Critical Language Scholarship Program | Harrison Akins
U.S. Flag   State Department Seal   A Program of the U.S. Department of State

Harrison Akins

Har­ri­son Akins is an alum­nus of the 2016 CLS Urdu pro­gram in Luc­know, India. He is cur­rent­ly a Ph.D. can­di­date in polit­i­cal sci­ence at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ten­nessee, focus­ing on inter­na­tion­al rela­tions and pub­lic pol­i­cy. In the future, he plans to con­tin­ue writ­ing about ter­ror­ism, minor­i­ty dis­crim­i­na­tion, intra-state con­flict, South Asia, and Islam­ic cul­ture and pol­i­tics. Har­ri­son grew up in a small town in East Ten­nessee, but after spend­ing near­ly a decade in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., he tries to spend as much time as pos­si­ble in the nation’s cap­i­tal. When his nose isn’t in a book, he enjoys play­ing the vio­la and try­ing to fig­ure out how next to trav­el abroad.

Why Urdu?

In my work, I had been research­ing ter­ror­ism and polit­i­cal vio­lence, espe­cial­ly in Pak­istan and South Asia, as well as con­duct­ing field­work among Pak­istani com­mu­ni­ties in Europe, mak­ing Urdu a nec­es­sary skill to have. For me, Urdu is a research tool, but also, the more I study Urdu, the more fas­ci­nat­ed I am with the cul­ture, the lan­guage, and the com­mu­ni­ties that speak it which instills in me a desire to learn more. Urdu is a beau­ti­ful lan­guage and a win­dow into a beau­ti­ful culture. 

Warmth from Strangers Abroad 

Once, on Eid, I walked up to a cen­turies old mosque in Hazrat Ganj to admire the archi­tec­ture. See­ing me in the court­yard, wor­ship­pers inside invit­ed me in, gave me a tour of the mosque, and then sat with me and served me tea and pas­tries. We spent the after­noon talk­ing about Lucknow’s his­to­ry and cul­ture and me telling them about where I was from. This warm hos­pi­tal­i­ty towards strangers espe­cial­ly in Luc­know, I think, is rep­re­sent­ed in the con­cept takalluf, an Urdu word that means for­mal­i­ty but, at its heart, rep­re­sents a deep respect that Luc­knowis have for oth­er people. 

Defin­ing our Glob­al Identity

I under­stand the impor­tance of pre­sent­ing the great mul­ti­cul­tur­al, mul­ti-reli­gious, and mul­ti-eth­nic real­i­ties of Amer­i­can iden­ti­ty to the rest of the world. Dur­ing my time in India, even when there were dis­agree­ments or mis­un­der­stand­ings because of cul­tur­al or lin­guis­tic issues, I always tried to under­stand the sit­u­a­tion from the oth­er side and resolve any prob­lems with­out great conflict. 

Perks of Speak­ing the Local Language

Dur­ing the CLS Pro­gram and my own trav­els in India, I have found that as my Urdu lan­guage skills improve, my enjoy­ment of the coun­try increased and deal­ing with inevitable chal­lenges that arise from trav­el in a for­eign coun­try became eas­i­er and eas­i­er to deal with. 


Alumni Profiles

Harrison Akins
Harrison Akins
Urdu 2016
Lucknow, India

See More Profiles


Posted Date

March 28, 2017