You are on page 1of 3

Salaam, Sheikh Sahib!

An officer waved to my father as we arrived in Karachi, my fathers home city. I was in awe of
how well-known and respected he was in Pakistan. He had a look of pride and purpose on his
face that I had never seen during the seven years we had lived in the United States. My father
half-jokingly whispered to me that this was the difference between America and Pakistan: Here
the police salute me, and in America they chase me. My fathers sneering, disdainful comments
about America seemed trivial to me at the time. It was not until I left my fathers home in
Pakistan to return to the United States that I realized their profundity, that they alluded to the
grave reality of racial inequality and violence that my father suffered while living in the United
States as an immigrant.
When I turned 18, I returned to the United States. Memories of my childhood in America that I
was previously ambivalent about became suddenly relevant. I remembered the daily indignities
that my father experienced such as being met with condescension and impatience because he did
not speak fluent English. I recalled his violent outbursts, his arrest, and his absence from home
due to court-mandated anger management classes after work. I remembered waking up to the
sound of his car pulling into the driveway late at night and seeing him through the window at the
brink of physical and emotional exhaustion.
The reality and consequences of inequality, reified by experiences like these, cause me unrest
and fuel my motivation to engage in important critical work that can help to redress the sort of
humiliation my father, like countless other immigrants, had to endure. I am applying to the
American Studies and Ethnicity Ph.D. program at the University of Southern California to
contribute to the critical discussions on oppression and inequality and to participate in the larger
project of contesting and reconstructing an American identity that is representative of its
complex, multifaceted realities. I fully believe that, for myself, engaging in academic inquiry that
addresses issues of representation and nationhood are prerequisite to envisioning and mobilizing
social change.
My preparation for working in your program is rooted in my interdisciplinary study of English,
Psychology, and Media & Cultural Studies through which I have explored issues of race, class,
and gender inequality. My background in these disciplines has been shaped by the professors
with whom I have had the opportunity to work. Specifically, Drs. Vorris Nunley , Setsu
Shigematsu , Lan Duong , and Weihsin Gui have had profound influence in inspiring and
guiding my interest in subject formation, difference, and discourses of oppression and liberation.
As example, the courses I took with Dr. Nunley were vital in my understanding of ethnic studies
and critical race theory through which I explored the implications of a hyphenated American
identity, the conflicted status of nationhood, and cultural hybridization. Providing me a broad
and multifaceted approach to investigating the politics of the African-American experience, these
courses allowed me to work at synthesizing forms of media (television, film, advertisements, and
music) to supplement literary analysis. I have been able to cultivate a complex, nuanced
understanding of marginalized and oppressed subjectivities as well as the mechanics of cultural
hegemony and internalized racism through which oppression is perpetuated and maintained.

During my coursework with Dr. Duong and Shigemitsu, I synthesized important theories and
course concepts in the production of original visual texts. In Dr. Duongs courses I also
produced, directed, co-wrote and acted in a short film, a feminist homage to Thelma and Louise
rooted in critical theory. I also contributed to a production of a short horror film that employs the
trope of the Onryou or avenging female spirit who subverts tradition gender roles of women and
patriarchal order. Finally, in a course with Dr. Shigematsu, I collaborated in the production of a
short documentary that appropriated major themes of the course in critiquing mainstream liberal
In a special studies course with Dr. Shigematsu, I continued to engage in vigorous study of the
epistemologies that sustain colonialist ideology locally and globally. I composed a research
essay, A Fanonian Epistemology for Decolonization that extensively studied Frantz Fanons
anticolonial scholarship. It combined critical theory on Eurocentrism and colonization with
Fanons The Wretched of the Earth to realize a Fanonian truth or anticolonial consciousness
using filmic and literary texts: Gillo Pontecorvos film, The Battle of Algiers and Jamaica
Kincaids book, A Small Place. My analysis demonstrates the ways that these modes of
disseminating news and entertainment are central to the project of colonization and
decolonization. I further demonstrate how Fanons scholarship on colonial violence remains
useful today as the residue of the colonial past continues to inform the present. My discussion of
a Fanonian truth not only rejects an assimilationist approach to white supremacy, but, more
importantly, seeks to empower the colonized subject with a sense of cultural and ethnic integrity
and self-determinationan idea of central importance to the project of decolonization.
This contested trope of the nation, nationalism, and national identity was a key concept of my
studies with Dr. Gui and will be an important focus of my graduate career. In his course, I
studied hybridized subjectivities in the wake of colonization. I applied concepts of nationalism,
globalization, diaspora, appropriation and abrogation, and mimicry and hybridity to literatures of
South Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and Britain. During this course, I composed a successful
essay that compares the ways that literature of Southeast Asia and the Caribbean inserts a female
voice in recuperating national consciousness. It focuses on how the novels, A Clear Light of Day
by Anita Desai and No Telephone to Heaven by Michelle Cliff, reconcile the Manichean
dichotomies of imperialist ideology, thereby re-inscribing cultural and historical meaning to their
sense of place that was displaced by colonial notions of an empty space. In doing so, they
demonstrate the importance of place in creating sites of identification and national identity.
Throughout my graduate career, I would like use a transnational approach informed by these
postcolonial philosophies to examine the representational politics of Southeast Asian diasporic
identities and the intricacies of the relationship between nationalism and feminism. Specifically,
I want to continue to explore the ways that current sociopolitical relations and academics have
been imagined through physical and conceptual boundaries created by neocolonialism,
imperialism, and globalization. I want to reconfigure national, class, and gender relationships
through this examination of literature and media and redraw connections between nation and its
diverse subjects. Accordingly, the second aspect of this project is to produce counter-hegemonic
narratives of 21st century female subjectivities in the contact zone as shaped and informed by

these inequalities and differences that arise from new forms of globalization which are
inextricably linked to the legacies of violence tied to patriarchal and colonial structures. Through
these alternative imaginaries that focus on decolonizing the boundaries within the Pacific World
I would like to move towards a stance that can theorize beyond the confines of the neo-liberal
nation-state and essentialist ideas of personhood that perpetuate colonial regimes of oppression
across difference as well as contribute to new forms of feminist theory and national identity with
specific regard to Southeast Asian identity.
I would welcome the opportunity to work with X, Y, Z faculty mentors.