!: In regards to specialization Snow writes, “have we crystalized so far that we are no longer flexible at all?” (19). I would agree that in today’s day and age, more so than ever, specialization is pushed as the only educational option, and there is no returning to a more interdisciplinary time. In modern times the value of the “Renaissance Man” is not relevant because jobs, particularly technology, are so incredibly specialized. It is almost impractical to devote one’s time to both the arts and sciences, when it would be more efficient to invest all of one’s time into mastering a practical skill, especially in a STEM field, that will guarantee a high-paying job and financial security.
?: Snow is writing in 1959, before the technological era we live in today, causing him to conclude that, “it is the traditional culture, to an extent remarkably little diminished by the emergence of the scientific one, which manages the western world” (11). Would Snow make the same argument today, when there is such a push for STEM in our schools, and the traditional emphasis on reading and writing seems less applicable in our technological age? Does this “traditional culture” still carry the air of superiority over more scientific disciplines that it did in the 50’s?
Top 10 Scientific Theories I recognized:
- “Gregor Mendel Cultivates Genetics”
- “Isaac Newton Eyes Optics”
- “Marie Curie’s Work Matters”
- “Ivan Pavlov Salivates at the Idea”
I think that the main point of the documentary was not only to point out how racial stereotypes perpetuate dangerous messages that can shape the perception of a population for generations, but also how these stereotypes continue to exist today in more covert ways. One of the examples that stood out to me the most from the documentary was the Aunt Jemima brand, particularly the visual evolution from the “mammy” image originally debuted in the early 19th century to the 1980’s. Despite almost the century difference, Aunt Jemima was wearing nearly the same outfit, demonstrating how these stereotypes have staying power in our society and are so ingrained into our perceptions of the world that we don’t always give them a second thought. This observation elicits the question: how does popular culture and the media underhandedly reinforce these dangerous stereotypes and how do we eradicate them, especially when people have been exposed to these stereotypes from a young age?
Birns: Ritualizing the Past: Ralph Lemon’s Counter-Memorials
?: Is it more effective to leverage the banality of the unmarked locations of horrific historical events or to explicitly memorialize these sites in order to raise public awareness about the south’s dark history of racial violence?
!: The quote on page 19 of the article that states,
“The Romantic, or modernist, ideology of the magnum opus as the as the peak of the creative process that is otherwise immaterial to it, has kept its grip on the way we think about art.”
relates to Dr. Bory’s lecture on Thursday about the ephemeral nature of performance. The meaning of a performance is greater than the fleeting and intangible production itself, because its value is rather a summation of the artist’s emotions and intentions materialized through the creative process.
Schneider: Performance Remains
?: Is the “embodied ritual practice of history” (pg. 102) an effective means of remembering history if those reenacting the scene were not present? Or does this type of performance lose a degree of authenticity which is the essential characteristic of an ephemeral, vanishing performance?
!: The difference between a performance and a historical reenactment or oral tradition is that in the latter, the script disappears, while the performance itself remains, and every new version is like an echo (pg. 105). I found this statement especially thought provoking because I’ve never thought of history as something that can be reinterpreted through performance while preserving the underlying message, even if the reenactment itself is not strictly followed.
On November 14th I attended a talk by Raymond Santana, a member of the Exonerated Five who was infamously falsely convicted of raping a woman jogging in Central Park in 1989. At the time Santana was 14 years old. The police were bent on blaming someone for the crime, so they accused a group of black and latino teenagers and interrogated five of them, including Santana, for hours without a parent present. The police also used the Reid method, a psychologically manipulative interrogation technique that is now frowned upon for its high rate of eliciting false confessions. After hours of being worn down and scared into confessing, Santana admitted that he committed the crime, and spent the next six years of his life in a juvenile detention center. In 2002, new evidence surfaced suggesting that Matias Reyes, a serial rapist already in jail for several other assaults, was responsible for the rape, and DNA evidence corroborated this discovery. The Central Park Five were exonerated on account of this evidence, but after serving years in prison as young adults on false charges, the damage was already done.
