Student Spotlight – Mursal Sidiqi

Meet UCLA undergraduate researcher Mursal Sidiqi!

Mursal Sidiqi majors in English and minors in Comparative Literature and is in our Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP)! The title of her project is “The Most Western Women in the Empire: Orientalist Feminisms’ Reformations of the Oriental Woman Trope.” Her focus is to contribute to modern American feminist discourses by talking about and researching Muslim women’s roles in feminist movements. Her best piece of advice is to study what you’re passionate about.

How did you first get interested in your research project?

My interest in my research project stems from my identity and experiences as a Muslim and Afghan woman. As an English major, I found it interesting that the Orient became a concept of fascination and sublimity in the 18th and 19th centuries in Britain. I wondered how true the representations of “Eastern” women were in texts that were authored by British women, which led to my thesis project. Traces of the alterities and misrepresentations of Southwest Asian and African women are prevalent today. In tracing the origins of the Oriental woman trope, I aim to uncover the histories of Orientalist feminisms in British literature and examine their contemporary incarnations that impact women like myself.

What has been the most exciting aspect of your research so far?

I am most excited with the opportunity to engage with scholarship. I feel that the more knowledge I gain on my topic through reading scholarship, the more my research flexes and aims to address points that were previously overlooked or unknown to me. It is so fulfilling to create something new in a conversation that has been discussing your interests for so many years.

What has surprised you about your research or the research process?

I was surprised by the amount of willpower it takes to stay structured throughout all of the different stages of the research process. I often find myself backtracking into the different stages whenever I find that I need to revise a part of my argument. It is sometimes difficult to maintain a steady schedule, but I find that the more I revisit my argument’s main points, my motivation is renewed and I get back on track with my schedule!

What is one piece of advice you have for other UCLA students thinking about doing research?

It may seem cliché, but I would advise anyone interested in research to dedicate their time studying what they are passionate about. The research will be more fun and more fulfilling if it’s something you love. There are so many voices whose stories can impact the world and create connections through research. Your passion matters in research!

What effect do you hope your research has in your field, at UCLA, in your community, or in the world?

I hope to challenge the UCLA community to examine the representations of groups in the literature they read and the media they consume. In my field, I aim to add my voice to connect and intersect past ideas in order to illuminate a new basis for understanding the Oriental woman trope across genres and literary forms. I hope to contribute to modern American feminist discourses by talking about and researching Muslim women’s roles in feminist movements.