Monday, July 14, 2014

The Telling of Untold Stories ...and a Dog

Breakfast this morning consisted of a fruit smoothie from one of the ubiquitous and convenient food carts that are always outside the Quad. This had the advantage of 1) being delicious and 2) allowing me to avoid the madhouse that is the dining commons in the morning. After a week in the dining commons, my perpetual optimism had faded and I no longer believe that the quality of the scrambled eggs is going to get any better nor the lines any shorter. (The 1920s is not the best of all possible dining commons.)  

Today's topic was exploring untold narratives and the role of media in social justice struggles. In the morning,  guest speakers Alix and Kristin, activists from the Media Mobilizing Project told us about how their organization seeks to amplify the voices of people participating in struggles for social justice. After showing us some of MMP's previous films, they had us work in groups to make our own videos about social justice. The results were mixed. 

For lunch, Julia and I had sushi from the Houston Market, followed by Insomnia Cookies. As excellent as these cookies are, I still think that popsicles from the Lil Pop Shop are the one true desert/snack. I also took a nap during our lunch break. (Since I usually have to go to sleep extremely late and wake up early, I've learned to take naps throughout the day.) 

Our afternoon lecture was one of my favorite lectures yet. Two former Teaching Fellows, Meghna and Julia taught us about historiography and the evolution of land rights in modern China. Meghna was our first speaker for the afternoon. She gave us an introduction to historiography and explained that there are four distinct schools of thought in Indian history. These are the Imperialist School (history from the perspective of the British Imperialists, (ewww, nobody likes Imperialists!)) the Nationalist School (which essentially subscribes to the India's-Glorious-Past-Was-Degraded-by-Imperialism-and-We-Will-Bring-India-Back-to-Its-Former-Glory narrative) the Marxist School (which doesn't require any explanation, really,) and the Subaltern School. (Guess which one we talked about most?) The subaltern camp of historians holds that the best way to understand history is from below. Subaltern historians seek to understand the perspective of the oppressed and the voiceless. Unlike the others, the subaltern approach allows for the consideration of complex stories that don't fit into a grand narrative. (For those who are interested in this idea, I think that one of my favorite books, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo is a good example of the subaltern approach applied to a community in current-day India rather than history. It is also just a great book that everyone should read.) 

Julia, our second guest speaker for the afternoon, discussed the evolution of land ownership in China in the past 50 years. This talk was awesome because of its interdisciplinary aspect; Julia began with a historical perspective and brought in information from economics and demography as well in order to explain the complex factors that have caused China's current development policy. Some of this information was new to me and some of it was old but all of it was fascinating. 

Our last activity this afternoon was to split into discussion groups to talk about the issues that had come up in class that were most important to us. I opted to be in the group that discussed international issues. (WE WERE THE BEST GROUP!) One of my peers, Lauren, made the most insightful comments I have ever heard about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Once again, I felt incredibly privileged to be in a class with so many eloquent and thoughtful people. 
Emma Goldman, the most adorable dog ever, with the best name
After dinner, Julia, Maayan, and I attended an optional screening of the documentary American Revolutionary: the Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs. The film was amazing. Grace Lee Boggs was a total badass. She broke every single societal convention she came across. The most awesome thing about the film screening, however, was not the film itself, but the special guest in attendance. I'm talking of course, about Emma Goldman. No, not the radical anarchist philosopher and political activist. Andy's dog. But she is named after the anarchist. (YES, ANDY NAMED HIS DOG AFTER AN AWESOME HISTORICAL FIGURE -- I AM NOT THE ONLY PERSON WHO DOES THIS!) (A note about Emma Goldman the human: She was awesome. She is my favorite anarchist, if only because she managed to get herself kicked out of both the US and the USSR.) 

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