d to the p: space & affect & *the college news*

My project is inspired by a lot of the work that I do with *the college news* and I hope to use the issue of the current office space in the Pagoda to understand the history and presence of the newspaper and other “extra-curricular” student services at Bryn Mawr. I’m envisioning that my project will have a few different legs: 1) the history of *the college news*, 2) the newspaper’s online presence, 3) the physical space of the Pagoda and the editor’s interactions with administrators to hold onto that space. I’m hoping that the project will help think through saving, the issue of being semi-private and semi-public in our publication, and the power of narratives and story-telling for the teller and the community.

I started to think about this in terms of space because the college news has been having a hard time getting a permanent space on campus that can be our office. I know that other colleges have permanent rooms for their newspaper staff, so it seems odd to me that it’s so difficult to make that happen here. It makes me think that if it takes so much for a school newspaper—which plays such an important role in marketing the campus and capturing what kind of community we are—to get an office, that something about the foundations of the school doesn’t care about student spaces and student life.

Further, thinking about space is important because I’ve been wondering about how spaces structure affect, which I saw us discuss a lot in this class. I see my project in conversation with Erika Doss’s project Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America. Doss sees an obsession with memorializing, and thinks about how memorials structure public feeling, and functions as a focal point of community building. I see *the college news*, particularly because it is a feminist newspaper and so connected to lived experience, as similar to memorials.

I’ve also been thinking about the online presence of *the college news* in terms of Take Back the Archive. When I was on the train once working on “the secrets issue,” the man across from me asked what I was working on, and when I told him he asked where he could find my article. I told him: nowhere. As far as the outside world is concerned, *the college news* doesn’t really exist. This is good in some ways–we can tailor our content, we don’t need to explain or define certain terms or traditions for the most part, and when students write very personal things relating to gender or sexuality or trauma, we can offer them a certain degree of protection. However, I wonder if we’re limiting our potential for connecting with others outside our community or our ability to save content. It seems to me that Purdom Linblad is grappling with a similar problem, and her approach has been similar to ours: move slowly.

As I said, my project has a few different legs, but my hope is that thinking about *the college news* will help Bryn Mawr students and community members think about the semi-open and semi-private nature of the college itself. In the few years I’ve been here, I’ve seen Bryn Mawr students struggle to identify with other undergraduates at peer institutions. I’ve been in rooms with people who see strong similarities between our experiences at Bryn Mawr and other students, but Bryn Mawr seems to be cloistered in multiple ways. We aren’t on the national stage in the same way that other Seven Sisters are, and I wonder to what extent the architecture of the college and its mission are in relationship with that separation. I see the newspaper as an example or case study of this tension.



Whose history is objective?/ Ugh, Fred Wilson is so smart….

One of the most striking images from Fred Wilson’s exhibit, “Mining the Museum,” was the empty pedestals for Benjamin Banneker, Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglass. It’s amazing to me how Wilson carved out silence, and made erasure visible. He made the process of erasure visible also, as he juxtaposed the empty pedestals with the busts of Henry Clay, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Andrew Jackson. He makes it clear that erasure does not simply mean not including or honoring the history of African-Americans. Rather, it is the honoring of white heroes at the expense of African-Americans. Similarly, in the staging of the silver and the slave-shackles, Wilson forces the viewer to put these objects in conversation with one another. Wilson disallows the viewer from seeing these histories of labor as separate from each other. Wilson is able to do this because he curates from a particular point of view, which is his personal history. I love his work because he demonstrates that “objective” is negotiable. There is this notion that museums are objective, but when Wilson curates from his personal history, he illustrates that his perspective is true and trustworthy, also.

I loved the visitor’s handout that accompanied the exhibit, also. In particular, I appreciated the questions, “For whom was it created? For whom does it exist? Who is doing the telling? The hearing” and “Where are you?” The questions about storytelling and audience made me think about Memorial Mania and the question of who the memorials are supposed to help grieve, and whose healing they’re intended to facilitate. I appreciated the question, “Where are you,” because it demonstrated an understanding that the exhibit would not only reach across time, but across space, as well.

