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Notes Towards Day 7 (Tues, Sept. 25 ): "I,..."

Anne Dalke's picture

I. Silence by Dan (Erin is up for Thursday; we'll be pushed out by Alison Bechdel book-signing @ 3:45...)

full up and spilling over from our classes last week; our shared experience in the city on Saturday --followed by all your postings about that, plus your revisions/revisiting of your "silence" papers on Sunday

* I've decided to be silent, as a gesture of respect
to those papers--really! I loved it that you responded to one another; even those that didn't get responses were working through/re-working important stuff...and I don't think you need me to nudge or push or question....I'm happy to talk (remind you to meet w/ me once before fall break and I can't do 'em all the day before!)-- but I'm not going to post!

* I so want to be sure that you have time to read
(and if you want, to respond) to one another's posts (without entirely removing other reading from the syllabus!) --what needs to happen, for this to happen? how 'bout this Sunday (or Monday? need to coordinate due dates w/ Jody) 1/2 of you post, the other 1/2 read (and respond if you want? or do you have to?! what about folks who don't get responses...?)

posters responders
Chandrea jo
couldntthinkofa Michaela
Dan Owl
Erin sara.gladwin
HSBurke Sarah
Hummingbird Sasha
ishin sdane
jhunter Sharaai

* followed sdane's suggestion: now have the option of creating private posts

* and obviously, we are going to continue working on sharing silence in this classroom....

III. do that today w/ a silent dialogue, in two parts
a) re-visiting
Mad @ School, highlighting the "silencing" of mental difference/diversity/disability, by conventional academic forms (of coherent writing, but also of all forms of time-pressured performance)

Margaret Price's focus is not on the lack of access caused by raced/classed differences, but rather on different brain structures--> neuroatypical ways of thinking...and on the need for academe to better accomodate them

She is working in an emerging academic field (which grew from an activist movement) known as Disability Studies, which sees disability not as a medical problem, but as a social construction (parallel to much work on race and class as disabling, not inherently, but because of social structures/perceptions...); it's all about querying the "norm" (and so is totally related to/helpful to other projects in identity studies--> upcoming senior thesis on blackness as a disabling social structure in this country; cf. also jhunter's major work in this field)

b) re-visiting some of your posts about chosing silence
or feeling silenced in this classroom (and elsewhere on campus...)

format inspired by Unhibited's exercise, from last week, of "silent writing":
pause, read, pause, write, pause, pass, pause


1) Adrienne Rich (from On Lies, Secrets, And Silence: Selected Prose): “Whatever is unnamed..will become, not merely unspoken, but unspeakable.”

jhunter: I live in the walled community of Haverford College  but also in a second institution—the hospital….My medical issues and resulting pain are simultaneously the subjects about which I speak the most and the things that create the largest silences in my life….I cannot be a student over a patient nor can I pretend that one label defines me and the other does not. …


2) Margaret Price, p. 7: "Those of us who do function successfully in academe tend to pass much of the time."

Sarah: "I'm not crazy" ...  a lot of people on campus feel the same way as I do:  that they are never good enough,  that it seems everyone one else was given these secret codes and you missed the memo...this a general campus feeling...what could be done to start to fix this?


3) Margaret Price, p. 40: "all rhetors [do not] bring an ...equivalent sense of what concerns are 'reasonable,' what are 'rational' and 'appropriate' ways to voice ideas--in short, what sort of human to be in the classroom."

Hummingbird: Most of us had silenced our emotions in the classroom in order to protect the rules we’ve always assumed exist…Perhaps, most of all, we feared being deemed crazy….Our 360 is discussing incredibly heavy topics and if we don’t get …impassioned, upset, distraught, how can we think that studying this is productive? We need our emotions to help process these topics and we can use our emotions to push us to action.

ishin: Academia believes that emotions and our personal self get in the way of intellectual pursuit…"what gets left at the door" …fosters growth, enrichment, education….[BUT] you often never choose what came in with you after all


4) sdane: Sometimes people talk all the time in class, while still staying silent. ..I wonder if certain life histories carry more authority to talk about certain subjects.

Sarah: “who is allowed to represent who?” …given that I am white, is it important that I recognize the boundaries of who I can and can’t represent? And if I can’t represent someone, does that stop me from understanding them?

5) Sharaai: assurance might be a problem for me….I need to finish listening to someone’s thoughts before I begin to form my own

sara.gladwin: …I am so afraid to experience blindly, without the protection of words….I am going to actively try to “silence” myself as a method of becoming receptive what I eliminate by analyzing…

Uninhibited: I would like the opportunity to silence my own voice more often if it means I get the time to really pay attention to what my peers write about.

Dan: After Tuesday’s class, I felt so confused about my voice, about my place in the world and my privilege that I walked out of class in a daze, and ended up screaming in the woods...the only thing I feel confident about [now] is that it’s about time for me to be quiet.


6) Michaela: It's all heavy, sometimes more of a load than I can bear…[but] instead of counter-productively silencing ourselves …, I’d rather create a discussion that will foster both sensitivity toward privacy and thoughtful, productive communication with someone who needs it.

