C&C announcement, education, Travel writing, Writing

Episode 20: COVID Series Part V: Turning Negatives into Positives

Our last episode in the COVID series is now available!

Dr Ann Wand Wand sits down with Dr Kristin Stasiowski of Kent State University, independent scholar, Dr Mounia Mnouer, and PhD Candidate of the University of Munich, Sohaib Riaz, to discuss how they have rediscovered their passions for family, hobbies, and nature during times of global crisis.

If you’re interested in listening to Dr Stasiowski’s talk (September 19th at 4pm BST) on discovering your talents during times of crisis, sign up to listen live on Patreon by September 18th.

The Show Notes:

Reading suggestions from Dr Mounia Mnouer:

Here is an article in the Atlantic about the power of diaries in the time of the pandemic, and how preserving these diaries as archives is important for future generations:

‘Dear Diary: This Is My Life in Quarantine’: https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/08/why-are-people-keeping-coronavirus-diaries/614977/

This is the poem I wrote about my grandmother entitled, ‘A letter to Nanna’ (Spillwords Press): https://spillwords.com/a-letter-to-nanna/

This is a piece that allowed me to reconnect with my Indigeneity after the chats with my family entitled, ‘The resilient Amazigh’: https://themetric.org/articles/the-resilient-amazigh

Reading suggestions from Sohaib Riaz:

Anthropological work on stamp collecting is scant, however this small essay can be a really good starter for anyone interested in anthropology and philately:

‘Reconsidering the Smallest of Artifacts: on the Origins of Philatelic Collecting’ by Paul van der Grijp: https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/MCR/article/view/17983/21979

Reading suggestions from Dr Kristin Stasiowski:

I would recommend ‘Walden’ by Thoreau; ‘A Walk in the Woods’ by Bill Bryson; and ‘American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation’ by Eric Rutkow. 

In terms of comparative material when reflecting on Mounia’s discussion of the French colonization of Morocco, I was reminded of Mazza Mengiste’s ‘The Shadow King’ about Italy’s war in Ethiopia: https://www.npr.org/2019/09/25/763907282/the-shadow-king-is-a-gorgeous-meditation-on-memory-war-and-violence 

Sohaib’s focus on stamp collecting reminded me of an article I read this year about Primo Levi and how stamps were used in a remembrance project with regard to the Holocaust called ‘Remembrance through Stamps — A Reminder and Our Promise’: https://stamps.org/news/c/news/cat/local/post/remembrance-through-stamps-a-reminder-and-our-promise

C&C announcement, education, Health, history, language, Parenting, Travel, Travel writing, Writing

Dr Mounia Mnouer on ‘Turning Negatives into Positives’


Our next guest speaker for episode 20 on ‘Turning Negatives into Postives’ features independent scholar, Dr Mounia Mnouer, who will be talking about rediscovering her family’s history during the colonization of Morocco.
I am an Indigenous, Muslim North African, specifically from Morocco. I reside in Arizona, in a beautiful mountain town north of the state. I was a faculty member teaching Arabic and cross-cultural understanding content, but was recently laid off due to Covid-19 budget cuts. Living away from my family, especially during a pandemic can be very taxing. So, I decided to call my parents more often, and ask them to share stories growing up in colonial Morocco, and stories about their parents. Writing down these memories of my parents gave me a sense of resilience, and strength. I also found writing poetry and essays about my heritage as an Indigenous (Amazigh) woman very empowering. I decided to take time to relax, and practice gratitude through journaling. I am also taking part in reading/conversation groups about decoloniality, and am rethinking higher education in order to take action for social justice, inclusion, and commitment to diversity in higher education spaces. All of these activities have been helping me get through Covid-19 times.


Discovering humanity in triviality: from toilet paper to sunshine


*Appreciating nature and baking cakes have become some of Josh’s newly discovered past-times. 

Australia experienced a particularly challenging start to 2020 – even before COVID – since much of the eastern seaboard was devastated by bushfires and capturing international media attention. The ferocity and destruction of the fires and smoke meant that many of us had to stay indoors from late 2019, but also for much of January 2020. Then, a violent hailstorm followed, creating much damage to buildings in Canberra and to my university.

Then the COVID lockdown happened. All state and international borders were closed. A planned trip to fly home and be with family had to be cancelled. One unexpected consequence was Australia’s panic-induced buying frenzy of toilet-paper, whose motivations are yet to be investigated with scientific rigour.

Matters were made worse by the virus’ impact on the country of my professional and personal interest, Italy, but also in Sweden where I completed my postdoctoral work, as I heard, and saw, friends and former colleagues suffer through images which bounced from the other side of the globe onto my phone.

As for others on this blog and elsewhere, the biggest problem has been the lack of personal interaction. As I gathered up screens and books from the office to take back home and set up shop there, my initial thoughts raced of boundless levels of productivity – easy access to my beloved fridge and snacks with articles one after the other pouring out! This enthusiasm dissipated when it became more and more apparent that the work I do and the person I am takes place in a community. Academic work materialised in drips and drabs (which I was grateful for), but not at a level of productivity that could be measured in monographs!


What positives can be found, or have I found? Gratitude for friends and simple acts of sharing meals together, riding my bike, baking, and messages of ‘checking everything is ok’ are simple pleasures – but they have been the most tangible, and the most real signs of keeping myself (half) sane and are useful reminders that ‘I am not my job’.

All the time indoors has made me realise that fresh air and sunshine are undervalued commodities in academic life. I have a new appreciation for the beauty of the geographical surroundings I find myself in. Meals with friends and catching up with people have also shown how much corridor-talk is where proper conversations happen, and how there can sometimes be no distinction between who is a colleague and who is a friend.

Certain internet memes have suggested that 2020 should be ‘cancelled’ or erased from the historical record. But this would also mean an erasure of the very real circumstances people find themselves in, as well as a negation of the positive aspects that have emerged this year.

Another real benefit is the renewed emphasis on the importance of mental health, and the particular way that mental health is practised in universities. A final positive has been the discovery of this podcast and its ability to open up conversations about precarity, mental health and many other topics. And I am grateful for that as well.

About the author: Josh Brown is lecturer in Italian Studies at The Australian National University (giosuemarrone.com)


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education, Writing

Episode 10: Ethnography as Creative Writing

Dr Ann Wand discusses with Dr Kayla Rush, Ellen Wiles and Dr Alfonso Del Percio the importance of ethnography as an academic form of writing and the benefits ‘creative writing’ can add to the academic discipline.

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Episode 10- Coming up! ‘Ethnography as creative writing’

This month’s episode promises to be an interesting discussion on the importance of ethnography both within and outside academia and the difficulties faced when trying to apply ethnographic writing to other (non) academic disciplines.

Our guest-speakers include…

Kayla Rush HeadshotDr Kayla Rush, Adjunct Faculty in Sociology, Clark State Community College, Springfield, Ohio


Dr Alfonso Del Percio, Lecturer at University College London, Institute of Education

Headshot bw circle

Ellen Wiles, University of Stirling, author of The Invisible Crowd (HarperCollins, 2017)

*Like the topics we’re discussing? Consider becoming a Patreon member for as little as £1 per month to help finance our team to explore new topics.