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Seeing Stigma

An Active Mind's picture

Hi everyone,

I'm so sorry I wasn't able to make it to your class last Tuesday, but I've posted some of what I had planned on talking about below.  I'm sure you all ended up having an interesting discussion--your class seems great!


Seeing Stigma

How it came to be…

  • Emerged out of an independent study
  • I had know Anne through Active Minds (a mental health advocacy organization on campus, which had also inspired my pseudonym on Serendip); she started serving as our faculty advisor in the fall of 2011
  • We had had many conversations concerning mental health on campus and discussed different ways we could increase awareness about these issues, both among faculty and students
  • Anne introduced me to disability studies one summer when we were talking about my summer research
  • Realized that we both had a real attachment to literature (Anne being an English professor and myself an English major) & I really wanted to continue our conversation about mental health/illness through the context of literary studies; in a way we had a shift in genres—moved and altered our direction and focus
  • At the last minute, I asked Anne if she’s be willing to do an independent study with me & she very generously said yes
  • Anne suggested that instead of writing a traditional midterm and final paper that I blog (she was doing another independent study at that time and said it would be a good way to outline the context of our course; we could also continue our conversations even when we weren’t together)


What it was like doing it….

  • I had no prior experience with blogging (I did, however, get some advice from Jen who is the digital expert!)
  • Fun diversion from my thesis; less conventional and rigid 
  • One of the hardest courses I’ve taken at BMC because it really prompted a blending of the personal and academic, something I wasn’t familiar with; I was always taught that academia was objective, it was distanced—but with Anne I was really forced to open myself up & use my own experiences as an academic lens
  • Found it difficult to study what I was (felt that my emotions concerning particular topics were too strong, which didn’t allow for that “steady” academic thinking); the project made me start to think a lot about fields we may or may not have an identification with—what might be the problematics or possibilities of doing work in a self-identified field?   
  • At times I felt vulnerable posting about my experience living with OCD on the internet, which were feelings I thought hard about, considering what they meant in the context to “stigma”; struggled with this notion of anonymity—why, in a blog that dealt so much with the difficulties encountered by individuals with invisible disabilities, individuals who are often forced to straddle the disjunction between appearance and identity, did I choose to remain invisible?  Was I only enforcing the stigma I was trying to break down? 
  • Liked being able to archive my (and Anne’s) thinking process; after we would meet and discuss various concepts and ideas, instead of changing my posts, I would go it and comment about our discussions and why they had changed my mind on certain issues
  • It was also freeing; I’m someone who likes things finished, but blogging really forced me to appreciate process (as outlined in the Digital Humanities Manifesto) and relish what’s more raw, rather than finished
  • Ended up being very interdisciplinary—I analyzed anything from Lady Gaga’s new album to newspaper articles that people sent me, to panels Active Minds held; opened up much more space for me, a space beyond the typical confines of the academic classroom (reminds me of Jen & Aya’s work, both which deals so much with space & breaking down walls)


How it was received (and by whom)…

  • Not sure how many people have looked at it
  • Did get some comments from other faculty members (for example, Alice Lesnick in the education department and Kristin Lindgren—a professor of disability studies at Haverford)
  • One girl who also struggled with OCD and was interested in pursuing disability studies in graduate school commented and said she had found the blog helpful


What are your reactions, now, to one another's work…

  • Aya
    • Wish I had done something like this for my HHG; really generative means of organizing all of her ideas (I instead come back to school after a summer of research with a huge binder full of papers, which really wasn’t able to illustrate the narrative of my own thinking process)
    • Really get a sense of chronology, or temporality of the blog—this temporal marking of thought is so interesting; again, an emphasis on process over product
    • Like the mixing of genres—both personal narrative & academic (allows you to see how research can congeal so easily with the world around you); for example, she compares Wharton and Woolf’s effort to make space for themselves to her own effort to do the same (space of research, carrel, etc.); really loved this merging of contexts
    • Telling quotation:  “I’ve had trouble ending this partially because I enjoyed it but also because almost everything I have learned about research from the beginning to the end urged me to avoid the dichotomies of beginnings and ends, questions and answers. Certainly information can be arranged in this pattern but at times there seems to be much more worth fighting for in a show-and-tell kind of discovery process than one regulated by firm organization.”



  • Very explorative; hands on
  • Struck how the format allows each word of Moore’s poems to be given such privilege (for example, she has such lengthy analysis given to the world “tiger lily” or “silver stitch”), a privilege that may not be prefaced in a typical, bound thesis; really allows you to relish language
  • Love how layered her thesis is
    • Hyperlinks allow for a uncovering—one different from the mere turning of a page; allows for more meandering; I enjoy its diversion from linearity and what this diversion opens up in terms of our understanding of both Moore, but also agency and space
      • When you open the webpage, you’re not necessarily given direction as to where to start, which is also freeing
      • Very textured—physical scans of Moore’s Bryn Mawr poems, the text itself, audio readings; can almost feel the thesis, even though you’re not actually holding it; to me, it seems more tactile than physical text (perhaps because of its layering)
      • Admire her dislocation of temporalities and melding, again, of the personal and academic—enjoyed her reading of “To the Cupbearer” followed by her personal reflection of her own experience at Bryn Mawr (a narrative that might normally be left out of the typical academic thesis)