A Snapshot of Each Unit

This page contains a post or material from each unit starting from the first unit all the way to eighth and final unit

a snapshot of the first unit…

Assignment 3, Davis

The point Davis makes about Elizabeth Martinez’s stance on immigrant and refugee rights since the 1980s caught my attention. The idea that since the 1980s there has been a surge of neoliberalism that complicates racism is fascinating because neoliberalism directly draws on the works of Locke and Adam Smith, both of whom championed free will and individual choice. However, Davis makes the point that reducing regulation and government expenditure hurts minorities. Moreover, these tenets of neoliberalism make the incorrect assumption that free-will and good-nature alone can untangle us from our unsavory racist history. So the things Locke and other Classical Liberals would believe in can actually work as a part of the systemic racism that Davis points out in a world after explicit government endorsement of racism. With this, Davis shows a compelling intersectional viewpoint that strengthens her argument: racism is still present in institutions despite the end of the civil rights era.

I would like to place Davis on a panel with Locke and Marx as I believe they represent an interesting continuum of thought from Classically Liberal to Progressive and Egalitarian.

  • What is Race? What is Class? And what role do they play in society?
    • This would be a particularly important question since it will serve, I suspect, to illustrate the greatest difference among these thinkers (at least pitting Locke against Marx and Davis). This will serve to show how important definitions are in shaping dialogue and a view of the world. This would lead us to ask ourselves, how do definitions change? Do definitional changes drive changes in world view or vice versa? Or is it a multilayered phenomenon?
  • Is human nature inherently benevolent?
    • Perhaps nothing says more of a philosopher, at least those particularly concerned with the humanities, than their stance on human nature. A crude way of distilling this essential question is to ask about human benevolence. While a relativist might be frustrated with the question, I would be interested to see just how these three thinkers even view the nature of the question
  • What action (if any)  must be taken in the face of an unjust government or other institution?
    • Nothing quite speaks to a person’s beliefs than how they would plan to act when faced with a grave threat. Each one of these individuals is outspoken on government, its role in society, and its shortcomings. I can pretty clearly understand how Marx would respond, but what about the others? What would their gameplan be? What would they think of one another’s? This will illustrate, more than any other question, their specific beliefs and what those beliefs will look like if reflected in reality.

… of the second unit

Assignment 1

The informed view during the Early Modern period in Europe was to view the world as a series of interconnected, mystical, yet pseudo-rational and predictable events. These events and actions would occur fractally from the smallest member of this universe to ‘God’ himself. Much of the sciences and hermetic practices at the time truly are the embryonic forms of the sciences we know today. Even from the lecture on Friday we can understand that Astrology makes certain ‘true’ observations and predictions despite being on a false foundation compared to the empirical study of Astronomy. Even the constellations that are understood and used as a tool in Astronomy were the astrological signs that were central to Astrology. This relationship speaks largely to the predicament of the Early Modern Period, people were equipped with logic and reason but were handicapped in their ability to use these tools due to a dogmatic belief, on the part of many, in ancient, mystical, and religious texts which were seen as a great font of wisdom.

Does an academic endeavor need to empirical, like we think we are today unlike our past, in order to be taken seriously? If so, then where can the line be drawn on where empirical claims can be made? If one’s senses are false or biased, then can one make an empirical claim? can there be multiple true empirical claims that answer the same question totally differently?

…the third unit

Assignment 2

Photographs of war bring up the question of the value of violence in society, the gendered nature of warfare, and the narrow marginalizing effect that photographs of this sort can have when they choose to exclude other victims.

Chapter 6)

The execution photo of Fou Tchou-Li, the last person executed via Ling Chi in Qing dynasty China, illuminates the pleasure we might feel in looking at those suffering as a sort of twisted reflection of the ‘ecstatic’ spiritual transformation the victim undergoes from life and corporeality to death and the release of the body. This comparison then broadens to describe how modern society is mixing violence and pleasure as well as mayhem and entertainment in the form of mass media like video games and violent cinema. This constant bombardment with portrayals and interactions with suffering can be seen as a kind of “moral or emotional anesthesia”. 

