Racism’s Rage and Bitter Despair, James Baldwin’s Heart

Photo by Richard Avedon
By Beth U. I am reposting this piece from 2014 as I read about who might be in the US presidential cabinet come January 2017. ______ In these days following the grand jury’s choice not to indict Darren Wilson for killing Mike Brown, between protesting and watching live streams of people on the streets of Ferguson, I read James Baldwin. I read and reread James Baldwin. I put down one book only to pick up another. I need the particular combination of solace and fury that ...
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The Fantasy of Ethical Capitalism

By Laurian B. For many years, Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place was a staple text for my introductory course in cultural anthropology. A fast, and unsettling read for anyone who has traveled to the Caribbean with a beach vacation forefront on their minds, Kincaid peels the beauty of Antigua to deliver prescient critiques of the privatization-of-everything that continues to devour the few remaining public-enterprises in the world. Kincaid gut punches both natives and tour...
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Specters of a school’s closing

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By Beth U. For his installation reForm, artist Pepón Osorio relocated a classroom from the closed Fairhill Elementary School to another classroom – at Temple University's Tyler School of Art in North Philadelphia, a mile from Fairhill. To find reForm, you have to wander through Tyler’s occupied basement studios until, pushing through some double doors, you come across a row of cubbies from Fairhill. Jackets and bac...
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Not-so-secret secrets of the urban refuge

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By Beth U. I like margins. Edges of scholarship, abandoned lots, wildlife preserves carved from the industrial grid. I often walk at Tinicum Refuge, a marshland adjacent to the Philadelphia Airport and the largest remaining freshwater tidal wetland in Pennsylvania. It is only because of conservationists’ efforts that Interstate 95 runs alongside the marsh rather than through it. Along the other side sits the Sun Oil Company tank farm, a series of enormous canisters that ...
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The Fight Continues: Our Movements Will Not be Silenced

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By Lucy Gleysteen On Monday May 4th and 5th, Decarcerate PA and its allies occupied the capitol steps in Harrisburg for 24 straight hours to share the words of individuals currently incarcerated in Pennsylvania’s prisons.  This protest was originally a response to the Revictimization Relief Act (The Silencing Act), a law designed to silence prisoners by allowing the DAs, victims, and Attorney General the power to sue people convicted of personal injuries...
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El Carnaval de Puebla en Filadelfia

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By Beth U. A trumpet blares as a sequined figure bends at the waist and stomps.  He swoops low enough that his fake grey beard dusts the street.  Behind him, a sea of fur-trimmed hats bob to the live brass band.  Pink masked faces stare back at the crowd with blank eyes. Richly embroidered costumes of orange, blue, pink, yellow and gold pass by as silver-skinned Aztec warriors prance in a cloud of feathers.  It's Carnaval de Puebla en Filadelfia.  Spectators pour from row...
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Marge Piercy, life as work and words

Phyllis Chesler and Marge Piercy in Cape Cod, Summer 1973.
By Beth U. I just put down poet/writer Marge Piercy's memoir Sleeping with Cats. In it, Piercy explains that she had no role models while coming of age in the 1950s. “Resistant to sex roles,” she “wanted something larger and deeper and darker” than the lives of women she knew (67).   So she became her own role model. She cast herself as “odd” and in search of “fringe types”—“others with writing ambitions, left politics—misfits and rebels and intellectuals” (89).   Ye...
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On Audre Lorde and the Uses of Anger, Part IV

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By Beth & Laurian This series on Audre Lorde centralizes anger as a way to discuss intersectionality, patriarchy and feminism. In this fourth and final conversation, we consider the benefits of anger for renewal and strength. Beth: We have talked a bit about anger and fear – the ways in which social norms discourage women from expressing anger and how juridical systems punish women who defend themselves from the anger/violence of others. Anger takes on...
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On Audre Lorde and the Uses of Anger, Part III

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By Laurian & Beth   Below is part three of our series on Audre Lorde in which we use Lorde’s work to reflect on race, feminism, and anger. Our session today touches upon institutional racism, academia, activism, guilt, and building commonalities. Beth: Let’s talk for a bit about racism and sexism on college campuses. Recently, faculty members Eve Dunb...
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Hit the Road: Musings on Beat Muses

