Last week, during Gordon’s Beyond Disabilities Week, students and faculty alike engaged in dialogue around a variety of issues. Those conversations spilled over into classes as well, bringing some unexpected opportunities for discovery and reflection. Ivy George, distinguished professor of sociology, writes about one such encounter that occurred in her class, “Social Change and Development in Industrializing Societies,” and offered the following letter to her fellow professors:
Please indulge me for wanting to share an amazing experience I had in one of my classes during Beyond Disabilities week, one so unique, I felt compelled to write about it to you.
A student of mine wanted to bring her brother—who is a quad amputee—to class. This young man is a graduate student in public policy in the D.C. area, and has an aide with him as he travels. So they came. The aide was a woman with a scarf around her head and at first, I thought she wore it because of all the snow outside.
My lecture that day was on the poststructuralist and post-colonialist theories of development, and the discussion was lively. But after class, when the other students had left, the aide came to me and introduced herself. She was “Shabana,” a Muslim from Pakistan whose mother was from India and father from Pakistan.
Shabana hugged me tight, kissed me on both my cheeks twice and said, “You are a brilliant woman.” But then she started to weep. She looked about my age, or maybe a little younger, and told me some of her story: divorced with two children, an 18-year old son who is married (“better to marry than to commit adultery,” she said), and a 15-year old daughter living at home with Shabana’s nearly-blind mother. When Shabana finished, she asked to take several photos with me. She also told me that she was proud of me and kept holding my hands, not wanting to let me go.
I knew, however, that the “brilliance” she referred to is a stolen item. Continue reading