Five Scarves: Doing the Impossible – If We Can Reverse Cell Fate, Why Can’t We Redefine Success?

Rana Dajani, Ph.D.
Rita Hauser Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, and Molecular Cell Biology, Hashemite University, Az-Zarqa, Jordan

Series: Social Issues, Justice and Status
BISAC: SOC028000

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Rana Dajani’s Five Scarves: Doing the Impossible—If We Can Reverse Cell Fate, Why Can’t We Redefine Success? is an exploration of the intersections between gender, race, religion, and science told through the eyes of one of the world’s leading Muslim women scientists. Dajani, a Professor of Molecular Biology at the Hashemite University of Jordan, points to the 2006 discovery of induced pluripotent stem cells which allowed researchers to reverse engineer embryonic life forms, and asks us why a similar breakthrough might not be possible in the pursuit of gender equality. Seeking a paradigm shift in the fight against women’s oppression, Dajani makes the case for radically transforming the social institutions, cultures, and customs of our world to fully validate and support all women.

The reader is led through the many phases of Dajani’s dizzying life journey, from the bustling world of Amman, to the quiet neighborhoods of Iowa City, back through Jordan’s universities, schools, and refugee camps, and into the halls of Harvard, Cambridge, Grenoble, and the United Nations. The author wears five scarves, those of a mother, teacher, scientist, social entrepreneur, and feminist. AHer story tells of all the challenges she’s faced and the innovations she’s made in everything from genetic analysis and science pedagogy, to grassroots social change and Islamic perspectives on evolution. Finally, Dajani offers a provocative and far-reaching meditation on the fight for women’s liberation today and what it would take to build a truly equal and humane society.

Preface

Acknowledgments

Chapter 1. Growing Up (pp. 1-10)

Chapter 2. Starting a Family (pp. 11-16)

Chapter 3. Graduate School (pp. 17-26)

Chapter 4. Research in Jordan (pp. 27-38)

Chapter 5. Teaching and Service (pp. 39-46)

Chapter 6. My Pedagogy (pp. 47-58)

Chapter 7. We Love Reading (pp. 59-70)

Chapter 8. Teaching Evolution (pp. 71-80)

Chapter 9. Mentoring (pp. 81-90)

Chapter 10. A Sexist World (pp. 91-102)

Chapter 11. Seeking Equality (pp. 103-114)

Conclusion (pp. 115-124)

About the Author (pp. 125-126)

Index (pp. 127)

Keywords: women, success, entrepreneurship, religion, Islam, science, education, evolution, reading, empowerment, mentoring, memoir, refugees

This book is written for Social scientists, Anthropologists, Theologians, Educators, Teachers, Basic scientists, Graduate students, Parents, Undergraduate students, International students departments at universities, Centers for global policy at universities, Institutions for women and girl empowerment, Institutions for STEM education, Institutions for women in science, Centers for Middle Eastern Studies, Centers for Islamic Studies

"An absolutely wonderful read about the aspirations and achievements of a modern woman scientist in contemporary Islam. Dajani uses her own experience to try to forge a cosmopolitan and global approach to the problems of inequality that women everywhere continue to face." - Evelyn Fox Keller, Professor Emeritus, MIT, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Author of Reflections on Gender and Science

"This snapshot of the life, work, and thoughts of a remarkable scientist and social advocate at once challenges the reader to rethink basic assumptions and accompanies him or her in revisiting familiar tropes in new settings. With simple prose and confident strides, Dajani introduces topics as different as the challenge of creating world-class scientific discovery in the Middle East, the egalitarian organization of domestic responsibilities between parents and children in quotidian family life, the long history of female scientific brilliance in the Arab world, and the extraordinary creation of a global social movement to promote the love of reading among all children. For inspiring millennials to take the world in their hands and insist on realizing their dreams, this book is a must. "- Jacqueline Bhabha, Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Director of Research François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University, Jeremiah Smith Jr. Lecturer, Harvard Law School

“This is a wonderful book, the personal story of a warm and brilliant Jordanian cell biologist. She is passionate about her pioneering scientific work and her vision of how science should be taught to inspire young people and promote new ideas – innovation happens on the margins in all fields. She describes how she gets her students to bring art into thinking about and communicating science. She challenges many stereotypes that Westerners tend to have about Islam, the history of science, and the role of women in the Muslim professional world. She advocates for wide-ranging, worldwide policy and practice that will undermine sexism and enhance women’s opportunities – issues on which the USA is remarkably backward compared to many other countries. She is also the founder of We Love Reading, an extremely successful program to involve children in community experiences of reading and listening, a culture-changing experience that is personally empowering. This vivid book is a beautifully written inspiration to women, to scientists, to educators and to social activists everywhere." - Helen Haste, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Bath, England, Visiting Professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education

“Rana Dajani rightly rejects the label of "Islamic feminist." She is a global feminist with a tale to tell that will be surprising to many. Reading her story is like a warm embrace from a close friend.” -Anne-Marie Slaughter, President & CEO, New America

“Account of an incredible and inspiring life journey - how a Jordanian biologist navigated her many worlds deftly, a role model for women with big dreams that transcends geography.” - Priyamvada Natarajan, Professor, Departments of Astronomy & Physics, Yale, author of Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the Cosmos

“This book provides a to-be-cherished insight into the complicated life of a wonderful person as a scientist and a woman, a life that is bursting with intellect, humanity and humility in equal measures. Indeed, Rana Dajani shows that doing the impossible is possible.” - Co-founder, 2011 Global Coordinator of Gender Summit, www.gender-summit.com

Nature Middle East - Reviewed by Sedeer el-Showk, M.Sc., PhD., full-time freelance writer

Nature International Journal of Science - Reviewed by Malak Abedalthagafi, physician-scientist, chair of genomics research at King Fahad Medical City and assistant research professor in molecular genetics and neuropathology King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology

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