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Mérida, Ometepe, Nicaragua Part III

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Nicaragua: The Splendor and Squalor of National Ecotourism

From José Luis Rocha, “The Splendor and Squalor of National Ecotourism” Envio (UCA), September 2008:

There’s still a lot to do

Although my tour has been one of broad brush strokes and giant leaps, it offers a look at the many virtues and defects of ecotourism in Nicaragua; its splendor and its squalor.

Ecotourism—and any other form of tourism for that matter—will never move out of first gear with restaurants that close at seven pm, guides that don’t speak English, bureaucratic paper tangles that bog down the best initiatives, managerial centralism, poor and confusing information, cartloads of filth and garbage, rip-off tourist packages, terrible signposting, roads that are impassable virtually year-round, and, to top it off, anchorite tourists looking for bargain paradises. There are, however, signs that some are aware of what’s needed and are capable of putting it into practice, including incorruptible wardens, quality restaurants, patient and knowledgeable guides, poetic information signs, tidy hostels and more.

But there’s a need for more imagination to exploit opportunities near at hand. Many tourists come with ideological motivations, visiting Nicaragua because there was a revolution here. There’s no contradiction between ecotourism and revolution. The two interests can be linked, offering talks, leaflets and books about Nicaragua’s history, selling T-shirts with ideological motifs alongside nature walks, butterfly farms and organic coffee plantations.

There’s also a religiously motivated form of tourism that can be combined with ecotourism. And of course there’s literary tourism. The poetry festival organized every year in Granada by Nicaraguan poets, which includes the participation of poets from around the world, is the maximum expression of this and is becoming a highly significant point of reference in Latin America. There’s no reason why this can’t be associated with ecotourism and other experiences of solace and contentment.

Once upon a time in Solentiname…

Literature, craftsmanship, music and socio-political or theological reflection once all came together in Father Ernesto Cardenal’s ecotourist paradise of Solentiname. Creating similar experiences isn’t easy; they are born of inspiration and creativity, not cloning. But at the very least, we have to overcome the squalor that sprouts from routine, myopic vision and idleness. The Solentiname experience was successfully put together and more opportunities are waiting. We’re not starting from zero.

People travel …

“People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.” — St. Augustine, 420 AD

Mérida, Ometepe, Nicaragua Part II

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An epistemology of curiosity

The antidote to the obscurantism of power is the double key of conscientização. First, an epistemology of curiosity, as Freire proposed, constantly asking questions and being dissatisfied with the answers, finding nothing that cannot be questioned, employing the candor and simplicity of the child’s gaze to inspect even the most intricate relations and experiences. Second, the epistemology of suspicion, according to Freire and the great French phenomenologist Paul Ricoeur, the suspicion that all human interaction, all human experience, to the extent that it involves power relations, involves relations of domination and therefore must be submitted to systematic criticism. While this is currently applied to the interaction between individual persons (children and their parents, children and their teachers, associations within families), there is an even greater need for it to be applied to the interactions between people and institutions. Thus, it is valid to affirm that this epistemological model of suspicion reveals how the logic of capital and especially the logic of the rights of private property tend to prevail, in practice and the law, over the logic and the rights of people.

Torres, “Taking Heaven by Storm?: A logbook for rethinking conceptual and normative categories in higher education in Latin America”

Iglesia de Guadalupe, La Palma, Ometepe, Nicaragua

Image ecologies

Images are more real than anyone could have supposed. And just because they are an unlimited resource, one that cannot be exhausted by consumerist waste, there is all the more reason to apply the conservationist remedy. If there can be a better way for the real world to include the one of images, it will require an ecology not only of real things but of images as well. (Sontag, 1979, p. 180)

What might we mean by an ecology of images? It would be a precarious task to transpose ideas and terminology from the scientific field of ecology, not least because even within the field itself there have been numerous debates over its true focus and distinctiveness. However, as a metaphor for a desire to understand the interrelationships of things (the nature of change, adaptation, and community), the classificatory, comparative, and systems-based approach of ecology can be made pertinent to image studies, as it too seeks to locate how and why images operate in certain ‘environments’ or systems of meaning.

This diagram attempts to plot various terms that might underline an ‘ecology of images’. Taking a cue from the ecologist’s three main ‘units’ of assessment – the organism, its community, and the eco-system – an image always exists in a set of contexts. An image is always part of an ‘image community’, which it works with or against. It is portrayed here with a honeycomb effect around the central image. Image community can be thought of as a genre and/or modality of images. As such, there are formal, aesthetic properties and particular content and uses an image might share with other images, or indeed which it is attempting to work against or appropriate. In addition, the image and its community will always be framed and mediated in specific ways. The square frame in the diagram denotes the presence of an ‘image-system’, which can range across and interconnect with political, economic, technical, cultural, social, and legal discourses and systems. In addition, language and the body provide ways in which we frame, communicate, and comprehend the image.

Another crucial framing of the image is history. Past, present, and future are plotted on the diagram to clearly evoke a sense of process and evolution of the image. The image itself will be formed of certain ‘energies’ or precedents and prior insights, which relate to the fact that an image community and image systems are all historically determined. An image may well be found in great ‘abundance’ (as labeled on the diagram). An advertising image, for example, will clearly be in greater abundance than a child’s drawing made at home one afternoon. Of course, there are various potential futures of the image. The aforementioned child’s drawing might end up the winning entry of a competition; as such, it would likely receive greater distribution (through various means), leading to relative abundance. It may also be re-worked for a final product, which we could understand as the succession of the image. Images can also be adapted. A good example of this would be how cartoonists appropriate images and manipulate them for satirical effect.

Manghani, S. (2013) Image Studies: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge.

La Palma, Ometepe, Nicaragua

Mérida & La Palma, Ometepe, Nicaragua


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On Photography

“The real subject is yourself facing the world” – Thierry Girard


 

 

 

 

But also:
Susan Sontag: Ecology of Images

“Images are more real than anyone could have supposed. And just because they are an unlimited resource, one that cannot be exhausted by consumerist waste, there is all the more reason to apply the conservationist remedy. If there can be a better way for the real world to include the one of images, it will require an ecology not only of real things but of images as well.”

–Susan Sontag, On Photography (180)

 

Publics and Counterpublics

” …some publics are defined by their tension with a larger public. Their participants are marked off from persons or citizens in general. Discussion within such a public is understood to contravene the rules obtaining in the world at large, being structured by alternative dispositions or protocols, making different assumptions about what can be said or what goes without saying. This kind of public is, in effect, a counterpublic: it maintains at some level, conscious or not, an awareness of its subordinate status…A counterpublic, against the background of the public sphere, enables a horizon of opinion and exchange; its exchanges remain distinct from authority and can have a critical relation to power…”

— Michael Warner Publics and Counterpublics, p. 56

Forms of Teacher & Student Classroom Resistance

Student/teacher resistance comes in many different forms, and it functions differently given different situations, students, and teachers. Still, I find it useful to name and discuss with students general categories of postFreudian resistance that may sometimes hinder their engaging texts, speaking in class, or writing papers. In my classrooms, the most common types of resistance are the following:

