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Week 8--Thinking about Home

Anne Dalke's picture

This week we will finish our reading of Persepolis: The Story of a Return, along with several NYTimes articles about female suicide bombers. Then we will look @ three critical essays, one about feminist politics, two about Asian American sexualities, which, like Satrapi's graphic novel, ask "what home has to do with" identity politics. What do you think? 

sarina's picture

Home is one of the greatest

Home is one of the greatest influences on our identities and our politics (and identity politics). By treating home as a birthplace, home becomes our creator. Yes, we are shaped by culture and by the media (blah blah blah). For many of us, the greatest influence on who we are comes from the home and from family. Home and family are not always synonymous, but while growing up this is true for most people. Even moved out of the house and living at college, students still consult and talk to their parents.
ssherman's picture

the idea of home

I think Martin and Mohanty's article and thoughts about home, really connect to Persepolis for me.  They bring up the idea that home is supposed to be "where one live within familiar, safe, protected boundaries."  This reminded me of when Marjane went back "home" to Iran after being in Europe.  She had felt comfortable at home in Iran before she had left, though she felt somewhat constrained as to what she could do.  Then in Europe she had to make a new home for herself, in this place where she could do what she wanted, but at the same time, she was so alone and basically didn't belong.  Then when she gets back to Iran, everything is so different, and she feels weird, like she doesn't belong.  So does she have a home at that point?  She doesn't seem to have a home at all.  And she goes on to create a place and life for herself in Iran, but it still doesn't seem to be home.

I have always viewed "home" as exactly what Martin and Mohanty describe it as, "the place where one lives within familiar, safe, protected boundaries."  I also believe that you can have more than one home.  Personally, I call my camp, Bryn Mawr, and the places where I live with my parents to be home.  I was just thinking that when my mom moved to a new house, I still started calling it my home right away, but the house that I lived in up until that point will always be my home because of what it means to me.  Sometimes home can be tied more to the people who are constant in some places than just the places themselves.

EG's picture

you guys:

you guys:


can we please talk about this in class. 

sarahk's picture

This week in class, we

This week in class, we talked a lot about community and the different concepts of "home," and our conversations reminded me of a conversation we had in the Core Gender Class last year about epistemic privilege. We talked a lot about the idea of exclusion from minorities, that minorities find a community in their marginalization, and thus actually make it impossible to band with other minorities or become de-marginalized because those who are not marginalized cannot reach out to them based on their lack of shared historical experiences, or lack of a shared "home." I thought this was a very pertinent thing to bring up with all this discussion of minorities banding together to "become" the majority, because it is a valid theory on why minorities cannot just band together magically.

Another pertinent article we read in that same class was by Michael Warner, and it was about the shared marginalized experiences of Christian fundamentalists and homosexuals. He argued that the two groups, although their ideologies are often considered polarizing and opposite, share a sense of marginalization in their minority. They also share exclusionary communities that give them a similar way of combining their ideology with their society.

In my Political Philosophy course this semester we read an article about a theory that people who live within diverse communities are the most inactive and most introverted and afraid people in the country. The theory was that there was more competition-driven productivity in more diverse areas, but there was less mixing of people and more people purposely excluding themselves from their neighborhoods. I think this is interesting when studied hand-in-hand with the "Home" article, which says that to not be home anymore means to realize that home was an illusion of coherence and safety based on exclusion of histories of oppression and resistance. It also states that there is a "jungle" outside of the home. Perhaps this theory of diverse communities being less able to trust each other has to do with the shattering of a sense of home or community. It definitely supports the theory that a community is based on shared and exclusionary values because if people in diverse neighborhoods do not have enough shared values or "homes" with the people who live around them, they lose their ability or motivation to trust one another.

rchauhan's picture

For me home is a place or

For me home is a place or the people that you surround yourself with where you feel comfortable, safe, included/welcomed, and won't be judged right away. Other's have mentioned that home does not have to be a place where you feel safe; however, I find that hard to believe. Why would someone feel "at home" if they are not safe? Who wants to be in an area/state of mind where they need to look out for themselves constantly and worry? When i think of my homes, i know the people in those groups have my best interest at heart, or at least i would hope so! 