Archives and Community Building

Something that has stuck with me from Memorial Mania was the idea that public art has a civic responsibility. I think that the same is true of public history, that it has a sense of stewardship, purpose, and service. I saw this in the Take Back the Archive mission statement, when they write that their purpose is to “establish a national model for college and university communities wishing to memorialize, historicize, interpret, confront, and end sexual violence on campus.” It’s clear that there is a specific purpose to this history, and the archive project is aware of its power to shape their community. The archive does not exist in a vacuum, but it can shape identities and actions.

It also seems that Rebecca Onion, in her article about a lot of history on Twitter, is saying that public history should offer connections. Onion takes issue with the fact that the pictures don’t include links and context. This to me means that history needs to be connected to a narrative in order to be of service to people or to a community. That’s why it’s important for Onion to curate a timeline, and that’s one of the reasons why in the Throwback Column for the college news I try to bring together several different articles from different times. What’s difficult is the urge to use the language of cause and effect, but I think that all you can do is present pieces of history and maybe have some questions, and let people make their own connections. I agree with Onion though that history can’t exist in a vacuum.

Community, Hell Week, Rah rah rah

Gieseking’s conversations and analysis of Mount Holyoke students and how gender is spatially (re)produced at different scales made sense to me, but felt insufficient. Key moments for me were:

  • Changes in the dress code that explained feeling more free to focus on the content of their conversations and studies; students became less rooted in the body and more focused on the mind
  • Reimagining the private sphere of the home and how that might be a restorative space for women. Now that they were given access and ownership to the space, they could construct a home environment that served them. This seems to be, however, a relational space, one based in interpersonal and communal relationships. The space is not physical then, but social. This social scale seems to be one that Gieseking should have articulated or examined. It reminds me of bell hooks theory of “the homeplace” as a site of resistance for Black women. The notion is that the homeplace is the private world constructed for and by Black women, where their only task is to affirm and commune with one another to facilitate each others healing. This communal healing then becomes a political act of resistance. Gieseking alludes to this idea in his inclusion of the study of the Philippine Women Centre, and I think this theory could illuminate another scale, an intermediary scale between the body and the institutional.

Gieseking’s article, as well as the NCPH website, made me think about Hell Week because both thought along the lines of communal touchstones–most historians talk about shared spaces in campus memory, but there are also traditions which are shared temporal space that inform collective memory. wtf proposal conclusion

This is an excerpt from the Traditions Committee’s proposal for the changes to Hell Week in order to transition to WTF Week. In the conclusion, we tried to address the intent of Hell Week as a space in time. It exists counter to the rest of the year in terms of the intent or organization of time. Because I’m gay and I love this term, I think that Hell Week *queers* Bryn Mawr because it disrupts the structured time of a capitalist society: work, work, work, get rich, etc. However, Hell Week demands that you don’t work, don’t think, and you only feel and play.

Archival Work is So Emotional?

Honestly, this week’s readings overwhelmed me. I think I was over-identifying with Jarrett Drake and also the archival efforts that Lae’l Hughes-Watkins write about because of my role as an editor of the college news. When Drake wrote, “You matter. Your experience matters. Your activism matters,” I had this weird moment where I realized that I wrote almost identical words, or expressed an extremely similar sentiment, in a couple of the letters from the editors last semester. It’s hard work to convince people that archives matter, it’s so emotional. It really is a lot of convincing people that they have important things to say and are valuable…which is really intense emotional labor.

It’s bizarre how much care-taking is involved with archiving, which Hughes-Watkins refers to when they talk about the challenges of the oral history project being gaining the interviewees’ trust. At the same time, it makes a lot of sense because you’re working with people’s stories, which in the end is all we have. It reminds me of this anthology of Latina narratives called Telling to Live–here’s the summary of the novel from the Amazon page (hehe):