What struck me most about Santana was his resiliency and determination to utilize the horrible situation he endured as a child to raise awareness for the issue of false imprisonment and advocate for justice for others. Despite being wronged by the system- particularly the police officers who manipulated him into confessing and the media who slandered his reputation- Sanatana does not harbor resentment. I was particularly impressed by how he demonstrated such empathy toward the victim of the crime, who never apologized to the five men for her involvement in the false conviction. Santana said that he does not hold her responsible or feel any ill-will toward her because she was the victim of a horrible crime and was not culpable for their treatment and situation. I doubt that I would have had a similar grace had I been in the situation as Santana, who chose to forgive and advocate for others instead of lashing out.
I think that one of the most powerful aspects of Santana’s talk was that it forced me to examine my own unconscious biases and analyze how this prejudice manifests itself in the law and our justice system. For example, prior to this talk I referred to Santana as a member of the “Central Park Five” as opposed to the “Exonerated Five,” when explaining the event to friends. After listening to his talk, I was more conscious of the implication of guilt the title “Central Park Five” carries, and will make sure to refer to the group as the “Exonerated Five” in the future. I have not watched the Netflix series “When They See Us,” but have heard from friends that it was profoundly moving and provokes self-reflection, so I am looking forward to viewing it, especially after having the privilege of hearing Santana talk in person. I think it’d be a neat idea to watch the series and then write a reflection on the show connecting it to my experience listening to Santana’s speech to include in my Humes portfolio.
Page 47 describes the scene of chaos that ensued in the Nashville headquarters where John Lewis was located while waiting to rejoin the freedom riders, when reports surfaced that his bus had been firebombed. The pictorial description illustrates the discord of the situation and the tense atmosphere through the inclusion of crowded, overlapping speech bubbles with varying levels of legible font. On page 46, prior to hearing this news on the radio, the illustrator paints an idyllic scene with students lounging on a hill and listening to music, but the “breaking news bulletin” projected from the radio shatters this tranquil scene. The speech bubble from the radio is jagged, and motion lines emanate from the radio, which is a physical manifestation of the shock the news had on its listeners. On page 47, some of the radio’s speech bubbles are obscured by other panels, illustrating how the activists in Nashville were only receiving fragments of information, contributing to the mounting sense of anxiety and panic.
Additionally, speech bubbles from individuals in the room making phone calls in hopes of gleaning more information about the situation crowd each panel, overwhelming the reader. This stylistic choice elicits the frenzy of activity in the room. The illustrator also does a great job of drawing emotive facial expressions, and I found that the second picture down on the far right in particular captures the fear John Lewis must have felt for his friends and colleagues in this moment. The speech bubble of the woman shouting “hey!” in the background also implies that the men are so captivated by the radio broadcast that they are oblivious to their surroundings.
I believe that this graphic interpretation of the situation was more effective at capturing the chaos of the moment than traditional text. If I were reading the text on a page, even if the author had denoted that the speakers were interrupting each other with dashes, or emphasized the urgency by using capital letters, the text would be linear and neat, which contrasts the disarray the author is trying to convey. With a graphic novel, the illustrator could physically overlap text bubbles and write dialogue with more freedom which makes the scene feel more authentic and three-dimensional, like watching a movie. I found the illustrated version particularly moving because the vivid imagery forced me to picture myself in a position where people I care about are in danger and I have no information about their condition.
Although Mary Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells were both Civil Rights activists, they had different approaches toward eliminating inequality, which can be attributed to their different backgrounds and beliefs.
Mary Church Terrell was born the daughter two two former slaves in 1863 in Memphis, TN. Viewing her own parents’ success as small business owners, she especially valued the importance of an education (she was one of the first African American Women to earn a college degree), and hardwork, taking a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of approach to social mobility. Terrell was particularly active in the women’s suffrage movement, advocating for the franchise of all women regardless of race.
Ida B. Wells was born into slavery in MIssissippi in 1862. Like Terrell, Wells believed strongly in the importance of education, and worked as both a teacher and a journalist. Wells also helped found the NAACP. In 1892 she wrote an expository piece, “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in all its Phases,” about the lynching of African American men, after experiencing the devastating effects of violence first hand when her friend was lynched. The articles caused so much backlash in Memphis that Wells had to move to Chicago.
