#teachingthedisaster

On Wednesday morning, amid the turbulent mix of feelings that washed across the country and beyond its borders, an anxious existential question took hold of many of us: “what the f***k do we do?” Some seriously considered the need to flee for their lives. Others took to the streets. More than a few folks I know spent the day drunk or in bed. And, by the end of the day, safe spaces for decompression and community care emerged on many college campuses. Part of my own response, one shared by many other faculty, has been: TEACH.

Lots of us who teach in the U.S. (and, doubtless, in other places) have been asking dazed questions about how, and if, we should hold classes, what can we do with and for our students, and what responsibilities we have to teach to this event that so many of us are experiencing (in variously positioned and intersecting ways) as a disaster?

This morning, in my Introduction to Sociocultural Anthropology Class, I devoted the class to reflecting (with some tears) on the climate of permissible violence targeted at those bodies the Trump campaign singled out for hate and disregard during the election, hearing from students about their concerns, and thinking about what resources different students have to safely respond and to enact civic engagement and community care. Then I gave them a mini-teach in about #cripthevote and the way the block granting of Medicaid and repeal of the ACA could literally kill people.

For those of us who teach, #teachingthedisaster will depend on who our students are, what kind of expertise we can bring to lectern/table/office hour/quad, as well as our own institutional, geographical, and sociopolitical location.

Yesterday, I reached out to colleagues to begin soliciting resources that might help each of us figure out our own approach. I’m grateful for the many rapid responses I got, both for their content and also because they manifested a heartening sense of action, which I think we all need right now. Thanks to everyone who emailed and tweeted their contributions. Below is a roughly organized (and by no means complete) collection, one to which I hope you will add.

Please share your own post-Trump teaching resources (how to teach, as well as what to teach) on twitter at #teachingthedisaster or add them to the comments section to this post.

In addition to work in my own classes, I’m also organizing a teach-in for on inauguration day, Friday January 20th. I’d urge those of you in a position to do so to do the same at your intuitions. Let’s make inauguration day a national higher ed day of action. (I know that should have ended with an exclamation point, but it will take me a few more days to muster the energy)

Why to Teach

How to Teach

  • There is a world of teaching literature on the subject of “difficult dialogues.” Here is a helpful primer from Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching.
  • Though it’s geared toward k-12 education, Tolerance.Org offers helpful general classroom strategies on teaching the days after the election.
  • The African American Intellectual History Society created as set of assignments to go with the Trump 2.0 Syllabus (see below). Some of the most adaptable to Anthropology include:
    • Ask students to select a Trump property (current or former) and write a paper on its history of labor/client/neighborhood relations, from development to operation/sale [David Huyssen]Ask students to construct an idea/intellectual map using one Trump’s speeches, tracing where ideas come from historically and noting connection to other primary/secondary sources assigned in the course. [Brian Goldstein]Analyzing one of Trump’s interviews, ask students to highlight the overlapping dimensions of racism, sexism, and xenophobia. [Jeff Helgeson]
  • Disability activist and organizer Stacey Milbern posted a few tools for Social Justice Groups/Classrooms this week, including:

Pass out pen and paper to everyone. Invite people to write a letter about this moment. Ask people to not personalize the letters or provide identifying information, but write them for anyone who may be hurting in this moment. Invite people to bring the letter to you (or a co-facilitator) if they’d like. Redistribute the letters anonymously and give time for people to read them. Invite people to read the letter they received to the group if they’d like to share.

What to Teach

On Blackness and Anti-Black Racism

  •  Trump 2.0 Syllabus. This may be the best single resource I’ve come across. Created by N. D. B. Connolly and Keisha N. Blain and others at PublicBooks.Org, it is a historical, cultural, and political contextualization of the rise of Trump. The 15 units (each with accompanying Trump epitaph) include secondary sources plus a selection of primary and multimedia sources.
  • The Black Lives Matter Syllabus, created by Frank Roberts at NYU. This syllabus focuses specifically on the BLM movement. Like the Trump 2.0 syllabus, it includes lots of primary sources as well as assignments.
  • #Blacklivesmattersyllabus project from Anthropoliteia, edited by Sameena Mulla. Less specifically about the BLM movement itself, this series offers readings and assignments as well as pedagogical reflections from anthologists working on and teaching about blackness in the contemporary US.
  • Ta-Nehisi Cotes. Both his “Case for Reparations” and Between the World and Me have been cropping up on anthro syllabi on a range of topics, including my own, to foster thinking about race and history in the US and the related the workings of embodiment and dispossession.

