Precarious Bodies, Close Reading, and Late Night Hangouts in Wicker Park

Precarious Bodies, Close Reading, and Late Night Hangouts in Wicker Park

“The most remarkable example of such a process is found in the anal eroticism of young human beings. Their original interest in the excretory function, its organs and products, is changed in the course of their growth…” “ What is Freud saying here?” My professor asks. My class is silent. No one knows how to engage in an academic discussion about “anal eroticism” and “the excretory function.” Someone eventually raises his hand and attempts to tether Freud’s passage to the individual, civilization, the super ego, and guilt. “Well,” my professor claims, “I think Freud is talking about poop.” The class laughs. Over the summer, I approached canonical texts, like Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents, through close reading. In other words, I analyzed texts on a sentence and word level, asking myself, what is the writer saying here? What are these words doing? While I learned how to close read many years ago, revisiting this method of reading reminded me how to be a careful researcher. I did not close read alone, however, I grappled with these theories in a room full of scholars of color. Through dissecting many important texts amongst a lively group of people of color, I learned a lot about research and feel extremely inspired. From June 13 through August 13, I participated in the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Research Fellowship (MMUF) Summer Research Training Program (SRTP) at the University of Chicago with funding from MMUF and HCAH. The MMUF is a program that aims to diversify institutions of higher learning through encouraging undergraduate students of color to pursue PhDs. Forty other Mellon Fellows from around the...
Performing Death (or not)

Performing Death (or not)

  This summer I’ve gotten the opportunity to begin research for my thesis– in other words, I’ve surrounded myself with books, occasionally digging my way out of the sea of pages to watch a performance only to return again. One large body of scholarship that forms a background to my research is the debate surrounding the role of death in the archive of performances. Although this is certainly an oversimplification, the work in this area can be generally lumped into two categories: The Mortality of Performances Historically, many scholars have emphasized the ephemerality of performance. In their work can be found the idea that performance is always wrapped up in death, and that archives of performances are in a sense mortuary relics. For instance, Peggy Phelan writes that performance “offer[s] significant mediations of disappearance, trauma, and death… performance enacts the fragile and ephemeral nature of each moment and frames its passing.” André Lepecki, too, describes how in dance performances “the body constantly (re)presents itself as always being at the verge of self-dissipation (this persistence of re/presentation being so many rehearsals for absence, for death).” Performativity of the Archive/Continued Liveliness of Performance Other scholars have decided to turn their attention to the ways in which performances continue to live on beyond the moment of their first enactment. Rebecca Schneider strongly criticizes the notion that performances disappear, claiming that we only see performance as ephemeral because it resists our traditional notion of the archive. An archive which she says maintains the ocular hegemony and values bone (documents like paper that easily remain over time) over flesh (things that easily deteriorate; since...

Saturday Morning Reading

I’m drinking my morning cup of coffee before I get down to reading. I’ve been studying how the physical environment impacts deviance. Recently the research has turned to anthropology. Right now I’m reading “Pul Eliya” by Edmund Leach. It’s an almost ridiculously detailed account of a single village in 1950s Sri Lanka where limited water resources had a major impact on social...
Public Art in Philadelphia

Public Art in Philadelphia

With help from the Hurford Humanities Center’s Summer Research Fellowship fund, I have spent the past couple months fully immersed in the filmmaking process. As a film and media studies major at Swarthmore, I was given the option to do an independent thesis and I immediately jumped on that opportunity. After having worked on multiple documentary projects during my time at Haverford (thanks to the wonderful Vicky Funari), I knew that I wanted to engage my documentary skills and experiences in a topic close to home. Philadelphia has always been an under-appreciated city in my eyes, and having it as a cultural, historical, academic, and experiential resource has been crucial to the development of my thesis. My guiding question entering this project was something along the lines of, “How does public art delineate and/or subvert socioeconomic and cultural borders”. Since the beginning of the summer I’ve been able to narrow my focus to South Philadelphia, specifically the significant Nepalese, Burmese and Bhutanese refugee populations that have accumulated in recent years. Southeast x Southeast is a community resource  and arts center for these refugees, which aims to use art as a vehicle for storytelling and community building. With support from the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, the Lutheran Children and Family Service, and the Mural Arts Program, the project has expanded beyond its initial community events and has become a long term project for artist Shira Walinsky. In addition to organizational duties and teaching ESL classes, Shira has been working on related public art projects, including the soon-to-be-completed Language Lab mural at the intersection of 7th...