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lived experience/limited spaces: going beyond the surface

kwilkinson's picture

What do we want to manifest here?  What are the answers that we are looking for?  What am I trying to unveil?  Is that my place?


Through many of my learning experiences at Bryn Mawr I have come to understand that there are limited spaces available for people to facilitate a praxis of the self--where lived experience jives with academia--manifesting an enriching but UNCOMFORTABLE experience.  This is the space where we truly grow, but why is this place often challenged to provide validity? 

Although I believe lived experience is immeasurable, we often times do not record our thoughts in their "purest" or most "organic" state: stream of consciousness.  These thoughts are categorized within a preliminary stage because they are considered to be not suitable or polished enough for an audience.  Therefore many of these ideas become censored (good or bad?), thus possibly falsifying the actual syntax or connecting of information, places, and people that have influenced our opinions in the first place. 

For this project, I hope to eliminate many of these barriers for myself.  I want to find a way to ensure authenticity through language, but since this language isn't MINE I am not sure if that will happen... Throughout the semester we will examine different vehicles of language and communication through the lens of intersectionality, but I am not sure what I want to unfold yet.  Stay tuned...

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kwilkinson's picture


            This semester has been my hardest academic semester to date.  At the beginning of this year I knew that I was David and my course load was Goliath—maybe I had too much faith in my self—but honestly I just wanted to prove myself.  I think the hardest part about this year was coping with changes in plans that I had created to control my anxiety disorder and ADHD, the uncertainty of plans for next year, my entire support system physically and how triggering is a real thing that can fuck up your day at any given moment.  Right now I know I am now in the right head space clearly what I am going through is tough—seeing all my friends graduate—but honestly this semester, really the last two weeks, I have felt helpless to my anxiety (weak).  This is probably the most painful baggage I carry at this point, because not being able to control and bracket my emotions are the reasons for my academic failure—that is even more exasperated when I shutdown.  There are so many time when I want to ask for help, but the thought of being burdensome to another person, for me to transfer this pain feels wrong, even selfish.

            I struggle everyday with trying to find the language to ask for help, because I do feel like I ask for help but I am not getting what I need.  There aren’t really systems in play that help students come back into the college after taking time off.  There is nothing here to help you cope with your displacement, you are simply treated as a divergent to academic order—very individualized.  I often time struggle to figure out what is wrong and what do I need, this has to be the most frustrating part of my situation.  I honestly don’t know what to do—I feel disabled, but now disempowered.  I think I have finally come to the point that I accept my anxiety and ADHD as real medical issues that need to be taken more seriously. I have to stop trying to survive with it, but instead embrace my difference and live with it.  I have to remember that this part of my identity is honestly beautiful, it makes me who I am—but if I let my anxiety define me I failed.  I am sorry I have digressed so much from our self-evaluation, but I think it’s relevant to our course this semester and how I have been able to deal with balancing time and really trying to create a bridge for myself where the personal can meet the political. 

            In our independent study I initially wanted to find a way to create mantrafesto’s to create a form of resistance within the Bryn Mawr and greater academic community.  My intent was to interview professors of color at Bryn Mawr and their lived experience, as I believe it has become one of the most marginalized and silenced populations here.  I was going to use these voices as calls for change with in our community, to create a dialogue that was non-linear and unsettled—too emulate the identities being expressed and then used to represent myself.  Although I don’t consider this to be appropriation, I also didn’t want to attempt to fuel a hostile environment for people of color on campus that would most likely go ignored or be fleeting.  I wanted to create something meaningful for students and really return to my goal of facilitating people to be unencumbered and un-fragmented.  I want to create a space in which students are able to have to personal meet the political because through our journey I have come to realize the absense of this praxis through academic merit and worthiness.

