Following Through

I accept this idea of democracy. I am all for trying it out. It must be a good thing if everybody praises it like that. If our government has been willing to go to war and sacrifice billions of dollars and millions of men for the idea I think that I ought to give the thing a trial. The only thing that keeps me from pitching head long into this thing is the presence of numerous Jim Crow laws on the statute books of the nation. I am crazy about the idea of Democracy. I want to see how it feels.

-Zora Neale Hurston, “Crazy for This Democracy” Negro Digest (December 1945).

You have your project. You have your materials. You have key terms. You have questions. And you have two classroom sessions this week in which to work.

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On Tuesday and Thursday we will use both classrooms. The big classroom will be the workspace for everyone and the small seminar room will be for the meetings. See the Schedule page for details.

Processed with Rookie Cam

The most effective way to prepare for the meetings is to make progress on your project. We will prepare by reading all of your “Field Work” posts. At this point, you should know what you are doing—even if you do not yet know exactly where you are going to end up. We will ask about your primary materials as well as the secondary writings you are using, whether from our reading list, other classes, or your research. We are interested in the questions you have and the challenges you are facing as you work on your project. We are interested to hear from you, too, about your plan for getting the work done before the project charrettes on Tuesday April 25th and Thursday April 27th.

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The second way to move your project forward, and get the most out of this week, is to think about how you are doing your work. Are you mapping empirical changes in culture and society on to how individuals and groups live through and make sense of change? Are you looking at how individuals are reflecting on how they live through and make sense of an experience? Are you focusing your attention on the processes of making cultural products in cultural industries, and/or of the process of consuming and assimilating these products by audiences and fans?

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Last week you talked about questions and we listed some of those questions on the board. there were other questions, too, some of which were explicit and some of which were implicit.

What is the text? A set of material objects, verbal texts, digital artifacts, a set of social relations, a life, lived experience? Everyday practices, whether past and /or present?

If I take a social practice as my text, for example a festival, then how do I “read” the text—that is, identify discrete practices, structural agencies, institutional features, that constitute the individual and/or collective social practice?

How do stories help us make sense of individual and collective experience? How does narrative stich together the present and the past using recognizable features such as action, characters, plot, complicating actions, resolutions?

How do narratives circulate in a culture? How are they reproduced? How are they changed?

Am I studying the social effects of the text? If so, how do I go about examining and offering commentary on the individual or cultural forms a text makes available—such as narrative, ideology, subject position?

What social dynamics and struggles are fundamental to the social text—for instance, power asymmetries between and among people, the circulation of racial categories, class formations, and relations?

How are hierarchies and power relations reproduced or replicated or modified within particular cultural texts or practices?

Who are the cultural producers? Who are the consumers? What social and cultural systems mediate and distribute in an economy or ecology of culture?

What is the relationship between narratives of experience and the field of possibilities within the structure of a discourse?

How does one talk about the subjective dimension of experience when we recognize that what we call an “experience” is something that mediates what happens to us?

What, exactly, makes our perceptions, feelings, and actions (the ones we abstract from the stream of experience) meaningful?

What is the relationship between experience and knowing?

How is an experience described? In what ways are individual experiences always already situated in and mediated through specific historical and cultural contexts?

How do we think about experience as product and process? How we understand and talk about experience as transactional?

In what ways is experience structured by prior experience and cultural frameworks of understanding?

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