Our contributors are dedicated to committing random acts of sociology and philosophy in everyday life. Here, they blog about it.
Sara Nuzhat Amin
Sara Nuzhat Amin is Associate Professor of Sociology. She has been teaching at the Asian University for Women since July 2009 as part of the founding faculty. Professor Amin received her PhD in Sociology from McGill University, Canada. Her research interests include exploring questions of power, identity and resistance through examining (a) migration dynamics and social change; (b) identity politics and social change; (c) gender relations and social change; and (d) the role of education in producing social change. Professor Amin is also engaged in the scholarship of transformative pedagogy. Currently she is the co-principal investigator on a multi-country research study examining how gender relations in Muslim families in South Asia are being negotiated as women’s opportunities for education and employment expand. Previously she was a Fulbright Scholar to Georgetown University. Professor Amin will be joining the University of South Pacific in July 2015.
Born in Boston and raised in working-class New Jersey, Anna-Liisa Aunio was awarded the Jon Bon Jovi “Dare to Dream” scholarship in 1992. She was 18, had big hair, and dared to dream of leaving the land of white-picket fences for the big city. First she moved to New York City, where she traded on Wall Street (by day), whilst living like Carrie Bradshaw (by night); then to Baltimore, where she managed a national drop-out prevention program (by day), whilst living like Rick James (by night); and, most recently, to Montreal, where she teaches sociology at Concordia University and Dawson College (by day), whilst living like Claire Dunphy (by night). In the move from city to city, she’s picked up a few degrees—a BA from Rutgers, an MA from Johns Hopkins, a PhD from McGill—and a husband. Along the way, she’s become obsessed with finding beauty and possibility in unlikely places, including city roofs, rowdy classrooms, and social media conversations. But if you meet her, she’d prefer to talk about her kids.
John Faithful Hamer
John Faithful Hamer is a college professor who still can’t swim, drive, or pay his bills on time. His sense of direction is notoriously unreliable, yet he’d love to tell you where to go. His lack of practical skills is astounding, and his inability to fix things is renowned, yet he’d love to tell you what to do. His mismanagement of time is legendary, as is his inability to remember appointments, yet he fancies himself a philosopher and would love to tell you how to live. He wouldn’t survive in a state of nature, of that we can be sure; but he’s doing quite well in the big city, which has always been a refuge for the ridiculous, a haven for the helpless, and a friend to the frivolous.
Kai Matthews is a musician, composer, and philosopher-in-training (with degrees in both fields, to the extent that that means anything). As a 12th-generation American and an 8th-generation Canadian, but born as an ex-pat in Germany and feeling more European in outlook, he feels at once both a deep rootedness in and a critical reserve toward his culture. He feels most comfortable being a little out of his milieu—that is, being uncomfortable and challenged. He’s a cisgendered hetero white boy who’s lived in a gay neighborhood in San Francisco, and a middle-class WASPy anglophone living in a poor, multicultural immigrant ‘hood where most people’s first language is neither French nor English. He was a rock and roll hippie getting a classical composition degree at a jazz school, and is a perpetual beginner student of North Indian classical music, in which his Western training is less help than hindrance. In philosophy, he naïvely wonders why the perpetually feuding analytic and Continental traditions can’t just get along.
Andrew Miller is a Strategic Leader with the City of Mississauga in Ontario. He holds a BA from McGill, an MA from Yale, and a PhD from Johns Hopkins, none of which are related to what he’s doing now. His interests include cities and urbanism, narratology and game design, noir fiction and belles lettres, and Aristotle and Saint Paul, but it’s his expertise in public-transit policy and implementation that pays the bills. He volunteers his time to PhD students interested in exploring lives and careers outside of the academy. He’s been a panelist on CBC Radio on the subject of municipal finance reform, and is a two-time TEDx speaker. He’s also fun at parties.
Joseph Gresham Miller
Joseph Gresham Miller grew up in the southern United States, where his parents provided him with a well-stocked library and a large garden in lieu of school. As a young man, he left the States for two years to live in northern Spain, where he worked as an LDS Mormon missionary (basically an unpaid intern in corporate sales). After this adventure he went to school for more than a decade to acquire a doctorate in classical studies. Along the way, he met a very nice girl in Latin class, and they had two boys. Today, he and his family live in the mountain West. While his wife works full-time in academia, he adjuncts at local universities, writes, and takes care of his kids. He is interested in finding practical applications for more or less defunct ancient philosophies (especially Cynicism and Stoicism) in modern life.