  • Denial emerges when students or teachers refuse to acknowledge the existence of an idea or action. Denial also emerges when students or teachers acknowledge the existence of an idea or action but refuse to acknowledge any accountability-individual and/or systemic-for any privileges or obstacles afforded us by (the history of) this idea or action.
  • Dismissal emerges when students or teachers acknowledge the existence of an idea or action but deem it insignificant in general, insignificant in our own lives, or too dangerous for class discussion.
  • Indifferent compliance emerges when students or teachers go through the motions but do not genuinely engage an idea or action.
  • Defensiveness emerges when students or teachers shift conversations from discussions of an idea or action and instead focus on ourselves, that is, on our own guilt/blame-or lack thereof.
  • Overidentification emerges when students or teachers see
    ourselves as so implicated within an idea or action that we can only imagine confessional responses that preclude cultural/ systemic analyses; such overidentification may trigger strong emotions (e.g., fear, embarrassment, righteous anger).
  • Nonproductive guilt emerges when students or teachers blame ourselves for current privileges afforded us by history and, thus, either adopt a patronizingly “helpful” attitude toward those we imagine to be less privileged or focus solely on ourselves and our perceived guilt.
  • Adherence to gender- and/or color-blindness emerges when students or teachers ignore history, obsess on the present, and demand an ideal egalitarian fairness that treats everyone identically but ignores different daily effects of gender and race and other cultural categories.
  • Speaking block or writing block emerges when students or teachers lack a lexicon, a conceptual framework, and/or confidence that the classroom is a viable space for speaking and writing about resistance-prone issues, such as gender and whiteness. Each teacher must, of course, analyze her or his local conditions to identify the most common types of resistance that occur. But naming and discussing such resistance provide choices to students and teachers about whether to perpetuate, revise, and/or resist the resistance.

— From Krista Ratcliffe’s “Listening Pedagogically: A Tactic for Listening to Classroom Resistance” in Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness, 138-9.

“ideology shapes and structures …”

“Any understanding of public discourse as a product of a particular cultural climate must take into account the ways that ideology shapes and structures nearly every aspect of what, where, and how public discourse occurs as well as who gets to speak in public settings”

— Christian Weisser, Moving Beyond Academic Discourse: Composition Studies and the Public Sphere

Classroom “objectivity”?

From Eden Torres, Chicana Without Apology: The New Chicana Cultural Studies:

Like any teacher, I bring a specific subject position into the classroom (albeit a shifting and fluid one in many ways). This means I can teach certain topics with more than words, texts, or carefully memorized facts. When I speak about oppression, I teach with emotion, personal stories, body language, and fluctuating tones of voice that indicate some visceral response on my part. All of this grows out of my history (both personal and communal), as well as my day-to-day experiences in the contemporary world. I do not hide behind false objectivity because I want my students to understand the toll of racism, classism, sexism, and compulsory heterosexuality on real people. I want them to see the way in which intertwining, overlapping, intersecting, or simultaneously occurring forms of prejudice, and exploitation actually wound people. I want to show them my scars, to disrupt the socialization processes that have made it so easy for them to disconnect from the ways people are harmed by various oppressive systems. I want them to understand the difference between and the sameness of the physical devastation and the psychological damage caused by the increasing disparity between the wealthy and the poor.

This does not mean that I have to pretend to be objective. Being mainstream and expressing the norms of the dominant society is not being objective either. One of my favorite fortune cookie messages—one of very few I have saved—says, “Do not practice moderation to excess.” Part of what makes me an effective teacher is that I am open about my passions and politics. My agenda is not hidden. I own it. While I believe in much of what postmodern theory has to offer, I could never transmit the relativist assumptions that often come with it. Like most Freirean practitioners, I see teaching as a political act. Anyone who pretends otherwise is lying. Again, this does not mean I expect to convert all students to my way of thinking. My only objective is to teach them to be politically conscious, critical thinkers. If this means that conservative, mainstream students become acutely aware of power differentials and the meaning of their own social locations, and then decide to own that space and take responsibility for working diligently to maintain their power and privilege then I’ll be sad. But at least I’ll know that they are doing so consciously. Such an enemy is much easier to fight than the apathetic, well intentioned, but still supremacist student who claims to see (or do) no evil. What I do expect IS to be able to enter into discussions with them in which we will all test our assumptions and ideas. (82-83)

Red Line, Chicago, Part II


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Red Line, Chicago

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Three gatekeepers

Writing class, in-class writing

Depaul University, Fall 2015

Formalized curiosity

Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.