Although the death of a friend to mob violence was the impetus for both women’s advocacy against lynching, Wells and Terrell described violence differently. Wells believed lynch violence was a means for the white population to suppress the threat of African American success and potential for advancement, while Terrell focused on ending violence by encouraging African Americans to lift each other up. Wells’s views, particularly her suggestion that armed defense may be necessary to prevent violence against African Americans, were considered more provocative and radical, with the U.S. government even marking her a “race agitator”. The white population widely found Terrell’s moderate and gradual approach more palatable, but Terrell also attributes the greater degree of respect she received to her ability to pass as white.
Wells and Terrell took very different approaches to advocating for the rights of African Americans, however both women are respected as integral figures in the fight for equal rights for women and African Americans during the Reconstruction Era.
Malinda Lowery is a member of the Lumbee Tribe, which is the largest Native American Tribe in North Carolina, and has a fascinating perspective, as she identifies as Lumbee but was raised off of the reservation in a primarily white, suburban environment. In her talk, she discussed the political autonomy of Native American tribes, and how the drug trade was a way many Lumbee people felt they could control their futures and make their own decisions without the influence of the historically oppressive U.S. government. Julian Pierce was a Lumbee politician who was murdered in 1988 while running for the position of Superior Court Judge in Robeson County, where the largest Lumbee population is located. Pierce was an advocate for Lumbee self-determination and demanded additional recognition and autonomy from the federal government. He also was a proponent of reduced sentences for drug offenders, because the legislation created by the “War on Drugs” unjustly targeted minority populations. Pierce’s murder was never solved, and Lowery’s examination of the evidence and police investigation cements the theory that he was murdered to prevent him from winning the judgeship, and the identity whoever committed the crime was protected by law enforcement.
I think that Lowrey’s identification with both the Lumbee Nation and the United States relates to Quillen’s unit on identity and Tamura’s discussion on citizenship and statelessness. Lowrey spoke about how she struggled with feeling like an outsider both in her primarily white private high school in Durham, NC, and also when she went to visit her cousins in grandparents, who lived in a strong Lumbee community in Robeson County. I think the aspect of self-determination and political autonomy for Native American tribes also complicates her definition of identity. Political factors can further convolute matters because one must grapple with their self-identification as well as one’s political identity, which is a label placed on an individual from an external source.
I thoroughly enjoyed the theater department’s take on Macbeth. One of my favorite parts of the production was how they utilized a singular set and background for the entire play, but still adapted it to match the scene. For example, the main platform that extended into the audience was used both like a foyer and a dining room table, depending on the context of the scene. I also liked the use of trap doors- when the witches jumped into the trap doors, it appeared that they were disappearing into thin air, and added an element of mystery while simultaneously maximizing the limited space. I thought that the actors did an excellent job of portraying the intense emotional reactions of the characters, which must be difficult to do considering the dark subject matter of the play. The production had a dark and ominous atmosphere, which I did not experience while reading the play in high school, but believe is the mood Shakespeare intended to evoke. My one critique of the play is that it may have been hard for someone to follow the plot if they weren’t familiar with the storyline, but I think this is more a product of Shakespeare’s language, and not a fault of the actors. Overall, I was very impressed with the production- congratulations to everyone in Humes involved!
