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"The Singer May Be Innocent; Never the Song": Notes Towards Day 10 (Thurs, Sept. 29)

Anne Dalke's picture

I. coursekeeping
* Hanbin is placing us back in our classroom
Irene will select our site for Tuesday (needs to be near Jody's class
in Taylor G, since we will join up for the second 1/2 of class...)

* By 5 p.m. tomorrow, your fifth 3-pp. web-event is due, revising one of your earlier papers,
bringing in another text, looking for some kind of tension, some “crack,” some difference
that you might use to work the texts against-or-with one another.

* For Tues, please read the fourth chapter in a book by
Jenny Cameron, Stephen Healy, and J.K. Gibson-Graham available on-line,
Take Back the Economy: An Ethical Guide to Transforming our Communities. 
The whole text is available as an e-book through Canaday Library; we're
asking you to read one chapter entitled "Take Back the Market: Encountering Others,"
which is linked directly from the syllabus. [Not ideal reading: can't download it...]

* this book is our introduction to new section of the course, "Expanding Our Contact Zones."
With Pratt's help, we've been talking about Bryn Mawr as a contact zone, where we "meet,
clash and grapple" (or don't!) with one another and other dimensions of our environment.
During Tuesday's class, we will begin working together in pairs to design long-term projects
focusing on some extension of this contact zone. These might include projects like those
described in the chapter we've assigned, "Take Back the Market," documenting y/our activities of
consumption; they could also include archival work or interviews, contributing to the development
of more histories of Bryn Mawr, like the one told in "Black at Bryn Mawr."

By 5 p.m. on Monday, your fifth short posting is due--a paragraph suggesting an idea you
want to pursue for your long project; we'll use these postings to structure our class discussion
(and to locate partners for doing your research).

II. turn attention to Cole--
coupla stories from panel @ Penn 10 days ago;
his thinking v. compatible w/ Jody's and my book,
on the complexities of not knowing self/others:

"looking at others, you understand they don’t have to give themselves up to us"
an exploration of “opacity”: right not to have to be understood on others’ terms;
the right to be misunderstood; a stance against certain assumptions of transparency;
defending the inscrutability of marginalized peoples, when external pressures
insist on everything being illuminated, explained;
gentle refusal holds true

but then the counteradvice, on taking time to really look/take in photographs

trusting that in a patient description of a work of art something begins to happen
very patient description can be the door...
once we know what we are looking @,
interpretation can be a small grace note after that….

also spoke about his experience of being an immigrant to the U.S.:

how his work comes from being perennially surprised:
"immigration gives you a running start";
"out of that space you might as well be weird,
do your own thing, do what interests you…"

translation starts with making sense of what you are encountering,
being responsive to environment and true to other currents
"the core of what I wanted to do had to do w/always being aware
of the share I have in the other: nothing human is strange to us"

am a single-issue voter: my issue is foreign I take very seriously the premise that Ams are not more
imp’t than ppl who are not…comes from having one foot outside
genuinely constantly surprised that left-leaning ppl can chant USA—
mystifies me, as an American citizen, deeply invested in possibilities
of conversations we can have, liveable for us all--
but remain shocked by your jingoistic patriotism...
racism is not what one person says to another; the core of it

is a structure that very much favors white prerogatives….

also described his history (med school/art history/now photojournalism,

critical writing....): "I love quitting! gotta keep it moving"
"philosophically very imp’t: don’t be trapped by the last

good thing you did: trust the universe,
that where that came from there will be something else—
don’t turn yourself into a performing monkey—move on!
I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do; the freedom

to move on is the engine behind the intensity of anything I do:
don’t have to do it forever, super intensely

III. 11:40-12:20: take a minute to look over Cole's text.
What questions does it raise for you?
(These can be factual—what was the KONY 2012 video?
or existential—what am I supposed to do with these ideas?
or anything in between…) Write these down.

Let’s go around: what’s one question that this text raised for you?

Try to answer some of these…
My question: what would Teju say @ a dinner party with
Debbie, Stuart and Thom (of "Ravens @ Play")? How does his
argument intersect with theirs (or not)?

IV. 12:20-12:40: I've put you into writing pairs:
Amanda and Maia
Katarina and Francesca
Toni and Ginneh
Melinda and Morine
Han Bin and Rachel
Princess and Cathy
Beatriz and Irene

You each get 10 minutes of attention from your partner,
helping you to think about how to shape this revision:
thesis? supporting evidence? shape of the paper?
Remember some of advice from conference:
It can be very helpful to help someone else think through their claim
(Jody and I did this for each other A LOT last winter!)

Once you have finished, take a few minutes to write out a revision plan:
What do you want to change or think more about as you revise this essay?
How do you plan to do this?

12:40-12:45: Return to large group: check in? Observations, insights, questions?

Reading Notes

Teju Cole writes, in his essay on "the White-Savior Industrial Complex," that
the banality of evil transmutes into the banality of sentimentality
this is not about justice; it is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege
"I am a novelist. I traffic in subtleties, and my goal in writing a novel is to
leave the reader not knowing what to think. A good novel shouldn't have a point."
cumulative effect of policed language/enforced civility:
speaking plainly is seen as unduly provocative.
Jason Russell is "tonally similar" to Nicholas Kristof:
"His good heart does not always allow him to think constellationally.
He does not connect the dots or see the patterns of power behind the isolated "disasters"...
he sees no need to reason out the need for the need."
more to doing good work than "making a difference":do no harm/consult w/ those being helped
Cole writes from "multiple positions": as an African, American, novelist, story-writer,
resisting the song of Africa as backdrop for white fantasies,
acknowledging the genuine hurt of the continent,
naming its problems as both intricate and intensely local?
American "help" begins with some humility...
respect for the agency of people in their own lives.
If Americans want to care about Africa, maybe they should
consider evaluating American foreign policy...
before they impose themselves on Africa itself....
"American interests"...have a bearing on our notions of our right to "help."...
begin our activism with the money-driven villainy @ the heart of American foreign policy.
If we are going to interfere in the lives of others, a little due diligence is a minimum requirement.