Trying to understand others by going beyond demographic identity may seem sensible and straightforward to you, but I should note that not everyone buys my line of reasoning. A common criticism of this kind of argument is that, in fact, people cannot identify with historically oppressed people and have no right to even try. For example, because I am white and not an immigrant, the argument goes, I can neither understand the experiences of nor say I can relate to historically marginalized people – including the Chinese couple in LaPierre’s study. Under this kind of thinking, it is immaterial that I have met many immigrants and know lots of people of Chinese origin (in fact, my wife is the former and my daughter is the latter). Because of my personal demographic identity and lack of “lived experience,” some would say, I should shut up.Brooks
This passage was one that we spent a significant portion of Thursday’s lecture discussing. My initial reaction to the passage was one of agreement. From personal experience, I’ve had issues trying to connect with people simply because of a demographic difference and it makes me feel like I’m not putting sufficient effort forward to bridge differences and understand others. I don’t like the feeling of being socially handicapped. This being said, some students in the lecture brought up the valid question, ‘is it fair to oppressed people to have the expectation that they discuss their experiences just for the oppressor’s understanding?’ This made me doubt my initial reaction to the passage. Was I trying to force conversations that weren’t necessary or wanted? Is it fair for me to try to have these conversations? My answer to this and the answer that satisfies and solidifies the arguments proposed by Brooks is this; it depends. As Brooks says, bridging differences isn’t something that just happens overnight. We, as a society, need to actively exert effort in order to mend the fissures between our hardset identities. The only way to do this, according to Brooks, is a level of mutual understanding that comes from discussion. Discussion is impossible if it isn’t two sided. The only way to normalize marginalized groups is to hear their stories, a task that is impossible if their stories aren’t told. Is it unfair that the marginalized groups have been put into this situation in the first place? Absolutely. Can you attain change without sacrifice? Absolutely not. There needs to be some compromise.
Principe says on p. 78 (see also p. 104) that what are today seen as “landmark” experiments in the history of science were in their own day viewed as much more ambiguous and controversial. Only in hindsight do we see these events as marking significant discoveries. Do you think the same might be said of the “landmark” canonical texts of the humanities? Bonus points if you use a Unit 1 reading as your example.
A symmetrical comparison between the experiments that Principe references as retrospective landmarks that were, at the time of their conception, considered controversial and ambiguous and the canonical texts of humanities can be easily drawn. The scientific experiments defied norms that were enforced by authority, whether that be institutional power or another power structure. A vast majority of the texts we have read do just that. The text that I think stands as the clearest representation of similar qualities as the scientific experiments is the Declaration of Independence. The text was a defiant stand against oppression imposed by England, challenging the norms and the ideas that were traditionally accepted. Astronomers’ negation of geocentrism serves as a great comparison; an idea (geocentrism/American dependence on England) enforced by a power structure (the church and state/England upon America) was challenged by a new idea (heliocentrism/independence) and met with resistance (suppression and censorship/war) from the power structure. This is perhaps an indication that we can jointly define humanities and science by the reaction they receive from the majority or groups in power. In quintessential examples of both humanities and science, works are revered and lambasted equally because they pose a new idea or concept. This similarity connects the two seemingly unconnected subjects.
Chapter 1: Images of war cause a reaction that is dependent upon preconceived notions of the specific conflict.
Sontag begins her book by introducing Virginia Woolf’s idea that the images of war cause a repulsion from violent conflict. In Woolf’s essay directed towards a lawyer, she argues that men are naturally more prone to resolving differences with war, proving this by displaying an array of images of the effects of war. Sontag refutes this point, saying that the pictures can actually strengthen the beckoning of revenge if the viewer sees the pictures as actions of the enemy. Even if the images display damage caused by one’s own side, Sontag argues that the images won’t have any impact in diffusing the militant perspective as they will be rejected or contorted into an argument for retaliation.
Chapter 6: The feelings of sympathy caused by viewing images of war only distance us further from the conflict, justifying inaction with knowledge of the conflict.
Sontag opens this chapter by depicting a natural human curiosity directed at understanding or seeing the suffering of others. She argues that this desire is more deeply rooted in an unconscious drive to have feelings of sympathy for the sufferers. If sympathy is achieved, then it is just for us to do nothing because we feel morally accomplished in having sympathy for the sufferers.
Chapter 8: The dissemination of photos depicting atrocities is a good thing because it reminds us of the innate evil in humans and teaches us how to avoid it.
