Walled Women

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Anne Dalke's picture


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.

HSBurke's picture

Can there really ever be an "other side"?

Today, while giving a tour, I mentioned our book group to the student and her mother. I gave the usual speal, and tied it in by mentioning that the CEO pays for our travel and that BMC is supportive of these types of independent projects. She responded with, "Oh that must be so nice for a sociology student, to see how the other side lives."

My response was less than honorable. I sort of nodded along with her before realizing what I was agreeing with. Thinking back now, though, I realize how very, very strange the idea is that the women we work with are somehow different, removed, "others" from us. I think I stopped seeing true difference a long time ago. There is no "other side", I think. We all represent many colors and shapes in a kaleidoscope, overlapping, intersection, enmeshing to paint a picture. 

We are not the same, no, but we're not truly different, either. 

Anne Dalke's picture

allegorical panels

This looks like remarkable work-- http://prisonphotography.org/2014/03/05/prisoners-39-panel-allegorical-mural-made-from-bedsheets-hair-gel-and-stacks-of-newspapers/ --and it was on display @ The Church Studios, in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia.

Anne Dalke's picture

beyond the new jim crow

I think that most of you are familiar with Michelle Alexander's powerful book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. I just learned, from the Inside/Out listserv, of an equally compelling critique: James Forman's Racial Critiques of Mass Incarceration: Beyond the New Jim Crow, New York University Law Review 87 (Feb. 26, 2012).

Take a look; I'd really like to discuss this...and thanks!

Anne Dalke's picture

On being conned

I’ve been waving Rena Fraden's Imagining Medea: Rhodessa Jones and Theater for Incarcerated Women @ y’all for a couple of weeks now, and thought I’d take the time to write out a little of what I find so compelling about the book. It is really making me feel dissatisfied with the sort of writing we are getting, and making me be more thoughtful about ways in which we might help folks dig deeper, be more truthful.

If you don’t know the story of Medea, read about it here—it’s all about betrayal, abandonment, anger, “too much love.”

“Jones finds theatrical ways to interrogate the personal, surrounding the contemporary with the mythical, providing more texts, and thus context, for these women, so that each individual’s story is not isolated but always seen in relation to others…autobiography alone neither guarantees new insights nor changes behavior. As Joan Scott has argued, experience is not transparent but is ‘at once always already an interpretation and something that needs to be interpreted’ (p. 21).

HSBurke's picture

Nervous Conditions Book Idea

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga 

"Tambu, an adolescent living in colonial Rhodesia of the '60s, seizes the opportunity to leave her rural community to study at the missionary school run by her wealthy, British-educated uncle. With an uncanny and often critical self-awareness, Tambu narrates this skillful first novel by a Zimbabwe native. Like many heroes of the bildungsroman, Tambu, in addition to excelling at her curriculum, slowly reaches some painful conclusions--about her family, her proscribed role as a woman, and the inherent evils of colonization. Tambu often thinks of her mother, "who suffered from being female and poor and uneducated and black so stoically." Yet, she and her cousin, Nyasha, move increasingly farther away from their cultural heritage. At a funeral in her native village, Tambu admires the mourning of the women, "shrill, sharp, shiny, needles of sound piercing cleanly and deeply to let the anguish in, not out." In many ways, this novel becomes Tambu's keening--a resonant, eloquent tribute to the women in her life, and to their losses."


Anne Dalke's picture

to note

this guy (robert fairbanks) is teaching in bmc's soc dept now!
--maybe we should ask him to come and talk w/ us???
sounds like he has some interesting ideas re: the "recovery model":

Anne Dalke's picture

Ruth Wilson Gilmore

The Greater Philadelhia Women's Studies Consortium is bring Ruth Wilson Gilmore to the area in the fall.
I will be sure to get her to come to Bryn Mawr!

Anne Dalke's picture

plans for 2/21/14


Anne Dalke's picture

fundraiser, redux

on friday, sara and i shared an over-the-top experience in our current 360, which led us--curiously, curiously--
back to the fund-raising this group did in November. for the backstory, see Dutch wax fabrics, conceived ecologically....

Anne Dalke's picture

"the right to research"

and on a more philosophical note...

alice lesnick just shared w/ our "internationalizing women's education" group a really wonderful essay
about "the right to research" which is focused on the needs and rights of poor global communities, but
which i think also has tremendous resonance for women inside. sara, it might go on the reading list
for your independent study, and sasha it might also help you w/ that thesis proposal!

Anne Dalke's picture

Preparing for 2/14/14

Attached find two drafts: for our lesson plan and homework handout.
By Thursday, please send suggested changes.

p.s. now I've removed the drafts, attached the edited versions.

Anne Dalke's picture

Our Stories from the River's Side

Happy weekend!

When you all finish typing up your portion of the women's stories about home, please send them to me (by Thursday, not too late...). I'll combine them into a single document with consistent formatting, and Sara will print off copies for y'all to bring in on Friday.

Since all the stories won't have attributions, it's not clear how Jody will create the record, for her "certificate" book, of who has done this work.

