Below are slack posts I wrote in response to a prompt from each professor whose unit we have taken so far.
Unit 1, Dr. Robb:
The following post is an annotation of Frankfurt’s Bullshit that centers on conceptual schemes and how they influence interpretations of dialogue between people.
On page 123, Frankfurt writes about the woman complaining that Wittgenstein was rude: “She knew him, and she knew what to expect from him; she knew how he made her feel.” We see here that Pascal’s perception of Wittgenstein’s comments was determined by her thoughts about him based on previous experience. I feel like this is an example of a conceptual scheme, or at least an expression of one, because it is possible to perceive Witt’s comments differently, but Pascal took them to have a very specific meaning. Frankfurt shows this idea a couple lines down when he says, “it [Pascal’s interpretation] is sufficiently true to her idea of Wittgenstein to have made sense to her,” even if her interpretation was false according to Witt’s actual intentions.
Unit 3, Dr. Fache:
This response discusses the theft of dignity of black women by Europeans as presented in the work “Displaying Sara Baartman” by Saidiya Hartman.
“Displaying Sara Baartman” contains the most in depth discussion on how human dignity was removed from blacks. It recounts how blacks were reduced to a single group of people that made up an inferior race. The distinctions between them were largely disregarded, and they were often characterized as closer relatives to apes than whites. These two factors are two primary methods of reduction of dignity. The first, assigning all blacks to the same group, removes the diversity and varied history of blacks. The pride of being German or English or French or any other nationality/ethnicity in Europe is also present in blacks, some hailing from the Caribbean or various parts of Africa. When all blacks are assigned to the same group, that pride is effectively suppressed which and removed an integral identity from people of color.
The second factor, the scientific categorization of blacks, is just as damaging. Under this narrative, blacks are not only just one singular race, they are also biologically less than other races because they are more animal-like or “savage.” It is obvious how comparing a person and an animal is dehumanizing, and this was the intention of those who sought to assert their so-called superiority over blacks. The efficacy of these scientific (and this word should be used only in the sense that scientists were making this claim, not that the claim has any logical merit) claims is increased because respected people in society were making them, so people who were less informed/educated would have believed because they didn’t know better.
So, in summary, we have the rich history of a group completely taken away and reduced to a singular, barbaric story, and we also have the elites in society creating a narrative that this group is really more of a monkey-human mix and shouldn’t be treated as real humans. There are few ways the dignity of blacks could be any more removed.
Unit 2, Dr. Green:
This post discusses thoughts that came to my mind as I was watching Anna Deavere Smith’s Notes from the Field, a verbatim documentary theater film. In my response, I discuss the contestable nature of the true reasons for unrest and poverty in the black community that Smith forces the audience to consider.
One thing I noticed that was juxtaposed was the idea of personal responsibility and discipline and the idea of “predestination” by the system. The system argument is that blacks are born into a society which doesn’t allow them to prosper and that this is the sole or primary reason that so many young blacks end up in prison or in poverty. The idea of personal responsibility is that if parents raise their kids right and people work hard and make good choices (focus on education, etc.) that they will be able to build a better life for themselves and therefore their children. One particular person, the El Salvadorian inmate, highlights this well. He discusses a victim mindset of people that he sees around him and how they feign, exaggerate, or even lie to themselves about the drama of what they have done or experienced.
The conflict of these two ideas is interesting for me personally because they are different ways of trying to achieve the same goal: equality. Very few people, I my opinion, can watch some of the scenes in Notes from the Field and come out saying the abusive actions presented are right. The challenge lies in determining what to do about them. Is it all the system’s fault and if so, can more policy improve things? Is it a matter of fixing the culture in certain populations (reducing single-parenthood, gang affiliations, etc.) and if so, does government play a role? These are the thoughts that go through my head when watching the performance, and, as I’m sure Smith intended, her work doesn’t give a concrete answer.
Unit 4, Dr. Tamura:
This post is a haiku written about a news story where people are suffering. I chose to pick a terrorist killing of Christians in Nigeria.
Terrorist killings of Christians in Nigeria:
Sontag says “when we feel safe, we are indifferent,” and this is often sad but true.
We look from afar and say “how horrible,” while we do nothing but continue as usual.
I hope to be more moved by events like this,
after all an attack on one is an attack on all.
How strong these who suffer show themselves to be; they are hunted, tortured, killed.
Many of us doubt because of hardship and troubles, but these believe despite the worst, and are somehow strengthened by it.
How telling, how encouraging, how convicting.