The Little Book of Anthropology

by Rose Sundt (2015, Oriental Studies) – 15 September 2023
Previous speaker for the Women's Network, Rasha Barrage (2002, Jurisprudence) has recently published 'The Little book of Anthropology'.

Rasha Barrage

Rasha was a speaker at our '40 Years of Women' at St John's event in 2021. She sat on the panel on Race and Diversity, sharing her own personal and professional experience, after writing 'Say No to Racism'. The panel discussion can be watched here on our YouTube channel.

Rasha studied at St John's from 2002 to 2005, and remembers her time fondly, although she recalls the challenges of coming to Oxford. As a first generation Iraqi immigrant to Britain, the atmosphere was radically different to her upbringing - predominantly white, upper/middle class British heritage and certainly not teetotal. "There was less diversity 20 years ago than there is now...coming from a Muslim household, it was a gigantic culture shock to suddenly be around the alcohol, socialising and of course bops! I grew up a lot in those three years." Like many college members, she was initially attracted to it by the high state school intake, which matched her own background. However, there was still a lack of understanding as to how to aid students and Rasha was unable to get the support she sought at the time. She hopes that now these is more awareness and assistance available for students of all backgrounds coping with the adjustment to College life , not to mention the rigorous academic pressures.

Rasha has always been passionate about human rights, and was President of the Amnesty International group. This fierce interest in protecting civil liberties wold prove to be a thread throughout her professional career. After graduating Rasha went on to study a thesis intensive masters course on the Philosophy of Humans Rights Law in Canada, moving directly on to an internship at the United Nationals High Commission for Refugees in Geneva and then working in Oxford. She qualified as a barrister and had a successful legal career in private client law. Rasha also spoke about the mentors she has had along the way, one being her partner at McDermott, Ziva Robertson, who demonstrated positive leadership and was a professional role model who brought her younger team members up with her. These professional experiences and interests certainly play a part in Rasha's writing career.

Rasha decided to become a full-time mother for her expanding family, after her second child was born. It was during the pandemic, and with her three children growing up, that she embarked on a career change to become an author, initially responding to an advert on Twitter for writers. The publishing house were quick to see Rasha's talent and she was hired as a freelance writer and editor. Her first novel, 'Say No to Racism' provided a good mix between a grounding in evidence, statistics and the facts about discrimination, as well as encouraging us all to approach this complex topic with sensitivity. "In my book on racism it was about analysing the problems, but then also flipping and trying to see what the solutions were to change that". Rasha is clearly someone who takes on and overcomes challenges, and this comes through in her writing.

The transition from Law to writing made use of many transferable skills. "Lawyers are researchers, and that skill certainly applied to being a non-fiction writer. I need to identify the relevant points, just like case law...I don't want to use the word 'anal' but lawyers have to be very particular. This has proved very useful. I am always going back to the beginning. I am writing a series of introductions, and this means I have3 to strip things back, assume no knowledge on the reader and take away all my assumptions to write them". A prodigious writer, she has produced four books 'The Little Book of Anthropology' 'How to Understand and Deal with Anxiety', 'The Little Book of Sociology', and coming out shortly, 'The Little Book of Palaeontology' - much to the delight of her eldest son. A lot of her books have been focused on mental health and wellbeing, influenced by her own experiences and struggles and a close family member with a mental illness. She has also written a short story on climate change 'Blue Nation' which combines her legal background with a story about nationhood of the sea. Rasha believes that we must take ownership of our own actions, and this is a common theme in all her works. Talking through her plans for future works on themes such as social inequality, it is clear that she has many irons in the fire, so watch this space!

Her book can be purchased from Amazon. Rasha's new book on palaeontology with is available in November can be pre-ordered here, for those who want a concise introduction to our fossilized past.


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