PhD Proposal Summary #cliffnotes #overview #nothappeninganytimesoon

Below is a summary of one of the many PhD proposals I submitted to various universities internationally. While I was able to get into more than 15 very competitive unis, I couldn’t secure even the slightest amount of funding from any of them. It’s been three years now and I don’t seem to be any closer to getting that funding. I have contemplated switching my topic and applying again, but I may have to hold off on it since my topic being accepted hasn’t been of issue, rather funding has been my main issue. However, enough time has passed that parts of my research are irrelevant and other parts are no longer original since it has been encompassed in other researcher’s findings. The more time that goes by, the less my specific lens in regards to the topic is original or new. And therein lies the dilemma.

Anyways, here is a snapshot of one of my proposals. My other proposals are variations of the same topic. As you may know, every university has different proposal requirements. Some want a 15 page proposal, some want a 5 page proposal. Others want a full literature review, while others look down on what they deem “name dropping.” Here is just one of the many variations of proposals I have saved.


Project Overview

Research Title: Transnational Contemporary Palestinian Music: Transnational Palestinian Identity Formation, Palestinian Experience and its Role in Israeli Affairs

Palestinian contemporary music, particularly Palestinian hip-hop, which is very popular amongst Palestinian youth, acts as a medium for the Palestinian experience. Palestinian musicians voice their experiences and identity through their lyrics and this music acts as a medium to explore transnational Palestinian identity formation in the US and UK, seeing as this music is consumed globally by the Palestinian diaspora. [1] This research intends to study the role of Palestinian contemporary music in formulating a transnational Palestinian identity, how this transnational identity creates a new vision of Palestinian citizenship or activism and how this transnational identity and Palestinian citizenship influences Israel’s international relations.

Project Scope

The case study for this research is contemporary Palestinian music and its role in identity expression and formation, drawing a parallel between Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities concept that print capitalism brought the rise of the nationalism,[2] in turn globalisation’s role in transnational music distribution brought the rise of a transnational Palestinian identity. This research will assess in detail how this identity formed and what role this identity plays in their political activism concerning Israeli domestic and foreign relations. This will be achieved by researching the Palestinian community’s interactions with music and political opportunity structures in their home country’s, as well as Israel.

The members of DAM, a prominent Arab hip-hop group, come from Al-Lid, Israel, although they very strongly identify themselves as Palestinian in their lyrics. DAMs closing lyrics to their song, Stranger in My Country, illustrate their multi-layered identity. And our Arabian roots are still strong. But still our Arabian brothers are calling us renegades. No. We never sold our country. The occupation has written our destiny. Which is, that the whole world till today is treating us as Israelis. And Israel till tomorrow will treat us as Palestinians. I’m a stranger in my own country.” [3]

The lyrics of DAMs, Stranger in my Country, express feelings felt by Palestinian citizens of Israel. DAMs lyrics act as a form of communication to Palestinians living in other regions, serving as a form of news to these regions that otherwise may be unaware of what Palestinians in Israel experience. This leaves the Palestinian listeners with their own experiences that form their identity, in addition to the connection they have formed with other Palestinian experiences that influence their experience hereon in, and take part in shaping their identity. This hybrid identity then influences the state of Palestinian citizenship, affecting actions taken by Palestinians, political affiliations and civic duties, creating a transnational Palestinian citizenship.

Project Empirical and Methodological Overview

This project will assess why and how the Palestinian diaspora interacts with contemporary Palestinian music, embracing Palestinian identity or eschewing the community they live in as a form of political participation by using a postmodernist theory of methodology,[4] linking the use of music with political activism amongst Palestinians in the diaspora.[5] It will focus on organisational development of politically active groups on the macro, meso and micro levels, as well as diaspora Palestinian political inspirations found in Palestinian contemporary music. This project will garner empirical data through interviews with Palestinian music listeners and political activists, in order to build a comprehensive overview of how Palestinian lyrics and music can influence its listeners to form a transnational community that acts in benefit of a nation it does not live in. I also plan to translate and analyze Palestinian song lyrics and compare these lyrics to news reports that report socio-political circumstances of Palestinians. Attending conferences or concerts in which Palestinian musicians perform will give me better access to interview Palestinian contemporary music listeners. These interviews plan to get a better understanding of how Palestinians define their experiences, what constitutes a Palestinian identity, how connected they are to Palestinians in different regions, how they view Palestinian hip-hop and contemporary Palestinian music, as well as get a better idea of their political influences.