Telling to Live embodies the vision that compelled Latina feminists to engage their differences and find common ground. Its contributors reflect varied class, religious, ethnic, racial, linguistic, sexual, and national backgrounds. Yet in one way or another they are all professional producers of testimonios—or life stories—whether as poets, oral historians, literary scholars, ethnographers, or psychologists. Through coalitional politics, these women have forged feminist political stances about generating knowledge through experience. Reclaiming testimonio as a tool for understanding the complexities of Latina identity, they compare how each made the journey to become credentialed creative thinkers and writers. Telling to Live unleashes the clarifying power of sharing these stories.
The complex and rich tapestry of narratives that comprises this book introduces us to an intergenerational group of Latina women who negotiate their place in U.S. society at the cusp of the twenty-first century. These are the stories of women who struggled to reach the echelons of higher education, often against great odds, and constructed relationships of sustenance and creativity along the way. The stories, poetry, memoirs, and reflections of this diverse group of Puerto Rican, Chicana, Native American, Mexican, Cuban, Dominican, Sephardic, mixed-heritage, and Central American women provide new perspectives on feminist theorizing, perspectives located in the borderlands of Latino cultures.
This often heart wrenching, sometimes playful, yet always insightful collection will interest those who wish to understand the challenges U.S. society poses for women of complex cultural heritages who strive to carve out their own spaces in the ivory tower.

I included this because I think this book says something about trust, ownership, and storytelling. This book is complicated because I wonder if the Latina’s who offer their stories would feel comfortable participating in an oral history project, for example. It seems to me that they chose to create an anthology because they needed a separate space–which makes sense to me. It’s frustrating because as a Latina I completely understand not trusting institutions (archives or even a newspaper like the college news) with the stories of marginalized groups. I guess I’m just so overwhelmed because if I want to be someone who works in academia and academic institutions, it hurts me to know that I can’t be my community’s safe space. No matter what I do, it feels like the harmful history of the spaces I choose to be in will alienate me from the communities that I say I’m working to heal.

Memorials as Public Displays of Affection (read: who are we loving?)

First I want to say that I only have the horizontal lines because formatting is hard and I really wanted paragraph breaks. Oh, WordPress…

In Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America, Doss does important work in articulating how history is emotional and human, it is not unfeeling or unbiased. I appreciate that she takes time to point out that creating memorials and monuments are uniquely human processes; they are rituals. The notion of memorials as sites of national honor, grief, and religious experiences made me think about how important memorials are for framing social worth. In other words, how do memorials demonstrate who we mourn and miss?

Memorials are far more political than simply remembering someone or something. It’s a question of whose loss do we miss or notice? Another way of saying this to me is, who do we love?

This made me think of a speech by activist Mia Mingus, a disabled queer transnational adoptee who’s work focuses on social justice for survivors of sexual abuse. She gave a speech called, “Moving Toward the Ugly: A Politic Beyond Desirability” for the Femmes of Color Symposium in 2011, where she talks about embracing the Ugly as magnificent.

Doss writes a lot about how historically monuments honor “great men.” Further, Doss writes about how monuments and memorials enact “a living memory” (Doss 38). To me, monuments and memorials are spaces and objects that signal and structure our constructions of social worth. Therefore, if we are a culture that celebrates cisgender, white, heterosexual, able-bodied men in our statues and memorials–physical spaces that register important temporal moments–then we are a culture that continues to assert that man as the only human that we love, protect, preserve, and imagine as part of our nation’s future. In her talk, Mingus asks us to celebrate the ugly, to see the ugly in us–what society sees as freakish, unacceptable, or wrong–and not run away from it. She asks us to see the ugly as magnificent. I wonder what would happen if we memorialized disabled queer bodies of color? What happens when you assert the life and permanence of a specific community?

This is what I believe Doss gestures towards when she discusses the shift towards a “memorial mania,” and the increase in remembering more specific communities and acknowledging that we are a fragmented nation with many “publics.” However, I have some reservations about the new “experience”-based museums (Doss 51-52). Of course, I believe that restructuring memorials and the hierarchy of mourning and grief can greatly affect who we see as a citizen, and as a human worthy of protection. However, when Doss writes of museums like the Holocaust museum, which give each museum-goer an identification number, I wonder who their audience is. Museums assume that everyone who attends is going to learn about someone else’s experience, in which case it is helpful to try to access someone else’s lived experience. However, I wonder in what ways memorials and museums can help serve a specific community, and help that community grieve and heal. In other words, I wonder about the balanced between the internal and external when it comes to the civic duty of memorials and museums. Which population do these spaces serve, and in what ways does serving the white, heterosexual, Christian, able-bodied public prevent the grief and healing process for the rest of the public?