Pleasure and other mixed or dulled emotions, when confronted with these images, is a reflection of the anger and frustration we feel due to a compromised ability to empathize with the victims.

Chapter 8)

An aversion to these images betrays immaturity, since one is too morally inferior to have really questioned the scope of human depravity. At the same time, over-indulgence in memory of past historical inequities, particularly to those suffered by the now dead, may betray an immaturity in dwelling in suffering. Do we even have a right to view the suffering of others from a safe distnace that eliminates the true magnitutude of injustice, danger, and chaos of this suffering? On another note: “some people’s suffering has a lot more intrinsic value to an audience… than the sufferings of others”. 

Immature responses to these images betray a sort of  “moral defectiveness”, because it shows that the individual has not truly wrestled with the question of ‘how deep is the well of human depravity’; whereas one can just as easily descend into a worship or burial in past greivances if one never lets go, such as the “Serbs” and “Irish”.

… fourth unit

Assignment 1

Terrell appears to be associated with the Methodist church and to be of a religiously conservative background. She refers to a kind of exclusionary violence: the violence of Jim Crow. “As a colored woman I may enter more than one white church in Washington without receiving that welcome which as a human being I have a right”, “Unless I am willing to engage in a few menial occupations… there is no way for me to earn an honest living”. All these refer to a kind of blindness, or refusal to acknowledge black people, in particular women, as human beings who are entitled to their rights as such. Moreover, Terrell understands the lack of hope in education that so many black youths have. To her, this is the greatest impediment second only to the outright oppression of Jim Crow. Perhaps she hints that reforming this attitude is a solution to their situation. Is this a more difficult problem to pin down and root out? Terrell doesn’t make any indication of thinking so, but it is an important question to ask. After all, can this lack of faith in the education system be remedied with a policy or piece of legislation? If not, then what steps should be taken?

As for Ida B. Wells, there appears to be a religious rooting for her belief in equal rights as well and, as seen after doing some cursory research, she became a writer and editor for the black-owned newspaper The Free Speech and Headlight, which was based out of a Baptist church. The violence Ida B. Wells confronts is the violence of lynching, which is responsible for the “inhuman butchery of more than ten thousand men, women, and children by shooting, drowning, hanging, and burning them alive”. This is a much more tangible violence, perhaps; it is a violence that is easily quantified and impossible for any person with a semblance of moral consciousness to ignore. Moreover, this lynching finds its so-called ‘justification’ in the necessity “to prevent crimes against women.” Of course, this means only white women and it entails a demonization of black men as a result. Wells also asserts that “The negro has suffered far more from the commission of this crime against the women of his race by white men than the white race has ever suffered through his crimes”, pointing at the hypocrisy and fallacious justification for this heinous crime. Wells also seems pessimistic about the situation, stating that “there has been no single effort… to put a stop to this wholesale slaughter… the silence and seeming condonation grow more marked as the years go by.” Overall, she urges for repeated exposure of these crimes by the press in order to make lynching a reality that cannot be ignored.

… fifth unit

Assignment 1

Schneider Excerpt

“In the theater the issue of remains as material
document becomes complicated – necessarily
imbricated, chiasmatically, with the live body. For
the theater, to the degree that it is performative,
seems to resist remains. And yet, if theater refuses
to remain, it is precisely in the repeatedly live
theater or installation space that a host of recent
artists explore history – the recomposition of

? : Is this similar to the translation lecture in that a living document which is constantly retranslated reveals a greater and more transcendent truth.

! : A theater as a place in which history can be explored in the present living space.

Birns Excerpt

“The ultra-historicism of official memorials makes us
think the past is finished, when we still have the power to construct it.”

? : If history can be constructed, though, then what is true? Should empiricism be left behind when discussing history?

!: Like the conception of history Dr. Denham brought up by Walter Benjamin!

… sixth unit

Assignment 1

“I believe the intellectual life of the whole of western society is increasingly being split into two polar groups” (3)

This reminds me of the Sapere Aude trip where Dr. Robb introduced to us how Plato thought a philosopher should be educated into a philosopher-king! This was a liberal arts education!

How then, just like we asked on Sapere Aude, did the intellectual and academic climate become so compartmentalized and what role does a liberal arts education have in mending this rift? Can it be mended?

I recognized game theory, Oxygen theory of combustion, the theory of plate tectonics, special and general relativity, natural selection, and quantum theory. As for experiments, I recognized Eratosthenes measuring the Earth’s circumference, Gregor Mendels’ genetics experiments, Marie Curry’s experiments with radioactivity, Newton’s light experiment, the Pavlovian conditioning experiment, Young’s wave experiment, and Millikan’s electron experiments.

Artist Presentation Handout and Powerpoint



… seventh unit

Akhmatova Post

Our AT group mostly agreed that the Anderson translation was preferable. We found that it flowed in better and seemed to follow a traditional poetic structure and rhyme scheme more closely. However, we were upset with some of the missing, more flowery language found in the Thomas translation. We found it interesting how whole structures and chronologies within stanzas could change simply from the translation, and I found this totally changed the emotional response for me. For me, the similarities between these translations were so superficial and they portrayed totally different poems at certain moments, making the decision between the two very hard to make. Choosing one translation as more preferable leaves a part of the whole piece missing, a piece that is provided by the complementary translation.

… eighth unit

Assignment 2

Gerhard Richter deals in representing the past. In doing so, his work is inherently an effort at making a visual representation of memory. Memory, and its representation by Richter, should not be confused with a true reproduction of the actual event, instead, it is entangled with the constant recreation of an event. An avenue that Richter shows this muddying of reality by memory is through the blurring effect that he adds to the photographs he confronts. There is something removed or displaced when Richter does this to his images which can be seen in his paintings of Meinhof’s corpse. The blurred paintings remove the clarity from the photo (perhaps just as a photo removes context from an image), but this places all the more emphasis on what remains! What stays intact during this reduplication process, and what can it tell us about memory? Why are these images all the more haunting when they have been distorted in this manner? Perhaps, it is because they remove what is superfluous and what remains is inherently stimmig, consistent, making it all the more valuable. The corpse of Meinhof who has committed suicide instead becomes the uncanny body of a mutilated person. It ceases to be obvious what was there, but what remains consistent is the memory. The blurring is almost like a watermark placed on a photo, signifying the significance the image once held when it was first remembered.

I can’t help but connect this to the contemporary concept on the internet of “deep-fried memes”: memes that have been repeatedly screenshotted and reposted with layers of filters and text to render them almost uninterpretable. Yet something about these memes has found universal appeal! What is it? Is this perhaps a more low-brow instantiation of what Richter’s art grapples with?

What is not shown here is the fact that most deep-fried memes contain incredibly offensive language or imagery. This is not insignificant, after all, didn’t Richter’s paintings deal with Germany’s troubled past with Nazism?

Leaving the meme-sphere behind, I couldn’t help bu notice the same unnamed feeling I had when looking at Richter’s paintings when I saw these old, distorted family photos.

Both are from my father’s side of the family.

As a whole, Richter’s art really ties in nicely with the theme of this portfolio. Memory exists qualitatively in the mind because it provides use to us intrinsically. Memory gives us context, meaning, identity. Memory is inherently what remains, and it is from our memories that we can navigate the labyrinth that is understanding something greater about ourselves and therefore our place in the broader world. The Humanities deal enormously with this idea of memory because it is through this that we can understand something qualitative about our experiences as opposed to something merely quantitative or base and materialistic.