From the data collected, I will then seek to build a wider theoretical framework to analyse the Palestinian diaspora’s formulation of identity, how this identity is measured and the influence this identity has on Israeli foreign and domestic decision making. This research will build on the work of Usama Kahf, who researched Palestinian hip-hop and identity in Israel and its relation to the Palestinian political struggle;[6] Andy Bennett’s research that explored youth consumption of music and how this music is used to define the self;[7] Amal Jamal, who researched media’s use in cultural resistance, as well as Israeli media policies towards Palestinians;[8] and Bakari Kitwana’s research on rap music’s role in cultural movement and political power.[9]

A challenge arises as Palestinian hip-hop and other forms of contemporary Palestinian music is male dominatedHow does this dynamic play into identity formation amongst Palestinian women and does it have any impact on the political activism of Palestinian men or women?


This research is expected to take up to three years as follows:

  • September 2015 January 2016Preliminary research, survey of literature and interpretive models.
  • February 2016 December 2016 Fieldwork, interviews and data collection.
  • January 2017 March 2017 Collate data and assess an interpretive model.
  • April 2017 September 2017 Development and presentation of preliminary findings and analysis.
  • October 2017 January 2018 First draft.
  • February 2018 October 2018 Final write up.

Project Aims and Objectives

This study will act as a vehicle case study for critiquing current research approaches to identity formation through music and its influence on international relations. It will be designed to challenge the paradigm that views transnational musical identity formation as insignificant in the face of international relations. This research is important because it fills existing empirical and theoretical gaps. Empirically, there is very little research on contemporary music’s role on the formulation of a transnational identity that leads to a politically active community that is capable of enacting change on an international level. There is also limited understanding of the Palestinian diaspora’s political aspirations and even less understanding of Israel’s interaction with Palestinian musical messages. This research looks to conduct thorough empirical research, particularly through interviews, observational data collection, quantitative monitoring of Palestinian music consumption amongst the diaspora. It will also involve an in depth analysis of contemporary Palestinian music’s lyrics, the messages intended in the music, as well as researching the connection between Israeli political relations and music.

Theoretically, this research will explore the limitations set forth by not incorporating an interdisciplinary approach to the subject of transnational musical identity’s influence on international relations and political activism. This research will utilise data to create an extended postmodernist framework to assess motivations for political activism in the diaspora and how much of that political activism is due to their Palestinian identity that was formed in part by Palestinian contemporary music.

Reasons for the Research

Recent social-political movements, such as the divestment campaigns led by Palestinian activists in the diaspora, and these movements links to transnational Palestinian identity, demonstrates the needs to understand the influence of transnational Palestinian music on this community. This research serves the purpose of better defining the Palestinian identity and what is means to be Palestinian,[10] as well as how contemporary Palestinian music has influenced this process. Once a better understanding of Palestinian identity is established, a better understanding of their experiences, their needs, desires, hopes and political aspirations as a collective can be recognised. As Palestinian youth become more influential in their societies, their shared transnational experiences and identity will shed insight onto the socio-political future of Palestinians and Israelis.    

Works Cited

1. P. Katzenstein, The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics, (Columbia University Press, 1996 ).

2. Bennett, Andy. Popular Music and Youth Culture: Music, Identity, and Place. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave, 2000. Print.

3. DAM. Stranger in My Own Country. 2007. MP3.

4. Keri E. Iyall Smith and Patricia Leavy (eds.), Hybrid Identities,  (Haymarket Books 2009), 267.

5. Jamal, Amaney and Nadine Naber, Race and Arab Americans Before and After 9/11: From Invisible Citizens to Visible Subjects , (Syracuse University Press, 2008).

