Unit 8: Assignment 1 by Gwenyth Van Doren

The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum

!: The unethical practices of journalists

?: Did this film have any impact on the practices of German newspaper Bild-Zeitung (mentioned in the epilogue)?

The Baader-Meinhof Complex

!: The idea of the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon (a phenomenon where something you recently learned suddenly appears ‘everywhere’). I looked it up while watching and found it extremely interesting and applicable. 

?: Is Meinhof truly invested in the RAF mission?

Unit 7: Assignment 1 by Gwenyth Van Doren

The translation I chose was Anderson. My group liked Anderson’s translation as well because they believed Anderson was able to convey more emotion while still keeping rhythm and cadence. Personally, I chose this translation because I was intrigued by the translation of “To Death”, specifically the line “I want you now—I can’t bear anymore.” This line was interesting to contrast against Thomas’s translation, “Life is very hard: I’m waiting for you.” While both lines reflect the author expecting Death, the choice of language in Anderson’s translation make it seem like the author will soon stop waiting and take their life into their own hands (i.e. suicide). I think these discrepancies are worth examining because I am sure they reflect the different situations of people during the Great Purge—those waiting to die versus those who contemplated killing themselves . 

!: The threat of poets with the power they hold

?: What are the political implications of poetry in Russia today? Does poetry have other implications?

Unit 6: Assignment 1 by Gwenyth Van Doren

“Between the two a gulf of mutual incomprehension—sometimes (particularly among the young) hostility and dislike, but most of all lack of understanding” (4)

!: The lack of understanding and hostility makes sense when you realize that they are tactics used to validate and uplift our own groups and we see this present in any type of group membership in society today

“There is only one way out of all this: it is, of course, by rethinking our education. In this country, for the two reasons I have given, that is more difficult than in any other. Nearly everyone will agree that our school education is too specialised. But nearly everyone feels that it is outside the will of man to alter it.” (18)

?: How long will it take (realistically) for the educational system to change? I feel like the only recent change that may be applicable to this is that more and more colleges/universities aren’t factoring in ACT/SAT scores in the admissions process. 

Recognized experiments/theories

  • Game theory: John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern, 1944 (with important embellishments from John Nash in the 1950s)
  • Quantum theory: Max Planck, Einstein, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger, Max Born, Paul Dirac, 1900–1926
  • Evolution by natural selection: Charles Darwin, 1859
  • Heliocentrism: Copernicus, 1543
  • The principles of inheritance by George Mendel, 
  • Classical conditioning by Ivan Pavlov

Unit 5: Assignment 2 by Gwenyth Van Doren

For those of you who were not able to be at the performance, watch the full video Ethnic Notions and think about the same question [what does the work do?] regarding one of the substantive examples presented in the documentary, both an observation (!) and a question (?)

!: The use of the n-word by the white male at 32:01

?: I think we look down on people who “subject” themselves to degradation or perpetuate stereotypes, like the use of coon by black people and black actors participating in black face, but this subjectification is usually needed for survival or a result of stereotype threat. So, how do we shift this feeling of condescension from that person to the systems that make it necessary to perpetuate stereotypes or degrade themselves?

Unit 5: Assignment 1 by Gwenyth Van Doren

“Ritualizing the Past: Ralph Lemon’s Counter-Memorials” by Nicholas Birns

!: The idea that “‘historical experience’ is in fact still taking place” and “we still have the power to construct it [the past].”

?: What is the audience’s response to Lemon’s Counter-Memorials? Have people become lazy in self-education because we assume somebody else will educate us? 

“Performance Remains” by Rebecca Schneider 

!: The idea of generational trauma in “Here the body … becomes a kind of archive and host to a collective memory we might situate, with Freud, as symptomatic, with Cathy Caruth after Freud as the compulsory repetitions of a collective trauma.” Also, I liked this statement “Death appears to result in the paradoxical production of both disappearance and remains.”