While Gourevitch provides a specific overview of his experiences in Rwanda as a journalist, Sontag’s analysis of the power of photography and the media provides a new perspective on our perception of suffering and the implications of its presentation. I think one of the most interesting connections between the two texts was Gourevitch’s descriptions of the Hutu refugee camps and Sontag’s assertion that often photographs are manipulated or staged to elicit a specific emotional response. I remember when we viewed the images of the Hutu refugee camp in class without context I assumed that the subjects of the photograph were the victims of the genocide. I was appalled by the squalor of their living conditions the pile of dead bodies in the background. However, as Gourevitch explains, the subjects of the photographs we viewed were Hutus who fled Rwanda in fear of being punished for their actions, and some even continued to enter Rwanda in search of Tutsis while living in these camps. Although I still feel horrified that people suffered while living in such conditions, knowing that the subjects of the photograph carried out a genocide against their neighbors limits my sympathy. Gourevitch comments that when images of these refugee camps were published they overshadowed the media coverage of the genocide, and many people automatically assumed that Hutu refugees were the victims, not the perpetrators. This example illustrates Sontag’s point that wartime photography is not always an accurate depiction of the sequence of events. Additionally, I was fascinated by Sontag’s observation that the media doesn’t publish photos with the faces of victims in western countries out of respect for the dead or suffering. Many of the photographs from the Rwandan genocide we viewed in class feature the faces of people dying, and children looking into the camera, which is something you would never see if the victims were American or European. Sontag’s point that we don’t take pictures of the faces of our own dead to preserve their dignity illustrates the lack of regard for the privacy of these victims in foreign countries.This contrast also emphasizes Gourevitch’s point that because the victims of the Rawandan genocide were African, western nations did not care as much or take the crisis seriously.
Virginia Woolf’s commentary on the origins of war from her novel Three Guineas explores the inevitability of war, and the role of graphic imagery in the public’s view and opinion on conflict. Most people have the same reaction when viewing violent content- disgust, sympathy etc., and from Woolf’s perspective, these images can arouse anti-war sympathies. Publishing these images, although they are difficult to look at, forces the privileged populations who are not in the midst of the conflict to face the horrors of the situation. However, one may also argue that because violence is so widespread and inevitable, these images are not deterrents so much as the objectification of the subjects and the reminder of this violence. Additionally, graphic war-time images do not always elicit the call for peace one would expect- one can recognize the horror of the situation and yet call for revenge, continuing the cycle of violence.
Gruesome images can be exploited to gain support for either side of a conflict, and although one would believe such violent images would discourage war, they often have the opposite effect.
Similarly to Gourevitch, Sontag employs the story in The Republic where Leonitis fights against his desire to look at the dead bodies, and ultimately succumbs to his urge, despite feeling disgusted at himself. This analogy demonstrates people’s universal repulsion yet attraction when faced with violence, gore, horror, etc. She also includes historical justifications for this strange urge (for example, an inherent, “love of mischief”), but it is clear that a morbid fascination with other people’s suffering is a shared characteristic among humanity. Sontag also explains how today we are inundated with violent images and stories, which has increased our tolerance for such graphic imagery and made us more apathetic. She explains that one’s reaction to such images has repercussions: one could simply switch the channel and try to forget, or face the horror of the situation in hopes of changing it. Sontag also brings up an interesting point that a display of sympathy towards those suffering is not necessarily the correct response, but rather displaces blame from oneself and illuminates one’s privilege.
Experiencing an inexplicable attraction to gory scenes is a theme common across humanity and time, but the sympathy we display upon viewing such violence may actually be an inappropriate response as it excuses us from blame and asserts our privilege.
Sontag asserts that memory is an ethical act and we need to remember painful events. To reconcile and come to a solution for an extended conflict we also need to recognize that all people do horrible things to one another, because if you constantly dwell on past grievances, you will not ever reach a solution. We can choose to “switch the channel” and not view images that make us uncomfortable, but people’s suffering will not be recognized if they do not have an audience. However, turning away from the images is not a moral defect. Rather, choosing to view them is an invitation to explore the root cause of the issue, and its possible solutions. Although viewing violence through media is frequently viewed as a cop-out, every form of observing carries an element of detachment. Even if one is to immerse themselves in the situation, they will still be detached from the victim, as one’s vision only allows for observation.
There is nothing immoral about observing a difficult or graphic situation from a distance because this attachment allows one to reflect and draw reasonable, useful, conclusions.
