Education

Searching for that Etymological School

The etymological school

A screen shot from the film “3 Idiots”

Mansoor L. Limba on February 10, 2017

MAKATI CITY (MindaNews / 10 February) – The other day, I attended a convocation program of a high school student.

It was the third in the series for this school year.

As usual, it was a gathering of students, parents and teachers in which ‘top’ students were given recognition. Implicitly, their parents were accorded that recognition, as well. The names of the ‘best’ students in each academic subject were announced, too.

Such a scenario is known to all and sundry, I’m sure. And there are no limits to its concomitant clichés.

Perennial School

At the back of this gathering are the indescribable pressures to all stakeholders – the students, parents, and teachers. The students have to burn the midnight candle in order to keep their respective ranks or even improve the same. The ‘mediocre’ among them have to strive hard so as not to fail in each periodical examination. The parents are so religious in monitoring their kids’ nocturnal rites of studying their lessons, and even in becoming their own kids’ instant tutors. The teachers have to check the test papers and compute the students’ grades most meticulously, for even less than one percent grade difference between that of the ‘first’ and the ‘second’ rank matters a lot.

In this typical set-up, there are the ‘first,’ the ‘second’ and of course, the ‘last’ rank. These ‘lower’ ranks will be seated in front rows, but in public roll call, they would be called last. There seems to have common acknowledgment that the ‘honor’ students are ‘brilliant’ while the ‘average’ are intellectually ‘poor’. The former are impliedly deemed ‘famous’ while the latter ‘infamous’.

Etymological School

This educational setting, regrettably, is too much alien to the etymology or origin of the word ‘school’. Dictionary indicates that the word ‘school’ is derived from the Greek word σχολή (scholē), which originally means ‘leisure’ and also ‘that in which leisure is employed’. In turn, dictionary also tells us that ‘leisure’ means ‘free time when a person can choose what to do’.

Etymologically, therefore, a school is supposed to be a place for play and joy. It is a playground where learning and leisure are rolled into one. It is a tryst for the lovers of Sophia and logos. It is a rose-garden where the learners are jolly bees, untiringly sipping the nectar of knowledge and wisdom.

In that ‘etymological’ school, Dr. Howard Gardner’s 1983 theory of multiple intelligences is truly acknowledged not only theoretically, but more importantly, in practice. It is duly recognized there that every student is talented; that he or she is ‘intelligent’ with respect to the subject or activity he or she is good at and passionate about. In the end, the student will be advised to follow his or her own calling.

Moreover, that school is an arena where the teacher is a ‘leisure-giver’, and not as a ‘lecturer’ and ‘terror’. Far from being pedantic or doctrinaire, she is a provider of free time and breathing space for her co-players who are conventionally called ‘students’ or ‘pupils’. She is a motivator, rather than an intimidator. She is a mentor, rather than a dictator.

Simply put, in that school, pedagogy is playing.

This is why while still perennially searching for that elusive school, I do not find any motivation to post by myself in any social media platform the ‘honors’ of that high school student I mentioned above, who graduated Valedictorian in pre-school, Salutatorian in elementary, and is the consistent Rank 1 this school year.

For me, every student is Top 1 in his or her way.

Whether that etymological school exists or will exist, or not, and whether my quest for it is an exercise in futility or not, only time can tell.

 

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Mansoor L. Limba, PhD in International Relations, is a writer, educator, blogger, chess trainer, and translator (from Persian into English and Filipino) with tens of written and translation works to his credit on such subjects as international politics, history, political philosophy, intra-faith and interfaith relations, cultural heritage, Islamic finance, jurisprudence (fiqh), theology (‘ilm al-kalam), Qur’anic sciences and exegesis (tafsir), hadith, ethics, and mysticism. He can be reached at mlimba@diplomats.com, or http://www.mlimba.com and http://www.muslimandmoney.com.]

