An interview by the lovely people at the Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies Program
A Minute with Juliane Okot Bitek
Juliane Okot Bitek is a PhD student in Interdisciplinary Students Graduate Program. She holds a Master’s Degree in English and a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art (Creative Writing). Her doctoral research focuses on post-conflict narratives of formerly abducted women in northern Uganda. Juliane is an essayist and poet whose work has been anthologized and published widely in literary magazines, on-line and in print. She recently completed a book, Stories from the Dry Season, which she co-authored with Grace Acan, a women’s advocate in northern Uganda. Juliane has been an invited poet at the International Poetry Festivals of Medellin, Colombia (2008) and Granada, Nicaragua (2009). She continues to write and speak about issues of home, homeland and diaspora.
We interviewed Juliane Okot Bitek in July 2013.
“A Chronology of Compassion or Towards an Imperfect Future” International Journal of Transitional Justice Special Edition. Vol. 6, Iss. 3. 394-403.(Fall 2012)
“Dreams of Home Place and Belonging: A Fractured Essay for a Sense of Home.” Cutting Edge; A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies at UBC. Vol.1
Drums of My Flesh by Cyril Dabydeen (Tsar Publications, 2007) Canadian Literature: A Quarterly of Criticism and Review 198 (Autumn 2008) Canada and its Discontents 106- 107
What is the best moment of the day?
For certain, it’s got to be after dinner. With the exception of days when brilliance shows itself whenever it does, the moment supper is done I feel as though all my responsibilities for the day have been met and the world is mine.
What kind of music do you listen to at the moment?
I don’t have a music collection on my phone. I don’t feel the need to be plugged in and I’m also afraid of missing out in real life sounds.
Do you listen to the radio?
CBC Radio while I make dinner so mostly I catch the news. As it Happens and sometimes The Current Revue. On the odd Sunday I’m thrilled to catch The Vinyl Cafe with Staurt Maclean.
What was your first job?
Selling snacks at the cinema before and during the intermission at my mom’s kiosk. I didn’t get paid in cash but we got all the benefits of watching movies, playing pinball games and watching concerts for free.
What Academic books/articles are you reading now? In preparing for comps, I have a bunch of reading to get through. At this very moment: Dionne Brand’s Ossuaries, James Scotts’s Domination and the Arts of Resistance, Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks and Richard Delgado’s Critical Race Theory.
What Non-Academic books do you have on your bedside table?
They Call Me Lolita, 419.
When you were a child, did you want to study a PhD?
Where do you work?
At the Liu Institute for Global Issues.
Do you discuss your work with other researchers or academics, aside from your peers?
Yes, anyone who will listen.
Describe what is to be “interdisciplinary”, like you would describe it to a good friend.
Like a good outfit made to fit your figure through different sizing for the top and the bottom but it looks good together.
What interdisciplinary research or work has given you the best satisfaction?
The intersection between the politics, creative and critical writing, reading and thinking is so exciting when it comes together in a piece through the works of Toni Morrison, Dionne Brand, Wangechi Mutu, Wambui Mwangi, Anne Carson, Audre Lorde for example.
Is there any researcher or academic you admire or appreciate a lot?
Oh yes. My supervisory committee are my intellectual stars.
What advice would you give up to aspiring Grad-School, or Grad Students.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and so it’s important to work your core muscles, eat and sleep well.
What are you afraid of regarding the future?
That my core muscles won’t hold.