            In our independent study this semester I think I was able to gain a wider perspective on Bryn Mawr as an institution, and the thousands of communities that exist within it.  When we started with Cosmopolitan Canopies, I think that this actually helped me get to my current plan to work with a smaller group—that I believe will manifest itself into a community.  Given that I believe that Bryn Mawr is a pseudo-cosmopolitan canopy, in which we are taught to abide by norms and rule of tolerance, civility, and good will.  However this goes against the idea that we are in fact a cohesive undergraduate community, instead we are a collective of smaller communities (canopies if you will) that tolerate one another but there is no real goal to learn and understand one another.  After reading Iris Marion’s Young theoretical claims and analysis of politics of difference, I think that this was helpful to allow me to see the relationship we have at Bryn Mawr: curriculum of diversity that wants to promote difference, but only by way of sameness and assimilation.  If at Bryn Mawr we were able to recognize that there is no way that we can truly understand each other holistically: academia, lived experience of self-affirmed identity, and the ways in which these seemingly fragmented spheres are reciprocal constantly impacting one another.  Although I did not complete that many of the assigned readings, I was able to produce an immense amount of writing.  Anne’s papers take me FOREVER, but honestly it’s because these are the times when I am actually able to work through the emotional and mental factors that impact the ways in which I am able to learn and exist at Bryn Mawr.  I also think that the list I provide will be able to give you some insight on how many other factors I am bringing into my writing for our independent study.  Even though many of these things are not cited or used in any capacity to support my argument—they are the voices in my head that produce my reactions in order to write a paper.  I don’t want to learn only through the “vetted” and superior voices of academia, but instead authentic voices that prove their resistance through honesty and agency.

            I am not really sure where I go from here.  I don’t know what is going to happen.  I think I need to have a little faith—or actually a lot.  I am so close to finishing, but I am not sure if the college will allow me too.  There comes a point when I question what is this even worth—what does this degree even mean?  Right now it means that I didn’t give up—because that is failure.  I have to remember that I never judge others on their mistakes, just the ways in which they pick up the pieces.  Thank you for always being there to help me put the pieces together Anne—you always give me perspective and strength when I cannot muster it up for myself.    

kwilkinson's picture


Although it is often taken for granted, the different ways in which we communicate are vast--ranging from explicit to nuanced even unspoken.  Writing, body language, eye motions, speech, multimedia/artistic expression, and overall presence are examples of some of the different ways in which we communicate--especially when one exists in a spaces such as Elijah Anderson's "Cosmopolitan Canopy."  These spaces are founded on principles of civility, tolerance, and goodwill--therefore promoting interracial interactions, both interpersonal and impersonal, between inhabitants of the canopy.  Given the highly integrated nature of cosmopolitan canopies racial tensions are a common occurence, which inherently break/disrespect the principles they are founded on. 

After reading Cosmopolitan Canopy I was left feeling unsatisfied and annoyed.  I think this was because of Anderson's sociological method of using Weber's ideal types, tended to generalize races into the socially constructed oppressive stereotypes placed on them by society already:  blacks=distrustful and uncivil; whites=trusting and good.  I felt that within cosmopolitan canopies, Black people had to prove themselves more and "perform" in an VERY normative way whereas Whites seemed to just exist. 

I guess this seemed rather obvious to me because after reading I felt that Bryn Mawr was the ULTIMATE cosmopolitan canopy, however now I think that our interactions are more personal due to various traditions, academic pursuits, and dominant "feminist" ideology.  Although I also think these are points of discourse and cleavage amongst community and institutional members due to different lived experiences and racial/ethinic identities.  Although these stereotypes are so real, they are incredibly hard for me to swallow--to understand that this is how others ACTUALLY think.  It is difficult to think that in academia--people/persons can be grouped together in a way that limits voices and only allows for certain people to make generalizations and language for them. 

I guess this is really just a reflection of our reality--that this is a normative-functionalist practice.  However if you actually think about all the hyper-socialization that is actually necessary to socially reproduce two polar opposite realities:  a racial caste system/negative difference, but can then be a "post-racial" or "diverse" or "color blind" (all my LEAST favorite words) community (society?).

Is this a metaphor for language?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

kwilkinson's picture

class posting for meeting 2 (unfinished)

Iris Marion Young: The Ideal of Community and the Politics of Difference


I want to start off my posting by saying... I LOVED THIS READING AND EVERYTHING YOUNG IS ABOUT.


Thinking Questions:

What does community look like at Bryn Mawr?  How do we measure community?  What ideals evoke affective values within Bryn Mawr... is this similar to the "Cosmo Canopies"?  Where does community exist here--are there places we can pinpoint?  Can community and feminism exist similtaneously?  Is community (as an ideal) actually a bad thing? 


 (this isn't complete... I didn't have time to finish before class!  I'm sorry!)