Community Day of Learning: Healthcare and Class Panel

For the Community Day of Learning, I was only able to attend one workshop in the afternoon. I went against my gut, and attended “Healthcare and Class: Bridging Differences or Falling Through Cracks.” The guiding questions for the panelists (a post-bac, a senior undergrad at Bryn Mawr, and a Haverford alum who was a Pediatrician) were about the logistical barriers to healthcare in regards to class. While the post-bac and the senior had many insights and posed some thought-provoking  questions about our responsibility to help reform policies, the retired pediatrician was not so helpful. He ended up making very broad generalizations about people of lower socio-economic status, and of the people in the room. He assumed that everyone in the room was coming from an upper-class background, and that everyone in the room had insurance, for example. He asked us questions like, “Can you imagine what it’s like to not have a car, and to have to take the bus to your doctor’s appointment?” He also asked us to raise our hands if we knew the names of our housekeepers in our dorms, and then when most of us raised our hands, he said, “Oh, that’s better than I thought. Okay, but how many of you know more than just their names?”

While he made other generalizations, some definitely racist, the overall experience signaled a key challenge of the CDL: who are we teaching? His assumption that all of us were upper-class, though not entirely off-base as we are at an elite private institution, suggests that the goal of the CDL is to teach privileged people about “under-privileged” populations. I’m not sure that that is the goal, and I definitely don’t think it should be. I think that the goal of the CDL is to help every student find an access point into a conversation.

I’m attaching this tweet, a quote from the closing speaker, because I felt that it applied to our project. Connecting it also to my disappointing panel, I would also like to add that there were several people who jumped in to push back on some of the points that the retired pediatrician was making. Even though it was difficult to watch so many micro aggressions in such a short amount of time, it was nice to see a group of people participating in thinking critically about the language that we use, especially when discussing race and class and the healthcare system.


Does White Supremacy Ever Stop? (but actually, I need to know)

From reading Ebony and Ivy, the interconnected histories of Native people and enslaved Africans became overhwhelmingly clear. Further, I noticed that Wilder’s language is much stronger and clearer than other historians’ texts that I’ve encountered which write about the transatlantic slave trade. I appreciated Wilder’s honesty and how seriously he took his writing on slavery, especially when he says, “This was more than a normalization of commerce. It reflected the activity of the family networks that undergirded the Atlantic system and the city’s integration into and dependence upon a dangerous and brutal trade” (60). Wilder put new meaning into the history through putting the slave trade in conversation with the genocide and displacement of Native populations. I appreciate also that Wilder does not soften his language, but he uses the phrase “dangerous and brutal” in order to maintain the magnitude and severity of the history. Another part that struck me was when Wilder writes that Jasper Farmar, “had brought hundreds of enslaved Africans into the New York market in less than three years, and he owned several human beings” (56). This sentence struck me because in all of the history texts I’ve read, I can’t think of a time when a word or phrase other than “slaves” or “enslaved people” or “enslaved Africans” was used.

Another moment that struck me was when Wilder writes about the slave masters who served as the jury. The slave masters were the group that created the rules and decided what justice looked like, and who deserved specific punishments. This to me connected to Wilder’s other descriptions of violence and abuse of Africans in the Americas in public spaces. Ta-Nehisi Coates writes that white supremacy is a permanent guiding ideology in the United States, and I believe that we can see that in the justice system, and in what we as a society permit in public spaces. I wonder how far we can change if at our inception, white supremacist slave owners set norms for behavior in public spaces? How far can we adapt our institutions if at their inception they were created as colonial projects that displaced Native people and exploited human beings?

