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Sylla-ship: Changing Our Story

Anne Dalke's picture


 Changing Our Story: Shifting Identities, Altering Environments
Sections # 28 & 29 of the Fall 2014 Emily Balch Seminars, offered by
Jody Cohen and Anne Dalke, in Taylor D and E, Bryn Mawr College

"There is no distant place anymore …. gone [is] … the very notion of objectivity ... totally subverted by the presence of humans in the phenomena to be described…The many important nuances between facts, news, stories, alarms, warmings, norms, and duties are all mixed up….those new emotions with which the Earth is now agitated …. through the highly complex workings of many enmeshed living organisms .… Gaia, a very ticklish sort of goddess … now become an agent of history … of our common geostory. The problem for all of us ... how do we tell such a story?" (Bruno Latour, "Agency at the Time of the Anthropocene," Winter, 2014)

Grounding ourselves in the domains of identity matters and ecological studies, we ask how different dimensions of human identity (such as race, class, gender, sexuality and religion) affect our ability to act in the social and natural worlds; simultaneously, we look at how these spaces shape and re-shape our identities and actions, individually and collectively. Our cross-disciplinary approach re-examines personal experiences through the differing orientations of the humanities, social sciences and sciences. Seeking fresh understandings, we revisit well-known examples of children’s literature, alongside Eli Clare's memoir, Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness and Liberation; Elizabeth Kolbert’s “unnatural history,” The Sixth Extinction; and Ruth Ozeki's novel, All Over Creation, as well as essays by-and-about community activists and educators Teju Cole, Paulo Freire, Van Jones, and Eve Tuck.

Syllaship ("because a bus isn't big enough")

There are a number of good on-line references that cover grammar and mechanics, as well as citation and documentation formats; you might want to consult either A Pocket Style Manual or A Writer's Reference. Writing With Sources covers the rationale behind citation practices, explaining why it's important to acknowledge your sources; the Balch Seminar Program will supply each of you with this text, and with Elizabeth Kolbert's book. We also ask you to buy or borrow copies of Clare's memoir and Ozeki's novel (both are on reserve @ Canaday Library); the remainder of our texts will be available on-line.

Week One: Where are We? Who are We?
Day 1, Tues, 9/2:
"reading" the classroom: what does our environment invite us to do? how does it invite us to be?

By 5 p.m. Wed, 9/3: first paragraph-long posting:
register yourself on Serendip, create a public profile with an avatar, and introduce yourself on-line by explaining the image

Day 2, Thurs, 9/4:
June Jordan, Report from the Bahamas, 1982, Meridians 3, 2 (2003): 6-16.

By 5 p.m. Fri, 9/5: first 3 pp. on-line essay. Starting off with an image (this could be the avatar you just created), reflect on your identity, and its relationship to others'.  Think about Jordan's description of the surprising connections and disconnections amongst us, about where self ends and others begin, about where-and-how dependency and interdependence are figured in your representation of yourself. Use whatever form best allows you to say what you have to say; and/but be clear about what ARGUMENT your STORY is making. Post this the same way you posted your introduction last night, but also tag it "web paper or special event"--AND e-mail a copy to your instructor.

Week Two: Encountering Others
By 5 p.m. Mon, 9/8: second short posting, describing a "contact" you've had with someone
"other" than yourself. Make this a 'webby' post, reacting to what someone else has said:
Log in first--then you might want to go straight to a 'visualization' of what's happened so far:
Or you could look @ the webby posts 'roadmap':
In either case, once you've read around in the posts that others have done, formulate
your contribution to the conversation that's evolving, and create a webby post:
Be sure to tag which post you're responding to, and the relation of your post to that one.

Day 3, Tues, 9/9:
Mary Louise Pratt, Arts of the Contact Zone. Profession (1991): 33-40.
--along with two short video examples:
Attenborough: the amazing lyrebird sings like a chainsaw!
Israeli attacks on Palestinean olive trees

Day 4, Thurs, 9/11:

Ursula LeGuin, The Ones Who Walk Away from Ormelas. The Wind's Twelve Quarters. New York: Harper & Row, 1975.
Octavia Butler, Bloodchild. Bloodchild and Other Stories. Seven Stories Press, 2005.

By 5 p.m. Fri, 9/12: second 3-pp. essay is due. We would like to re-consider the encounter in the “contact zone” you described in your short posting on Monday, in light of ONE of the three texts we are discussing this week.  In other words, how does LeGuin's, Butler's OR Pratt’s text alter your understanding of your own experience? OR: in what ways might your experience expand or revise our understanding of one of these texts?

