Going to the Middle East? Or China? Or Uganda?

By Jim Scotton

I’ve been thinking of going back to the Middle East to do some research for a possible book on the Middle East media. These days (October of 2011) my family is not too enthusiastic. We’ve all lived there before (Cairo and Beirut) and never had a problem. I have also lived myself in countries where there was coup going on or there just had been and again, no problems. Foreigners are generally ignored by revolutionaries! But there does seem to be a lot of shooting going on there in several countries. If I wear a sign saying “ACADEMIC” on my back will I be safer? A lot of those who are shooting may be students!

Just how much should an academic risk for the sake of being an academic. Perhaps a nice research project involving media coverage of Ms. America contests in Atlantic City might be better – safer, too, since “Boardwalk Empire” is set in the distant past.

But I’d rather get away from it all for a while so I really want to continue doing some research overseas. My co-author is also eager to keep going in the international area. So we’ve been thinking of perhaps China. That’s a peaceful place but the problem I’ve found there is that the place can be so fascinating that I do not get much work done. The family and I spent two nearly years in Shanghai and just found it difficult to get away from all the attractions. As some people say,  “Very little crime there but lots of vice!”  Shanghai, in short, can be described as Chicago on steroids.

Then there is Africa. I’ve had an Africa project on the back burner so to speak for decades and perhaps this is the time to do it. I even have family there since we have a Ugandan foster daughter and her numerous brothers and sisters (five!) whom we put through school are still there. And Kampala, where I would do most of my work, has about the best climate you could ask for – perpetual spring since it sits on the Equator but is 4,500 feet above sea level.

Ah, the academic’s dilemma! Anyone got any travel money???

Jim Scotton is a professor of Journalism in the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University. 

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