatly insulates us from the new surrounds that you plunge into. So it is very much possible to float along for years without actually attending to what could possibly shock you. And when we do attend, it is often at the peripheral observation of confirming your deep-seated notions of how people are, in general, strange. Maybe you even celebrate your normalcy by accepting without much probing into the peculiar ways of the new tribe. Thereby, its not a shock, its an affirmation of all what you’ve held dear for so long.

“Shock” requires us to believe that people are inherently like you. Given that we live in a time of celebrated narcissism, that sensation will need to be earned. That said, if you were a brand manager, you can see why, “culture non-shock but a mild surprise” does not do the trick. We expect a punch but what often we get is a tap on the shoulder. But few, turn around nevertheless.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Queens day: Happy cows are here again!

Will power...what a burden! We sweat the small stuff a lot. We have to constantly exercise our Will to abstain from that extra slice of pie, from being "uncool" by wanting to stay home on a Saturday night watching Youtube, or just calling home to check in. Individualism can suck sometimes. Blame is rarely distributed. There's a reason why we say "exercise" your will...it's pure and simple work. Sometimes, however, society orchestrates an opportunity to take a break. And BREAK it is!
Queens day in the Netherlands is one such moment in time! Thousands of people blind you with their orange glory as they sweep through Amsterdam. High on pot, techno and a vague reminder of being Dutch AND low on foot-estate, the mob has come to celebrate their Queen Beatrix and her conveniently timed birthday. (although born on January 31, the weather and her highness pushes this date to May 30th, allowing for orange neon bikinis, rave street parties and blood sporting bargaining at the freemarket!).

People have little choice but to be cattled around. And in that haze of second hand smoke, an idea dawns...cows have it good.

There's a reason they look so blissful. Someone is exercising their Will for them! Isn't that part of the appeal of voluntarily joining a mob of pushing and shoving people moving aimlessly around the city, (in)voluntarily subjected to a random set of sensory overload all in the name of the Queen? For a change, we have a legitimate excuse to let go of our Will.

Will is willingly let go of...moo to the queen!