Week Three: Encountering Limits
By 5 p.m. Mon, 9/15: second short posting, reflecting on the possibility/usefulness/costs of empathy.

Day 5, Tues, 9/16:
Minnie Bruce Pratt. “Identity: Skin, Blood, Heart.Yours in Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism. Ed. Elly Bulkin, Minnie Bruce Pratt, and Barbara Smith. New York: Long Haul Press, 1984. 11-63.

Day 6, Thurs, 9/18: Jenny Cameron, Stephen Healy, and J.K. Gibson-Graham. Chapter 4: "Take Back the Market: Encountering Others." Take Back the Economy: An Ethical Guide to Transforming our Communities (University of Minnesota, 2013. 85-123.

During class, we will work in pairs to design 10-week long projects documenting your own activities of consumption, as a way of exploring your extended "contact zones."

By 5 p.m. Fri, 9/19: third  "web event" (written in pairs)
describing the "consumption" project you plan to pursue. How will tracing your spending habits enable you to trace your "encounters" with others

Week Four: Intersecting Identities

By 5 p.m. Mon, 9/22: fourth short posting on your initial reactions to Eli's story.

Day 7, Tues, 9/23:
  Eli Clare, Part I: "Place." Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness and Liberation. Brooklyn: South End Press, 1999. 

Day 8, Thurs, 9/25:  Eli Clare, Part II: "Bodies." Exile and Pride.
Look out for keywords. Come to class having selected one of them: brainstorm (and record) your thoughts about what it means;
then do a simple etymological search for the history of the word (the on-line version of the Oxford English Dictionary,
available through Canaday Library, is GREAT for this, but there are many other sources, including Urban Dictionary...)
then begin to take some notes about how Eli Clare uses the term....
We'll take some time in class to work w/ each other on generating a paper topic out of these materials.
This is all preparation for what is due...

By 5 p.m. Fri, 9/26: fourth "web-event," a keyword analysis of a single word that is central to Exile and Pride.
The focus here is on working closely with the text, quoting from it, analyzing it...

Weeks Five-Six: Exploring play, as a particular mode of being in the world, encountering ourselves and others

By 5 p.m. Mon, 9/29: fifth short posting, describing your childhood experience of play.

Day 9, Tues, 9/30:
Robin Henig, Taking Play Seriously, New York Times (Feb. 17, 2008).

Stuart Brown, "Play, Spirit, and Character"

Day 10, Thurs, 10/2: Anne's class will meet in the chairs outside English House.
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.

By 5 p.m. Fri, 10/3: fifth 3-pp. web-event: a revision of paper #2 (on the contact zone) or #4 (on a keyword),
with a focus on making a claim that arises from the text and sheds a new light for you on a more general or abstract issue.

By 5 p.m. Mon, 10/6: sixth short posting reflecting on the limits of play.

Day 11, Tues, 10/7:  Anne's class will meet in the Cloisters.
Deborah Bird Rose, Stuart Cooke and Thom Van Dooren. "Ravens at Play." Cultural Studies Review 17, 2 (September 2011), 326-43.

Teju Cole, The White-Savior Industrial Complex. The Atlantic. March 21, 2012.

4:30-6 p.m Tues, 10/7 Created Equal Event: Ruth Wilson Gilmore speaking about Slavery by Another Name (Carpenter 21)

Day 12, Th, 10/9:  Read ALL the new postings on the limits of play--
AND review last week's, describing your childhood experiences of play. Come to class
having selected one of these (not your own), that you will be interpreting for your next paper.
Also bring all the readings we've done, so far, on play--and we will work together with these materials.
We'll also continue discussion of Cole's essay.

By 5 p.m. Fri, 10/10: sixth 3-pp. web-event: use concepts drawn from the essays theorizing play
(by Henig, Brown, Edensor et. al and Rose et. al) to re-read a posting by one of your classmates
(either on their childhood experience of play, or on the limits of play).

10/10-10/19 FALL BREAK

By 5 p.m. Mon, 10/20: post your initial reactions to Ozeki's novel

Weeks Seven-Eight: Identity Emerging in Environment
Day 13, Tues, 10/21:
Ruth Ozeki. Parts I-III. All Over Creation. Penguin, 2004 (pp. 1-168).

end class by writing mid-sem evals: what's playing? what needs playing with?

Day 14, Thurs, 10/23:  Ruth Ozeki. Parts IV-V. All Over Creation (pp. 169-309).

To prepare for your next paper, come to class with @ least three passages you have selected,
and are ready to share, from
All Over Creation, that interest you, and that
speak to the relationship between identity and environment; we will put you in small writing groups
(drawn from both sections), to help one another brainstorm  a possible shape/structure/argument
for your papers, based on and growing from those selections.