Chris Nguyen is a philosophy and computer science student at McGill University. His parents were boat-people from Vietnam, and this fact probably affects him more than he would like to believe. Chris spends his time reading and writing about analytic philosophy, practicing martial arts and listening to music through good audio equipment. He dreams of starting a new life in a faraway continent, but is too paralyzed by the mere thought of schoolwork deadlines. He manages to be deeply nostalgic about experiences he’s never had, and knows deep in his heart that he should just do philosophy, but won’t until he first becomes a billionaire.
As a young child, Nathan Pigeon was that parent’s headache of a kid who asked questions incessantly and ran around the shopping mall carelessly in search of something fascinating, all the while being completely oblivious to the meaning of stranger danger. This has been a pattern in this young bird’s life: although he’s attempted to fly away from the nest a few times now, he always seems to end up back home again. Escape attempts have included dropping out of college in search of a career in gaming, being admitted to Shimer College (which he found to be more like the Socratic Method on speed), and then abruptly changing his mind and going into diesel mechanics while attempting to convert to orthodox Judaism. The conversion thing didn’t work out, so now he’s settling down into the Pigeon legacy of diesel mechanics and farming. In his spare time, Nathan can be found reading philosophy in tree-lined parks or strolling through Jean-Talon Market after class in his steel-capped boots and oil-stained clothes.
Jean-Louis Rheault is a reclusive Montreal illustrator who spends so much time alone that he sometimes wonders if he actually exists. He has 3 marvelous children and a number of wonderful friends who claim he does.
Jean-Louis stands by only two relative certainties:
1. He draws maps. This he has done for most all of his adult life without the slightest motive to orient anybody. His maps are- he now believes- frantically scrawled dispatches about what places actually look like in the curious and colorful universe he alone seems to inhabit.
2. After a lifetime treading water and gasping for air in an infinite ocean of ignorance, he has inadvertently generated a few bubbles of observations worthy of note and sometimes a chuckle.
Jean-Louis is very happy to join this site to give some temporary extension to the ephemera of both these bubbles and maps.
Michael is a largely auto-didactic polyglot with a confusing family history that branches now across three continents over the past three generations. There was once a point where the bulk of his career was spent twiddling bits in computers to make them dance and sing at his behest, but the utter soul death that programming for a living entailed drove him to instead teach English in China “for a year or two”. (It presumably made some kind of sense at the time.) Fifteen years later Michael finds himself still living in central China and still teaching English. His initial passion for programming (sans “making a living”) remains unabated; he keeps his fingers and brain alive as he learns programming languages or hacks away at embedded systems at his whim. He has also cultivated a good sense of the ridiculous and blended it harshly with a solid sense of outrage that makes him break out into entertaining(-to-some) rants on a variety of topics. One point of interest Michael has is profanity. The topic makes him laugh, and not in the way of his inner twelve-year old sniggering at bad words. (Well, not *ONLY* in that way.) The very nature of the concept of profanity is endlessly amusing to him as it is, to him, the last vestige of “magical thinking” left in a society that prides itself on being rational and pragmatic. What a bunch of utter fucking bollocks!
Adam Smith has studied theology and philosophy, and has his favorites among their legions. Mostly, however, he has an unhealthy obsession with 1950’s pop music, and Montreal is his favorite city in Canada. Adam can also drive a snowmobile with surprising competence.
Elise Swain spent weeks thinking of what to put in her bio, days staring at the cursor flicker on the screen, then hours vigorously writing and backspacing. So, I think it’s safe to say Elise is a perfectionist. Also a feminist. And a lover of her hometown, Baltimore. Even so, she’s constantly homesick for places she’s never even lived. Currently, she’s navigating through her 20s and feeling pretty good about it.
V. Lynn Therrien
V. Lynn Therrien was once cited by Ilyas Khan of the British Wittgenstein Society, and yet she failed to respond to his personal letter. This is, she suspects, a metaphor for her life: she has poor social skills but generally pretty sound logic. If you want (and even if you don’t), she’ll happily tell you about all of the things she’s allergic to: the list includes cats, dairy products, and sophistry.
Alex Vinetti is a moderately educated divorced father with just enough willpower to hold off obesity, but not enough to keep him at his ideal body weight. He’s recently come to the realization that he’s spent the last 40 years achieving an astounding averageness. He’s also come to see, much to his chagrin, that very little is in fact under his control, and that the only things he really can do are: (1) reason things through to the best of his ability; and, (2) try—as hard as possible—to identify and eliminate patterns of behaving and thinking which have undermined him in the past. Above all else, Alex wants you to learn from his mistakes. And he wants to encourage you to make changes in your own life, changes which will, he hopes, help you to discover happier and more fulfilling ways of living.