EG's picture

retreating to home base

In class, anne asked for some metaphors for our own home, and I was disappointed that we only heard one or two, because I think those personal metaphors are key to seeing variations in our interpretations of what home means.  When I thought about my own home, I thought of "base" in a game of tag.  There is at least some sense of safety or security-- even if it's less than ideal -- but at the same time, at base, we miss out on the "fun" that's happening around us -- the game of tag -- or, speaking outside the metaphor, taking risks, exploring the world and ourselves.

When that gets to hectic, we can come back to home base.

skumar's picture

Safety at Home

I would like to delve into the notion that the home is safety. If, as many people have been saying, safety/comfort/inclusiveness is a characteristic of "home," then it must be that "home" is wherever or with whomever one is safe/comfortable/happiest/most included. If this is true then one person may have multiple "homes" whereas another person may have no "homes." To answer a previous question, the answer would be is not possible that everyone has a home, especially if a sense of belonging is dependent on a sense of security.

I, however, do not agree with the notion that "home" is safe. In other words, just because you are safe somewhere or feel included in a family, or community, of people does not mean you are at home. For example, I feel safe at Bryn Mawr, yet I do not consider Bryn Mawr a home. On the other hand, I think it is possible to be home and not be safe.

From this, I concldue that home is an origin, or as Emily says "where you come from." It does not necessarily need to be a place where you feel included or sheltered. In fact, it can be a place where you are marginalized or discriminated against. Regardless, Home for me is an origin, a kind of starting point. I think it is possible to make a new home or make several new homes, but I believe that an individual's origin is an unforgettable experience (whether good or bad). Whatever lessons you learn at your first "home," whether positive or negative, carry with you forever--to your new home(s).

We see this notion bear out in Marji's experience in Book Two. When Marji goes to a boarding school, a new experience. Even though she is "safe" (free from wearing her hijab, away from wars in and threats to her country) she is not at home. It is true she liberates herself from her hijab, but her Iranian heritage follows her (we see this when she is guilty talking to her parents on the phone and again when she remembers her mom, dad, and grandmother after her first boyfriend cheats on her). No matter how safe her experience away from "home" in Iran, I do not think Marji would translate this safety to mean she found a new home.

Steph's picture

Fitting In Home Not at Home

I'm not sure whether I agree with the fact my finding/have created a home for myself as a part of maturation is not challenging comfortable structures that have been formerly designated as home or does not represent a fragmentation of my personal identity. On the other hand, the fact that I do not consider Bryn Mawr my home (although a VERY comfortable and safe space), but rather a "bubble" that will burst once I graduate and enter the real world as it really is, the fact that I sometimes feel out of place at Bryn Mawr coupled with the fact that I find myself tired with the "college culture," i.e. parties=social life, disgruntled, overly rhetorical classmates, etc. demonstrate a break in identity. Although "college culture" and social life might seem petty fragmentation of identity in comparison to a mix of social/racial/ethnic/political/sexual fragmentation of identity and feminist ideas of home, I think it has great implications of how I'll reflect upon my college experience, how my college experience shapes me, and how I'll decipher other students' claiming Bryn Mawr as their home. Oftentimes, I find myself wondering if anyone else thinks the way I do in respect to questionable, traditional themes during dorm dress up days, i.e. "Euro trash," the appropriation of hip hop culture for another, and why social/political dissent is taken for insult or dismissed as petty complaint. While my identity might not fall a part as a result of my questioning and expeience at Bryn Mawr, it is confusing, and confusion in respect to social and cultural norms does give way to bursting of the "bubble," which results in "repairing my home."

kgbrown's picture

Thinking about home

On Thursday in class, when we were discussing the concept of home, someone posed a question about whether or not you had to have a home. Emily responded by saying, "If we didn't have ahome, where would we come from?" I guess that this question really stuck with me because it seemed to conflict with the ideas that I have been having about being able to choose your home. I believe that home is not necessarily the place that you are born in or the place where you grow up. For some people, the place that they come from is not their home. Instead, they find a home later in life or they have to make one for themselves. Some one is class said that "home is the place that you know you are going to be accepted." I really liked this definition of home because I think that it really fits with my idea of home having less to do with the actual place than with the people that come from that place.

