POST YOUR THOUGHTS HERE
Welcome to the on-line conversation for Women in Walled Communities, a cluster of three courses in a new 360° @ Bryn Mawr College that focuses on the constraints and agency of individual actors in the institutional settings of women's colleges and prisons.
This is an interestingly different kind of place for writing, and may take some getting used to. The first thing to keep in mind is that it's not a site for "formal writing" or "finished thoughts." It's a place for thoughts-in-progress, for what you're thinking (whether you know it or not) on your way to what you think next. Imagine that you're just talking to some people you've met. This is a "conversation" place, a place to find out what you're thinking yourself, and what other people are thinking. The idea here is that your "thoughts in progress" can help others with their thinking, and theirs can help you with yours.
Who are you writing for? Primarily for yourself, and for others in our cluster. But also for the world. This is a "public" forum, so people anywhere on the web might look in. You're writing for yourself, for others in the class, AND for others you might or might not know. So, your thoughts in progress can contribute to the thoughts in progress of LOTS of people. The web is giving increasing reality to the idea that there can actually evolve a world community, and you're part of helping to bring that about. We're glad to have you along, and hope you come to both enjoy and value our shared explorations. Feel free to comment on any post below, or to POST YOUR THOUGHTS HERE.
i just finished reading andrew solomon's astonishingly big book, far from the tree, and was particularly interested in a chapter about juvenile criminals that focuses a lot on Hennepin County Home School in Minnesota. one inmate complained, "they want you to think all day. I'd rather be breaking up rocks or shit." there were two other passages in that chapter that i want to share (meaning, of course, that i'd be interested in discussing them!) with you all:
"The relationship between kids in the justice system and their parents usually follows one of four tracks. The parents may abandon the child when he goes to prison, which may lead the child to feel lonely, lost, isolated, an desperate. The parents may abandon the child, which may prompt the child to take responsibility for himself or herself. The parents may remain or become deeply involved with the child, making the child feel that a bright future is possible. The parents may remain or become deeply involved with the child, reinforcing antisocil behavior by creating a permissive atmosphere of denial."
Dear women, now unwalled--
I realize that you are on spring break, so unlikely to be around for this event,
but it seemed so relevant to our conversations in-and-about The Cannery (and leaving it),
that I wanted to share. Perhaps you'd like to get hold of the video, if you can't
attend the screening and conversation?
Thinking of you all,
Please join us on 3/14/13 at the Fitts Auditorium at UPenn Law School at 5:30 p.m. for a
Screening of this Amazing Philadelphia Documentary, Pull of Gravity:
700,000 Inmates are Released Each Year in the U.S.
What Happens When They Come Home?
The film will be followed by a panel discussion with the Directors of the film, the Participants in the film, United States Magistrate Judge Timothy Rice (from federal reentry court), the US Attorney for the Easter District of Pennsylvania Zane Memeger and Professor Regina Austin of Penn Law School.
This is free and open to the public. The last two showings have sold out, so please go to www.pullofgravityfilm.com to reserve your tickets (for free).
Sponsored by the Women's Legal Assistance Project, the Prisoners Education and Advocacy Project and the Criminal Record Expungement Project
As some of you know, I was traveling in Northern Europe for a couple of weeks in late January and early February. I came upon a couple of walled communities which (of course!) made me think of you all. In Bruges, Belgium, I spent a peaceful morning in a begijnhof (or beguinage), dating from the 13th century, which once housed a Catholic order of single and widowed women, and today is home to Benedictine nuns:
And then, Normandy, I visited the astonishing abbey on Mont St Michel, an island fortress with a cloister strangely reminiscent of--yet different from--Bryn Mawr's:
Ladies and Lying: Some Questions about Honor
“Women have been driven mad, “gaslighted,” for centuries by the refutation of our experience and our instincts in a culture which validates only male experience. The truth of our bodies and our minds has been mystified to us. We therefore have a primary obligation to each other; not to undermine each others’ sense of reality for the sake of expediency; not to gaslight each other. Women have often felt insane when cleaving to the truth of our experience. Our future depends on the sanity of each of us, and we have a profound stake, beyond the personal, in the project of describing our reality as candidly and fully as we can to each other.”
--Adrienne Rich, “Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying”, p. 190
What do you wish you/we could have talked about with the women at the jail?
I wish we could have talked about the tension of Bryn Mawr students being able to leave at the end of the day, or the broad topic of power dynamics between us.
I wish I could’ve known why the women wanted copies of Zehr’s book on the children of incarcerated people. How could they actively choose to step face to face with such a poignant reminder of their failures and losses?