Also, one of you suggested that we needed a google doc, so that we can do the second round in this process--make the requested corrections in the women's stories. I have been tearing my hair out for the past hour, creating one, but here it is:


I've just "shared" it with you all, so you can make the corrections directly on that document, which is the one we'll hand out at the end of the semester.

Thanks in all directions. What a project it is, that we are engaged in here!
Til Monday,

Anne Dalke's picture

Homework Handout for RCF: 2/7/14

NEW HOMEWORK for 2/14/14 meeting of  the Bryn Mawr Book Group

Read to p. 202 of The Glass Castle.
Write 3 pp. describing the kind of education you got outside of school.

This writing assignment steps off from our discussion about how Mom’s philosophy of schooling, in The Glass Castle, is like her philosophy of mothering: in both areas, she thought kids flourished best if they had no rules, no discipline, and lots of freedom….

We want you to think about the relationship between what you learned in school and what you learned outside of it. In giving you this assignment, we’re drawing on a book by Wendy Luttrell called Schoolsmart and Motherwise: Working-Class Women’s Identity and Schooling.  It describes the difference between “book learning” and commonsense knowledge,” and says that  "real intelligence" can be attained outside school, from life experience.

Anne Dalke's picture

Lesson Plan for RCF: 2/7/14

Lesson Plan for Riverside, 2/7/31

I. Sasha:
Welcome! We’ve brought two more students with us…
we want to introduce them. Some of you may be new, too,
and we want to learn your names.

--everyone have a name tag?
--anyone need a copy of The Glass Castle?

Take a moment to find one sentence in The Glass Castle that stood out to you.
Go around, say your name, and read that sentence. Don’t comment on it,

Anne Dalke's picture

"Meetings with a Murderer"

What interests me most, in this opinionate blog, is the final line: "My mother had not been able to figure out how to keep up a correspondence with a man imprisoned for life. Thirty years later, neither could I." See
Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, Meetings with a Murderer. January 29, 2014.

HSBurke's picture

Second half of poetry

While typing up the poetry (what an experience!) I felt compelled to write my own short piece. I'm sure you'll notice my influence: 

While they are locked up I

            Look up

            Type up

            Check up

            Eat up

It is so FUCKED UP

The yellow papers scream

I try to answer back

Flying fingers on white keyboard

The only language I speak. 

NOTE: I fixed some clear typos but mostly left as-is. I was also unsure about one or two of the names. 

Anne Dalke's picture

Lesson Plan for RCF: 1/31/14

I. Anne:
[rest of us welcome late-comers, get chairs, etc.]

Home work was to read Chapter 1 of
Jeannette Walls’ memoir, The Glass Castle.
Read two opening paragraphs aloud together, and then discuss:
What is going on here? What do you see? (ex: “Mom,” not “my mother”)
focus in on p.o.v.—>
can we re-tell this from the mother’s p.o.v.?
what would this story look like then?
what would be brought to the foreground/what pushed to the background?

II. Sasha:
Your writing assignment for today was to do the same
thing Walls did in the opening pages of her memoir--

to write three pages describing your own mother:
what does she look like on the outside?
What does she feel like on the inside?
We asked you to be as concrete and specific as Walls is, in her first chapter…
to think about who is doing the talking: whose voice is speaking?
Or: who are you, looking @ her? What are your surroundings?
And who is she, looking back @ you and talking to you?
What are her surroundings?

Anne Dalke's picture

Barb Toews on “designing justice, designing spaces”

Barb is talking right now about restorative justice on the rise....

some notes made while listening:

The program began by describing the “extraordinary contribution,” of the “amazing” Barb Toews, to work that attends to the relation between environmental design and behavior. Barb kicked off the program by talking about “changing the metaphor” from criminal justice as a “boxing match,” to imagining “restorative justice as a mountain lodge, a room in which you need to face the harm you had caused, and become accountable to victims…” so that in workshops she might ask, “are you sitting in the boxing ring right now? Then go to the ‘do no harm’ room…”

Anne Dalke's picture

planning for spring semester

we'll meet tues, jan. 21, @ 4 p.m. in the english house lounge--
and have to settle then on whether we will be offering classes every friday,
or on alternate weeks (this depends on you, sasha...).

i'm attaching the four handouts i've drafted for our session on jan. 24 --
all to be discussed, of course.

HSBurke's picture

Fundraising possibilities for our book group

So I was remembering back to one of our earlier conversation about how we can carry on our work financially and have money to buy books, transportation, etc. I think Sara brought up the idea of a website like kickstarter or indiegogo. I've looked into both and Indiegogo seems best (kickstarter is mostly for art-related ventures). For fun, I also started the process of creating our page. But as I got further into it and started answering some tougher questions, I realized that this may be better done as a group with all of us providing input. Maybe we can schedule an extra meeting sometime to work on this? I know how important the money part is to us being able to sustain this work, so I'm thinking sooner rather than later.. 

Rather than just updating you on this progress, I also wanted to get everyone's feedback on how me might use something like this internet platform to our advantage. Obviously we could share the link through Facebook and email to our friends, colleagues and family to solicit donations, but what else?