So then, how do my ideas about home fit with Martin and Mohanty's ideas about the stability of the home ebing built on "stable notions of self and identity [that] are based on exclusion and secured by terror" (197). When they discussed Pratt's examination of her own home town and the exclusion that it had been built upon, I think that the most important idea was about the people that had been left out of her concept of home even though they had existed and, in fact, been vital to its existance. I feel that it is important that your own "acceptance," as I discussed in the previous paragraph, is not sustained by other people's exclusion. The question that I am lead to: Is this really possible? Or is the concept of "home" naturally exclusive? Is there a possibility for an all inclusive concept of home? Can it really exist and, if so, what would it look like?

jzarate's picture

Graphic Novel

As we discussed Persepolis and the effectiveness of the graphic novel, I thought it would be useful to try to express myself through a comic to experience first hand the limitations and advantages to this form. I found images allowed me much more freedom than words in instantly portraying the reactions. But it is difficult to show the emotions motivating movements. After trying to draw a comic and myself, I have an increased appreciation of the layers in Persepolis. Sorry this was posted very late in the week. I had trouble figuring out how to post an image.


ebock's picture

questions from our class discussion yesterday

I keep thinking of the questions I raised in class about what kind of "home" we should be trying to have, if it's possible for there to be a "home" that is not entirely harmful or exculsionary to "others." 

I can't help but wonder what it would take to create a space/condition for oneself that would not be marginalizing of "others." How would one begin to change their lifestyle? Is it a matter of bringing to light the ways in which we are injust to others subconsciously or ways that our "safe" space excludes others, or should it be about changing it? Awareness vs. activism?

Also, to speak in terms of home implies that one has a "safe" space. Does everyone have a "safe" space? And as Amanda pointed out above, why do we value "safety" so highly? Also, the idea of having a "home" that is "safe" implies that there is danger outside of the home, or something threatening. What does safety protect us from? Reality, hardship, discomfort?


Just some things I've been mulling over... Thoughts, anyone?


rchauhan's picture

I agree with your point that

I agree with your point that it's hard to create a space that is not marginalizing of others because everyone has opinions/biases/certain feelings towards different groups from his/her own experiences. I also think creating awareness is important because there are so many rumors/stereotypes that are circulated around society that people just automatically believe without questioning. 
aaclh's picture

response to class discussion

It has been bothering me how people keep referencing the fact that Persepolis was drawn in black and white and implicitly saying the that the story was therefore (metaphorically) 'black and white'. I couldn't really figure out what bothered me until recently. I think it is the fact that 'black and white' is a metaphor for not seeing all sides of a situation or problem, only seeing two sides, a black side and a white side. I think the metaphor could have been 'blue and red' or 'desk and chair', the point is that only seeing two sides and also seeing them as opposites or mutually exclusive is usually not enough to understand a problem or situation or whatever it is you're talking about. I think the fact that Persepolis is drawn with ink on white paper has nothing to do with whether or not the story is 'black and white.' Most book are written with black ink on white paper.

In class today I felt uneasy with the class because it seemed that people implicitly felt 'safe' or 'comfortable' at home and also felt that there was no other way we could imagine a society. I think that Martin and Mohanty are saying that we need to balance our need to feel safe with our need to feel unsafe. Feeling safe comes with a price, you can't feel unsettled. Safety doesn't encourage you to change or examine critically your life and the lives of others. While I think that feeling safe is important, I think that feeling safe is over-valued.

skumar's picture

Metaphorically Black and White

I was one of the people that advocated the metamorphically black and white images in Persepolis. I would like to address the objection you raised. In your post you said you did not understand why people took the two colors in the graphic novel to mean that there was a barrier to see the complete picture. I said this because graphic novels are generally in color. I do not think I would have said this if it had been any other graphic novel, other than Persepolis, about something other than Iranian women. You are right when you say most books are written with black ink on white paper. It is for this reason, we did not examine the function of Middlesex as a black and white text. The fact that graphic novels are ordinarily in color encouraged my exploration of the purpose of this creative manifestation of story-telling.

