'Pakistani Women's Perspectives' focus of ASU Project Humanites lecture

March 25, 2015

ASU Project Humanities is partnering with the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict to host "Beyond the Hijab: Pakistani Women’s Perspectives" at 6 p.m., March 26 at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus, West Hall, room 135.

A second installation in the Project Humanities "Dispelling the Myths" series, the dialogue will bring to light conceptions and misconceptions about Pakistani peoples and cultures through five distinct voices who demonstrate both commonalities and contrasting experiences, revealing a multi-dimensionality of an often misunderstood society. Pakistani Women's Perspectives Download Full Image

Streaming video of the program will be available at http://www.ustream.tv/asutv.

As visiting fellows at ASU this semester, Tehreem Arsian Aurakzai, Zahra Hamdani, Kanza Javed, Mahwish Khan and Aisha Usman will share their introduction to American culture and focus on dispelling some of the preconceived notions of Pakistani women. The five panelists are at ASU as part of a faculty exchange project between ASU and Kinnaird College for Women that is funded by the U.S. Department of State. Two other Kinnaird faculty members visited ASU in fall 2014.

Perceptions of both America and Pakistan stem from media, Hollywood and unawareness, particularly on how middle eastern women are portrayed through these mediums.

“Media tends to focus on extreme cases where women are the victims of extreme violence,” said Carolyn Forbes, assistant director for the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and co-moderator for the evening. “This distorts our perception in thinking that violence happens to all women in Pakistan instead of realizing that everyday life in Pakistan is like everyday life in most places.”

Neal A. Lester, Foundation Professor of English and director of Project Humanities, will also help moderate the discussion.

“Having these faculty members here to share some of their experiences will be a wonderful opportunity for all attendees to recognize that even in acknowledging cultural differences, we all have a profoundly common humanity,” said Lester.

Both Lester and Forbes, along with professors Deborah Clark, Claudia Sadowski-Smith and Yasmine Saikia, are part of the three-year partnership funded by the U.S. Embassy.

To reserve your seat, register at csrc.asu.edu/index.php?q=forms/event-rsvp. Watch footage from Project Humanities’ visit to Pakistan at www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAnTSQZ5AH8.

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU novelist looks at cultural encounters in 18th century Latin America

March 25, 2015

Arizona State University instructor Lori Eshleman has always been drawn to those spaces in time where cultural and religious traditions have encountered each other, from the European Middle Ages to colonial Latin America to the American West.

Her new book of historical fiction, “Pachacuti: World Overturned,” explores the overlap of complex issues of race, gender, politics and religion through characters whose lives become entwined during an uprising in the Andean kingdom of Quito in the 1700s. portrait of ASU College of Letters and Sciences instructor Lori Eshleman Download Full Image

Eshleman will discuss the book’s major characters – an indigenous ranch manager, a Jesuit priest and a young colonial Spanish woman – at a discussion and book signing event at 7 p.m., March 25 at Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe. Her talk, “Shamans, Jesuits, and Rebels: Encounters in the New World,” is sponsored by the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, which published the novel in its Bagwyn Books imprint.

Eshleman’s sources for this novel include historical chronicles, travel narratives, works of anthropology and religious studies, and folklore and folksongs. She also drew on participation in religious festivals and rituals, and on her knowledge of shamanic traditions in Ecuador.

“Watching the San Juan festival was very inspiring to me, and it plays a central role in the novel,” she said. “The music, costumes, dancing, and harvest and battle rituals affirmed that old traditions are still very much alive. Religious beliefs and practices also blend Incan traditions and Catholicism – strong medicine traditions and the power of saints, the Virgin Mary, mountain spirits and spirits of waterfalls co-exist.

“The character of the restless young Spanish girl who longs for a life different from the choices of marriage and motherhood or the convent was partly inspired by Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz of Mexico,” Eshleman notes, “a scholar, musician and poet who was educated and wrote under the patronage of the wife of the viceroy of New Spain for a time, until her independence was repressed.”

Some of the other sources Eshleman drew on included a 19th century travel narrative written by the ambassador to Ecuador under Abraham Lincoln and a 1789 history of Quito written from the point of view of Juan de Velasco, a Jesuit. Works of anthropology, like “Sacha Runa” by Norman Whitten, helped shape her interpretation of indigenous communities and medicine people.

Reviewer James Thomas Stevens said of her novel, “Deftly weaving history with strong characters in conflict with both class and race, Eshleman returns the human elements, both inhuman and humane, that are so often stripped away from history.”

Eshelman said her longstanding interest in Latin American culture dates back to her childhood in Sterling, Illinois, which boasts a large Mexican-American community whose ancestors came through much of the 20th century to work in the town’s steel mill.

“Growing up in Sterling, Mexican-American culture was part of daily life,” she explains. “There were Mexican restaurants, a Latin American Social Club, Spanish-language movies at the local cinema and the annual Fiesta Days every September, a weekend celebration of Mexican Independence and the city’s cultural roots.”

Eshleman went on to earn a doctorate in art history from the University of Minnesota and spent summers in Ecuador over a period of years.

Trained as an Early Medieval art historian, Eshleman said she started writing this novel after she finished her dissertation (on Viking art), but she set the work aside for more than a decade.

“About two years ago, feeling that the book resonated with so many of the cultural conflicts, inequities and political uprisings we see in the modern world, I revised the text, rethinking it through the lens of all that I’d learned and taught about in the intervening years.”

At ASU Eshleman teaches courses in English, interdisciplinary studies and liberal studies in the College of Letters and Sciences, based at ASU’s Polytechnic campus, and has also taught Mexican art, art of the Americas and Medieval art.

Maureen Roen

Manager, Creative Services, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts