Moving on from Election 2016

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/00/Suffrage_universel.pngIf you follow this blog, you know that our primary focus has been health and humanities, the intersection of medicine and social and cultural studies. But today, half the country feels they have swallowed a bitter pill. The other half feel that they’ve been vindicated, perhaps, but all can agree that this has been the most unhealthy election cycle in living memory. I found myself listening to the results in the wee hours, and then reflecting on what this might mean, not only for our nation, but also for our small communities and families. I want to provide here some encouragement, some insight, and we as a forum want to give our readers a sense of solidarity–for we are with you.

To those who supported Sen. Hillary Clinton, I say this. The grief you feel is real and you have a right to it. As with any loss, the anger and shock are feelings that we must work through. But let’s remember that despair and hope are not feelings, but choices. We must work against despair, even at our darkest moments, because despair is paralyzing. We must choose hope, because hope cannot stand without us. But also, while you mourn the loss of a dream, be assured: this was still a historic moment. You voted for the first Continue reading “Moving on from Election 2016”

Book Review: The New Jim Crow

BookReviewLogo Review by Heather Stewart

In this powerful work of scholarship and social critique, Ohio State University Law Professor and former director of the Racial Justice Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Michelle Alexander, provides an unparalleled look into the system of mass incarceration in the United States. Her analysis proceeds with a particular eye towards the deeply racialized elements of mass incarceration, of which she contends comprises a new and complex system of “racial caste” (12). The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindess (The New Press, 2010) provides a compelling case for Alexander’s challenge to the widespread belief that American society, with its Barack Obama presidency and pervasive “colorblind” ideology, has finally achieved racial equality (11). Alexander takes readers through the criminal justice system in the United States, showing how racial inequality and race-based discrimination is ubiquitous at every step.

6792458Tracing how the racialized system of mass incarceration grew out of the remnants of slavery and Jim Crow, as well as a series of discriminatory governmental policies and court decisions, Alexander shows us that far from ending racial caste in America, the powerful elite have merely found a clever way to redesign it. Tucking the new racial caste system away within the confines of a “legitimate” institution—the well designed American prison-industrial complex—functions to render it invisible, as well as resistant to change. The New Jim Crow is both a response and a challenge to the systematic invisibility of the racial dynamics of the American criminal justice system, as well as a call to action for racial justice advocates to take on the task of ending mass incarceration as their crucial aim. Alexander calls for a radically new approach to racial justice—one that puts a focus on ending mass incarceration at its center and rejects the deeply ingrained commitments to “colorblind” ideology (whereby individuals claim not to “see race” or that policies are “race neutral” when indeed they disproportionately affect people of color in practice).

Continue reading “Book Review: The New Jim Crow”

Introducing Intern, First Class: Hanna Sophie Frey

DailyDose_PosterThis week, we are featuring a post by our new Intern, First Class, Hanna Sophie Frey.

Hanna Sophie is an anthropologist from Munich, who is currently working towards a Master´s degree in archives at Simmons College in Boston. She is doing research on the production of knowledge, its connections to Science and Technology Studies, and Material Culture Studies. You can find her on twitter @hannasophiefrey.

Without further ado, here is Hanna Sophie.

HannaSommer2015As the new intern first class, anthropologist and archivist in training, this is what I nerd out about:

Remember The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman? Remember the ghosts and their stories lost to most human ears?

Medhum Fiction | Daily Dose has shown me so many of the ghost-stories of history. Just last week, Anna reviewed From Eve to Evolution, a book detailing the female voices confronted with the possibilities and changes to the category “woman,” instigated by a new general discussion around evolutionary theory. This story has not been told yet, but Anna found another silence within this closed gap: the issue of race as part of feminist discourse between Darwin and theology.

The relationships between the voices heard and the realities forgotten are part of the political aspect of archives and history, which is exactly why I am on my way to becoming an archivist. I have seen archives as both spaces full of dusty boxes and shiny new shelves on wheels, I have seen ink fingerprints on manuscripts from the nineteenth century, and I am reading about the struggle to preserve technologies that evolve faster than our budgets. In all these experiences and readings, I have never seen archives as neutral spaces. Archives collect, they preserve, they make accessible, and they do so as institutions and as individuals. They (we) are tied to their backgrounds and biases as political beings, and as such, we work in a sensitive spot in our society´s memory-practices.

These political interactions with primary sources are vital to the keeping of memories, and I use the plural here on purpose. Sources carry multiple stories in them, which can again be read in a multitude of ways. These pluralities are communicated in a political space, as we negotiate meanings by interacting with the sources, both as researchers and as archivists.

Archivists can perform these interactions almost invisibly to their patron´s eyes, but this does not have to be the case. The way we process the collections gives us unique views on the content of the dusty boxes and shiny shelves, and our biases and general humanity shapes the way we arrange and describe the collections. This fact does not have to be invisible. We can talk about it. We can have discussions, as patrons and archivists, on the way we see and experience the collections we interact with. If we bring multiple perspectives together in the writing of history, everybody profits. That is the potential of archives. They give us the possibility to interact with each other and past stories, to create multiple perspectives of the past. Archives are the place where we can find the stories that show us history as a web of experiences.

So go into your local archive, use their excellent online databases, and engage in a conversation.

Let´s collaborate in archives as political spaces, and build intersections of perspectives.

We can also start the conversation right here, in the comment section, or through your submission to our CfP! Or you can join the DERAIL forum at Simmons College, a student organized conference about highlighting critical approaches to Library and Information Science practice and education.