Teaching, Homelessness, Politics, Research: Things On My Mind – Series #2

  • I find it very odd that we live in a political system and culture that requires ignorance and requires ignoring logic and evidence. One of the biggest (if not the biggest) concerns right now is the environment – but it’s too expensive for the status quo, according to the status quo.
  • I frequently think about the number of people who are homeless in the United States. I regularly remind people that there are enough empty homes in the United States to give every homeless person person without a permanent address at least three or four homes. Tonight this video came up in my newsfeed. “Homeless Man Blows Us Away With His Moving Piano Performance” is supposed to be inspiring?? or make us feel good??
    As I watched the video, I began to feel a bit uncomfortable. They are filming him and taking his picture…as if he is less-than human. I articulate this idea with hesitation. No one would ever just walk up to this individual and take his picture if he played the same music but performed (using the sociological/cultural studies definition here) gender and professionalism (all culturally constructed) in a concert hall, for example. In other words, there are taking his picture because he is seen as unusual – a homeless person isn’t supposed to play the piano that well. Instead of taking his picture, which is a kind of grotesque entertainment, why not work toward systemic change?
  • So while in terms of people who are homeless we have a cultural desire to see them, when it comes to the people who clean our hotels, schools, businesses, and hospitals, we frequently don’t want to see these people. Better put, and this fully occurred to me the other day when I saw someone vacuuming an insurance office late, late at night while driving home: Why don’t we see and know the people who clean? Why do they frequently clean at night? Of course some will say because it is not busy and won’t disturb people, but whatever, cleaning isn’t that loud (or not loud for long). My hypothesis is that it relates to the abuse such workers tend to face and the on-going notion of the invisible help (more on this in my dissertation!).PICT0061
  • My doctor at M.D. Anderson asked me if I wanted to write a chapter about the history of Neurofibromatosis for a medical textbook he is working on! Said yes of course! This will be an exciting opportunity to branch into disability studies (i.e., notions of normalism/normative, ableism, invisible disability, etc.) and medical studies. At this point, I am thinking the chapter will cover both the medical history of how NF has been classified and researched and who knows and doesn’t know about NF in the medical community, but also NF groups/organizations/social media, brief life stories from individuals with NF, NF funding, public perception/awareness of NF, etc. In ways, NF challenges notions of ability and health normativity.  
  • I am thinking about a “radical” and different organization for the United States History to 1877 survey course: a thematic one
    • In one model, I have: populating the US, creating the US government, building the US society, expressing the US society/power, defending the US, and historical memory. Each one would get a few weeks and cover the full time period.
    • In another model, I have: important court cases, enslavement/enslavers, presidents/visions for the US, culture, family life, technology, and historical memory. Again, each one would get a few weeks.
    • In another model, I have: defining political texts/ideologies, intellectuals, technology and environment, labor and economics, religion, borderlands, White women, Blacks, family/private life, culture (literature, art, tobacco, alcohol), reformers/rebels, nationalism, violence, expressions of democracy, and historical memory. In this model, I am still working on eliminating one or two and exactly where things would be classified, but each theme would get one week.
    • So, has anyone heard of this course being organized this way or have any experience/thoughts about doing so? I’m thinking it would really help them make the connections to the present and be fun.  I am also thinking that it would be fun to teach a combined HIST1301/1302 class. Students would get six credits, meet six hours a week, and get the full picture. So we would spend a week or two on White Women or Wars throughout United States history. This would also make it possible to assign some of the really good American Studies books. 
  • Last Friday, the day our SCOTUS ruled in favor of marriage equality, was simply an incredible day.