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Scholar Spotlight: Azalia Muchransyah

Scholar Spotlight: Azalia Muchransyah

1. Why did you apply to HASTAC?

I applied as a 2019-2021 HASTAC Scholar after I went to an introductory meeting held by two HASTAC Scholars who are now teaching at my campus, University at Buffalo (UB): Margaret Rhee and Cody Mejeur. I heard so many great things about HASTAC during that meeting, but the most attractive thing about it for me was the idea of having graduate students supporting each other. This solidarity is what I have been looking for, especially considering the small size Ph.D. student body at the Department of Media Study at UB. As I also already have a teaching job in a university in Indonesia waiting for me after I graduated, I see HASTAC as a priceless pedagogical resource to better equip me in my future endeavors.

2. What has been your favorite course so far as an instructor or student? Why?

As a filmmaker, I like the Innovative Approaches to Film & Video class that I took last year. In that class, I got to expand my creative and artistic horizons in making experimental and hybrid films and videos. But I also like the independent studies I take with my Academic Advisor as I get to work on my project and read books related to my research interests.

3. What do you want to do after you graduate?

As I have mentioned earlier, my situation is unique as I have already secured a teaching job in Indonesia. I had been teaching in a Film program in a university for over three years when I got a Fulbright scholarship funded by the Indonesian Ministry of Research and Higher Education to pursue a Ph.D. in Media Study at UB. As part of the agreement, I have to go back to Indonesia immediately after my graduation and continue teaching there. However, as my Ph.D. experience has expanded my interests and expertise, I would like to propose opening new classes in the program, such as experimental film and mixed media. I would also continue my film activism and hybrid documentary production practices and research in Indonesia.

4. What’s something that people would be surprised to know about you?

I think not so many people in grad school knows that I am a singer and that I am pretty good at it. Most of them know about my identities: as a filmmaker, a mother, a Fulbrighter, an Indonesian, a Muslim… but I think only my husband and son (and maybe some of my neighbors) know that I like to sing Disney songs when I take a shower or when I am cleaning the apartment.

5. What are some things that you wish you knew before you got into graduate school?

As this is not my first graduate school experience, I do not think anything surprises me that much. I guess I enjoy this Ph.D. experience because I get to play around and do different media experiments. I also really enjoy the intellectual discussions I have with my academic advisor. However, the biggest shift in my perspective after I started my Ph.D. career is my view of feminism. In Indonesia, feminism receives a lot of backlashes and is considered a taboo world. However, after I took a feminist class last year when I was pregnant with my baby, I realized how patriarchal Indonesian society is and now I surround myself with empowered women as my mentors and peers and we get to empower each other. I hope I get to continue this with my fellow Indonesian women once I go back home after my graduation.

6. How do you envision HASTAC and/or higher education in 10 years? Where do you fit in?

I think it is very important that HASTAC integrates Digital Humanities with pedagogical aspects, especially with its nature as a community for Digital Humanities graduate students. As a Media Study student who already has a teaching position in a Film Program at a university in Indonesia, I envision a fully immersive digital pedagogy application in higher education systems around the globe. I think it is important to embrace technology as an important extension of human being and prepare ourselves as educators in utilizing technology to make learning experiences fun, educative, and inclusive. After I graduate and go back to teach in Indonesia, I can bring the knowledge I acquire by joining HASTAC and learning from my peers here and apply this digital pedagogical approach in the university I teach at in Indonesia.

7. How does digital scholarship fit into your research or teaching?

As a Ph.D. Candidate, I am right now working on my dissertation project on the topic of media activism, specifically on documentary film in its hybridity. However, I understand that the digital platform can also be a very important tool as it has been utilized by different activist media makers such as Alex Juhasz and Sharon Daniels. In the future, I plan to play around with interactive digital platforms to integrate my research interests and findings into my classroom teaching agenda.

8. What do you hope to accomplish with your research or teaching?

I like learning about new things and teaching is also a big learning experience for me. This is also true about research. I learn about new things from the books I read as well as the people I encounter when I conduct my research and present it in conferences as well as other settings. I hope that while I am learning a lot by doing these two things, I can also transfer my knowledge and inspire others while doing so.

9. What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to?

I just finished reading Tara McPherson’s Feminist in a Software Lab and now I am starting to read Roland Barthes’s Mythologies. Both of the books are recommended by two of my women mentors and I have been highly enjoying their suggestions. I am an avid filmgoer and I try to see something new every day. Right now, I am about to see symbiopsychotaxiplasm: two takes by William Greaves which hopefully will inspire me with the pre-production research phase of my new hybrid experimental film that I am making this semester.

10. What’s something we should ask you? What’s your answer?

I think I would like to answer the question of “What are your research interests?” just because I have a wider range of research interests than what is within the scope of my current research, which is an intersection of media activism, hybrid documentary, HIV media, prison studies, Indonesian studies. Beyond that, I have interests in pedagogy, feminist theory, gender studies, sustainability, and psychology. I hope people who have similar interests would reach out to me and open the possibilities for future HASTAC collaborations.

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