Here are the working groups:
Rachel, Haddiyah, Weilla
Rosa, Allie
Grace, Majorie, Meghna
Sherry, Sydney, Virushi
Farida, Emily, Umika
Rina, Boyang, Selena
Rose, Alisha, Bre
Nathalia, Anisha, Nayanthi

By 5 pm. Fri, 10/24: your seventh 3-pp. web-event -->
the first stage in a 2-week project, taking initial steps towards a paper
about the relationship between identity and the environment. We'll
be expecting a really rough draft, with lots of quotes and some
writing towards a shape, an argument...

By 5 p.m. Mon, 10/27: eighth short posting (x2): respond to your partners' rough drafts,
with three ideas you find interesting, and what you think their claim might be. Post this
as a comment directly to their draft.

Day 15, Tues, 10/28: 
finish Ruth Ozeki. Part VI. All Over Creation (pp. 311-417).

Day 16, Thurs, 10/30:  discussing Ozeki's whole novel....

By 5 p.m. Fri, 10/31: eighth 3-pp. web-event, on the relationship between identity and environment in the novel.

Week Nine: Exploring Place
By 5 p.m. Mon, 11/3:  in preparation for your ninth short posting: read these 2 short pieces -- Morris Woods: Living History and
Bryn Mawr College Tree Tour--
which foreground the botanical dimensions of this campus environment. Next, take ½ an hour
to sit or walk on campus, “reading the environment” in which you find yourself, by foregrounding the botanical. Then post a
paragraph (don't make this a webby post) giving a sense-based description of your experience. Feel free to include any questions
you have about the site.

Day 17, Tues, 11/4: Andrea Friedman, Meta/phor and Sentiment Core. Two Poems. April-May 2002.
Karl Kirchwey, Wissahickon Shist (2010)-- and a review of the poem by Ted Burke, School of Defeatitude.

Maria Luisa Crawford, Exploring the Campus Geologically.

Day 18, Thurs, 11/6:  bring the three poems to class with you, along w/ a copy of the Bryn Mawr Tree Tour and Morris Woods article. also read
Helen Horowitz,  “A Certain Style of  ‘Quaker Lady’ Dress” and “Behold They Are Women!
Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women’s Colleges From their Nineteenth-Century Beginnings to the 1930s. Knopf, 1984. 105-133.

Crafting the Educational Environment: A New Architecture. Candid Campus: The Lesser-Known Narratives of Bryn Mawr College.
The Alfred M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women's Education. 2014.

By 5 p.m. Fri, 11/7: ninth 3-pp. web-event, comparing your experience in the geological, botanical and architectural
environment of Bryn Mawr, with one or more representations of the College's environment in the materials we have read.

Week Ten: Encountering Extinction: An End to Identities, or…?

7:30 p.m. Mon, 11/10, in Goodhart Theater: Emily Balch Lecture by Elizabeth Kolbert
(with dessert to follow in Thomas Great Hall)--> no posting due! GO to the talk AND have dessert!

Day 19, Tues, 11/11:
Elizabeth Kolbert, Prologue, Chapters 1, 5 & 13, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. New York: Henry Holt, 2014.

By 5 p.m. Wed, 11/12: tenth short posting, summarizing the two additional chapters of Kolbert you read, and
reflecting on how they expand/challenge/complexify our focus (and/or what you thought you knew) so far...

Day 20, Thurs, 11/13:  The Sixth Extinction, continued: discussion with one another, reporting to one another on the chapters you read

Th, 11/13-Sun 11/16: Anne and Jody will be attending “Feminist Transgressions,” the
National Women's Studies Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, presenting with colleagues
about their work “Seeking Justice Inside and Outside the Walls” (on teaching in prison).

By 5 p.m. Fri, 11/14: tenth 3-pp. web-event
using the work we have done all week (summarizing Kolbert’s key ideas)
as a jumping off point both for describing what she is saying, and for reflecting on its implications. Please flag the
ways in which these reflections connect with, interact with and/or challenge other material we’ve read this semester.
In doing so, you will be gathering material you’ll be using to develop the thesis that you’ll articulate next week

Week Eleven
By 5 p.m. Mon, 11/17: no posting due; come to class
ready to share your thinking, so far, on your current writing project,
including especially which other text you connected to Kolbert;
come prepared, too, to speak in the voice of a character you've met/
author you've read this semester, in response to Van Jones' call

Day 21, Tues, 11/18:
Elizabeth Kolbert, Greening the Ghetto: Can a Remedy Serve for both Global Warming and Poverty? The New Yorker (January 12, 2009).

