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Walled Women

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Anne Dalke's picture


Welcome to the on-line conversation for Women in Walled Communities, a cluster of three courses in a new 360° @ Bryn Mawr College that focuses on the constraints and agency of individual actors in the institutional settings of women's colleges and prisons.

This is an interestingly different kind of place for writing, and may take some getting used to. The first thing to keep in mind is that it's not a site for "formal writing" or "finished thoughts." It's a place for thoughts-in-progress, for what you're thinking (whether you know it or not) on your way to what you think next. Imagine that you're just talking to some people you've met. This is a "conversation" place, a place to find out what you're thinking yourself, and what other people are thinking. The idea here is that your "thoughts in progress" can help others with their thinking, and theirs can help you with yours.

Who are you writing for? Primarily for yourself, and for others in our cluster. But also for the world. This is a "public" forum, so people anywhere on the web might look in. You're writing for yourself, for others in the class, AND for others you might or might not know. So, your thoughts in progress can contribute to the thoughts in progress of LOTS of people. The web is giving increasing reality to the idea that there can actually evolve a world community, and you're part of helping to bring that about. We're glad to have you along, and hope you come to both enjoy and value our shared explorations.  Feel free to comment on any post below, or to POST YOUR THOUGHTS HERE.

Anne Dalke's picture

Design Justice + Design Space

...thought y'all might like to know what Barb's been up to lately,
and how far she's taken our work in the Cannery:
see Designing Justice Designing Spaces: Revisioning Justice Architecture from the Inside Out....

Anne Dalke's picture

Prison Program "Turns" Inmates into Intellectuals

Anne Dalke's picture

a true meeting place?

Digital Humanities Initiative: American Prison Writing Archive-->
a place where incarcerated people can bear witness to the conditions in which they live, to what is working and what is not inside American prisons, and where they can contribute to public debate about the American prison crisis.

...also open to contributions by correctional officers, prison staff, and prison administrators, thus creating a true meeting place and venue for comparative expression by and study of all of those who live and work inside American prisons.

HSBurke's picture

Return to Sender

I just wanted you all to know that I was hit by a wall of overwhelming gratitude when I read your (Sara and Sasha's) reflections. Though I certainly, (and after reading yours, thought it was maybe to a fault) put lots of emphasis on the "self" part of this reflection, I want you both to know that it was absolutely because of you -- the brilliant, inspiring, motivational lights that shine from you in everything you do -- that I felt brave enough to let myself love our work this semester. As Sara said, we are so different, and yet I feel like this year I've developed a new part of myself, and part that can only be translated and nurtured and understood by you two. Your friendship and your beautful minds are essential to me now, and always. Thank you for being all you are to me. I hope I can be the same for you. 

Sasha De La Cruz's picture

So much alike

I had a hard time starting this reflection because I feel as though my participation/engagement constantly fluctuated throughout the semester, the whole year really, but definitely more this semester. I think that for the most part I took a lot of steps back this semester, in terms of speaking less and listening more; I found myself not wanting to take ‘leadership roles’ as much as I would have any other time. At times I felt as though I wasn’t putting in as much effort or working as hard as I should have, and it really bothers(ed) me because this is my favorite class of the week and is the one thing I look forward to every week. I think I missed about two of the prep-meetings. The weeks I would miss the meetings, I would feel a little lost that Friday. We put so much thought into every activity, not being there to plan for it makes me nervous because I am not sure which “direction” we aimed to take the conversations; because of this, not being 100% prepared did not scare me that much. Overall, this was a very difficult semester for me; between my mother being injured and my friend going to jail (and all of the in-between), I had way too much going on towards the end of the semester and it was hard for me to focus on my life on campus.


sara.gladwin's picture

Self-Evaluation: A Series of Critical Love Letters

Here is a link to my self-evaluation: /exchange/book/standing-wall/self-evaluation

As always, it has been a pleasure, and I cannot wait to work with you all again!

HSBurke's picture

RCF Final Reflection: Reading, Writing and Becoming

Dear Anne and Jody,

Almost a year and a half ago now, I wrote another reflection letter to the both of you. The first paragraph of that paper ended with this sentence: “Everything has changed now and I can't wait to see what's next.” I didn’t have to wait very long. This year has truly been that “what’s next” for me.

Anne Dalke's picture

request for self-evaluations

Sara, Hayley and Sasha--
please write a self-evaluation of your prison work this semester.
General guidelines can be found in the self-evaluation that you did for
WWC 1 1/2 years ago: /exchange/courses/360/silence/f12/portfolio
--but here's the current version we'd like you to respond to:

This process invites you to "diffract" on all the work you have done in
our prison group and to contribute to and assist us with the evaluation of your work.  

In order to do this, be specific and descriptive, but also evaluative:
Review your participation in our group work before, during and after the sessions
we spend inside.  How present-and-contributing have you been during our preparation,
in our discussions inside, and during our debriefing sessions?