Does this make sense now that I explained it? According to you, is there a function of the B-W images in Persepolis?

jlustick's picture

Sexuality in Persepolis

Having just finished Persepolis, I couldn't help but consider these critical essays in relation to the graphic novel. The first thing that struck me was the pronounced absence of sexuality in Satrapi's work. Considering that this is a "coming of age" story it is suprising that she pays little attention to the process of sexual discovery. I am not suggesting that she overtly confront the issues of homo/hetero/bisexuality, as we saw in the other novels, or explain her own heterosexuality, rather, I was suprised that she did not explore her transition into a "sexual being." This maturation is particularly interesting considering the Iranian dresscode which requires women to conceal all signs of physical sexual development. Fully cloaked, Satrapi's body is the same at ten years of age as at twenty. If we examine the graphic on page 305 in which the women are dressed in Western attire (this picture is presented in contrast to the preceding drawing in which the women are full covered), we see that many of these females are depicted in a highly sexualized manner: they wear makeup, including lipstick, and shirts which which reveal their shoulders, neck, and cleavage. Satrapi labels this picture with the caption "this disparity made us schizophrenic." When I initially read this page, I thought about the divide between public and private and the manner in which these women had to repress their true selves in order to conform to a sort of homogeneity. However, now, I cannot help but consider the effects of these women not being able to publicly come to terms with their own sexuality and physicality body. How do these women understand their corporeality when it is separated from society? Is it harder or easier to have a sense of body? How do the women cope with their view of their body being so different from society's view? Does society aide in or hinder our understanding of our bodies? In connection to the critical essays, I am curious about the body as a home for the self. Can the body be a home for the self if one does not have the freedom to expose it?
lrperry's picture

At every turn...

At every turn in Martin and Mohanty’s article I was reminded of an incident in a course of mine last semester. It happened during a discussion of an essay by bell hooks, where we were talking about the ways in which what we called “the feminist movement” (a term that these past few readings have called into question… is there really ONE movement? I don’t think so) had strategically oppressed minorities in order to operate effectively politically (or perhaps just because the majority of the women in the movement did not resist this marginalization) – black women marching in the back of “first-wave” feminist parades, etc. A girl in my class raised her hand, and commented in a lighthearted yet serious tone – “well, you know, sometimes it’s just too much to keep in mind!” This statement of hers has stayed with me, and I think her phrasing so eloquently illustrates the problem which Pratt, Martin, and Mohanty are trying to articulate… “what passes itself off as simply human, as universal, as unconstrained by identity, namely, the position of the white middle class” (203). When this student said that “sometimes it’s just too much to keep in mind”, she spoke out of the position of the white middle class, in a language which defines other races, sexualities, and classes as additions or afterthoughts. Indeed, it defines these “others” as politically messy territory, and differences which may challenge the fabric of “feminism”.


Mohanty and Martin suggest that a better way to be politically effective than marginalization is a politics of intimacy, where connections are “made at levels other than abstract political interests” (205). I think Takagi is getting at something similar when she asks about the moment of difference meeting difference, “queer meets Asian”, and how to “engage in dialogue” (30). Takagi says that marginalization is not enough in common. The fact that both of you are oppressed is not enough to guarantee effective dialogue. It seems like intimacy might be what is necessary. Intimacy could be what creates a dialogue that isn’t based on categories, on people as objects, but on people as subjects, who are always something more than their given/taken categories.