Day 22, Thurs, 11/20:
Review for discussion in class: instructions for your final Portfolio & Checklist
Paulo Freire, The Importance of the Act of Reading. Trans. Loretta Slover. Brazilian Congress of Reading, Campinas, Brazil. November 1981. Rpt. Journal of Education 165, 1 (Winter 1983): 5-11.

By 5 p.m. Fri, 11/21: eleventh 3-pp. web-event, using Kolbert’s key ideas as a jumping off point
to reflect on the implications of what she is saying.
Flag the ways in which these reflections
connect with, interact with and/or challenge other material we’ve read this semester.

Weeks Twelve-Thirteen
By 5 p.m. Mon, 11/24: eleventh short posting: Read Bowers' article on how "recover ecological intelligence."
skim the three other short selections we've linked to below, before choosing one to read more
carefully. Then, post on what you'd like us to talk about, and what questions you have about the material
that you'd like us to address in class.

Day 23, Tues, 11/25: 
C.A. Bowers. "Steps to the Recovery of Ecological Intelligence." OMETECA 43: 14-15.
Your Own Personal Ecosystem
The Human Microbiome project
Larval Subjects (Levi R. Bryant). Stacy Alaimo: Porous Bodies and Trans-Corporeality. May 24, 2012.

Thurs, 11/27: Thanksgiving


Day 24, Tues, 12/1: 
Ursula LeGuin. Vaster than Empires, and More Slow. The Wind's Twelve Quarters: Short Stories.  New York: Harper and Row, 1975. 148-178.

By 5 p.m. Wed, 12/2: twelfth short posting, listing 3 main ideas that
you see Latour offering, and one question his essay raises for you.

Day 25, Thurs, 12/3:
Bruno Latour. Agency at the Time of the Anthropocene. New Literary History 45, 1 (Winter 2014): 1-18.

By 5 p.m. Sun 12/7: twelfth 3-pp. essay, drawing on our recent readings (Van Jones, Friere, Bowers, LeGuin, Latour)
to reflect on what constitutes "ecological intelligence" (or: what intelligences do we need to think ecologically?)

Weeks of 12/8 and 12/15: Final round of writing conferences with Anne and Jody

Week Fourteen

Days 26, Tues-Thurs, 12/9-12/11: reporting out on our 10-week projects
By 5 p.m. Thurs, 2/11: thirteenth short posting, archiving the presentation of your 10-week project
(you're welcome to go back in, revise or add to the powerpoint presentation you already archived).

Prepare 5-7 minutes describing what your pair learned in-and-about your "expanded contact zone."
You will "track what you did" in your portfolio; your task here is less to "report" than to teach the class:
think pedagogically about you might most effectively share what you've learned (this could be in the form
of a conversation, q&a, hand-out, power point....); after each presentation,
we'll take a few more minutes for reflecting together on what you've shared.

By 5 p.m. Fri, 12/12: fourteenth short posting, reflecting first on your own project:  how might you carry this forward? With whom else might you share it? What else would you like to know-or-understand about your particular “enlarged contact zone”? Reflect next on what you learned from your peers: how did the range of presentations expand your sense of your contact zone?

By 12:30 p.m. on Fri, 12/19: College-wide deadline for all work, including
web-event #13 (a revision of an earlier paper) and your final portfolio

Additional Resources/Suggested Reading
Anne's Summer Reading Notes

Allen, Paula Gunn. Kochinnenako in Academe: Three Approaches to Interpreting a Keres Indian Tale. The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions. Boston: Beacon Press, 1986. 222-244.

Bryn Mawr Teach-In on Race, Higher Education, Rights and Responsibilities (including a recording of the talks). November 18, 2014.

Davis, Lennard. “The End of Identity Politics and the Beginning of Dismodernism: On Disability as an Unstable Category.” The Disability Studies Reader, ed. Lennard J. Davis. Second Edition. New York: Routledge, 2006. 231-242.

Haraway, Donna. Chapter 8, "Training in the Contact Zone." When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2008. 205-246.

Mathews, Freyda.  “On Desiring Nature.” Indian Journal of Ecocriticism 3 (2010).

Monbiot, George. How Wolves Change Rivers. October 19, 2014.

Roy, Ananya. Can We Shop to End Poverty? Mar 11, 2013 and Who Profits from Poverty? May 6, 2013.

Smith, Zadie. Elegy for a Country's Seasons.

Tuck, Eva. "Suspending Damage: A Letter to Communities."Harvard Educational Review 79,3 (Fall 2009): 409-427