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From Ribbon-cutting to Tête-à-tête

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Mansoor L. Limba on February 7, 2017

MAKATI CITY (7 February) – February 4, 2017. I woke up at exactly 4:10 am. At exactly 5:28 am, I was already inside the campus of Cotabato City State Polytechnic College (CCSPC). All sporting a maroon T-shirt, many people of various age levels were also coming in.

As can be gleaned from the number of vehicles starting to gather at the playground of the leading public institution of higher learning in the city, a historic event was about to unfold that early morning.

Formerly known as Cotabato High School, Cotabato City High School, and then Cotabato City National High School, CCSPC kicked off its first ever Grand Alumni Homecoming – after 93 years of its existence – with a long motorcade around the city.

After the motorcade, the groundbreaking ceremony for the proposed alumni building was held in which the college president, Dr. Dammang Bantala, expressed astonishment at the huge number of vehicles that participated in the motorcade. “If each of us will contribute one thousand pesos, we could immediately put up the alumni building,” he said in his short speech.

Ribbon-cutting ceremony

Soon after unveiling the project of Batch ’85, Dr. Bantala proceeded to the main library for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of Batch ’89 project for our alma mater – four units of built-in steel benches for the library visitors.

ribboncutting2

In our Batch ‘89 general meeting on January 4 last year, in which the agendum was the batch project for the school, we had identified the current CCSPC bid for university status as the guide, and it was thus pointed out that these two areas are crucial to this bid, viz. (1) the pool of faculty members with postgraduate degrees, and (2) library facilities; hence, we finally opted for the benches (and books to be donated). After a year of facilitations by the batchmates, generous sponsorship of a benefactor batchmate, and free labor offered by an engineer batchmate, the project was finally materialized.

ribboncutting3     ribboncutting4

As the college president went to the next inauguration after a brief exchange of pleasantries and picture-taking with our batch, we were invited to the library for a ten-minute visit, and then we rushed as a group to the social hall of City Mall, the homecoming program’s venue.

Tête-à-tête

As my notebook’s battery began to be depleted in the early afternoon, I had to look for an outlet to charge because I was then catching the deadline for paper abstract submission for a conference abroad.

I was then charging my notebook at the entrance to the hall while seated beside Badrudin Ali, our Batch ’89 2nd vice president, who was then filling up his CCSPC High School Alumni Association Membership Form, when somebody casually greeted us – “As-salamu ‘alaykum!” – and then joined us in the table.

It was no other than Tatay Bantala, as Badrudin would address the college president.

ribboncutting5

Our not-so-private tête-à-tête commenced with Sir Bantala’s re-expression of surprise at the large number of vehicles in the motorcade and, of course, the first-ever-held homecoming since the school’s establishment in 1924. He then navigated us through his bid for college presidency way back in 2012 and then his recent retention as president.

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The conversation soon drifted toward the nitty-gritty of CCSPC’s present bid for university status, and the procedural and attitudinal issues surrounding the second semester enrollment last month.

ribboncutting7

In the end, we all shared the common view that while the proposed alumni building will surely be an important infrastructure of the school, what is more important is to attain the ideals of ‘scholarship,’ ‘development’ and ‘loyalty’ which are enshrined in the CCSPC logo.

ribboncutting8

[Mansoor L. Limba, PhD in International Relations, was the Valedictorian of CCSPC High School Day Class 1989 as well as the President of Senior Class Organization Student Council. He has also been the President of CCSPC Day and Night Class 1989 Alumni Association since its creation in December 2014. He can be reached at mlimba@diplomats.com, or http://www.mlimba.com and http://www.muslimandmoney.com.]

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Massacre, domestication, demolition, downtrodden

AcademicWritingWorkshop

MANILA (MindaNews /08 December) – “A Constructivist Examination of the Circumstances Leading to the First Spanish-instigated Chinese Massacre of 1603,” “Pungko Pungko: The Domestication of Chair in the Philippines during the Early Spanish Colonial Period (1565-1787),” “The Demolition of Art: The Destruction of Avenue Theater and Admiral Hotel in Manila,” and “The Qur’anic Concept of Mustad‘afin (Downtrodden) and Modernity’s Logic of Nation-state Sovereignty: A Postmodernist Reading” – what is common to these diverse articles about a massacre, domestication, demolition, and downtrodden? Or, is there any at all?