She describes her fear of coming out as a lesbian, and thus becoming lost in people’s ideas of the category of lesbian… becoming fit into the general stereotype by virtue of sharing personal information. I think there is one way in which labels serve as conversation stoppers (like heterflexible did for Anne in her meeting), but they can also serve as a moment of intimacy, and as a conversation generator… as long as we remember Judith Butler’s caveat that she is willing to “appear” as a lesbian, as long as it always remains “unclear” what that even means…

anorton's picture


Dana Takagi asserts that "identites whether sourced from sexual desire, racial origins, languages of gender, or class roots, are simply not additive" (23). This seems to mean that you cannot generate a list of different identities that apply to you or cohesively describe who you are (much like we actaully did in the identities group activity in class...?). This tacking on of identities does not automatically allow for certain identities to have greater import than others to the individual. In a way, it does, however, allow us to make distinctions between ourselves; though, admittedly, these distinctions are based in the words of a symbol system that may be taken to mean different things by different people.

I am not sure that I understand why identities cannot be additive; Takagi's problem does not seem to be based in the incapability of language—or of any communicative mode—to accurately express one person's concpetion of his or her identity to another person. Would it be preferable to have a heirarchy of identites, so that one could have sub-identities within broader identities? Takagi quotes Trinh T. Minh-ha as saying, "'How do you inscribe difference without bursting into a series of euphoric narcissistic accounts of yourself and your own kind?'" Is the problem not that one would have to express a complete list of identities to fully express oneself? It is more convenient, but less identifying, to have general group like "Asian American"—which seems itself an additive identity.

hpolak's picture

Asian American Sexualities

I found this piece really interesting. I also think it definitely has more of a clear feminist angle than some of the other literature we have been reading. For example, Cristy Chung says, "It's never the same for a woman of color, a person of color, in the world" (7). This quote resonates with the key feature of this article that I was drawn to most, and that is how Asian Americans and other Americans of color have a double burden to bear within the realm of sexual orientation: sexuality and race.

This article talks about the Asian American gay, lesbian and bisexual community, and continues broadens this subject to people of color. The aspect I focused on while reading this was the fact that not only do Asian Americans and other Americans of color have to overcome their own cultural stereotypes of "queerness," they also have to confront the white majority. And even if there are white queer organizations (where one would think people would be accepted no matter their race, because after all, they are all dealing with the same issues), being a person of color still is an obstacle to overcome. There are examples of these two struggles provided in the article. The first shows how it is difficult for an Asian American to confront their sexual identity and make their decision known, whether it be to in the personal or public arena. Eric C. Wat says that, "As Hong Kong immigrants, his parents separate his gay identity from his familial and cultural one" (5). He then looks at the case of a Vietnamese immigrant who was beaten by a group of white males in California. The media stated that this was an incident of gay-bashing, while the Asian media "assured its readers that the victim was not gay and was beaten because of his race" (5).

As I said before, Asian Americans also carry an additional burden of their race. Gil Mangaoang describes how he felt the need to keep his homosexuality a secret while being a Filipino activist in the United States. He said his situation was problematic because during the time of the 1970's, there were few gay organizations that were not dominated by white males. He said, "Minorities who were members of these gay organizations were generally seen as subordinates reflecting the dominant racist attitudes in sociey" (6).

I just find it terrible and disappointing when minorities (in this case gay, white men or women) discriminate against other minorities (gay men or women of color) because they feel the other is more of a  minority than they are. In reality, they are fighting the same battle for acceptance in the realm of sexual orentation.This concept just upsets me because I feel that when you are a minority you should be banding together, not making extra and unnecessary divisions. This relates to the concept of finding "home," because this distances people even further from finding a place or state of mind to call "home." How can you feel comfortable if other people like you are not accepting of you?

skumar's picture

Definitions as restricted boundaries

Your post raised an interesting dynamic of the hierarchy of minorities. Ideally, all minorities will "band together." Of course, though, this is realistically not the case. Even within previously marginalized group, there is a competition of who has been more discriminated against, more harmed. I wonder, then, if it will ever be possible for minorities to become a single "community," a group against majorities (in the case you presented, the majorities would be heterosexuals). I think as long as we have "communities" or groups, there will always be names or labels for them and as long as labeling/categorizing exists, marginalizations will exist. Your post and Dawn's posts really got me thinking about the meaning of community. I am starting to realize that communities are counterproductive. It all started in evolutionary biology when species were categorized into "communities." Now, we form inferior/superior communities among human beings which, according to evolutionary biology, is just one species of the several that exist. Still, there are subgroups, or subcommunities within a larger community (ie homosexuals, multicultural homosexuals)? Thus, I think as long as communities exist, there will always be a sense of "the others" or "all the people that don't fit into the normal group."

