Monday, May 25, 2009

Chaptette 2: Dichotomies (it’s all black and white, except when it’s not).

I’m teaching the class “Introduction to Quantitative Methods for International Politics” – basically, a statistics class for which I’m using international data sets as illustrations. (For those who are interested – well, if you’re not interested, skip the rest of this parenthetical statement – I’m mainly using the “World Values Survey” which includes interviews from a random sample some 75,000 people from countries representing 90 percent of the world’s population. I’m learning some interesting stuff from it: for example, over 80 percent of Iranians say that they are willing to fight for their country if it goes to war, and the vast majority of Iranians believe they have from a “moderate” to a “great deal” of freedom. Make what you will of those findings.) About 1/3 of the class (of 25) are Qatari, with the rest coming from other countries in the region and a couple from the U.S.

Ethnic Qatari men dress in their traditional dishdash/gutra – a white full length dress shirt and headdress. Qatari women wear abaya – a long black robe – and a headdress. (Interestingly, I’ve heard that Qataris lead the world in the purchase of cosmetics and perfume. I’ve also read, but cannot personally verify, that affluent young Qatari women are likely to wear the latest international fashions under their abaya.) At first I’ll confess that I found it a bit hard to tell them apart (especially the Qatari women, who tend to sit in a cluster in the back of the room, and my eyes aren’t as good as they used to be) and to learn their names (which are not western, of course) but by the end of the first week I’ve got their names and faces down. They generally come from the most elite families (one of my students is married to the crown prince) and are more-or-less interrelated. They also are interesting and smart…and unpredictable. Two female Qataris (Temador and Maryam) listed “The Godfather” as their favorite movie. Several like hip/hop and blues, as well as traditional Arabic music. The Qatar Foundation (which funds Education City, where Georgetown, Cornell, Texas A&M, and other universities are located) this week is hosting the next in its series of “Doha Debates”: Resolved – Qatari women should be allowed to marry whomever they choose.

The Qataris dress traditionally, and so do my other students: blue jeans, t-shirts, flip flops.

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