The authors of these academic articles – a UP-Diliman professor, a Cebuana architect, an Intramuros-based tourism officer, and an educator from Mindanao, respectively – were grouped together in the peer-to-peer article review part of a recently-held 3-day academic writing workshop facilitated by two National University of Singapore retired professors in English writing and communication.

Aimed at helping the participants develop revision strategies to ready a 5,000 to 15,000-word manuscript for submission to a research journal, the workshop kicked off with two introductory lectures on “Conceptualizing and Organizing Research Papers” and “Salient Features of Academic English.”

In the first lecture, it is pointed out that journal editors are more likely to pass to reviewers a manuscript exhibiting six features, viz.: (1) a clear purpose for presenting the research findings in the manuscript’s introduction; (2) a clear sense of the intended audience; (3) a conventional organizational schema that helps readers process information as fast and easily as their reading skills and background knowledge will allow; (4) a clear research question and answer in the manuscript’s introduction; (5) clear arguments throughout the manuscript, based on the research findings, for why the answer advances a new understanding of the research topic driving the research question; and (6) language that helps readers to build a clear, concise, and coherent understanding of (i) the research question, answer, and supporting arguments and (ii) the way they are organized to carry the manuscript’s purpose for presenting them.

The first three features – purpose, intended audience, and organizational schema – were the focus of pre-workshop assignments while the other three features – research question and answer, arguments, and language – were closely examined in the lectures and workshop.

Before the concluding plenary session, the one hour individual session with both facilitators for each participant was most instructive and unique opportunity in learning the nuts and bolts of revising one’s manuscript.

This workshop is the last in the 2016 series of trainings-seminars organized by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines since last August. The earlier trainings were about historical method, doing local history, the history museum as a learning tool, and putting up a local museum.

These writings about a massacre, domestication, demolition, and the downtrodden are indeed an illustrious showcase of a continuously growing multidisciplinary trend in the academe.

 

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Mansoor L. Limba, PhD in International Relations, is a writer, educator, blogger, chess trainer, and translator (from Persian into English and Filipino) with tens of written and translation works to his credit on such subjects as international politics, history, political philosophy, intra-faith and interfaith relations, cultural heritage, Islamic finance, jurisprudence (fiqh), theology (‘ilm al-kalam), Qur’anic sciences and exegesis (tafsir), hadith, ethics, and mysticism. He can be reached at mlimba@diplomats.com, or http://www.mlimba.com and http://www.muslimandmoney.com.]

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Paying Respects to a Cultural Bridge

Makati City (Mindanews / 30 May) – Recently, wings of circumstances inadvertently brought me along with a small band of dedicated field educators to the inauguration of the unprecedentedly culturally sensitive T’boli Senior High School program in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. Thereafter, we proceeded to the nearby Sitio Tukolefa, Barangay Lamdalag.

T'boli Senior High School          Department of Education Secretary

In particular, we went to the Manlilikha ng Bayan Center to pay respects to the late Lang S. Dulay, the T’nalak Master Weaver and National Living Treasure Awardee, who passed away exactly a month ago.

Lang Dulay

Starting with the pounding and stripping of the abaca stems to produce fibers and make them even thinner by coaxing, to the manual dying of the strands and meticulously arranging them on a bamboo frame, and to the month-long backbreaking weaving process, T’nalak fabric is indeed a product of love and passion.

T’nalak is undoubtedly woven by the passionate hands of a fervent lover who is captivated by the charming countenance of beauty, enamored by the enticing glances of arts, and enthralled Lang Dulayby the warm embrace of craftsmanship. It is a lasting canvas of Beauty, the Beautiful and the Beautiful-lover.