The passport I received for the workshop was from Luxembourg, which I was surprised to find is ranked #2 for global passport power. This fact interested me, considering that Luxembourg is one of the smallest countries in Europe with an area of only 2,286 km. The passport activity prompted me to reflect upon how one’s citizenship is essentially random, as you cannot control where you were born, yet it dictates one’s mobility. Additionally, it is increasingly difficult to obtain citizenship and the rights that accompany living in a country with a powerful passport. It seems absurd, therefore, that such a tiny country would possess one of the world’s greatest abilities to travel. What are the odds someone will be born in Luxembourg of all countries? What did Luxembourgers do to deserve such freedoms when other countries with larger populations, particularly those experiencing political turmoil or war, would benefit much more from this mobility? I found the passport workshop to be interesting as it illuminated my own privilege to travel as a U.S. citizen, which I take for granted, and forced me to consider the ease of mobility for other countries, which I had not considered before.
Hannah Arendt (1906-1975):
- German Jewish political philosopher who sought to explain politics and one’s political identity as a separate entity from other aspects of one’s life
- “Phenomenological reconstruction”
- Phenomenological: “Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view.” https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/phenomenology/
- Arendt actively resisted the rise of Nazism through work with the German Zionist Organization, and was arrested/incarcerated for conducting research on anti-semitic propoganda employed by the Gestapo
- Forced to move to New York during WWII, where she published The Origins of Totalitarianism
- After WWII she advocated for a Jewish state and worked for the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction project
The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951)
- Analyzes and draws parallels between Nazism and Stalinsm
- Asserts that Totalitarianism is distinct from other types of absolute rule because it uses terror as a tool to control large populations
- Analyzes how these totalitarian regimes rose to power: antisemitism, imperialism/colonialism, propaganda
- Totalitarian governments are unique because they seek more than political power; they want control over every aspect of one’s life and aspire to “world domination”
- “Radical evil”- describes the horrific acts committed during the Holocaust, unimaginable that such evil acts could be committed before
- Has unique insight/ perspective as a German-Jewish and female author
- High-ranking Nazi offical
- Put in charge of “The Final Solution” (transport of Jewish people to death camps)
- Put on trial and executed in Israel
- Removed himself completely from the emotional implications of his actions- claimed not to be anti-semetic and justified his actions by saying he was just following orders
“Banality of Evil”
- Eichmann in Jerusalem: a Report on the Banality of Evil (1963)
- “Banality of evil” is in the last line of the book
- This phrase describes Arendt’s disgust with Eichmann’s lack of remorse for his actions during his trial
- How can someone carry out such evil acts and consider them simply another day at the job?
- Asserts that Eichmann is not especially evil, he just lacked the ability to think for himself and followed orders blindly
- Arendt’s statement caused a lot of controversy- many argue that Eichmann must have been especially evil to carry out such evil actions
In today’s society there is an incomprehensible amount of information available at the click of a button. This wealth of knowledge offers can be liberating, but also overwhelming, especially because there is no guarantee what you are consuming is credible. Unfortunately, I believe that some people will never care whether they are contributing to this false narrative, because bullshitting is a means to an end. For example, politicians will always make false promises and lie to improve their public image. Now, bullshitting is necessary to win an election, because even if you choose not to bullshit, someone else will. I believe that bullshitting will always exist in some capacity, so it’s the responsibility of the consumer to care about the truth in the media they consume, because some people will never care about truth when they speak or write. However, if one cares about the truth of the information they consume, they are less likely to contribute to the issue of misinformation when they speak or write, because they are both educated and mindful. Therefore, I think the best way to reduce the amount of bullshit in contemporary discourse is to educate yourself on its prevalence and identification, and then make a concerted effort to speak and write authentically.
What is the difference between a widely accepted belief and the truth? For example, today we accept that the earth revolves around the sun, and regard this as truth, but is it simply a theory? In Kuhn’s passage he describes a paradigm shift as a change in the commonly held belief, but makes the distinction that the new way of thinking is not necessarily better, just different. People used to believe that the sun revolved around the earth, and regarded this as fact, just as we consider the heliocentric model as fact today. However, according to this belief that one theory is not better than another, just different, can we definitively say that today’s widely-accepted belief is factual? Of course one could argue that today we have satellite imaging etc., which corroborates the theory, and gives our current belief greater credibility than previous ideas. However, it raises the question- what amount of evidence is necessary for a theory to become a fact?