US-Mexico:

  • Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail by Jason De Leon focuses on the way the necroviolence of the US border policy takes hold of the bodies of those who policy compels to come north across the Sonoran desert. It just won the AAA’s Marget Mead Award.
  • Seth HolmesFresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farm Workers in the United States  also focuses on bodies, but here, they are the bodies of undocumented migrant agricultural workers whose suffering and precarity is essential to the US economic and gustatory status quo.

Disability: 

  • #Cripthevote. If you’re on twitter, this hashtag, created by Alice Wong of the Disability Visibility Project with Andrew Pulrang, and Gregg Beratan,  is an amazing archive of disabled and ally voices.
  • #Cripthevote: What’s the Crisis of Liberalism Got to Do with It is Faye Ginsberg and Rayna Rapp’s contribution to the CA Crisis of Liberalism Hotspot (see below), describing the role of disability engagement in the 2016 election.
  • Ari Ne’man, co-founder of the Autistic Self-Advocasy Network and member of the National Council on Disability (for as long as it exists…), just wrote a perfect primer about how the repeal of the ACA and proposed block granting of Medicaid will endanger and kill disabled people. This is a must teach.
  • Liz Lewis’ blog Disability Fieldnotes is a great resource both for reflective thinking about what an anthropology of disability in the U.S. might do, and also for insight, facts and figures.

How Could This Happen?

The Crisis of Liberalism

The following people contributed resources for this list: Vincanne Adams, Lindsay Bell, Dominic Boyer, Christopher Chan, Seth Holmes, Cymene Howe, Kevin Karpiak, Ashley Lebner, Ken MacLeish, Carol Mcgranahan, Andrea Mulebach, and Jenny Shaw.

 

18 thoughts on “#teachingthedisaster

  1. Zoe- thank you for pulling this together! As more information comes out there is a sense of surprise that “the rust belt” went republican, when that hasn’t happened since the 1980s. I teach a US anthropology class in the rust belt, and my students led the charge to want to understand more about the place they call home (http://www.utpteachingculture.com/life-in-america/). They read great stuff by anthropologists like Walley’s Exit Zero, Gretchen Purser’s work on Evictions and African American Day Laborers in Baltimore but also things like David Giffels journalistic essays in “The Hard Way on Purpose”. I see my recent graduates embroiled in debates with their families on Facebook, championing love and not hate, but I wonder how we (meaning students in the RB and their faculty) might need other strategies. How can we cultivate an ethnographic sensibility that spreads beyond the ones in our major?

    As a coping strategy, I read Feminist Theory yesterday and was taken by this: “What I take from Beauvoir, contra Hardt and Negri, is a cautionary note: a left that gives itself over to love is one that perpetually risks becoming Empire’s bitch”.
    —Robyn Marasco. 2010. ‘I would rather wait for you than believe that you are not coming at all’: Revolutionary love in a post-revolutionary time’. Philosophy and Social Criticism 36(6) 643–662

  2. It’s one thing to oppose Trump. It’s quite another thing to structure your classroom assignments in a way that reflects a partisan political orientation and demands that students toe the political line. Your job is to teach the course, not to try to out the Trump supporters in your class. If you’re allowing your feelings about Trump to result in politically oriented assignments you aren’t being fair to your students.

  3. This is very helpful. My students have been sharing stories of racist comments on campus with me. Anthropologists are in an important position to teach empathy and understanding racism. We are also vulnerable, as intellectuals and students have been historically in times like these. I think we should also discuss protecting the spaces we create to talk about these issues.

  4. I think the most important thing to communicate to your students is that you care about their well-being and that you will support them if they or people they know are targeted or made to feel targeted. I personally talk about how we need to look out for each other and be willing to speak up and/or support folks who are being targeted. There are a variety of ways to do this but there are some great suggestions from the UK in the wake of the post-Brexit xenophobia outbreaks.