* Describe how you prepared for, and reflected on, the prison environment
and classroom experience outside of class.  In what ways did you push yourself
outside your comfort zone?

* Describe your critical, active engagement during our sessions in RCF:
How did you actively engage women in conversation and relationship?
Did you initiate or wait for someone to talk to you? To what degree
did you push yourself outside your comfort zone?

* Reflect, too, on your engagement with the reading and writing we assigned.

Anne Dalke's picture

Lesson Plans

as we finish out the year, i find myself wanting an archive of the lesson plans

and homework we assigned. so: find attached.

Anne Dalke's picture

The Hijabi Monologues

as promised: attached find the script; the links to the BMC performance are @

as the manual explains, this script differs from The Vagina Monologues,
which give voice to a mostly private aspect of women's lives: The Hijabi
Monologues take something public, which everyone seems to have an opinion about,
and give it a personal voice. The characters of each monologue wear the hijab,
but the hijab is not the focus of any story.

sara.gladwin's picture



(Translated by Dr. Josephine Davis)

Ah! How beautiful is Kabul encircled by her arid mountains

And Rose, of the trails of thorns she envies

Her gusts of powdered soil, slightly sting my eyes

But I love her, for knowing and loving are born of this same dust


My song exhalts her dazzling tulips

HSBurke's picture

Can there really ever be an "other side"?

Today, while giving a tour, I mentioned our book group to the student and her mother. I gave the usual speal, and tied it in by mentioning that the CEO pays for our travel and that BMC is supportive of these types of independent projects. She responded with, "Oh that must be so nice for a sociology student, to see how the other side lives."

My response was less than honorable. I sort of nodded along with her before realizing what I was agreeing with. Thinking back now, though, I realize how very, very strange the idea is that the women we work with are somehow different, removed, "others" from us. I think I stopped seeing true difference a long time ago. There is no "other side", I think. We all represent many colors and shapes in a kaleidoscope, overlapping, intersection, enmeshing to paint a picture. 

We are not the same, no, but we're not truly different, either. 

Anne Dalke's picture

allegorical panels

This looks like remarkable work-- --and it was on display @ The Church Studios, in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia.

Anne Dalke's picture

beyond the new jim crow

I think that most of you are familiar with Michelle Alexander's powerful book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. I just learned, from the Inside/Out listserv, of an equally compelling critique: James Forman's Racial Critiques of Mass Incarceration: Beyond the New Jim Crow, New York University Law Review 87 (Feb. 26, 2012).

Take a look; I'd really like to discuss this...and thanks!

Anne Dalke's picture

On being conned

I’ve been waving Rena Fraden's Imagining Medea: Rhodessa Jones and Theater for Incarcerated Women @ y’all for a couple of weeks now, and thought I’d take the time to write out a little of what I find so compelling about the book. It is really making me feel dissatisfied with the sort of writing we are getting, and making me be more thoughtful about ways in which we might help folks dig deeper, be more truthful.

If you don’t know the story of Medea, read about it here—it’s all about betrayal, abandonment, anger, “too much love.”

“Jones finds theatrical ways to interrogate the personal, surrounding the contemporary with the mythical, providing more texts, and thus context, for these women, so that each individual’s story is not isolated but always seen in relation to others…autobiography alone neither guarantees new insights nor changes behavior. As Joan Scott has argued, experience is not transparent but is ‘at once always already an interpretation and something that needs to be interpreted’ (p. 21).

HSBurke's picture

Nervous Conditions Book Idea

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga 

"Tambu, an adolescent living in colonial Rhodesia of the '60s, seizes the opportunity to leave her rural community to study at the missionary school run by her wealthy, British-educated uncle. With an uncanny and often critical self-awareness, Tambu narrates this skillful first novel by a Zimbabwe native. Like many heroes of the bildungsroman, Tambu, in addition to excelling at her curriculum, slowly reaches some painful conclusions--about her family, her proscribed role as a woman, and the inherent evils of colonization. Tambu often thinks of her mother, "who suffered from being female and poor and uneducated and black so stoically." Yet, she and her cousin, Nyasha, move increasingly farther away from their cultural heritage. At a funeral in her native village, Tambu admires the mourning of the women, "shrill, sharp, shiny, needles of sound piercing cleanly and deeply to let the anguish in, not out." In many ways, this novel becomes Tambu's keening--a resonant, eloquent tribute to the women in her life, and to their losses."

Anne Dalke's picture

to note

this guy (robert fairbanks) is teaching in bmc's soc dept now!
--maybe we should ask him to come and talk w/ us???
sounds like he has some interesting ideas re: the "recovery model":

Anne Dalke's picture

Ruth Wilson Gilmore

The Greater Philadelhia Women's Studies Consortium is bring Ruth Wilson Gilmore to the area in the fall.
I will be sure to get her to come to Bryn Mawr!

Anne Dalke's picture

plans for 2/21/14