Lang Dulay is the Dreamer of not only the more than a hundred T’nalak designs, but also of the more important design to preserve her people’s ethnic identity and to pass on the cultural heritage to the generations to come.

She is an eloquent interlocutor with her people about the simultaneous processes of globalization and localization, of homogenization and heterogenization, of fusion and fragmentation. As she weaves, she is most expressively dialoguing, engaging in the perennial dialogue between the logos of tradition and that of post-modernity; between the logos of preservation and that of adaptation; between the logos of isolation and that of integration.

Gawad ng Manlilikha ng BayanLike a translator who serves as a cultural bridge between the original (text) language and the target (translation) language, the late Master Weaver is a cultural bridge between historical past and the fast-changing future of the T’boli tribe.

As a cultural bridge, her litany is weaving; her voice is her nimble hands; her slogan is silence and concentration; her banner is the roll of T’nalak; and her hymn is the praise for immortality and transcendence.

After bidding farewell to the Center’s attendants before noontime as I had to catch my flight from Metro Manila via Davao City, an adjacent old mosque caught my attention. I asked permission from a young man sitting in front of a small store for me to take a picture of the aging house of worship. And I learned from Faisal Dulay, a Sitio Tukolefa MosqueMuslim great grandchild of the late Dreamweaver and T’boli icon, that their clan members, numbering around two hundred, who peacefully live side by side in Sitio Tukolefa are followers of different faiths – Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam.

As I was on board the aircraft, I had one more realization: Lang Dulay’s bamboo-built Center is also a school of a parallel living tradition – the ideal tradition of religious tolerance, peaceful coexistence and mutual understanding.

MindaNewsMINDANEWS>MINDAVIEWS>MARGINALIA: http://www.mindanews.com/mindaviews/2015/05/30/marginalia-paying-respects-to-a-cultural-bridge

 

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My Tehran Diary

MyTehranDiary

The present book is a collection of 11 short essays on various subjects I had written when I was still a postgraduate student of International Relations at the University of Tehran. Three of these essays – “Remembering Hafiz,” “He Whose Crime was Justice” and “Who is Papanok?” – were published in Mindanews.com, an online news magazine based in Davao City, Philippines. In the eleventh essay entitled “Tale of a Long Tunnel,” I gave a brief account of my experiences while pursuing my graduate and postgraduate studies. It was penned soon after my dissertation defense and I was then about to return back home (Philippines).

Table of Contents
Preface
Chapter 1 – Remembering Hafiz
Chapter 2 – He Whose Crime was Justice
Chapter 3 – Shall the Cyberpower of Quds Day Whither Away?
Chapter 4 – Who is Papanok?
Chapter 5 – On the ‘Verticalization’ of Eschatology
Chapter 6 – The Politics of Hermeneutics or the Hermeneutics of Politics?
Chapter 7 – What Autumn Means to Me
Chapter 8 – Right to Have a Good Name
Chapter 9 – Personally Experiencing Existentialism 1
Chapter 10 – Personally Experiencing Existentialism 2
Chapter 11 – Tale of a Long Tunnel
About the Author
Other Books by Mansoor Limba
Connect with Mansoor Limba

Author: Mansoor Limba
Title: MY TEHRAN DIARY
Published: 2015
Words: 10,670
Language: English
ISBN: 9781310878060
Available formats: epub, mobi, pdf, rtf, lrf, pdb, txt, html, and Kindle
Price: US$2.99

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/545988

MyTehranDiaryAmazon

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Quotes from “Visualize Your Destination!”