  5. I used the election in my globalization course to help students reflect on free trade policies and the devastation that global capitalism has wrought on the US working class. I also assign Chris Walley’s Exit Zero, which is an ethnography of South Chicago in the aftermath of mass closures of the steel mills. Brings globalization home for my students and helps them understand some of the economic processes that Trump has targeted to appeal to working class voters in the “rust belt.”

  6. AYY: I certainly don’t demand that my students toe any particular political line, nor do I aim to out the Trump supporters in my classes. My job is (minimally) to help my students learn to think critically to understand the world around them, and to model critical thinking and responsible scholarship. THESE are the things that result in politically oriented assignments (which, by the way, any student can do well in regardless of political affiliation). If a student leaves my class and does not have the skills to question policies that mobilize essentializing ideas of culture to enact structural violence, then I haven’t done my job. If you don’t like the suggestions here, feel free to ignore them.

  7. Ruth, so glad you mentioned Zero Exit! Brings up the importance of thinking about whiteness, as a colleague of mine also reminded me today. There is some material in the Trump 2.0 Syllabus on whiteness (and masculinity), and there’s John Hartigan’s Racial Situations. I was also thinking of Vincent Crapanzano’s Serving The Word , which, in it’s focus on literalism in (white) evangelical Christianity and Supreme Court conservatism could be a helpful guide for thinking about the impasses of engagement we may be in for.

  8. This is a great list. I’d love to see some resources on gay rights and marriage equality as well as environmental issues, if you’re updating the post. Thanks.

  9. Great post Zoe, Very inspiring. Keep up the good work in organizing the resistance. Another great book on racism and US-Mexico is Shaylih Muehlmann’s When I Wear My Alligator boots: Narco-Culture in the US-Mexico Borderlands.

  10. Dear Zoe, Thank you for pulling together these resources. One way to help students is to give them a more diverse set of media sources. The Park Center for Independent Media has a great list, a few of which I will copy here:

    http://www.ithaca.edu/rhp/independentmedia/USindymedialist/

    IN-DEPTH/INVESTIGATIVE

    Center for Public Integrity – “original investigative journalism” since 1989

    Consortium News – independent investigative journalism since 1995”

    ProPublica – foundation-funded “journalism in the public interest”

    DAILY GENERAL NEWS

    Salon.com – news and entertainment website with original investigative stories, breaking news, essays, blogs

    PROGRESSIVE

    The Media Consortium is “a network of the country’s leading progressive, independent media outlets” with several dozen members, including:

    · Alternet – “online community with original journalism” plus “the best of hundreds of other independent media sources”

    · The American Prospect – print/online magazine offering “liberal intelligence”

    · The American Independent News Network – “impactt journalism that not only covers the news but shapes it”

    · Mother Jones# – “investigative, political, and social justice reporting”

    · The Nation – “a really critical spirit” since 1865

    · The Progressive – “peace and social justice since 1909”

    · Talking Points Memo – “original reporting on government and politics”

    · Truthdig – “drilling beneath the headlines”

    · Truthout – “independent voices, under-covered issues”

    · The Uptake – “Will journalism be done by you or to you?”

    · Washington Monthly – “what really matters in Washington”

    * * *

    CommonDreams – “breaking news and views for the progressive community”

    CounterPunch – “radical muckracking” web and print newsletter

    Dissident Voice – “in the struggle for peace and social justice”

    ShadowProof – “journalism, analysis and commentary relentlessly focused on . . . pervasive injustices [and] inappropriate control exerted by institutions of power”

    Toward Freedom – online magazine that “advances movements for human rights, peace, justice and enlightenment”

    Z Magazine / ZNet – “dedicated to resisting injustice”

    CONSERVATIVE

    American Spectator – “U.S. news, analysis, and opinion” with a conservative slant

    The American Conservative – opinion magazine cofounded by Patrick Buchanan

    National Review – “America’s most widely read and influential magazine and web site for Republican/conservative news, commentary”

    TV/VIDEO OUTLETS & NETWORKS

    Brave New Films – “championing social justice issues; moving images to . . . empower viewers to take action” TMC

