Profile: Alizeh Tariq Paracha
An international student from Karachi, Pakistan, Alizeh is a second-year DPhil student in History (South Asian Intellectual History). Prior to her DPhil, she completed an MSt in Global and Imperial History, also at Univ. This was a drastic change from her undergraduate experience at the University of California, Berkeley in the United States. As the Ethnic Minorities and Racial Equality Officer this year, she is responsible for promoting the interests and welfare of black, minority ethnic, and visible minority members of the WCR. She is also one of the Junior Deans on the main site. In her free time, she enjoys binge-watching TV shows, reading Fantasy fiction, and complaining about the weather.
Why did you decide to do a DPhil? What is the current direction of your research?
I had just started writing my Master’s dissertation when the pandemic began. With the lockdown, the archives were closed and I was not able to get access to all the sources I needed. As a result, I felt that I was not able to do justice to the research topic I had selected. I also realized that the story I was trying to tell was much too large for a Masters-level project. There was scope for so much more and I would need to tackle it over a longer period of time to feel truly satisfied. Not wanting to have unfinished business, I decided to do the DPhil and (hopefully) do the research justice. Securing full funding was also a crucial part of the decision as I would not have been able to pursue the DPhil otherwise.
I am currently in the second year of my DPhil and have started writing some parts of my dissertation. In a broader sense, my work attempts to trace the intellectual history of the “Muslim world” in the era of decolonization in the second half of the 20th century. It does this through the lens of Pakistan’s foreign relations with other Muslim nations in this period, focusing on the nascent state’s attempts to construct/make real the imagined “Muslim world.” It touches upon various themes like colonial inheritance, national identity, and competing international ideologies.
How do you think you have changed since walking through Univ’s doors for the first time?
For starters, British humour makes a little more sense now…
I think I have also become more relaxed and comfortable in my own skin since coming to Univ. The College has a very friendly and down-to-earth environment that has helped., Working as a Junior Dean, however, has been particularly impactful. It has helped me to become a better listener, develop greater empathy, and taught me to be calmer and more decisive in emergency situations.
What do you hope to achieve as Ethnic Minorities and Racial Equality Officer?
The College already has a great welcome week diversity, equity, and inclusion training. But I think as an MCR we should strive to have more conversations about racism and minority-specific challenges beyond just welcome week. Maybe having MCR discussion groups that provide safe listening spaces for people to share their experiences can create greater empathy and awareness. We can also do more to signpost students to existing portals where they can anonymously share and report incidents so that appropriate action can be taken. For example, I don’t think a lot of students know that Univ has an Anti-Racism and Inclusion Form on the college intranet where students can lodge reports anonymously.
What do you do outside your studies?
I read historical and fantasy fiction, watch psychological thrillers and cringe 90s rom-com movies, religiously follow Formula 1, nap whenever I get the chance and play board games with friends. I do yoga on days I feel less sloth-like.
Do you have any recommendations for people on settling into Oxford/Univ life?
Bit of a generic answer, but honestly it makes all the difference: get involved in college life. Attending MCR/JCR events is a great way to meet people within your college. Also, don’t shy away from running for committee positions, it may be work but it is also a lot of fun. Oh, and as daunting as it can be at the start, don’t be afraid to eat in hall, it gets better I swear. Brunch is my favourite.
As for Oxford, the best way to settle in is to explore the city as much as you can. Nothing will make you feel faster at home than knowing all the prettiest spots or finding your favourite pubs/eateries.
Describe Univ in three words.
Wholesome, Relaxed, Supportive
Published: 9 May 2022