It makes me very happy to speak with professor Kathryn Spellman who is on faculty at both Columbia University and Aga Khan University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations in London. Her work, mainly ethnographic, has centered on the Muslim diasporas, transnational networks, cultural hybridity, gender relations and the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion. Kathryn’s research and teaching is about getting a greater understanding to areas that are largely unknown about the Muslim cultures and all their various forms, including misconceptions. “I think we really need to break down fear, break down barriers and boundaries. We have to try to understand how other people live their lives and find out what we have in common as well”, she states. Kathryn shares with us how vital teaching is to her, and, by doing so, how she gives her students the power to break out of their silos.
Also, Kathryn is talking about my favorite topic: the importance of grieving and crying. Remembering the past and thinking about death is something that is very much embedded in the fabric of the Muslim communities, and this is why “we can learn so much from them when it comes down to death and grief”, she says. In this episode, she shares her fascinating experience when she participated in a grieving ritual session held by Muslim women. Her role was it to pass around the Kleenex-box.
Last but not least we will hear from her about a transformational moment in her life, when her parents told her after High School: “just leave the country and fly”. Well, that’s exactly what she did and what planted the seed to her outstanding career. I love what Kathryn wants her legacy to be: to communicate as much as possible with people from different worlds, with very different socio-economic backgrounds. Because only then, we can begin to understand and find solutions to all the many problems the world has right now.