    Democracy Now! – daily TV/radio news program hosted by Amy Goodman/Juan Gonzalez on 850+ stations, “largest public media collaboration in US”


    To these, I would also add Tom Dispatch: http://www.tomdispatch.com/

    And The Intercept, an On-line News site started by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill https://theintercept.com/

    See, for your “Crisis of Liberalism” section, an excellent recent piece by Greenwald:

    “Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit”
    https://theintercept.com/2016/11/09/democrats-trump-and-the-ongoing-dangerous-refusal-to-learn-the-lesson-of-brexit/

  11. Thanks so much for this great list!

    Since almost all the work is by American scholars, I asked some of my colleagues for additions by non-US academics. My desire to do so was likely prompted by reading a still-unpublished paper on anti-pesticide activism in southern India by Daniel Münster (Heidelberg University). The paper made clear for me the urgency of finding strategies to critique the failures of neoliberal/free-trade globalization that don’t unwittingly (or not) reproduce dangerous/racist forms of isolationist, nativist, nationalism. This seems to be a tension alive and well in the US election as well. One important response for US anthropologists might be to work harder than we already do to recognize intellectual communities outside the US. The suggestions below are all in English, but we might even consider including optional non-English readings on our syllabi (to at least remind students of the value of thinking across languages). It’s still very limited—I’d love for people to add others.

    Sara Ahmed’s blog, feministkilljoys.com (see the recent post, “Fascism as Love”). There is also her article “a phenomenology of whiteness.”

    Gassan Hage’s White Nation. See, for example, chapter 4. White multiculturalism: A manual for the proper usage of ethnics.

    The collection: “State, Soverignty, and War.” See, for example, the chapter “About a Wall.”

    The collection: “The Culturalization of Citizenship.”

    Akwugo Emejulu, Senior Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, examines the politics of whiteness central to Donald Trump’s presidential victory on this blog: http://www.versobooks.com/blogs/2934-the-centre-of-a-whirlwind-watching-whiteness-work

    Numerous anthropologists analyzed Brexit, in ways that might be useful:
    http://allegralaboratory.net/brexit-europe-and-anthropology-time-to-say-something/

    Medical anthropologist, Gideon Lasco, wrote an open letter to Duterte after his election. Might our students imagine doing something similar?
    http://www.ibtimes.ph/medical-anthropologist-gideon-lasco-writes-open-letter-duterte-facebook-3797

    Amade M’Charek’s work on nationalism and race in the Netherlands might help to situate US conversations on race: https://culanth.org/fieldsights/835-data-face-and-ontologies-of-race

    Gigi Paulsson’s “The man who stole himself.”

    Gloria Wekker’s White Innocence.

    The work of Kamala Kempadoo (eg. the special issue “Caribbean Feminist Research Methods for Gender and Sexuality Studies”).

    The work of Sherene Razack.

    Stuart Hall, Gramsci’s Relevance for the Study of Race & Ethnicity

    Several people also chimed in with historical perspective. I’ll include this here because it might also be useful, though I know this wasn’t the immediate focus of the initial thread.

    CLR James, The Black Jacobins.
    Franz Fanon (pretty much anything).
    Aimé Césaire’s ‘Discourse on Colonialism’? (About Eurocentrism– how white people degrade themselves through the violence they wreak upon non-white populations & how this has a boomerang effect on them.)
    Georges Bataille ‘The Psychological Structure of Fascism’,
    Simone Weil’s ‘On the Abolition of All Political Parties.”
    Tillich, Paul The socialist decision. Translated by Franklin Sherman. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1977. (original essay 1933 in German, before author emigrated from Nazi Germany. The book was banned. It needs to be contextualized, but it’s useful that Tillich “foresaw’ everything and had a very sharp eye for what for instance popular culture does).
    Adorno, Theodor 1951: minima moralia. Reflections on a damaged life.
    Laclau, Ernest. 2005 On populist Reason. Versa.

    Thanks again for the list of teaching resources! I’ve circulated it widely.

    (The above recommendations came from Barbara Andersen, Else Vogel, Angela Last, Lisa Tilley, Louis Römer, Marisol de la Cadena, and Filippo Bertoni).

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