I wish we could have asked – and they could have told me – about the details of their lives.
Also, I wish we could have reflected together on what we learned by making art: What we learned about being creative/having agency within institutional structures; about finding our niches; about working collaboratively.
What did the virtual tour of BMC really make you feel? I noticed you became very quiet and reserved. – to (a particular woman)
What did you expect from this class prior to starting it? – whole class
I wish I was able to ask about religion and its role in the women’s lives while incarcerated. I also wish I was brave enough to share experiences I had in common and to admit some of my own faults to make the conversation more equal. And why didn’t I just ask how they felt about us coming in and how they saw our class, outside of an escape from the monotony of the jail’s daily routine.
hey everyone- this is rather late posting but if anyone has been still lurking around serendip over winter break, here is a link to my soundcloud account, which I uploaded all the recordings I had taken over the semester. There are some you haven't heard, so if you had liked the sound recordings you should check them out!
When I first started this class, I wasn’t sure at all what to expect. I was excited. I’d worked with Anne and Jody before and I’d met and interacted with a number of people in the class in a variety of contexts. In fact, when I saw the list of people in the class, I thought: “This is going to be an amazing semester.” The people in the 360 really do build the experience, and my expectations in terms of what my classmates and my professors would bring were not disappointed.
Because of this sense of familiarity, I’ve taken a lot of risks this semester. I’ve begun to understand and come to terms with my position of privilege and also come to understand the places where I am less privileged or de-privileged. I wrote my first web-paper for Anne about how I couldn’t write about my original place of silencing because the venue for my writing was a public one. Two papers later, I was able to address the topic in the form of a graphic narrative, and now by the end of the semester, I’ve built up the courage to speak to my parents about my position. I’ve also been able to really question myself within the space of the classroom– something I’ve shied away from before because of how vulnerable making it can be.
My group’s final project was a workshop that touched on different types of oppression and ways in which different groups are silenced on campus. We explore voice and Jody’s by educating people on the different ways in which privilege appears on campus. We used the discussion-based way of teaching/learning in our workshop. We explore the notion of vision and Barbs class by making the participants think about their niches on campus and where it is that they feel comfortable and where they do not. We used silence in our workshop by having silent discussions and giving people time to reflect on what they have seen on the posters before commenting. We also had a Delpit way of “teaching”. Throughout most of the workshop (i.e. cross the line activity) our point would get across depending on how the participants interpreted the activity. Throughout that activity, we included questions that touched on religion, gender and sexuality and race with the hopes that the participants would make the connections themselves.
When I first heard of this 360 and the topic, I got so excited and could not wait to be apart of it even if we were not traveling outside of the country like the other 360 classes did. Once the classes began I realized it was going to be an intense semester because I realized how many different point of views everyone had and I noticed this huge learning gap between my peers and I. I really found the “tension” we had in class at the beginning to be really interested. Even though I am aware that I have experienced these learning gaps between my peers and I in other class, it was really different in our 360. This was the first time I had conversations about it in class with my classmates. When it came to speaking of these issues I would usually just vent with my friends outside of classes. I really loved the fact that as the semester continued, we became more and more willing, or able to, speak of these privileges with one another. This has been an experience that I will never forget, I really loved the fact that the professors became so willing to give us the space to work on an activist project as part of the class.
Initially when I was discussing writing my reflection with Anne, she suggested that I write one for both the 360 and Ecological Imaginings because so many of my connections in both classes were deeply intertwined with one another. I ultimately decided against this because I wanted to give both classes distance from one another because there are many ways in which I also see the points at which they do not intersect. However, it was not until I was looking over my posts on Serendip to do my reflections that I could really visually see the ways in which the 360 course cluster and my Ecolit class overlapped. Many of my connections to Ecological Imaginings were finding the ways in which the Environment movement is racially and class exclusive, something I had never realized or encountered before. My concept of the way nature affects people significantly influenced how I perceived the Prison environment. One of the other connections I began to make toward the end of the course was between Jody’s education course and Ecolit revolved around divergent thinking and “play.” I began to wonder if the ways in which we are taught to focus in school, and filter out divergent thoughts was not ecologically friendly because we are taught to filter out of the “distracting” environment as well.
Can’t believe it’s all over now. I have to say this the best semester for me ever. For the first time, I wish I could stay longer on this train. The three aspects of this course really echo with each and create the optimal learning dimension for me to have the opportunity to explore something I always want to explore more. The discussion and other component of the courses create this 360 frame to examine the topics evolved around voice, silence and vision.
