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Towards Day 7 (T, 9/22): Taking play seriously

Anne Dalke's picture

I. coursekeeping
* name test

* From your last set of papers on "slippage":

Sasha M. Foster: The most obvious slippage during our tour was the fact that, while it purported to tell the history of blackness at BMC, it focused largely on the racist roots of Bryn Mawr from the perspective of the racists. While this is not an uncommon trait in the recitation of U.S. history, I found it strange that a tour claiming to be about “being black at Bryn Mawr” would focus so heavily on the narratives of racists, and have so few stories from the point of view of those discriminated against. The slippage, in this case, was not the blurting of a thought that would have gone unvoiced if possible, but instead an absence of thought. While the existence of three particularly prominent black people in Bryn Mawr’s history were mentioned, one was not given a name, nor a background, and another was never permitted to truly attend the college. Glaringly absent from the entire experience were quotes from the diaries of servants, the names of black workers, or even the name and history of the first black professor hired.

Yhamashima: I am neither black nor white, so I could see the history and listen to the guides objectively. Although I could, I did not. I was leaning to black side. I was imagining that the tour for African-Americans would be like the Atomic Bomb Dome tour for me, which is guided by American people. To be honest, the tour was uncomfortable. At first, I was moved by the courage of the first African- American student who graduated from Brynmawr, and that made me feel like crying, but gradually I felt discomfort in my heart because the history of discrimination against black people was explained by white people. If I, a Japanese, was explained about the nuclear weapon and the terrible memory of Hiroshima by American people, I would be upset, especially if they say “It is interesting to learn”. It is not fun for Japanese people at all.

isabell.the.polyglot: When our class was discussing our reaction of Black at Bryn Mawr, there was definitely more than enough slippage. First and foremost, we all assumed that Grace Pusey identified as a white woman just based on her looks. Until we were reminded that she may not identify as white, we all were judging her based off of what we believed were white attributes. … Also, a lot of people claimed that the Black at Bryn Mawr story would be better told by a black person. However, does this mean that it is better to have a black person who only knows that basic facts of the project be the tour guide, or is someone who has been working on this project and has been passionate about it run the tour? Is it the responsibility of the oppressed to speak out about their injustices, or can allies help as well? Can allies work independently of the underprivileged groups, or does there have to be a connection?

Where to go with these observations, feelings, desires...?
Bryn Mawr is a contact zone, where we "meet, clash and grapple" with one another and other dimensions of our environment (or don't!). After break, you will focus on some extension of this contact zone, working in pairs to design 6-week-long projects--which could include projects of working on more histories of Bryn Mawr, for your own identity group or others (interesting question of whether you can do research on a group not your own...anyone taking anthropology, know about the logic of the 'participant observer'? or anyone done therapy, know about the logic of someone 'outside' seeing more clearly than someone 'inside' it?]

* For Thursday: Review all your classmates' postings on their childhood experiences of play. Come to class having selected one of these (not your own), which you will be interpreting for your next paper.

By 5 p.m. Fri, 9/25: fourth 3-pp. "web event," using concepts drawn from the essays theorizing play (by Henig, Brown, Edensor et. al) to re-read a posting by one of your classmates on their childhood experience of play.

For Thursday's class, also read Tim Edensor, Bethan Evans, Julian Holloway, Steve Millington and Jon Binnie. Playing in Industrial Ruins: Interrogating Teleological Understandings of Play in Spaces of Material Alterity and Low Surveillance. Urban Wildscapes. Ed. Anna Jorgensen and Richard Keenan. New York: Routledge, 2011. 65-79.

This is a demanding text, so we're going to break it down.
Count off to four: in groups of 2-3, each one to focus on one of the 4 types of play:
1) destructive, 2) hedonistic, 3) artistic, 4) adventurous/expressive--
come in ready to give us a summary of the key point
(= definition of this type), and one example illustrating it.
Together we'll work through the remainder of the essay,
on what it means to "theorize play."
We're really going to be focusing on how the argument is constructed
(which will help you think about organizing your own papers...).

III. In the same groups of 2-3 (that we counted off into for Thursday's homework):
each of you read your posting, describing your childhood experience of play, to your group members.
Draw on these three stories (using dialogue, or visuals on the board, or silent pantomine, or...?)
to create a 3-minute enactment of "play."

IV. Juxtaposing our little "plays" with the three texts assigned for today--
Robin Henig, in Taking Play Seriously,
Stuart Brown's talk, "Play, Spirit, and Character,"
and Molly Knefel's "Kid Stuff"--
what do we see? what can we learn? How is the play we know, experientially,
like and-or-different from what they describe?
What does it mean to "take play seriously"?
What role does/might it "play" in your intellectual life?

Reading notes
Brian Sutton-Smith’s 1997 classic, ‘‘The Ambiguity of Play,’’ cited in Henig's article:
"For all its variety...there is something common to play in all its protean forms: variety itself. The essence of play is that the sequence of actions is fluid and is at its core ‘‘a behavioral kaleidoscope'....the best way for a young animal to gain a more diverse and responsive behavioral repertory."...‘‘I think of play as training for the unexpected”….”Behavioral flexibility and variability is adaptive; in animals it’s really important to be able to change your behavior in a changing environment.’’ Play…leads to mental suppleness and a broader behavioral vocabulary, which in turn helps the animal achieve success in the ways that matter: group dominance, mate selection, avoiding capture and finding food…..”children do not have unlimited imagination…Their make-believe and, by extension, other play forms, is constrained by the roles, scripts and props of the culture they live in.’’

Playing might serve a different evolutionary function too, he suggests: it helps us face our existential dread. The individual most likely to prevail is the one who believes in possibilities — an optimist, a creative thinker, a person who has a sense of power and control. Imaginative play, even when it involves mucking around in the phantasmagoria, creates such a person. ‘‘The adaptive advantage has often gone to those who ventured upon their possibility with cries of exultant commitment,’’ Sutton-Smith wrote. ‘‘What is adaptive about play, therefore, may be not only the skills that are a part of it but also the willful belief in acting out one’s own capacity for the future.’’