The following are quotes from “Visualize Your Destination!” – a recently delivered commencement exercises message of inspiration:

Visualize1

Visualize2

Visualize3 Visualize4

Visualize5

Visualize6

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The Old Educational System and Intellectual Training

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Mostly, our old educational system was such. You can see that individuals—whether because of lack of talent or because of defects in training and teaching—are exactly like tape recorders in relation to the facts they have learned. One studied a textbook diligently and meticulously, memorizing it from lesson to lesson, taking notes and learning from it. Later, he became a teacher, for example, and wanted to teach the same lessons. He studied and learned from the teacher whatever was [written] in the said book—its glosses and commentaries. He can perfectly answer whatever you ask about this textbook and its glosses and commentaries. Just make a little twist in your question and he would be dumb-founded. What he knows are only these “heard” (masmū‘) facts, and if another subject is presented in a different context and he wants to make certain conclusions on the basis of what he knows, he cannot do so. In fact, I have seen people who, in a certain context, made conclusions which were contrary to what they had learned in a different setting. As such, you can see that each of them is a learned person (ālim), yet his mind is ignorant (jāhil). He is learned but his mind is that of an ignorant. He is a scholar; that is, he has learned many things; he knows many pieces of information, but once you pose a question which is beyond the ambit of what he [explicitly] knows, you can see that you are facing a totally ignorant fellow. As it appears, an absolute ignoramus is at center stage.

The diviner and the king

There is a parable—of course, it is fictitious—of a diviner and geomancer who taught divination and geomancy to his son. He himself was receiving good pay from the royal court. He taught his son this knowledge so that he could occupy the post after him. One day, he introduced his son to the king. The king wanted to test him. He held an egg in his hands and asked the diviner’s son to guess what he was holding. The diviner’s son tried many times but failed to make the right guess. So, the king gave him a clue, saying: “Its center is yellow and its sides are white.” Something came to the mind of the aspiring diviner, and he said, “It is a millstone whose center is filled with carrots!” The king got furious, and summoned his father and said, “After all this, what is this knowledge you have taught him?” The father said, “I taught [him] my knowledge very well but he lacks intellect.” The first part of his answer was about his knowledge [he imparted to his son] while the second part [which he compared to his knowledge] was about his son’s lack of intelligence as manifested by his failure to realize that a millstone is too big to be concealed by hands. Human reason has to have [the ability to make] this judgment.

This is a popular story and so far I have heard it from many people. It is narrated that a foreigner came to Karaj[1] one day and met a villager. This villager used to give very substantial and excellent answers. He would give very good answer to every question the foreigner had. Then, the foreigner asked him, “How did you come to know all these facts?” The villager said, “Since I am illiterate, I am thinking.” This answer is very meaningful. That is, “What the literate says is what he knows but what I say is the product of my thinking and reflection. And thinking is far better than literacy.”

This is the issue—that there must be growth of intellectual or rational personality in individuals and in society. It means that the power to analyze and scrutinize issues must be developed.[2] This is a basic concern. That is, exactly in this training and education in schools, the teacher’s duty is beyond teaching the child. Teachers must do something to develop the students’ analytical power and not only to fill their minds with facts and pieces of information. In fact, if there is too much pressure to fill the mind with facts, the mind becomes dull.

——-

Notes:

[1] Karaj: a city situated 20 km west of Tehran, at the foothills of the Alborz Mountains. [Trans.]

[2] Presently, it is not my concern whether Islam says so or not. Our inference is that this is the very point which Islam says about the intellect.

Training and Education in Islam(An excerpt from Murtada Mutahhari, TRAINING AND EDUCATION IN ISLAM, trans. Mansoor Limba (Tehran: IHCS and ABU, 2011), pp. 15-16.)

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Lessons from the Tunnel’s Tale

tunnel2

Exactly two days after posting “Retelling Tale of a Long Tunnel,” an FB friend sent me this private message: “Thanks for this post. It’s actually a wakeup call for me. J I’m still stuck up with my research proposal. With all these office works, I doubt if I could finish my master’s. Any piece of advice?”

Late night of the same day, I received another message from a Caribbean friend informing me, thus: “Salam. I’m now in my first semester of PhD. Any tips about writing dissertation?” And then just yesterday, an ‘online’ buddy and an ‘offline’ student at the same time told me as we bumped on each other in a nearby 7-Eleven convenient store: “Sir, we will appreciate if you could share some personal reflections on pursuing graduate studies.”