There is a fine balance to be struck in the frequency at which we view photos of violence. On the one hand, viewing the violence allows us to understand the evil inherent in human nature, allowing us a window into the pain and suffering that occurs out of our direct sight. On the other hand, constant viewing can lead to a skewed, depressing perception of the atrocities. Sontag challenges us to be critical in our viewing and understanding of the photos.
Reflecting back on Sontag’s book, I’ve actually made references to some of her ideas in conversation. I think it explains a rather abstract and undefined human urge to see others in pain. It also explains how we can, or have, become desensitized to violence.
Born within a year of each other, Mary Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells lived in the period following the civil war in the midst of segregation, lynchings, hate crimes, and attempted reconstruction. Both were born in the South, Terrell in Tennessee and Wells in Mississippi, and both attained a higher education despite the odds being stacked against them. Their careers comprised of different types of activism against issues that respectively effected them; Terrell was an intersectionalist whose focused on empowering black women whereas Wells focused on uncovering and exposing lynchings through her investigative work.
Terrell was a Methodist and Episcopalian. She founded the African Methodist Episcopal church in Ohio as well as another Methodist church in the state. Terrell primarily focused on the advantages that White women had at the expense of Black women. The power imbalance and the concurrent racial violence was the target of Terrell’s work. She believed that better education would lead to an equal social standing between races and that community empowerment was the most effective way of achieving these goals.
Wells was a Catholic. Her investigative journalistic work attempted to trace the alleged reasoning behind lynchings that took place in the South. Unsurprisingly, an immense amount of the lynchings she investigated were committed on unfounded reasons if there were any reasons at all. She believed that if the menace of racial mob violence was exposed to the public eye, there would be more support in favor of reforming segregationist and racist policy.
Birns: “Lemon, though, wants his audience not only to appreciate what they see onstage, but to also understand that the performance is an outgrowth of a larger process, and not an inevitable event.” (pg. 19)
Question: As a member of the audience, how is it possible to perceive and interpret all of the elements of Lemon’s performances?
Observation: Meaning is dually dependent on the presentation and the interpretation of the performance.
“Within a culture which privileges object remains as indices of and survivors of death, to produce such a panoply of deaths may be the only way to insure Remains in the wake of modernity’s crises of authority, identity and object.” (pg. 105)Schneider
Question: Is videoing and archiving performance worth it or does performance lose its punch if communicated through a medium?
Observation: Physical remains are equally as interpretable as performance.
“The non-scientists have a rooted impression that the scientists are shallowly optimistic, unaware of man’s condition. On the other hand, the scientists believe that the literary intellectuals are totally lacking in fore-sight, peculiarly unconcerned with their brother men, in a deep sense anti-intellectual, anxious to restrict both art and thought to the existential moment.” (pg. 5)Snow
!: While scientists define themselves through original processes, literary intellectuals define themselves in opposition to science (pg. 11)
?: What is it about scientific thought that generally correlates to more liberal political thought?
Scientific experiments that I recognize: Eratosthenes, Mendel, Newton, Curie, and Pavlov
Scientific theories that I recognize: game theory, plate tectonics, special and general relativity, evolution, and heliocentrism .
My AT group discussed the similarities and differences we found between the two translations. We came to the consensus that Thomas’ translation was probably a more accurate portrayal of the original Russian used in the poem, but Anderson’s was adapted to the English poetic repertoire.
I think that the Anderson translation conveyed the message of the original poems in a more comprehendible way. The language was less obscure and I was able to interpret it. Thomas’ translation seemed to be representative of the original language, but it lacked the clarity of Anderson’s translation.
!: Broad censorship shows how important having an uncontested ideological monopoly was to maintain and preserve power.
?: What is it about Russian culture that idolizes poetry more so than other countries?
Ulrike Meinhof “Shadows of the Summit Pointing West” ?/!
?: Why did proponents for the anti-nuclear movement in the Federal Republic and in Central Europe get labeled as “potential war criminals”? It seems contradictory to accuse advocates of disarmament and non-proliferation of war mongering or being war criminals.
!: England was opposed to unification and integration in Central Europe because it would diminish their own power and influence in the region.
“The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum” ?/!
?: If the journalist that Katharina killed was so incessant upon investigating her, going as far as interviewing her mother in the hospital, why would the journalist scrap all of his investigative work in favor of asking Katharina to have sex? Was he only interested in sparking drama/tarnishing her image?
!: Katharina really didn’t do anything heinous to deserve any of the treatment she received.
“Baader-Meinhof Komplex” ?/!
?: At what point did Meinhof cross the threshold between dissidence and extremism?
!: I’m surprised by the lengths the RAF was willing to go in training their militants, reaching out to Fatah groups in Palestine.