6. Kahf, Usama. “Arabic Hip-Hop: Claims of Authenticity and Identity of a New Genre.”That’s the Joint!: The Hip-hop Studies Reader. By Murray Forman and Mark Anthony. Neal. New York: Routledge, 2012. N. pag. Print.

7. Bennett, Andy. Popular Music and Youth Culture: Music, Identity, and Place. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave, 2000. Print.

8. Jamal, Amal. The Arab Public Sphere in Israel: Media Space and Cultural Resistance. P. 23-24, Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2009. Print.

9. Kitwana, Bakari. That’s the Joint!: The Hip-hop Studies Reader. Ed. Mark Anthony. Neal and Murray Forman. New York: Routledge, 2012. N. pag. Print.

10. Darcy Zabel, Arabs in the Americas: Interdisciplinary Essays on the Arab Diaspora, (Peter Lang Publishing, 2006), 35-39.

Would you go bungee jumping or skydiving?

Bungee jumping has always been a no-go for me. Even though I grew up watching Jennifer Lopez star in Selena and felt totally inspired by the entire movie with the exception of the bungee jumping part. That part, what make others feel free, excited or exhilarated by such an experience– well I believe that  if I went bungee jumping, I’d likely have a heart attack or piss myself. Plus I have two herniated discs in my back and I’m pretty sure bungee jumping would send me and my bad back to the hospital. So that’s a no-go.

Skydiving on the other hand- I might try. Everyone I know that’s gone skydiving has had a good time. I’d probably still be crazy nervous and my heart would feel like it was bursting from my chest, but for whatever reason, I think I’d like to try it. But I want to try it with a reputable skydiving company and only go and do it if I felt comfortable with them. You’re putting you life in the hands of strangers, so trust is necessary.

A Stranger in Haifa

Ding, the elevator doors open and I’m met by a woman in her fifties with frizzy brown hair and a shopping cart full of food. Still unable to get out of this elevator due to this Frizzhead’s assertion to maintain her position, I finally push against her cart, signalling her black and white, striped shirt, wearing self that she must allow me to get out before she can get into the elevator. She doesn’t move her cart, but I move it for her, she’s aware of my existence, but doesn’t blink her grey eyes, hiding behind her thin-framed glasses.

I walked passed Frizzhead and followed my aunt out of the elevator, watching her wobble her rotund way to the empty shopping cart area. The grey-haired security guard, wearing a neon-yellow vest, stared at my aunt with a look of disgust. My aunt paid no mind, but I stared at him until he finally stopped staring at my aunt. His eyes met mine, as I boiled with fury, and he immediately looked away. He didn’t search us, he didn’t speak to us, but it was the look. I knew he thought less of us, I knew he wanted us gone.

My aunt continued to walk back and forth looking for an empty shopping cart to claim, with no luck, and the security guard’s eyes followed my aunt with suspicion. ‘Just check our bags and get it over with,’ I thought, frustrated and willing to do anything to keep his prying, hateful, blue eyes away from my aunt. Away from us. But he didn’t search our bags, instead he stared at us, sneered at us, huffed at us. He stood there, arms crossed, and ground his teeth. Oh how I wish his teeth cracked open in excruciating pain– what beautiful karma that would be.

My aunt finally accepts that there are no empty carts and she says, “We’ll just get one or two things.” She heads towards the vegetable section and mumbles, “Over there’s the organic vegetables, but organic is all a joke.” I say nothing. I stay silent. I speak when I’m spoken to and only when I’m asked a yes or no question. Not because I don’t want to speak or because I can’t speak, but the scenes before me leave me speechless.

