Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

"Seasonal Ethics": Notes Towards Day 9 (Tues, Sept. 27)

Anne Dalke's picture

I. coursekeeping

* foregoing discussion in "Race-ing Ed"?

* For Thursday, please read two short stories by Diane Glancy,
a poet, author and playwright of Cherokee descent (whom
Thomas King mentions on p 122, as describing stories
that "take you all your life" to tell--this suggests the
layers in her stories!--and also the "Glossary of Haunting"
by Eve Tuck
(whom I introduced you to last Thursday),
and a collaborator named C. Ree (about whom
I can find nothing; assuming creator of installation, Dark Water]

I'm also planning for us to spend some of Thursday's class in small
group writing workshops, to jump start the paper due next Monday,
in which you will use one text (from any discipline) to read one of our literary texts.
Bring with you to Thursday’s class A PARAGRAPH OR A SERIES OF NOTES/
BULLET POINTS about what you might do. What text will you read,
and what text will you read it with-and-through?
Bring a hard copy of these notes.
[This exercise will be a waste of time if you don't prepare!]

If you are also interested in a writing conference, to
discuss that draft w/ me, this is the week to schedule that.

Give you an example of "what I'm looking for" from Amaka's posting after class last week.
As we know, she brings a philosophical lens to literary discussions:
She begins her posting with a passage from Frederick Douglas, that "submission on the part of the slave
has ceased to be a virtue," reflecting that, in a post-slave context, "conduct and performance are
uninterested in 'liberation,'" and links this to the current assumption that somehow individual behavior
will transform group stereotypes. [I take it that this is also what bothered you about Kris Graves'
"desire to show black men as 'undangerous,'" asking what's the role, in liberation,
of representation, presentation, character, conduct?] saying "Black people aren't dangerous"
threatens to strip them of political power, and the power to resist, fight, overcome;
people oppressed by the power structure ARE dangerous to that structure when/as organized . . .

Okay, so starting with those texts/those ideas--Amaka might re-read Lemonade (maybe
set straight bell hooks, who denounces the music video as a "fantasy fictional narrative
of emotional violence, celebrating rage," as not liberatory, not offering a "just culture of
optimal well being"? These ideas could also offer a re-reading of the tender ending
of Beloved, as a literary text that very much located in individual relations....

Here's another hint/guideline:
Kris Graves said that he'd been inspired by photojournalists
to tell stories in an image, with no text; when Jody and I
went to hear Teju Cole speak @ Penn the week before last
("The White Savior Industrial Complex"; Nigerian immigrant/
American citizen/photojournalist/photographer critic)
he said something similar: taking time to really look/take in photographs,
trusting that in a careful 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….

II. Last week, Amaka also talked a little about her mother's work in Digital Humanities,
gathering/archiving maps of Indian territory; one showed a Lenni Lenape "village or fort,"
Nittabakonck, sited on the land that is now Bryn Mawr.

Grace Pusey also wrote about this in her posting on
Early Bryn Mawr Black History, 1719-1824, @ Black @ Bryn Mawr, :

William Penn acquired the 1,200,000 acres that now comprise much of Pennsylvania by compensating the native Lenape 1,200 pounds sterling in exchange for a quitclaim to vacate their territory. Though the sum is widely regarded as a fair exchange, the circumstances under which the exchange occurred were extreme. Between 1600 and 1750, the native Lenape population plummeted to 10% of its size prior to European colonization. Wars with early Swedish and Dutch settlers, the introduction of diseases to which the Lenape lacked immunity (such as smallpox, measles, mumps, and scarlet fever), and emigration propelled by settler exploitation of Lenape natural resources accelerated the population’s decline. During the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the Lenape attempted to reassert control over their land and fend off further British encroachment on their territory. In an unlikely twist of fate, Charles Thomson, who managed Harriton House from 1774-1824, was appointed by the Lenape to advocate on their behalf at the Easton peace conference at the end of the war. Unfortunately, the compromise reached in 1758 with the Treaty of Easton required the Lenape to move westward into Ohio and beyond. Thomson nonetheless continued to advocate for the Lenape, publishing An Enquiry into the Causes of the Alienation of the Delaware and Shawanese Indians from the British Interest in 1759.

In the 1860s, most Lenape who remained along the eastern seaboard were removed to the Oklahoma Territory, where they were incorporated into the Cherokee Nation by U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 1894 and 1904. In 2006 the Lenape appealed to the Supreme Court to reinstate their status as an independent federally recognized tribe, but the Court refused to hear their case. Today, there are Lenape people living in Ontario, Canada; Oklahoma; Ohio; Wisconsin; New Jersey; and Pennsylvania. There remains a community of urban Indians in West Philadelphia, not limited to members of the Lenape tribe, who have adopted the namesake Lenapehoking to where they live. Many members identify as having both African and Indigenous ancestry.

It's very striking to me that
as the Lemonade syllabus led us to Beloved,
and the Beloved syllabus led us to slave narratives,
a syllabus of slave narratives would lead us into
the history of native peoples,
who have been racialized so differently in this country (as
Eve Tuck explains), via subtractive rather than expansive measures.

