Category Archives: commentaries

Being in ‘Thirdspace’ with Ed Soja

….in a memory of Edward Soja (1940-2015)…

I met Ed Soja thirteen years ago, on 6 February 2002, during my first visit to the United States. He generously allocated forty-five minutes of his busy schedule to meet me in his office at UCLA. At that moment, I was just a random, uncertain young aspiring scholar who did not even know what she’d do in the next couple months. I was excited to have had this opportunity, and, yet, felt so nervous about it. Prior to the meeting, I had already rehearsed so many topics and issues I wanted to talk with him in my head. However, as the nerves kicked in, I found myself mute and petrified. I am not sure whether it was his look, his stature, or his commanding voice that made me feel apprehensive. It was probably the combination of all three and a simple fact that he was Edward Soja.

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September 30th: Images and Realities of Violence


It was around this time thirty one year ago, in 1984. That day was one of the most historical days of my childhood. It was a cinema day! And it made me nervous, scared, and excited at the same time. The reason for the mixed feelings was two folds. First, I never went to the cinema before because my religiously conservative parents forbade us, my siblings and I, from watching movies in the cinema. Second, this was a movie about what one social science teacher called ‘the darkest chapter’ in the history of the nation. Even though my parents didn’t like the fact that their kids would be in a ‘sinful’ cinema and to pay for it, , they let my two little siblings and I go. They had no choice as it was mandatory for all kids. The government had forced schools to make students see the film during school hours.

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Wiji Thukul: What’s the point?

What’s the point of being knowledgable
If only used to deceive
What’s the point of having read many books
If you never break the silence
(an excerpt from “What’s the point”, a poem by Wiji Thukul*)

Original version (Indonesian):
Apa gunanya punya ilmu tinggi
Kalau hanya untuk mengibuli
Apa gunanya banyak baca buku
Kalau mulut kau bungkam melulu
(nukilan dari “Apa guna”, puisi oleh Wiji Thukul)
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The “Herrera” moment

with many thanks and congratulations to Juan Felipe Herrera...

let us gather in a flourishing way
en la luz y en la carne of our heart to toil
tranquilos in fields of blossoms
juntos to stretch los brazos
tranquilos with the rain en la mañana
temprana estrella on our forehead
cielo de calor and wisdom to meet us
where we toil siempre
in the garden of our struggle and joy
— an excerpt from “Let Us Gather in a Flourishing Way” by Juan Felipe Herrera

Tears were glistening in her eyes and spilling over to splash down her cheek. She turned her head to look at him, who apparently had already looked at her. She turned her eyes to his eyes. With a teardrop hidden in a corner of his eye, he reached out and gently touched her hand. His eyes were locked on hers.
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A neighbor with a beautiful mind

In the last decade or so, I came across some intellectual celebrities in various occasions in various places. No, I don’t have any evidence of my encounters with these people, no autograph, no selfies, nada. I had some email exchanges with a couple of them but I’d keep these to myself. Also, while they’re inspirational, meeting them didn’t not make me any special. Just because they’re brilliant, genius, and famous, it doesn’t mean that I turned brilliant, genius, and famous once I met them. Unlike in scenes of many feel-good Hollywood movies, I don’t have any life-changing moments in any of these encounters. In fact, some of the stories are probably rather ordinary, as exemplified in the story I am going to tell you. Continue reading A neighbor with a beautiful mind

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Imagine that one day you were just watching television and suddenly heard news about a missing plane. And you were oblivious to the fact that someone in that plane was your loved one. Minutes later, you saw a familiar name in the list of passengers. Suddenly it felt like someone had knocked all the air out of you. You went numb. Your heart sank. And your blood ran cold. All at the same time. Those cliche phrases that you thought only exist in a fiction suddenly turned real. Worse, in your next minutes, hours, and days, that very same television screen would replay the tragedy over and over again, scene by scene, bits by bits, like a never ending nightmare.  Continue reading No comment