Let me share to you here three P’s as lessons from my tale of a long tunnel – Procrastination, PR and Perpetual Learning.

(1) Procrastination

Procrastination is better known to us as “mañana” habit or “I-will-do-it tomorrow” attitude. Rumi, the great Persian poet, elegantly castigates this ubiquitous bad habit in his magnum opus “Mathnawi-ye Ma‘nawi” (“Spiritual Couplets”). There was a person who planted a bramble along a public way. The thorny shrub took root, grew and became a nuisance to the wayfarers, so much so that they complained to the ruler. The ruler summoned him and asked him to uproot the bramble. The person promised to do so but kept on procrastinating. In this manner, as the days passed by, the plant became stronger while the person became weaker and older:

“The thornbrush (is) in (process of gaining) strength and (in) ascent;

Its digger (is) in (process of) aging and decline.

The thornbrush every day and every moment is green and fresh;

Its digger is every day more sickly and withered.

It is growing younger, you older:

Be quick and do not waste your time!”

Pursuing graduate studies should start from the end. What does it mean by ‘starting from the end’? That is, as soon as you are admitted to the graduate or post-graduate program, you are supposed to have already the blueprint of your thesis or dissertation. Be like our local traditional carpenter-cum-architect who has already the sketch of the house in his mind before starting his carpentry works. Be like a painter who has already finished his painting – mentally – before actually beginning his painting.

In short, you have to start gathering your data or reading materials for thesis as soon as you are enrolled. Thinking or deciding for your topic at the time of writing your research design or proposal is already too late.

(2) PR (Public Relations)

Chapter 6 (Forming Your Dissertation Committee) of Rita S. Brause’s “Writing Your Doctoral Dissertation: Invisible Rules for Success” has this heading quotation: “I realized that getting along with people was even more important than being academically talented.”

Simply put, thesis writing is indisputably an academic venture, yet a significant percentage of it is relational. It’s pubic relationship (PR). You have to deal with your adviser, and more importantly, your panelists. You have to know the internal dynamics within the department. You have to know the professional rivalries between and among the department faculty members, some of whom will definitely become your adviser and members of your thesis defense panel. Above all, you have to know the nuts and bolts of striking a balance in dealing with these varied, and often competing, players.

(3) Perpetual Learning

After successfully defending your thesis, make no mistake in thinking that graduation is the end of learning. It is supposed to be a continuous process that should commence in the cradle and come to end only in the grave. Learning is a confession. It is a confession of utter ignorance. It is a confession of knowing too little. Learning is an acknowledgment. It is an acknowledgment of insatiability of sipping the nectars of knowledge and wisdom. It is an acknowledgment that there is still a long and winding road ahead.

Most important of all, the two-, three- or four-letter titles (MA, PhD, Dr., Atty., etc.) appended before or after our names should not be allowed to metamorphose into even specks of atom of pride (kibr) in our hearts. One good safety bolt in this regard is this line of supplication in “Du‘a’ Makarim al-Akhlaq” (Supplication on Noble Moral Traits):

“Raise me not a single degree before the people without lowering me its like in myself, and bring about no outward exaltation for me without an inward abasement in myself to the same measure!”

(Picture courtesy of http://www.mnantais.ca)

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Retelling Tale of a Long Tunnel

Tunnel

This month of March brings a particular mirth and joy as we read in FB posts some friends finishing their graduate and post-graduate studies – not to mention the many graduation photos of FB friends’ elementary and high school kids.

With such feeling, I can’t help but retell my own tale of a long tunnel with the intention of sharing personal reflections and identifying moral lessons that may guide others before experiencing the same; hence, this marginalia…

Exactly within two years, I finished my master’s degree in International Relations at Shahid Beheshti University (formerly known as National University of Iran) located in northern Tehran.

