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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

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.

One-star Yelp Reviews of National Parks

For the past several years, an experimental genre of creative nonfiction has been quietly thriving online: one-star Yelp reviews of national parks. Don’t let the unsophisticated and often ungrammatical prose fool you; these works have taken the pulse of America. Read on as our nation’s treasures and all manners of natural beauty are cast aside as garbage: Death Valley is “the ugliest place I have ever seen,” Yosemite needs more parking lots, and Carlsbad Caverns appeals only if “you find big caves and rocks overwhelmingly fascinating.”

Via the Paris Review.

Homeless students

CHE: How to Help the Students With No Homes?

During the school year, Ms. Banjo, who is 20, lives in the dorms at Norfolk State University. But on summer vacation and during other breaks, she has no set place to go. There’s no room for her in the rooming house where her parents live, so she crashes with friends or sublets space in a cramped apartment. Most days, her only meal is the sandwich and fries she gets during her shift at McDonald’s. She returns there on her days off just to have something to eat.

Ms. Banjo says she tries not to dwell on her status but “to put it in a box and act like a normal person.” She avoids calling her parents, because she doesn’t like to be reminded that they’re still struggling.

Taking My Parents to College

… and a week into classes, I received the topics for what would be my first college paper, in an English course on the modern novel. I might as well have been my non-English-speaking grandmother trying to read and understand them: The language felt that foreign. I called my mom at work and in tears told her that I had to come home, that I’d made a terrible mistake.

She sighed into the phone and said: “Just read me the first question. We’ll go through it a little at a time and figure it out.”

I read her the topic slowly, pausing after each sentence, waiting for her to say something. The first topic was two paragraphs long. I remember it had the word intersectionalities in it. And the word gendered. And maybe the phrase theoretical framework. I waited for her response and for the ways it would encourage me, for her to tell me I could do this, that I would eventually be the first in my family to graduate from college.

“You’re right,” she said after a moment. “You’re screwed.”

NYT/Jennine Capó Crucet: Taking My Parents to College

Maria Martha, Managua

The brain was not designed for reading.

Adapting to read

The brain was not designed for reading. There are no genes for reading like there are for language or vision. But spurred by the emergence of Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Phoenician alphabet, Chinese paper and, finally, the Gutenberg press, the brain has adapted to read.

Before the Internet, the brain read mostly in linear ways — one page led to the next page, and so on. Sure, there might be pictures mixed in with the text, but there didn’t tend to be many distractions. Reading in print even gave us a remarkable ability to remember where key information was in a book simply by the layout, researchers said. We’d know a protagonist died on the page with the two long paragraphs after the page with all that dialogue.

The Internet is different. With so much information, hyperlinked text, videos alongside words and interactivity everywhere, our brains form shortcuts to deal with it all — scanning, searching for key words, scrolling up and down quickly. This is nonlinear reading, and it has been documented in academic studies. Some researchers believe that for many people, this style of reading is beginning to invade when dealing with other mediums as well.

“We’re spending so much time touching, pushing, linking, scroll­ing and jumping through text that when we sit down with a novel, your daily habits of jumping, clicking, linking is just ingrained in you,” said Andrew Dillon, a University of Texas professor who studies reading. “We’re in this new era of information behavior, and we’re beginning to see the consequences of that.”

Washington Post: Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say

Mercedes Sosa – Sólo le pido a Dios (with León Gieco)

Buenos Aires, Argentina on May 19, 1984

Sólo le pido a Dios

Sólo le pido a Dios
que el dolor no me sea indiferente,
que la reseca muerte no me encuentre
vacío y solo, sin haber hecho lo suficiente.

Sólo le pido a Dios
que lo injusto no me sea indiferente,
que no me abofeteen la otra mejilla,
después que una garra me arañó esta suerte.

Sólo le pido a Dios
que la guerra no me sea indiferente,
es un monstruo grande y pisa fuerte
toda la pobre inocencia de la gente.

Sólo le pido a Dios
que el engaño no me sea indiferente,
si un traidor puede más que unos cuantos,
que esos cuantos no lo olviden fácilmente.

Sólo le pido a Dios
que el futuro no me sea indiferente,
desahuciado está el que tiene que marchar
a vivir una cultura diferente.

Sólo le pido a Dios
que la guerra no me sea indiferente,
es un monstruo grande y pisa fuerte
toda la pobre inocencia de la gente.