Jo: It can be a scary thing to have your opinion heard, to take a stand about something, to admit that you feel strongly or to make a decision. I suppose this is because we don’t have enough confidence or trust in ourselves.

Sasha: I just experienced being silenced and not wanting to be, but not really having a choice. This has happened many times - but I haven't made the connections since I wasn't in this class. Tonight was one of those really REALLY bad nights at UG....being in my uniform and working "for them" at the moment doesn't allow me to fully express my feelings ...I have no choice if I want to keep my job....Is it the uniform? Is it because you think I'm your servant? Is it the difference in class? Is it because I have no choice but to work here if I want to stay in school and maybe you don't?


7) Owl:  I learned that without vocalizing my worries and concerns I was never going to get anywhere. I learned that I could not worry about what might happen because, no matter what the consequence, change would never come if the first step was not taken.

Chandrea: the Kim and Markus article summed up my father’s views of quietness very accurately…quietness was viewed as a means of control …Could he help it that he saw an orderly house as a quiet one? He grew up only experiencing that …this is part of my family’s culture….By speaking up, I’m doing something that is almost unheard of. My use of voice has alienated me from the community that I’ve struggled so hard to identify with.

Uninhibited: “Tu te vas para la Universidad y regresas una gente nueva” (You go away to school and you return a new person) is what I’m afraid of hearing. I’m afraid of my academic success being used as a weapon to question my loyalty to my blood.


8) Sasha: As I re-read the prompt for this paper (which was about a thousand times), I still have trouble understanding it …which (with a little help from Sarah) led me to conclude that the openness/vagueness of the question is silencing me....When I am asked what does silence look like, I guess to me, it would be not being able to speak with such depth and understand the readings as much as my peers.

Hayley: My silence, I will readily admit, is self-imposed, but I won’t take all of the responsibility. I feel silenced because I just need space to think. Such heavy topics deserve a response that has been thought out. But there is no time for silence. …I find it ironic that in a class about silence we are ALL SO LOUD….I’ve felt offended by things said in class before, particularly those thoughts that speak to privilege …something within me feels like my concerns are not as relevant or important to discussion…. So, I’ve come to the conclusion (with a little help from Delpit) that I just need more structure.

However, I am uncertain as to whether the nature of this class makes that possible. I don’t want to infringe my needs on a group of women who are clearly flourishing in this environment. But if I don’t, I fear my voice may disappear altogether….I am still working out how I fit within this scheme and how I can make it work for me as a learner.


9) Erin: I have to admit that the permanent nature of our posts do seem more scary now especially when I look at my own writings after two weeks. Three weeks of in-depth discussion of silence with different kind of silence practice make my first analysis of silence so unconvincing and simple. I guess that’s why people always say writing is an endless process. I will not try to overthrow my reactions about silence but try to organize my thoughts in a more logic and connected way. At this point, I am still not sure about whether I get the essence of silence.
couldntthinkofanoriginalname: I have come to the realization that no one is truly powerful when using silence as a form of defiance or to exercise control..I now imagine that we are all, subconsciously and consciously, molding the presence of silence in our classroom. It is taking on our greatest fears, hopes, insecurities, etc and spewing it back at us, which sometimes results in misunderstandings, connections, and even “silenced dialogues.”

IV. Silent Cultures
a being who could not renounce saying many things would be incapable of speaking….Each people leaves some things unsaid, to be able to say others…any given silence has its identity as a stretch of time being perforated by sound (Ortega y Gasset).

turn to a partner, to share your initial reactions to the (spoken) memoir of Rigoberta Menchu

* then select a short passage that you find provocative/key/challenging,
to briefly share w/ your partner; we'll close by reading these aloud....

my own first reading
, on sabbatical in Guatamala, Fall 2006, the times, they are a-changing...,
highlighted her shift from traditional forms of "accepting
what is" to violent struggle against oppression;
but now I'm interested in how much she insists on silence....

on this reading, I had a very strong sense of the ethnographer,
Elisabeth Burgos-Debray, asking questions, and Rigoberta
repeatedly saying, "I'm keeping that secret...."

finish the text by Thursday, if you haven't yet....

V. keynotes from Menchu's biography:
b. 1959, received primary school education in Catholic boarding schools
family activists during Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996)
father died in burning of Spanish embassy (1980);
she escaped to Mexico (1981);
narrated life story to Venezulean anthropologist Elizabeth Burgos:
Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú y así me nació la conciencia"
(My Name is Rigoberta Menchu and this is how my Conscience was Born, 1983)
Nobel Prize (1992)
center of media controversy when authenticity of her testimony/
validity of her Nobel Prize was challenged by anthropologist David Stoll (1999)
filed complaint w/ Spanish court to extradite
former military rulers on charges of genocide, torture (2006)
worked w/ pharmaceutical industry to provide low-cost generic medicines
formed indigenous political party, was candidate for President of Guatemala (2007, 2011)
works now as peace ambassador to youth

a model both for speaking up and choosing silence...?