Sara Haq, 2012
What work are you doing now?
After completion of my PhD in Women's Studies (University of Maryland, 2018) and Postdoctoral Fellowship (University of Southern California, 2020), I have been taking a break to heal from the racism/tokenism in American academia. I am currently working on my dream project: the first Gender and Sexuality Studies Library and Humanities Center in Pakistan. I am also working with khwaja sra (trans/non binary) rights activists in implementing pandemic food and medicine relief projects.
What do you like about it?
I have realized that I love to teach and I love to read/write/discuss new and old ideas with folks who are open to un/learning. I have also realized that institutionalized academia is not the place for radical feminist thought nor the place to work with marginalized students. So what I’m most excited about my project is that I get to work with equally excited students and scholars from across Pakistan and the US. I am excited to finally break free from institutionalized academia and have the potential of being able to host radical classrooms. I am also elated to have the time and energy to translate feminist/queer theory into direct action activism.
How did your degree in the college prepare you to do this work?
My master's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, with a concentration in Women and Gender Studies and a focus on Sufism, helped to set the stage for my PhD and the work I am doing now. The courses I took at Mason not only helped me to get a job immediately following graduation and to be accepted to my PhD program, but also reshaped by thought process. The mentorship I received in courses on feminist theory and mysticism studies laid the foundation for my personal and professional growth for years to come. I also continue to put into practice an intra-disciplinary approach that helps me to weave theory and practice in the quotidian. At this point in my life, I am braiding together my many years of experience in nonprofit development work and my academic work in Sufism and sexuality with my personal life experiences to create my dream project!
What advice would you give current students about developing their careers?
When I started the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program in Women and Gender Studies, many friends asked "what are you going to do with that?!" connoting that there are no jobs. At the time, I was hired within two weeks of graduation. And although the year prior to graduation I was rejected from all PhD programs, the year following graduation I was accepted into a funded PhD program.
I strongly believe that there is a dire need for people who study and understand systemic oppression and can think relationally. There is a dire need for radical listeners and proactive rather than reactive work across fields. In a world filled with content creators who are pushed to create without any original content, and academics who are pushed to publish without any original thought, there is a dire need for critical thinkers and creative troublemakers.
They say the easiest way to give away your privilege is by not recognizing it. By being honest with ourselves about our privileges, we can put them to use, and perhaps bring about an Anzaldúan shift in our lives and the lives of those whom our lives are intertwined with. Career or no career, it is high time to shift from our hyper individualistic isolated lives towards sharing our resources and multiplying our powers to re/imagine and re/create a world we are excited to re/live in.