English

I only ask of God
He won’t let me be indifferent to the suffering
That the very dried up death doesn’t find me
Empty and without having given my everything

I only ask of God
He won’t let me be indifferent to the wars
It is a big monster which treads hard
On the poor innocence of people
It is a big monster which treads hard
On the poor innocence of people People…people, people

I only ask of God
He won’t let me be indifferent to the injustice
That they do not slap my other cheek
After a claw has scratched my whole body

I only ask of God
He won’t let me be indifferent to the wars
It is a big monster which treads hard
On the poor innocence of people
It is a big monster which treads hard
On the poor innocence of people People…people…people

Morning commute

La Palma, Nicaragua

What is Interesting Writing in Art History?

Part of talking about writing in art history, theory, and criticism is therefore indulgence: writing is what people think about when they can, when they have leisure time, but it’s not a required subject. Another part of talking about writing is the plain style and its companions in classical rhetoric: direct speech, reasonably free of jargon, which pays attention to its argument. Both of these operate in university seminars, sometimes in succession, sometimes in opposition.

I have in mind both those ways of thinking about art historical writing, and two others. The third is a way of critiquing writing that pays attention the way one pays attention to a novel, a poem, or any other work of serious literature. This is close reading: attending to voice, pace, style, manner, word choice. Being patient and demanding about how the writing becomes expressive, how its message finds its form. Here I would want to apply the full arsenal of literary criticism from Empson to De Man, from Derrida to Perloff. This is an inherently unfair thing to do to writing that hasn’t been made for that kind of reading, but my criterion will always be that whatever is said about style, manner, and voice has to be connected to what the scholar meant to communicate. In other words: no carping about writing unless the writer’s choices have a nameable effect on what is being argued. In that way close reading, no matter how unusual it is in art history, is pertinent.

The fourth kind of reading is radical, and I will not be doing much of it, but it is presupposed in each of these three strategies. This is reading nonfiction as if it is fiction. It is probably not yet possible to do that with Krauss’s texts: they are still close to us in time, and their themes and dramatis personae are still largely our own. But a time will come, as it does for all writers, when Krauss’s concerns are more about her than about Picasso or Duchamp, and then her writing will exist as writing. Perhaps it is time to begin thinking about that possibility.

— James Elkins, What is Interesting Writing in Art History?

Little League All Star Game

Nicaragua All Stars vs. Managua All Stars, Nicaragua — Roberto Clemente Stadium.

Experimenting with TinType

Mérida, Nicaragua

Maderas Volcano

Noticia en el supermercado

Entre las verduras oigo sus discusiones:
Hablan del supervisor, reniegan de los turnos,
de si la fulanita no llegó a tiempo,
del mísero sueldo que para nada alcanza.

Hoy temprano hubo un accidente
en la carretera frente a mi casa.
Acababa de bajarse del bus una muchacha
y una camioneta la mató
cuando intentaba cruzarse al otro lado.
Un gentío rodeaba su cadáver
y algunos comentaban conmovidos
que no parecía tener más de dieciocho años.

De repente cesa la habladera.
Alguien dio la noticia
que se regó como un temblor oscuro y sordo
por el supermercado.

¿Cómo decirle a doña Mariana que su única hija
que tanto le costó,
que apenas iba a matricularse en la universidad,
y se despidió tan contenta esta mañana,
yace en media carretera con el cráneo destrozado
mientras ella despacha muy amable la carne a los clientes?

English version

“News in the Supermarket”

I hear them gossiping among the vegetables:
they are talking about their supervisor,
grumbling about their shifts, so and so was late
and their rotten wages that don’t go anywhere.

Early this morning there was an accident
on the road in front of my house.
A girl stepped off the bus
and a lorry killed her
as she was trying to cross to the other side.
A crowd gathered round her body
and some remarked painfully
that she seemed no more than eighteen.

Suddenly the gossip stops.
Someone has brought the news
which runs through the supermarket
like a muffled tremor.

How to tell Doña Mariana that her only daughter
for whom she has struggled so hard,
who was just about to start at university,
who was so happy when she said goodbye that morning,
is lying in the middle of the road with a smashed skull
while she is amiably serving customers with meat.

— Daisy Zamora

Ometepe

Layla & Concepción Volcano