?: As history “disappears” and “remains”, what is our role in choosing what “remains” and then how is this history told to future generations based off what we have chosen gets to “remain”?

Unit 4: Assignment 2 by Gwenyth Van Doren

The excerpt I have chosen for close study are pages 80 and 81 in March 2. The pages depict Aretha Franklin singing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” at President Obama’s first inauguration. The location and date of the picture are provided in text in the upper left hand corner of the page. I assumed it was President Obama’s first inauguration because that has been the backdrop of John Lewis’ experience of the Freedom Rides and the March on Washington throughout the book. However, I looked up the woman and the lyrics to find out who she was and what patriotic song she was singing. 

The song lyrics are spread out in speech bubbles that span both pages and are written in large capital letters and denoted with a music note. However, the song lyrics start on the previous page and finish on the next page. Also, there are 5 small panels that depict scenes from when the Freedom Riders were attacked by a racist mob outside of the Montgomery Greyhound Bus Station on May 20, 1961. The panels include images of bloodied (and probably dead) Freedom Riders, a bloodied hand from an attacker, two attackers (one with a Confederate flag) smiling at each other, the hand on the shoulder of a boy who participated in the attack, and an officer casually lighting a cigarette. 

The juxtaposition of Aretha Franklin and the lyrics she is singing with the scenes from the attack are jarring. It is a reminder to the reader of what has happened in order for change, like the first black US president, to occur. However, despite Obama’s election, people still debate on how much change there actually has been. Even though the artist draws Aretha as singing these lyrics of freedom and liberty with conviction, it is hard to think they are true when the scenes accompanying it could easily be scenes of police brutality today. I mean, one of the scenes is an officer casually smoking a cigarette despite the bloodshed that occurred and bloodshed he could have easily participated in. While these pages can invoke a sense of optimism because it appears that all that bloodshed meant something, it calls into question if those lyrics are even applicable to black people today. These pages made me as the reader feel optimistic and critical at the same time. I think it is important to recognize accomplishments when they happen, but also to recognize that more work needs to be done still.

Unit 4: Assignment 1 by Gwenyth Van Doren

Mary Church Terrell, What It Means to be Colored in the Capital of the United States

  • Terrel’s religious affiliation is Christian.
    • She talks about her experiences of racial discrimination and segretation in church despite having the right as a human being to the “sanctuary of God.”
  • The violence Terrell describes is not physical, but more of a mental violence as black people are deprived of jobs and the experience of life simply due to their race. 
  • The common roots for the violence Terrell describes is race. 
  • Terrell describes a lot of the experiences of black women and how that despite their qualifications for a position or job they are denied it because of their race. 
    • I think Terrell uses “white sisters” ironically on page 205 because despite being the same gender, white women do not share and will never share the same experiences as black women. 
  • Terell does not propose any responses or solutions to anti-black violence but she does highlight it and its effect on black youth growing up.

Ida B. Wells, “Lynch Law in America”

  • Wells religious affiliation might be Christian because she states that Americans “knew nothing about Christianity….” 
  • The violence Wells describes is America’s national crime, lynching. She also describes that violent acts of mutilation that usually accompanies the lynching of black people.
  • Wells refers to the common roots of lynching as the “unwritten laws”, which can only refer to racism in all its forms.
  • Wells addresses white women’s role in the lynching of black men by just (falsely) accusing them of insult or assault.However, nothing happens when black women are insulted and/or assaulted by black men. 
  • Wells’ proposed response/solution to anti-black violence is for Americans to see the nation’s evils and “take the necessary steps to remedy it.” 