When Danielle and I first started envisioning our final project, we were both very drawn to the idea of looking at privilege. Danielle had been thinking about doing a zine on the topic of privilege, but when we discovered our mutual interest in video-making, we thought that might be another way of sharing the thoughts that have come out of our class in an accessible and fun way. We really wanted to look at how Bryn Mawr impacts and is impacted by differences in privilege and one of the places we started our search was the classroom.
In order to avoid stigmatizing a specific professor or set of students, Danielle wrote a script that we used as the basis for our fictional classroom scene. One of the things I’ve really noticed as a result of practicing silence and thinking about how much space my words take up in the classroom – as well as comparing our Bryn Mawr speaking experience with being in the Cannery – was how people’s notice of vocal space (or lack of notice) really impacts the classroom environment.
In the beginning of the semester, I think my learning was largely centered on my personal relationships to the themes of each class. For one, my life (for example, silence in my home) was the only platform I had at the time and two, I did not know how to move forward with Silence, Voice and Vision if I did not start with my own experiences. So, when reading through my early work, I notice that a lot of my thoughts focused on the value of personal experiences in the classroom which I mainly wrote about in paper I for Jody. Today, I still see the value--they make us invested in the work we do/each other and I am thankful for the fishbowl activities in Jody’s and Anne’s class that did this--but I now see the dangers of bringing personal experiences to the forefront and relying on them too heavily.
As I reflect on my experiences in this 360, I can’t help but feel like I can never articulate my feelings on the ways I’ve been learning. It was incredible being a part of this group and it was also too intense at times. But I think this 360 has been the most challenging learning experience I’ve had yet. What got me thinking about how to answer this question was when Danielle interviewed me for her video project. I found myself stumbling over what I wanted to say. As much as I’d love to share what I’ve learned in this 360 so far with other people, I don’t think I can because the experience was so personal. I can’t exactly describe the experience to other people if they weren’t in it because I wouldn’t be doing our 360 any justice. But I hope we made a good attempt at explaining our experiences through our final presentation of our 360.
I’ve come such a long way as a student and as a participant in this 360 but I still have such a long way to go. I’m finding that I have been contradicting myself a lot and that’s troublesome, but it’s the troublesome learning that comforts me because that’s what learning looks like. It makes me think of the Threshold Concepts we talk so much about in my TLI partnership. Whether it was me shakily standing up to walk over and join the fishbowl discussion to say what I was thinking without thinking it out fully or me choosing to write so personally about my experiences at home, I took risks.
Sunrise behind the bars!
Oh I’m done with school, I’m out of motivation
I’m walking through a fog of stifled dreams
There will always be something missing here
Trying to ignore finals week hysteria, 99 problems, and more
Oh I’m ready to go forward
Ready or not here I come
Dreams are arising from the unconscious C
I'm I'm excited for what's to come
I'm facing reality finding new purpose in life
I want to live my life on my terms
I want to live full-heartedly
Trying to ignore finals week hysteria, D99 problems, and more
My self-reflection was posted here earlier - before I actually read the portfolio instructions to put it under a specified link!
Welcome everybody! We're happy that you’ve joined us here to see what we've learned in our 360° this semester. A 360° is a cluster of interdisciplinary courses that look at one main theme. Ours is called Women in Walled Communities.
In The Rhetorics of Silence, we examined the many functions and meanings of silence: as a political tool, an imaginative space, and a powerful form of communicative expression--as well as the result of lack of agency and or the denial of voice.
In Learning in Institutional Spaces, we explored how the institutions of schools and prisons promote or inhibit learning. It was in this course that we looked most critically at this institution, Bryn Mawr College, and its own history of power and oppression, which sparked a lot of interest in Perry House as an embodiment of some of that history.
Reviewing the posts and papers I wrote at the start of the semester reminded me of the mental state I’d been in. I had just returned to Bryn Mawr after a semester abroad -- at an institution in which students had no voice whatsoever and I hadn’t met a single person who thought gender expression was a social construction (that is probably an unfair way to judge a culture -- but it is very important to me)... then, three months of education work on an urban farm and a month living on an anarchist intentional community in North Carolina. It was strange to feel like I had even a semi-permanent residence. I was re-joining a familiar institution with a new, more radical lens. This is evident in the first papers I wrote for Jody, about unschooling and resisting the words/roles “teacher” and “student.” Also, my first memo for Barb was a frustrated rant containing a lot of what I had learned about the criminal justice system through Occupy and Anarchist info-sessions. Radical energy was radiating out of me. This 360 has been wonderful for me in that it helped me express that energy --- to figure out how to communicate it productively.