III. This is very much related to what Thomas King provoked
us into thinking about last Thursday:
* a series of questions linked to those of socio-/racio-linguistics:
“how we should talk” is related to “how we should appear"
* how do we perform race? what does it mean to perform our race?
* how much is (successful) performance
grounded in some sense of “authenticity”--
and what is that? either our own sense of this,
or others' projections of what that looks like?
* on p 68, King writes about the impossibility
of performing outside existing scripts
* but he also explores, throughout his text, how we might
think about performance as a mode of resistance,
of "setting the record straight"

III. 3: 45: Today, we finish talking about King's collection of stories.
if the "punch line" of the first 1/2 of the books was what he wrote on p. 60--
"What's important are the stories...we make up to try to set the world straight,"
for me, the point of the second 1/2 is what he says in the Afterword, p. 166:
"I find it easier to tell myself the story of my failure as a friend...
than to have to live the story of making the sustained effort to help..."

At the end of a book chock full of examples of being "chained" to stories,
which, "once set loose in the world," can be dangerous--
the paradox of being "controlled" by stories,
which themselves cannot be "controlled"--
at the end of a book
in which "the truth about stories is that that's all we are" (p. 122),
King hits us with the difference between telling a story and living it,
with our inclination to tell a story in order NOT to change our behavior.

What to do with this???

Where else do you want to enter/what do you want to discuss??

Talk for a while about this/other issues he raises for us...

IV. 3:15: organize yourself into small groups
(3 ppl each) to put these ideas into visual/verbal/oral form:
act out what seems to you most important in this text
(p. 117): narrative style privileges repetition, hyperbole, orality
as storytelling strategies; humorous ("inventiveness of tone")
(p. 151): turn this story into a play

V. 3:30: act these out...and discuss...

Reading/discussing/performing Thomas King is good preparation for your paper:
what strategy will you choose for telling your story/arguing your theory,
what values will that strategy suggest?
What sort of map for living will your tale draw for us?

Reading Notes
IV. A Million Porcupines Crying in the Dark
hopeful pessimist: stories as medicine to change the world:
told differently to cure or injure (Louis Owens' story of the long walk home; and suicide)
p. 95: surrounded by stories we can trace back to others, cultural cornerstones
p. 97: oral literature not quantifiable; ethnocentric stumble over tribal pictographic systems
Scott Momaday on white insensitivity to language, and Native valuing of it
bibliography as eulogy; border as figment of imagination
p. 103: The Deerslayer: "skin makes the man"=essence of racism:
p. 104: "their natures": revenge is an Indian gift and forgiveness is a White gift;
White Reason vs. Native Instinct
p. 105: Native writers work in present; past too well populated/
defended: trapped in time warp/dead
p. 106: point of story about plate in his head?
Now, where was I?
known world of Christianity as open door to Native universe:
p. 109: examine distinct/opposing good/evil;
within the Pueblo world, evil and good are... tributaries of the same river
p. 110: how we love our binaries...imagining a iworld of cooperations, not
p. 111: insane attempt to identify/destroy evil (Moby Dick)
p. 112: meaning refracted by cosmology, shaped by cultural paradigms
making ketchup out of hail storm on the tomatoes; not worship but part of nature
p. 115: if you believe in maps
Canadians creating fiction for people they write about
p. 116: cf. non-Native reader (briefing tooo little) w/ Native reader (="once upon a time")
Native schools of porcupines and china dolls, crying in the dark
p. 117: narrative style privileges repetition, hyperbole, orality
as storytelling strategies; humorous ("inventiveness of tone")
p 119: stories that make me keep me alive

V. What Is It About Us That You Don't Like?
story of Coyote and the Duck feathers:
his insatiable appetite for Indian land, rights, resources, claims;
p. 127: we like to tell ourselves stories about
how injustices and atrocities happened in the past;
that we have gotten smarter and more compassionate
p. 130: goal of legislation: to relieve us of our land
and to legalize us out of existence
1887 Dawes Act: legislation reimagining tribes and tribal land;
p. 131: speech on Indian reform: awaken wants, discontent, desire for property
p. 133: stumble of 1934 Indian Reorganization Act
(right to practice trad'l religion, govt, ed, land)
p. 135: story of deer culling in New Zealand
1953 Termination Act, stripping tribes of federal services and protection
p, 139: who's allowed to be Indian? termination/enfranchisement legislation re:
status/non-status: blood quantum and two-generation cut-off clause
p. 145: kind racism, fondness, suffocating paternalism:
unsuccessful authenticity, successful counterfeit successes
p. 147: don't think we deserve the things we have?
p. 148: those not "successful" are authentic,
those who are are dismissed as counterfeit
why gov't concern in defining Indianness?
p. 149: Is the right of identity simply a privilege of power?
we should be able to take both cultural and legal identity
w/ us wherever we go:
reality of identity legislation sets Natives against one another;
legal categories create enemies
p 151: turn it into a play

Afterwords: Private Stories
p. 153: change the stories we live by: change our lives
P. 154: compromising stories by printing them?
printed word has no master, no voice, no sense of time or place
oral stories public w/ group audience, written ones private, for reading
p. 154f: one of my private stories
[about letting down a close friend, whose child had FASD]
p. 158: cf. great stories about alcohol: romances;
about cigarettes: action adventures--
effective, enticing, hard to resist
cf. failure to learn from Exxon Valez spill
p. 163: we care about ethics...the environment...
It's just that we care more about our comfort...
the things that insulate us from the vicissitudes of life.
Money, for instance.
we've created environmental, business, political ethics
p. 164: Want a different ethic? Tell a different story...
p. 165: Potential,  seasonal, annual ethics...
p. 166: "I find it easier to tell myself the story of my failure as a friend...
than to have to live the story of making the sustained effort to help..."