Elisabeth Kendall is Senior Research Fellow in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Pembroke College, Oxford University. Her current work examines connections between militant jihadist/political movements and cultural production in Arabic.
For the last six years, she has acted as international advisor (pro-bono) to a cross-tribal council in eastern Yemen that promotes social and political cohesion as a counterweight to AQAP and Islamic State expansion. In her spare time, Elisabeth sits on a number of national and international Advisory Boards and works on a variety of consultancy and pro bono projects in the Middle East. She is a regular contributor to the international media.
Where did you grow up?
A small town called Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire. The only famous thing about it is its model village which is like a giant train-set.
Who was your heroine when you were growing up and why?
Boudica, a Celtic queen who led a tribal uprising against the expanding Roman Empire in the first century. She didn’t just sit around moaning about the Romans, but got up and did something. Actually, she failed but that’s not the point.
What did you want to do when you were little?
An archaeologist (until I went on a dig and had to spend a week scraping mud off bits of stone whilst being pelted by rain at Hadrian’s Wall - that killed the dream)
What is the strangest job you have ever had?
Judging the grand final of a cocktail-making competition for a major drinks company in Istanbul. I had to sip cocktails for 5 hours.
What would you like to be doing when you are 80?
Same as now, only faster.
How do you motivate yourself when things are not going as well as they might?
I focus on two thoughts: (1) In a week’s time, things are bound to look better (2) Thank goodness this is happening to me and not to someone I love
What advice would you give to your 16 year old self if you could talk to her now?
Worry less about what other people think. Follow your dreams, but take the time to think about where they might lead. Make lists.
If you had the power to change one thing in the world today, what would that be?
Inequality of opportunity