To my right is a man using his hand as shovel, scooping up olives to shove in his greedy mouth. Before me is a line of women at the cheese counter, yelling at each other and at the counter lady in Hebrew. Behind me is a woman in her sixties, incapable of accepting her true age, wearing short-shorts and a tight black, low-cut top, her wrinkly boobs peeking from the top. Her eyes are lined with messy black eyeshadow and her face resembles that of a heroine addiction warning pamphlet. She bosses about her male companion, who is wearing black slacks, a white button down top, with the top FIVE buttons undone, showcasing his full chest of hair. He begrudgingly caters to her every beckon and whim, handing her coffee packets and sugar. Two women push each other at the cold-cuts counter and another woman eyes the vegetable bags and stuffs them in her purse. To my left, a grocery store employee sneezes into his hands and handles the watermelons. Two aisles over I can hear a family of adults and children yelling at one another.

My aunt makes her way to the butcher’s counter and I tail behind, taking in the sight, the chaos. How was it that Haifa became filled with ill-mannered people. How could such a beautiful city be so ugly?

At the butcher’s counter, my aunt takes notice of the chicken cutlets, but there is no one behind the counter to take her order. She waits patiently, as I find a corner to back myself into. I felt angry and I wanted a nice dose of Karma to find these people and a supernanny to slap some manners into them. They don’t know how lucky they are to be in Haifa and they take advantage of it and abuse it.

A crowd begins to form at the butcher counter and the crowd begins to argue about who came first, my aunt tries to stick up for herself, but they yell over her. Out came the butcher and he ignores my aunt and begins to take an order from the Israeli customers. My aunt interrupts in Hebrew and demands her first place in line. After a minute of arguing with the crowd and the butcher, they give in and allow my aunt to go first, but no one seemed satisfied with that outcome, rolling their eyes and huffing in her direction.

My aunt collects the chicken and walks over to me, smiling awkwardly. This was her normal.

I kept my silence, fearing speaking would cause my anger to bubble up and result in tears. I grinned back at her and followed her through the supermarket to our next grocery challenge. She went to the bread aisle, stood herself in front of the bread shelf and began to use the tongs provided to collect bread and put it into a plastic bag she had just picked up, when a tall thin Israeli man wearing jeans and a blue polo, wedged his way between my aunt and the bread shelf. My aunt swiftly steps away from his closeness, accepting her fate. She tried to continue to reach for the bread, but the man kept changing his positioning to block my aunt out. We waited as he got his pick of the best loaves and left, looking back on us and giving us the up-and-down. My aunt said nothing and spoke nothing of the man’s behaviour. She took the last left-over loaf of bread–hard as a rock and says, “Yalla,” as she signals with a nod of her head that we keep walking on.

We then made our way to the cashier. Again we are met with the unwelcoming eyes of the security guard, staring at us, disgusted by the sight of us, clenching his fists, wishing he could be rid of us. I wanted so badly for the earth to devour this man and his foul intentions.

I glared at him, locking my sights on him until he could no longer take it, until he caved and began to pace in a hunched over position. My aunt, tired, decides to claim an empty shopping cart that has magically appeared beside the security guard. We piled our few items into the shopping cart and walked passed the security guard, his eyes fixed on our grocery items, analysing our purchases. He hissed at us like an angry goose.

Moments later, we make our way into a packed elevator to put our groceries in the car. Walking through the parking lot and navigating through all the abandoned shopping carts, on the way to our car, we hear a familiar sound– Arabic. For the first time during this trip, we heard and saw people we had never met before, but felt a comradely compulsion to greet them and wish them a goodnight.

Silently, we approached the white car, littered in scratch marks, and my aunt smiled. The same awkward and accepting smile she regularly wore in public.

Moments after unloading the groceries into the trunk of my aunt’s car, my aunt says, “Let’s go return the shopping cart, we don’t want anyone thinking we’re messy people.” Here we are, having to prove ourselves to people who had disrespected us, fought us, pushed us, hissed at us and were less-mannered than us.

We made our way back to the elevator, got in and went up to the first floor of the grocery store, where the carts were to be returned. As the door opened, the security guard, this glorified shopping cart attendant, took a step towards us, reached his left hand out to signal ‘stop.’ He pulled the shopping cart towards himself with his right hand and signalled with his left for us to shoo.