Bryn Mawr vs. Wikipedia: Class, Authority and Accessibility

It was funny to me that the “Historians in Wikipedia” article ended with, “Do not be afraid to click that edit button.” Here, Phillips and McDevitt-Parks name an emotional labor to creating history. They highlight that there is anxiety that comes with asserting authority and knowledge. Though academia is seen as cold and unfeeling, the degree that it awards you structures class and therefore structures shame and pride. If you aren’t wealthy or have the opportunity, you can’t pursue the PhD or a college degree, which legitimizes your claims to assert that you have knowledge. There is a fear that comes with inserting yourself in a space that you feel you don’t belong. However, Wikipedia creates a separate space where history comes alive, in a way. Wikipedia entries both assert authority and are ever-changing, living documents. I wonder about the ways that the Summer School was doing similar work as Wikipedia, in terms of making learning and authority more accessible and open. In extending a space to working class women, did that make Bryn Mawr a malleable place, in the way that Wikipedia posts are editable documents? I’m inclined to say no, because the women were not able to edit Bryn Mawr in the way that we can write and rewrite Wikipedia posts. It follows then that the principles of the two institutions are different. Wikipedia was founded to be accessible, and Bryn Mawr was founded to be exclusive. How much can we truly edit Bryn Mawr in order to make it accessible?

The “Outsider,” “Silencing the Past,” and *the college news*

As I was reading both Filene’s “Passionate Histories: ‘Outsider’ History-Makers and What They Teach Us,” and Trouillot’s Silencing the Past, I kept thinking about my role as one of the editors of the college news and how important and frustrating that work is. Last semester, when Bryn Mawr students were posting their opinions about race at Bryn Mawr on Yik Yak, I felt immense pressure to publish the posts, which Trouillot would call the “materiality of the first moment” (29). At the same time, I knew I couldn’t just publish the posts, because while it would be preserving the opinions, it wouldn’t feel right to present them without any commentary or interpretation. While I agreed with Trouillot that these moments of silencing–the immediate sources, how to archive them, and construct a narrative–are crucial for the creation of history, in reality these all happen in an instant. I felt so much pressure in that week to record and save what everyone was saying, and construct a narrative. In the end, we printed only a few posts from Yik Yak because we had space limitations, and I wanted to prioritize student response to the Yik Yaks, rather than the posts themselves.

The events of those two weeks were almost impossible to construct a narrative out of, because there were so many different incidents and movements all happening at the same time. If I were to break up the events by space I would say that they key action-spaces were:

  • Radnor & Radnor Halloween
  • The ECC Library, kitchen, and common room
  • Campus Safety
  • Yik Yak
  • The Campus Center & SGA meetings
  • Thomas Great Hall

The organization of power was radically different in each of these spaces. As I sat in each of these rooms, I was shocked that hardly anyone cared to participate in recording what was happening in the newspaper. No matter how many times I asked for help or offered to print things in the paper, the most that people did was listen politely. I don’t think this is anyone’s fault, or say this to complain about my peers, but just to say that I was baffled at how I felt like the only person in the room who understood that the newspaper was a powerful tool for recording and constructing a narrative.

I remember one of the weirdest moments of those weeks was when I was in the ECC Library, and students were planning to occupy Campus Safety, and one student recommended that they have someone from the college news present. Then, another student said, “Are we sure we want that? You know how the news can change things.” I felt like I had failed my peers if they didn’t know that they were the ones making the news. They were the ones who had the power to tell their own story. That’s the beauty of this feminist newsjournal, is that we make it our mission to prioritize voices that have been undervalued and silenced.

In the end, we published the “Race & Erasure” issue and got a great response from administrators, faculty and students. I’m skipping ahead in the story, but I think that the reason why it was so popular was because it was so timely, and because the students who wrote and submitted did a beautiful job of speaking out of their lived experience, as Filene writes about. Further, I think that having the paper come out then, and seeing the Yik Yak posts, along with a timeline of events going back a few years, created, as Filene writes, “a conversation, a civic dialogue” (26). I am endlessly fascinated with the college news as a space, and it’s unique power.

Even though we received a lot of positive feedback, I know that things fell through the cracks, and that we didn’t tell the whole story. Every issue I’m scared that someone won’t feel connected to the paper, and I really feel for historians, because I feel like at the end of the day, all they want is to tell a good story, and tell it right.