— Zora Neale Hurston
 

From David Carr’s memoir, “The Night of the Gun”

Turning his life around through work:

Still, the fundaments of the [memoir] genre require me to run close and careful analysis on how exactly I reversed course from certain damnnation and came to a professional life beyond all expectation. So here goes:

I worked a lot.

Carr.

So much more

“The truth? I wasn’t familiar with the truth.”

“Back in 1982, I was working at Time Life in a department called Copy Process. It was dead-end, boring work. I worked one day a week, a graveyard shift, six p.m. to six a.m. I would get a two-hour supper break around midnight. Mondays were when the magazines that Time Life published came out: Time, People, Sports Illustrated, Fortune. There were always stacks of new mags lying around. It was good to get them free. Fringe benefit. I was tearing out all kinds of ads from the magazines. I’d been tearing since 1977, avoiding the editorial parts of the magazines, only interested in the psychologically hopped-up, art directed, “creative” pages…the pages that looked to me like some kind of cross between Rod Serling and Groucho Marx. Unlike the editorial parts, the ads didn’t have an author and seemed to suggest something I could believe in. I was struggling in those days with identity and truth and anger and the ads provided an alternative reality. Something comforting and exciting and close to what a movie experience does when the lights go down and a story is told. Who cares if Newport Lights was putting on a stupid, made- up show. I wanted a show. I wanted entertainment. The truth? I wasn’t familiar with the truth. Why would I have been? No one ever told it.”

Richard Prince

Paolo Freire

NYT: First Days of School Through the Decades

First Days of School Through the Decades
NYT / ELIZABETH A. HARRIS SEPT. 8, 2015

From the photo archives of The New York Times, here is a decade-by-decade look at city schools and moments in their history. Students return to the classroom Wednesday.

Mercedes Sosa: Gracias A La Vida (2009)

Spanish: Gracias a la vida

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Me dio dos luceros que cuando los abro
Perfecto distingo lo negro del blanco
Y en el alto cielo su fondo estrellado
Y en las multitudes el hombre que yo amo.

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Me ha dado el sonido y el abedecedario
Con él las palabras que pienso y declaro
Madre amigo hermano y luz alumbrando,
La ruta del alma del que estoy amando.

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Me ha dado la marcha de mis pies cansados
Con ellos anduve ciudades y charcos,
Playas y desiertos montañas y llanos
Y la casa tuya, tu calle y tu patio.

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Me dio el corazón que agita su marco
Cuando miro el fruto del cerebro humano,
Cuando miro al bueno tan lejos del malo,
Cuando miro al fondo de tus ojos claros.

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Me ha dado la risa y me ha dado el llanto,
Así yo distingo dicha de quebranto
Los dos materiales que forman mi canto
Y el canto de ustedes que es el mismo canto
Y el canto de todos que es mi propio canto.

Gracias a la vida
Gracias a la vida
Gracias a la vida
Gracias a la vida.

English: Thanks to Life

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me two beams of light, that when opened,
Can perfectly distinguish black from white
And in the sky above, her starry backdrop,
And from within the multitude The one that I love.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me an ear that, in all of its width
Records— night and day—crickets and canaries,
Hammers and turbines and bricks and storms,
And the tender voice of my beloved.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me sound and the alphabet.
With them the words that I think and declare:
“Mother,” “Friend,” “Brother” and the light shining.
The route of the soul from which comes love.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me the ability to walk with my tired feet.
With them I have traversed cities and puddles
Valleys and deserts, mountains and plains.
And your house, your street and your patio.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me a heart, that causes my frame to shudder,
When I see the fruit of the human brain,
When I see good so far from bad,
When I see within the clarity of your eyes…

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me laughter and it gave me longing.
With them I distinguish happiness and pain—
The two materials from which my songs are formed,
And your song, as well, which is the same song.
And everyone’s song, which is my very song.

Thanks to life
Thanks to life
Thanks to life
Thanks to life.

With Joan Baez, 2008.