Zora Neale Hurston
By Beth U I’ve been reading bits of Beat memoir here and there.  Recalling her coming-of-age during the Beat-era, writer Janine Pommy Vega describes her virginity as a "hindrance."  At 16, she and a friend staked out the Cedar Bar (the popular Beat hangout in Greenwich Village) to meet Gregory Corso.  A few days later, they visit him and Peter Orlovsky in their shared apartment. As Vega waits to have sex with Orlovsky (a given for a female fan?), Corso takes her friend into a...
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Dialogue with Susan Brin Hyatt

Susan Hyatt (second from right) with collaborators from the Eastside project
ENVISION is thrilled to post a dialogue with Susan Brin Hyatt, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. As an urban anthropologist and former community organizer, Dr. Hyatt prioritizes participatory and community-based research methods. She is the founding Director of the Graduate Program for IUPUI’s MA in Applied Anthropology. Dr. Hyatt’s corpus of ethnographic work examines the gendered impact of neoliberal policies on grassroots activism in ...
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The Beauty of Quitting: Keguro Macharia on Deracination, Psychic Breaks, and the US Academy

Julie Mehretu. "Dispersion," 2002. Ink and acrylic on canvas
By Beth U. I just came across Keguro Macharia's beautiful post “On Quitting” for The New Inquiry. In it, Macharia tries to make sense of why he resigned from a tenure track job at the same time he completed a book manuscript for publication. Academia rewards self-abnegation in the pursuit of perfectly timed and perfectly placed publications. It demands cycles of fevered writing followed by lengthy periods of ...
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On Audre Lorde and the uses of anger, Part I

By Beth & Laurian How do we have “intersectional” conversations about state violence, gender, class, sexuality, and race as feminists? What do we do with our rage when we know that women, girls, queer people, and trans* people (among others) continue to be sidelined in discussions about state-sanctioned violence? To erase experiences of violence from public discourse is a form of violence in and of itself. To erase resilience and leadership is also a fo...
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What we need is a Pain-Capable Woman Protection Act

By Beth U. Reading Ellen Willis and watching VESSEL in light of a proposed 20-week abortion ban When Congress reconvened a few weeks ago, two Republican Representatives introduced a bill called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HR 36) that aims to ban abortion after 20 weeks. Today, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, House Republicans planned to vote on this legislation but changed course at the last minute.  Members of their own party More

What can genealogies of radical and revolutionary poetics tell us now?

June Jordan, Alice Walker, Lucille Clifton, and Audre Lorde, At Phillis Wheatley Poetry Fest, 1979.
By Beth U. It’s winter and I am reading. I find myself devouring older U.S. feminist criticism (and criticism of this criticism) in order to think about the now: all the cracks, heroic optimism, anger, inadequacy, misdirection, bravery and labor of feminism/s—the messiness of messy people pushing social boundaries, expressing what it is at stake, taking the fall, finding joy, exposing fragility and strength and rage. Together, feminist efforts demonstrate that "no sing...
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Whose Free Speech is Prioritized?

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By Lucy Gleysteen Why is the freedom to disseminate ideologies that reproduce inflammatory stereotypes accepted while the freedom to express condemnation of Charlie Hebdo is silenced? Why is it so difficult for the public to grasp the notion that terror and violence spring from environments in which violence is encouraged, environments that allow for anti-Islam protests to be acceptable, environments where black and brown bodies are not valued, environments where minorities a...
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Breaking the Failure Taboo

Belize, photo by B.Uzwiak
By Beth U. A friend who is applying for tenure track teaching positions just emailed me Patrick Iber’s article “(Probably) Refusing to Quit” posted on Inside Higher Ed last spring. Iber details his struggle to obtain a tenure track position in the midst of the death of his mother and the birth of his children. At one point Iber tweeted: “Here's me: Ph.D....
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Africa Meets the (mid)West

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By Laurian B. I left Indianapolis on November 23rd pumped to write my reflections on the African Studies Association Conference. Then the events in Ferguson and Cleveland peeled back more layers of US white supremacy and I was sidetracked. Or perhaps I got centered and focused. I'll have more thoughts on that later... It has been a decade since I’ve attended ASA. The African Studies Association conference is often concurrent with the American Anthropological Association meetings and usuall...
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From Ferguson to Philly

