Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!


Uninhibited's picture

Vision Memo 2

As I said before, I really loved Zer's talk about close-up vs. bird's eye view. I wrote this paper on how this frame can be used to think about ways in which we define our identities based on the institutions that we are part of.

Anne Dalke's picture

Dorm Rooms As Niches?

One of the students in my other class did some research on Erdman, and discovered that Louis Kahn, the architect who designed it, said, “A dormitory should not express a nostalgia for home, it is not a permanent place, but an interim place.” Can an interim place be a niche?

Anne Dalke's picture

Breakfast with Rosemarie Garland-Thomson

We will be having breakfast with Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, the author of Staring: How We Look,
9-10 a.m. this Friday morning, Nov. 16, in the Bryn Mawr campus center;
we will order coffee, scones and fruit.

Sharaai's picture


Reading about niches really got me thinking about my own personal niches, other's niches and specifically what the women at the Cannery do while they are there to make their niches.

When I think about my own niche and about it's relationship to Bryn Mawr, I realize that if I had not found my niches within the BMC community, in many locations, that my experiences here would not have been so fulfilled and satisfying. But my discovery of niches does not feel comparable to those in the reading. I feel that they are found coming from different reasoning but I also feel like they can be compared because people find niches for the same general reasons.

In connection to Doing Life, I wonder if those in the book found their own self-discovery as a niche. I say this because alot of the people in the book talk about how they have changed as people and how they have realized their mistakes that brought them to where they are. Have they found niches within their own minds that have allowed them to escape and reflect?

Hummingbird's picture

Privacy and Space

After our conversation today in Jody's class about Bryn Mawr as a walled community and the readings we did about the thinking behind the dorms of Bryn Mawr, I can't help making connections to Hans Toch's writing on "Transactions of Man and Environment" in that context. Hoch talks about the way an environment is so intricately related to human responses – thinking, feeling, acting, etc. I thought about the level of privacy M. Carrey Thomas envisioned for her students and how intricately privacy is linked with privilege. Those who could afford more privacy got it. And now, though rooming is not based on how much one pays or can afford to pay, in two room doubles, one student inevitably lives in the "maid's" room, which can and does create tensions between roommates. 

Owl's picture

Prison as a Haven/Refuge

As I was reading both Cyd Berger and Diane Weaver's stories in Doing Life, I was struck by the idea that for some women, prison is more of a haven or a refuge, where they can stop "living for everyone except" themselves and be free of the problems that they must cope with outside of the prison walls: extreme poverty, domestic violence (as in the case of Diane), rape, and homelessness. Both these women found prison to be a place where they could find the time to be "human" and could become "sort of a role model" for others. The notion that prison is a space where one can re-evaluate their role in society has been a common denominator in every stage of the expansion of the prison industrial complex, but understanding how this notion is seen from the perspective of the bodies trapped inside the walls is crucial to understanding what aspects of this space are actually positive. A similar perspective is seen in McConnel's Sing Soft, Sing Loud When the narrator in the story gets agitated with "the tourist" (the newest addition to the prison) because she can't stop complaining, crying, and "moaning" about her life and why she was "jailed". The narrator states: " one wants to talk to her in case she falls to pieces...we don't like people failing to pieces around here. It makes everybody do hard time and besides, it triggers a chain reacton, y'know what I mean?"  

Anne Dalke's picture

Giving a "tour" of Bryn Mawr

As you go about your week, take a photo or two that you would like to share with the women @ the Cannery, so they can have a "tour" of Bryn Mawr. Please post your photos here by Wednesday at 5:00, so Barb can compile them into a form that we can use in class. To keep things manageable, we suggest one or two photos per person (it can be more, if not everyone submits a photo). We hope some of you are interested in taking up this idea!

Michaela's picture

Visions/Alliance vs. more traditional prisons

As I've been reading Sweeney, I've been seeing some parallels to Haney's work in the Visions and Alliance facilities, in terms of how penal institutions try (and sometimes fail) to regulate women's desires, and what they feel like they need. In Visions and Alliance, it was obviously a very flawed system, despite the fact that it was an "alternative to incarceration", and the directors of the program seemed to want to shape what the women wanted extensively. In the more traditional prisons that Sweeney writes about, the main regulation of desire is over books--especially, as I've read, over the women's complex and diverse desire or lack thereof for urban fiction, which prison librarians try to unify to fit what their rules are for keeping urban fiction on the shelves. 

Is anyone else making this connection? What are your thoughts?

On another note, if anyone would like to borrow my book before Tuesday, let me know!

jo's picture

Harry Twiggs

I really like Doing Life and find it to be an incredibly moving book. In particular, as I was browsing through it, I was struck by the story of Harry Twiggs, one of the longer sections and very insightful. I was really inspired by Twiggs' story, and how real he was about what he did and how he's dealt with the guilt and consequences. I was also struck by the way his picture parrallels my impression of him as in touch with and at peace with the world. I was also interested by his admitance that part of the reason he was able to turn his life around was because of the system, or at least because of the programs the prison offers. He then went on to say that the root cause of all his struggles was poverty, showing that in fact it is the system that is at fault, but also showing a positive case of reform-type work in prisons.

On an unrelated note, I found it interesting that two different people in the book compared being in prison (for life) to being sucked under by water, having oxygen cut off: Marilyn Dobrolenski (p 89) and Commer Glass (p 103).

Syndicate content