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Teach-In: Privilege and Precarity

Amophrast's picture

For our final performances/the teach-in, I worked with Katie Randall and kammy. Our performance had two halves: a world portrait of privilege (or lack thereof), and balancing privilege and precarity.

For the first activity, we did a smaller scale version of the "world portarit" village of 100 people, based on statistics from this website: We focused on specific statistics, such as gender, literacy, poverty, access to electricity, etc, and scaled them down to a class of 25 people.

-          Gender

o   12 male

o   13 female

-          Geography

o   1 from North America

o   2 from Latin America/Caribbean

o   3 from Europe

o   15 from Asia

o   4 from Africa

-          Overall literacy

o   20 would be able to read/write

o   5 would not

-          Education

o   16 would have a secondary school education

-          Urban/Rural

o   12 Urban

o   13 Rural

-          Technology

o   8 would be cell phone subscribers

o   4 would be active internet users

-          Electricity

o   19 would have electricity

o   6 would not

-          Drinking Water

o   21 would have access to safe drinking water

o   4 would not

-          Food

o   4 would be undernourished

-          Poverty

o   13 would live on less than 2 USD a day

o   12 would not

Starting out the semester with the notion of diffraction made me think about what was being highlighted here, and what was being erased.

Statistically, what is erased is

§  Intersex

§  College education—our classroom officially stops existing

§  No one would own a computer


§  Tuberculosis

Based on everything we've been reading this semester, things like this don't "work out" statistically. If you have one card, you're more likely to get another. We had several situations come up where someone would have a card that said they have a cell phone, but perhaps they'd also have no access to electricity and live on less than 2 USD/day. It also doesn't discuss which statistics overlap, or as jmorgant pointed out in class, gray areas such as people who have access to electricity for 12 hours a day, etc.


In our second exercise, we wanted to examine four autthors in terms of what makes them precarious and what makes them privileged. We chose to represent this by having one of us stand in for an author and have our group members put rocks in our backpack that would weigh us down with precarity, and then take out rocks that would lighten us with privilege. Our original four authors were Eli Clare, Chris Cleave, Joan Roughgarden, and Karen Barad, but we ended up only having enough time to discuss Eli Clare.

So, for example: Eli Clare has a disability. Put in a rock for precarity. Eli Clare can read and write, in English. Take out a rock (or two, as we did) for privilege. For me, the interesting part of this activity is while we got about the same number of responses for things that made him privileged and things that made him precarious, the ideas from the class came a lot faster when we were talking about privilege. I was a bit disappointed that we couldn't do all of the authors, because I predicted that for Chris Cleave it would be easier to find things that made him privileged rather than precarious, and thus we'd be trying to take out rocks that weren't even there. (Kaye's wonderful solution was to get helium balloons!--and then we could visually chart how high or low people are in comparison to each other. Who is weighed down the most? Who is floating high above our heads? How long did it take to put them in that position?)