Dawn's picture

Definitions of Community

I like the phrase used by Martin and Mohanty: "Conceptualizing community differently without dismissing its appeal and importance." I enjoy the wording of this idea, becasue this is a very similar topic to one that was discussed in my Urban Culture and Society class. We were all told at the beginning of class that it probably be the first and only time that we would hear a sociology professor say that he hated "community". The context of this statement was in the viewing of three different film clips in which the word "community" was thrown around arbitrarily. It was used to refer to a phyiscal space, different groups of people residing to, and a racial group among others. These different interpretations are certainly all valid, like the ones presented in the articles, however they were approached in very strange ways and each person didn't want to see another's view of community. Misunderstanding was caused deliberately in order to take advantage. I'm afraid that "community"is a word that is all too quickly becoming trivialized.
skumar's picture

Community- a word of negative connotation


I wanted to comment briefly on what your sociology professor said about (momentarily) hating the word "community." I agree with him. I say this because I think a community seems comforting if and only if you happen fit within the selectively similar group of people. One experiences the feeling of support and a sense of trust within a community. When we hear "community," we more often than not imagine something positive. Let us imagine a situation, one similar to Marji's situation, when suddenly the loving, supportive community becomes one that detioriates your identity (eg. in Marji's case, she got involved with drugs, boys, sex--things that her culture denies). Despite the apparent differences, Marji said that she initially felt welcome into this "community." She slowly found that she did not belong, that the "communities" in America were unlike "communities" back home in Iran.

What is the meaning, or purpose of a community? Is not a community a group of people with common interests, common understandings? Given this definition, doesn't it seem like a lot of people would be excluded from a group of similar people. So, then isn't a community more exclusive than inclusive?

mpottash's picture

"Feminist Politics" and Persepolis

In reading, Martin and Mohanty's article about the politics of home, I was reminded of Persepolis and the role of home in the novel, particularly the role of Iran.  Persepolis focuses a great deal on the history of politics of Iran; it is almost as if Iran itself is a character in the novel.  If it were not for Iran and the political situations that the novel covers, Satrapi would not have had the same experiences.  Thus, it seems that for Satrapi, the concept of Iran and all of the elements that go with it, are crucial.  Martin and Mohanty write that Pratt's narrative "politicizes the geography, demography, and architecture of [her]communities" (195).  All of these things make up the communities in which Pratt lived, and effect the notion of home.  Similarly, many different components make up Iran for Satrapi and for the novel - the religious, and political, the cultural, even the geographic.  We, and Satrapi, cannot think about Iran, and as Iran as home, without considering all of these elements.  Martin and Mohanty also write that "geography, demography, and architecture...serve to indicate the fundamentally relational nature of identity" (196).  For Satrapi, it sees that her identity is at times firmly rooted in the fact that she is from Iran.  While she is abroad in Europe, she is considered a "third worlder".  Also, the fact that she has lived in Iran under the social and cultural pressures of the fundamentalist regime have given her a strong sense of self and the ability to stand up for what she believes in.  These aspects of Satrapi's identity are firmly bound up in the notion of Iran as home.

On a completely different note, Martin and Mohanty's article made me think of Bryn Mawr and our discussions of what it means to be a women's college today.  At the end of the article, Martin and Mohanty write, "Community, then, is the product of work, of struggle; it is inherently unstable, contextual; it has to be constantly reevaluated in relation to critical political priorities; and it is the product of interpretation...".  At Bryn Mawr, we have a community.  This community is in large part based on the fact that it is a single-sex community.  But what does this mean, especially as we move forward into the 21st century?  Does being a women's college make us exclusionary?   Is it a means of repression?  Or is that fact that it is a women's college a way to combat repression?  What does a community mean, and does that change if it is a community of women?