Unit 3: Assignment 3 by Gwenyth Van Doren

As I read Gourevitch and Sontag together, I could only think about the useless in saying how evil a war or an action is if you do nothing about it. Sontag highlights how war photography can dehumanize its subjects just as much the war has, yet we continue to justify these images by saying “we” need to see them in order to understand the true atrocities. However, Sontag also brought up a valid point on page 71 of how “the ubiquity of those photographs, and those horrors, cannot help but nourish belief in the inevitability of tragedy in the benighted or backward – that is, poor – parts of the world.” This made me think of Washington’s reluctant use of the word “genocide” to describe what was happening in Rwanda in Gourevitch. Both these texts made me think about how our empathy for those suffering sometimes extends to those who look like us and it is harder for the “we” to care when “we” have categorized those who are suffering as an other. I think we are reading these together to try to understand the purpose, if any, in categorizing evil because why is there a need to define it if when evil is present there no action taken against it.

Unit 3: Assignment 2 by Gwenyth Van Doren

Chapter 1

In this chapter, Sontag examines Virginia Woolf’s response to “How in your opinion are we to prevent war?”. Sontag delves into Woolf’s critique of the use of “we”. However, I would say the main focus of this chapter is that Sontag looks at how photography is used to depict war, specifically with the intention to get the public to do something against war, but as Sontag concludes, war still continues. 

– Sontag begins the analysis of how photography, specifically images of war in this chapter, is used to depict the pain of others and the response photographers want to evoke from the audience. 

Chapter 6

In this chapter, Sontag discusses the desire to look at gruesome things like car crashes. We may feel disgusted by our own desires to look at such things, Sontag explains, but we find ways to justify it. The rest of the chapter looks at how this desire is present when looking at photographs from war, usually conflicts that are far away and do not concern us. Sontag concludes the chapter explaining why we do not do anything even after seeing such intense suffering in these photographs. 

– If sympathy makes us complacent in doing nothing when viewing photographs of war, so to combat this, Sontag suggests we avoid being sympathetic when we have to desire to view such photographs. 

Chapter 8

In this chapter, Sontag begins with how we feel good about having awareness about a situation even know we may not know how to solve or help towards said situation. Sontag talks about the importance and dangers of memory as well as the abundance of evil there seems to be in the world today – as a result of advances in media. The chapter ends with Sontag’s opinion that it is okay to look at an image and just to think about it. 

– Images are meant to provoke us in a way that causes us to think about it in some way.

Unit 3: Assignment 1 by Gwenyth Van Doren

Hannah Arendt’s concept of “Banality of Evil”

  • Questioned whether one can do evil without being evil
    • In regards to the war crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi operative responsible for organising the transportation of millions of Jews and others to various concentration camps in support of the Nazi’s Final Solution
  • Arendt concluded that Eichmann was not a monster, but someone who committed “evil deeds without evil intentions”
    • Eichmann was able to commit such acts because he disengaged from reality and did not think about anyone other than himself
  • “Banality of Evil” = those who are not inherently evil, but “merely shallow and clueless” / a ‘“joiner”’
    • Eichmann “drifted into the Nazi Party, in search of purpose and direction, not out of deep ideological belief”
  • Received widespread critique and controversy 
    • If someone doesn’t have a conscience, aren’t they a monster?
    • How can someone play a key role in the Nazi genocide without evil intentions?
    • Concentrates too much on who someone is rather than what they did
  • Did Arendt just miss the “radically evil” side of Eichmann?
  • Arendt’s “Banality of Evil” does not defend Eichmann or downplay the atrocities he committed
    • Eichmann’s motives = obscure, but his genocidal acts were not

Source: https://aeon.co/ideas/what-did-hannah-arendt-really-mean-by-the-banality-of-evil