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By Laurian & Beth 8:27pm beth (text to laurian): the mainstream coverage awaiting ferguson decision is making me fucking insane 8:28pm laurian (text to beth): it's a ball of bullshit 8:33pm b: coverage from St. Louis = white fear/can't we all get along/justification to use force against dissent 8:34pm l: white supremacy at its best 8:41pm b: indeed. the "deescalation training" from the police is "keeping protestors peaceful."  protestors meaning anyone who is ou...
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Ghada Amer’s Rainbow Girls

Test #5, 2013, acrylic, embroidery and gel medium on canvas, 18”x20”
By Beth U. Ghada Amer’s paintings give off heat. They vibrate. In the quiet interior of Cheim & Read, a gallery on East 24th Street in Manhattan, they moan. I am grateful that the gallery is nearly empty; I need to be alone with these paintings. It’s early May and I am here to see Amer’s latest exhibition Rainbow Girls. Known for her embroidered “paintings,” Amer repurposes images from pornography and popular culture and transforms them from quick snap...
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Dialogue with Paul Stoller

Dr. Paul Stoller with his Anders Retzius Gold Medal
We are pleased to launch our Dialogues initiative at the same time that Día de los Muertos celebrations sweep the Americas. Fittingly enough, our first conversation is with anthropologist of sorcery Paul Stoller.  Stoller is Professor of Anthropology at West Chester University and winner of the 2013 Anders Retzius Gold Medal in Anthropology from the King of Sweden. Stoller has published numerous articles and 11 books, including his most recent Yaya’s Story: The Quest for Well-Being ...
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Paul Farmer on Ebola

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Diary, by Paul Farmer. Originally posted in the London Review of Books. Dr. Farmer is a professor of Global Health at Harvard and co-founder of Partners in Health.

I have just returned from Liberia with a group of physicians and health activists. We are heading back in a few days. The country is in the midst of the largest ever epidemic of Ebola haemorrhagic fever....

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See Now Then: Jamaica Kincaid’s Tidal Force

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By Beth U. Reading Jamaica Kincaid is like immersion in a sea, not a lake, not a brook but a sea or an ocean—perhaps the Atlantic which bangs against Africa and also against islands in the West Indies. You stand on the shore. It takes a long time for her words to arrive, a sentence that starts somewhere beyond the horizon but ends with you. Her words catch you—off guard, despite the waiting—around the ankles and tug. So you walk in, you begin to swim, slowly at first: the wat...
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Accra Under Construction

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By Laurian B. As rural to urban migration continues to outpace housing in Accra, Ghana, I was unsurprised by the number of construction projects that took place during the summer of 2011. However, many of these building projects were not in the areas where they are needed most. Whenever I conduct research with migrants in Accra, there are recurrent conversations about the lack of affordable and sanitary housing. Rental fees can strip all earnings within a year for most tenants. Accra resident...
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Zielony’s Sails, A Review

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By Beth U. I recently went to see Vele (Sails), the photographic work of German artist Tobias Zielony at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Through stop motion video and a series of photographs, Zielony documents a desolate housing project in the outskirts of Naples known as “The Sails of Scampia.” In the 1960s, architect Francesco Di Salvo designed the complex to house working-class families and furnish them the fixings of ideal city living, such as parks and playing fields. Now, warri...
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Laurian is in Ghana: Reflection on Tipping

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By Laurian B. For tourists to Ghana’s capital, the Osu area is probably the most well known area of Accra. In Osu, foreigners easily find comfort foods from home and enjoy Internet access at expat owned coffee shops. A week ago, my friend Adua raved about a decadent chocolate dessert at Pinnacle Restaurant and invited some folks to join us there. The brightly tiled multistoried building sits off Osu’s main drag, Cantonments Road. The street is more colloquially known as Oxford Street, in d...
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Launch and Remembrance

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By Beth U. Today I found out that a friend I met while conducting fieldwork in Punta Gorda, Belize passed away.  She contacted me several weeks ago and I had yet to return her email, busy with a new semester of teaching.  Panic and remorse follow me these hours after her death.  Pieces of the days we spent together filter through my thoughts and the rawness of fieldwork returns.  We walk the humid, mud-sluiced streets of PG at night.  We grasp arms as our small boat to a remote island caye hi...
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