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Notes Towards Day 5: What's @ the End of the Rainbow....?

Anne Dalke's picture

What's @ the End of the Rainbow?
(if not a pot of gold....)


[Image from Promise House Christian Community Website]

I. For today, I'd asked you to "read around in" the final 1/3 of Roughgarden's book,
the section called "Cultural Rainbows." There she makes it clear that she is,
by this point in the text, traveling very far afield (=feeling out of her depth?):

"When writing about ecology and evolution, I wrote as a native about my hometown. With developmental biology, I wrote about the town next door. Here I write as a tourist in foreign academic lands, the last leg of my journey of discovery through academia. I apologize for my insensitivities to foreign academic traditions, but do not regret my criticism. Social scientists frequently denounce scientists' pretense to objectivity. i find social scientists just as flawed. They too deny the human dignity of gender-variant people."

This passage/last section of Evolution's Rainbow will work nicely as our bridge to the next section of the course,
which will highlight the work of one social scientist in the area of gender and sexuality.

We will spend the next three classes on the lifework of Sherry Ortner
(BMC '62; MacArthur recipient; Distinguished Professor of Anthropology @ UCLA).
We will read four essays in her summative collection Making Gender
(are there enough copies of the books in the bookshop?)
and two later essays from a more recent volume called
Anthropology and Social Theory: Culture, Power, and the Acting Subject
(which I'll very!soon! make available to you on-line @

--w/ username and password forthcoming...

Read the first 3 of these for Thursday; second 3 for next Tuesday
(when Sherry will join us!!); will have a third day (w/ no add'l reading) for processing.

Tuesday's readings--> pp. 21-42, 116-138, 173-180 in Making Gender:
classic 1972 "Is Female to Nature as Male is to Culture" (who's already read this?),
1995 commentary "So, IS Female to Nature as Male is to Culture?" and
1983 theory piece (important because diversity-preserving):
"The Problem of Women as Analytic Category."

Question up on forum for this week is about making this move from science to social science:
what do you notice about the shift in focus, methodology, questions, answers?
(might be interesting to say, as you answer that question,
where you feel "native," where a "tourist in foreign lands"-->
if the baby scientist says "wah!"; what does the baby anthropologist say?)

As always, my query is just a prompt; you don't have to respond to it,
but post about what you are thinking about....
think esp. about questions you might have for Sherry;
give her a heads up!

@ English Institute on "Genre" @ Harvard this weekend,
thinking about the categories that are "literary kinds."
Take home lesson: need 'em, but equally need to be able to alter
their types & contents as new capacities and needs arise;
we paid as much attention to the "oscillation" as we did to the "ossification" of genre,
as much to fluidity of categories as to their fixedness. Not to say we all agreed!
I suggested to Jonathan Culler that maybe the lyric could move
into the future by accommodating holsn39's "e-prime"--not happy!

But I do want you to work w/ me on revising
the ossified "genre" that is the academic essay....

Stop and process this for a moment....?
How was the experience of reading my comments on your papers on-line?
How is this on-line/out-loud thinking working for you more generally?
Important source for me, in designing these class sessions:

Plan for Today is Bi-Partite:

1. 1-on-1 conversation about two ideas that came up in the forum

2. step off from that into large group work on Roughgarden's
"Policy Recommendations" (particularly re: undergrad education).

On the forum last week, skindeep and owl had both been
provoked by Paul into a discussion of the matter of freewill:

skindeep: Free will ... is a tricky concept .... When we 'choose' something like our gender, sexuality or something basic like which ice cream to eat, we are rarely ever exercising free will. Our choices are always influenced by events, thoughts and experiences that were once prominent in our past.

owl: a comment that lingered on me was the that a contributor to diversity is free will. If diversity reflects free will, then does that mean that as individual's we choose to be the way we are in terms of gender? If so I do not think that I would be able to concur with this idea. I do not choose to be straight and I do not believe that others choose their gender either. I believe that gender is unique and natural to an individual; and to whom it may not be evident from birth, that is when personal experiences, sex, genes, culture and etc. reflect upon diversity. That is when one allows their surroundings and experiences to strengthen who they are within.

Do you think that you have chosen your gender?
What does "choice" mean in this context?
(turn and tell the person next to you)

Whether you think you chose your gender, or that is has been chosen for you:
what do you think we should do, on the social level, w/ this matter of gendered categories?

Cantaloupe: We all seemed to think that getting rid of such groups would be the best solution....
I think what society needs is more groups to better include everyone.

Paul: Maybe the not to eliminate categories altogether but rather to always treat them skeptically, valuing them insofar as they help us in "taking [Elephant's] mind to places it never thought it would go"  and discarding them otherwise? 

Think of one real-life application for your answer to this question
[some possibilities:]

re: Caster Semenya
twig's follow-up re: gender-separate sports teams?
[the obvious question of a woman's college....]
[turn and discuss this question also w/ your partner....]

II. Bring this conversation back to the large group.
(How are we doing, btw, as a large group?
For ex: how many of one another's names do we know?)

Roughgarden ends her book w/ a series of "Policy Recommendations"

premedical curriculum in biological diversity
medical curriculum in human sexuality
psychology curriculum in classifaction, eovlutionary biology, molecular genetics and endrocrinology

Medical Practice:
FDA-certified list of diseases
"           "        "    " medical procedures

Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology
Oath of Proessional Ethics: "I promise to protect the human gene pool. I promise to use biotechnology for peace."
Professional Biotechnologist License
Corporate Policy on Ethics
Epidemolgoical Impact Report
Common Code for Ecological and Environmental Impact Reports

A Public Symbol
"A Statue of Diversity" in San Francisco harbor

From the Rachel Grobstein Gallery
Roughgarden's recommendations range from
concrete curricular suggestions, through
technical applications, to a large cultural symbol

Given what you've read, and the discussions we've had about this reading,
what public policy recommendations (hers or others) seem to you
a way to begin acting on what you've learned?

How to (begin to) change the world to make it more affirming of diversity?
You can pitch your intervention @ the individual level (what will you do?)
or make it institutional (in this class; @ Bryn Mawr or Haverford),
national, international...
where shall we/do yo want to start?