Hannah Arendt’s book, The Origins of Totalitarianism

  • Published in 1951
  • Arendt’s first major work
  • Describes and analyzes Nazism and Stalinism 
  • Structured as three essays
    • “Antisemitism”
      • Describes the various preconditions and subsequent rise of anti-Semitism in central, eastern, and western Europe in the early-to-mid 19th century
    • “Imperialism”
      • Examines the New Imperialism, from 1884 to the start of the First World War (1914–18)
      • Traces the emergence of racism as an ideology, and its modern application as an “ideological weapon for imperialism”, by the Boers during the Great Trek (1830s–40s) in the early 19th century
    • “Totalitarianism”
      • Arendt argues that totalitarianism was a “novel form of government,” that “differs essentially from other forms of political oppression known to us such as despotism, tyranny and dictatorship” in that it applied terror to subjugate mass populations rather than just political adversaries
      • To Arendt, Jewry = convenient proxy, but not the operative factor in the Holocaust
      • Totalitarianism in Germany = terror and consistency, not eradicating Jews only
  • Key concept = the application of Kant’s phrase “Radical Evil”, which Arendt applied to the men who created and carried out such tyranny and their depiction of their victims as “Superfluous People”

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Origins_of_Totalitarianism

Adolf Eichmann 

  • German-Austrian SS-Obersturmbannführer and one of the major organizers of the Holocaust
  • Tasked by SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich with facilitating and managing the logistics involved in the mass deportation of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe during World War II
  • Captured by the Mossad in Argentina on 11 May 1960
  • Found guilty of war crimes in a widely publicised trial in Jerusalem
    • During the trial, he did not deny the Holocaust or his role in organising it, but claimed that he was simply following orders in a totalitarian Führerprinzip system.
    • Executed by hanging in 1962

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Eichmann

Microaggressions Panel commentary by Gwenyth Van Doren

On September 25, I attended a student panel on microaggressions hosted by Common Ground. The panel was composed of representatives from different affinity groups on campus who spoke about their personal experiences with microaggressions. As someone with white privilege, it was important to attend because it forces me to be more conscious of my words and actions and the implications they have when affecting marginalized people. While the 900 room was full during this panel, I wish more people came, especially white people, because I think this conversation is ongoing and necessary. I believe most people do not attend panels like these because of the feelings of discomfort that may arise during it, but those feelings are all the more reason to attend. In my opinion, feelings of discomfort can fuel change, and hopefully change for the better rather than for the worse. Lastly, I do not know if this panel was open to faculty and staff, but I think it would be beneficial for faculty and staff to be included in this dialogue because they can commit microaggressions just as much as students can.

Unit 2: Assignment 3 by Gwenyth Van Doren

Option 2:

I think the most effective way to reduce the amount of bullshit, using Frankfurt’s specific notion of bullshit, in contemporary discourse is to demonstrate how these issues they speak and write about affect them. While idealistically, people would care about issues that do not directly impact them, this is not our reality. However, I think that although some issues may not have a direct impact on some demographics, they do affect everyone. For example, a significant issue is freedom and equality for marginalized groups, and there are people who will not invest their energy into actually learning about this issue because they already enjoy the benefits of freedom and equality. But, what these people need to understand is that if not everyone is free then no one is free. It is unfortunate that people need to understand how issues affect them in order to care, but I think it is the only way to effectively reduce the amount of bullshit today. 

Option 3

One of the hardest lessons I have started to learn is that not everything is black and white. This lesson has frequently come up again and again in Unit 2 when reading about Truth in Pragmatism Lecture VII by William James. In this reading, James exemplified the subjectivity of Truth. However, just because Truth is subjective, does not necessarily make it any less true because it is shaped by the reality we live in, which is different for everyone. Thus, my question would be how do we partake in discussion, specifically debates and arguments, effectively when everyone comes with their own Truth? Because, like Plato explained in The Allegory of the Cave, sometimes other truths can be blinding and can lead people to becoming even more closed-minded than they already were.

Unit 2: Assignment 2 by Gwenyth Van Doren

Option 2

During Thursday’s translation panel, all the professors talked about translators’ choice in translation. Specifically, Professor Jankovic brought up the idea of translators choosing what is most convenient for them in translation. This caused me to raise questions such as to what extent do translators translate works in a way that furthers their motives and complies with their own ideas rather than the ideas of the original author. Another question I also thought about is how translation is used to limit access to works rather than provide access. The translation panel on Thursday opened my eyes to the difficulties of translation as well as taught me to be more skeptical of translated works.