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Anne Dalke's picture

escaping our categories

Tim Burke (who will visit our class next Tuesday) is also doing some interesting thinking along these lines -- that individual stories resist generalization/categorization -- @ One story is enough: Meaning-making is always a comparative act. Still, there’s a common impulse to very quickly fit a local or individual narrative neatly into some larger issue, and in so doing move beyond the unsettling contradictions that any closely-examined life will inevitably reveal. So it’s been with the story of Amy Bishop ... Amy Bishop seems to me for the moment to explain primarily herself .... In every story she is being made to carry or exemplify, she’s the completely idiosyncratic exception.

If you are really interested in the evolution of the category "murderer" --or perhaps, more pointedly, in the evolution of  individual murderers--then I'd recommend the film, "Concrete, Steel, & Paint," to be screened in Haverford Stokes Auditorium @  7 p.m. on Thursday, February 18, 2010.

Bryn Mawr’s Hepburn Center and Haverford’s Center for Peace and Global Citizenship are co-sponsoring a screening of this documentary film  about the healing power of the Mural Arts Prison Project. Following the screening, there will be a discussion about the criminal justice system, the concept and practice of restorative justice, and the contribution of public art to building and strengthening communities. The filmmakers Cindy Burstein and Tony Heriza, as well as Philadelphia Mural Arts Director Jane Golden (recipient of 2006 Honorary Degree from Haverford College and 2009 Hepburn Medal) will participate in the discussion. The discussion will be facilitated by Barb Toews (who has worked for the Prison Society, helped to facilitate the Healing Walls mural project, and leads the Inside-Out class for Haverford and Bryn Mawr students), and Cameron Holmes (Life Skills Educator/Job Coach at the Pennsylvania Prison Society). A reception following the screening and discussion will be held in the Multi-Cultural Center, Stokes 106 (around the corner and down the hall from the auditorium).

“Concrete, Steel & Paint” takes the audience behind the walls of Pennsylvania’s Graterford State Prison to reveal the tensions, challenges and rewards of a unique restorative justice program in which prisoners worked with victims of crime on a set of murals. The project was conceived as a way for victims of crime and their families to express the full impact of the crime upon their lives; a chance for the prisoners to ask for forgiveness; and as a symbol of hope and healing for the community. At times during the film, the divide between the prisoners and the victims seems too wide to bridge. But as the participants begin to work together, mistrust gives way to genuine moments of human contact and common purpose. Their struggle and the insights gained are reflected in the art they produce.


I was trained, btw, this past summer, as a facilitator in the Inside/Out Prison Exchange Program, in which college students study together with incarcerated men and women as peers in a seminar behind prison walls. The experience certainly opened up and re-figured quite a few fixed categories I had going in--and I'd be happy to talk about it with anyone interested in listening....


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