English Department alum combats Pakistan stereotypes

By Jack Clifford

When Florida State University graduate Masood Raja (Ph.D. 2006) would read or hear what media organizations in the U.S. reported about his native Pakistan, he could not overlook the stereotypical representations they used to tell the stories. Instead of battling with the news groups to bring about fair coverage, Raja recruited some of his friends and they took a more direct and hands-on approach: they created Pakistaniaat.org , an online, academic journal of Pakistan studies.

"Pakistaniaat aims to complicate the debates about Pakistan by publishing scholarly articles, creative works, and reviews by Pakistani and non-Pakistani writers," says Raja, an Assistant Professor of English at Kent State University and author of the forthcoming book, Constructing Pakistan (Oxford UP). He adds that he and his friends first launched the journal online in January 2009 because, "it is more widely accessible to readers and writers and the costs are very low compared to a print journal."

An all-volunteer team runs the journal, which now offers print versions through a print-on-demand publisher, and Pakistaniaat.org is funded partially through Raja's department at Kent State, along with other donations.

The journal and Raja, who was recently appointed to the PMLA Advisory Committee, have benefited from his FSU Department of English connections as well. Two faculty members from English are editorial board members, Associate Professors Robin Goodman and Amit Rai, and former FSU English instructor Deborah Hall (Ph.D. 2004), now an Assistant Professor at Valdosta State, is the journal's prose editor. Graduate student Andrew Smith provides proofreading for the journal.