During the oral defense for my thesis, one of my professors and members of the defense panel asked me to compare and contrast the impacts of a Middle Eastern political event, if there are any, upon a specific sociopolitical trend in Malaysia (a Muslim country whose official religion is Islam), Indonesia (a Muslim country without any recognized official religion), Thailand (a non-Muslim Buddhist-dominated country with considerable Muslim population in the capital and in the south), and the Philippines (a non-Muslim Christian-dominated country with considerable Muslim population in the south).

This question of Prof. Haji-Yousefi gave me an idea on what to write in my doctoral dissertation, and I really decided to deal on that topic. In fact, I had practically started gathering pertinent reading materials. After passing my two semesters of doctorate (2001) at Tehran University, however, I doubted if I could get any travel allowance to go to Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand to collect first-hand materials and conduct field interviews. Travel allowance for such purpose is not part of my scholarship grant, the concerned personnel of the Higher Education Ministry reminded me.

As such, I settled on pursuing a purely or largely library work for my dissertation. My keen interest at that time with post-positivist theories in International Relations seemingly augured well for this decision. The topics of my research papers in different courses illustriously expressed this personal interest in IR theories in general and post-positivist theories in particular: “Alexander Wendt vs. Kenneth Waltz: A Critique of Constructivist Theory’s Critique of Structural Realism;” “Human Rights in International Relations: A Methodological Survey;” “Iran vis-à-vis Other Regional and Non-Regional Players in the Post-Soviet Central Asia and the Transcaucasus: A Study of  Converging and Diverging Interests;” “The Globalizing Impact of Transnational Corporations (TNCs): The Case of Microsoft Corporation;” “Neorealist and Constructivist Accounts of Security Cooperation: A Comparative Analysis;” “Alexander Wendt and Kenneth Waltz on Power: A Comparative Study;” “Robert Gilpin’s Thought on International Political Economy: A Critique;” “Realism, Liberalism and Constructivism on Human Rights Norms: A Comparative Study;” and “The Principle of Self-Determination: Its Conceptual Shift in International Law.”

For the second time, I decided on what topic to deal with for my dissertation. This time I was determined to delve on the ongoing debate between Waltz’s 1979 magnum opus Theory of International Politics and Wendt’s 1999 major work Social Theory of International Politics that respectively represent structural realism and the positivist camp, on one hand, and social constructivism and the post-positivist camp, on the other. After taking up my two required courses in research methodology with an ultra-positivist and empiricist professor, however, I began to anticipate the difficulty for any post-positivist study such as mine to get approval from the septuagenarian professor who approves the methodological aspect of any thesis proposal submitted to the IR department. For this reason, even after taking and passing the required comprehensive examinations, I was hesitant to submit my dissertation proposal to the department.

As in previous years, I was able to buy approximately 100 book titles on various subjects at the 17th Tehran International Book Fair (May 4-14, 2004)—the biggest annual cultural event in Iran. A whole year of savings would make it possible to take this rare opportunity. Among this new collection of books, I first read An Islamic Utopian: A Political Biography of Ali Shari‘ati by a certain Ali Rahnema. Typographical errors of the book simply irritated my eyes which have been used then to proofreading voluminous books as part of my translation works at an international cultural institute. I then picked up Tim Jordan’s Cyberpower: The Culture and Politics of Cyberspace and the Internet (1999). Jordan approaches the discussion by highlighting what he calls “three levels or circuits” of power in the cyberspace, i.e. the power of the individual, the power of the social, and the power of the collective imagination or imaginary. He does so by adopting three concepts of power as his theoretical framework, viz. power as a possession by Max Weber, power as social order by Barry Barnes, and power as domination by Michel Foucault.

I finished reading this introductory book on the politics of the Internet in two days, without knowing then that it would catapult me to a final settlement of my dissertation topic but plunge me into a long dark tunnel of exploring a theory in sociology—and not IR—to account for a macro-phenomenon in the virtual world.

“Barry Barnes’ Theory of Power as Social Order: The Case of International Quds Day in the Cyberspace” is the tunnel.

Congratulations to all the graduates!

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