#Syllabi are born from tragedy; years of injustice, oppression, exclusivity, inequality, hate and fear; #Charlestonsyllabus, #StandingRockSyllabus, #ImmigrationSyllabus, #TrumpSyllabus2.0 , #IslamophobiaIsRacismSyllabus, #AllMonumentsMustFallSyllabus.
The voices I hear are those of which our nation’s leaders have failed to defend. I can hear them demonstrating as I read through various #syllabi’s timelines, blog posts, op-eds, articles, and abstracts. I don’t just hear one voice, but many characterized by strong, intelligent, and inclusive arguments.
The materials within #syllabi bolster one another, but this argument-building does not just occur within individual #syllabi, but across #syllabi — across movements. For instance, in the #StandingRockSyllabus is the article “Black Lives Matter Stands in Solidarity with Water Protectors at Standing Rock” when members of Black Lives Matter demonstrated alongside Indigenous Peoples in North Dakota in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. In this way the#StandingRockSyllabus intersects with #BlackLivesMatterSyllabus. Within #syllabi we can also see instances of tension between movements, such as the arguments made in the section titled “How Feminism contributes to Anti-Muslim Racism” in the #IslamophobiaIsRacismSyllabus. In the article (Muslim) Women’s Bodies, Islamophobia, and American Politics the author Juliane Hammer discusses instances of hypocrisy in American neoconservative media and television personalities that call themselves feminist, such as CNN commentator Pamela Geller. In this way the #IslamophobiaIsRacismSyllabus intersects with #AWomen’sStrikeSyllabus.
Another instance we can consider is included in the #AllMonumentsMustFallSyllabus. In particular, I believe that the art world would benefit from the creation of more #syllabi. #AllMonumentsMustFallSyllabus pertains to Civil War monuments erected in public/civil spaces. In this instance “space” and who has control over public space is one of the fundamental issues regarding white male supremacy and patriarchy. For me, this issue not only concerns space that’s government property, but also space (indoor and outdoor) belonging to non-profit institutions, such as museums.
For example, the article “Artist Sam Durant was pressured into taking down his ‘Scaffold’ Why doesn’t he feel censored?” published by the Los Angeles Times was written after an artist from Los Angeles, Sam Durant, was invited by the Walker Art Center to exhibit his sculpture titled Scaffold (2012) in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden that just so happens to be on “[historic] Dakota land” earlier this year. To read more about the history of the land and the Mankato Massacre please refer to “‘A Seed of Healing and Change’: Native Americans Respond to Sam Durant’s ‘Scaffold’” by for Art News. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times Durant stated:
“So the Dakota people basically saw something that looked like a monument to their massacre. Mankato is burned into their consciousness. It’s not abstract. As one person said to me, “That’s a killing machine.” Then it turns out that the garden is located on [historic] Dakota land. So you couldn’t have a better test case of white ignorance in one place.”
In a letter released by the Walker Art Center (perhaps on the behalf of the Walker’s director Olga Viso) titled, “Learning in Public: An Open Letter on Sam Durant’s Scaffold” the Walker stated:
“It is my hope that this moment will foster critical and productive conversations around the complex questions the artist brings forth. I also intend that it provoke discussion about how the Walker can strive to be a more sensitive and inclusive institution. This is a deep learning moment—and will not be the last—for the Walker and its relationship with Native audiences. I pledge that we will continue to learn actively, and in public, and to create pathways for listening and supporting the full range of conversations that this work will engender as they evolve in the weeks and months ahead.”
(image above: Director of the Walker Art Center Olga Viso (left) and artist Sam Durant (right).
The examples I have listed above underscore the fact that white male supremacists are not the only ones who these #syllabi are created in response to, but privileged women who hold positions of power and influence also contribute to systematic injustice and inequality in the United States. I see these intersections between #syllabi as points where progress can be made from within and across movements because they function as invitations to listen, reflect, and correct. Hopefully in the years to come more and more people in various disciplines will begin to start their own #syllabi so that we can begin to understand and identify on a broader scale how inequality and discrimination is systematically ubiquitous.
I would like to see more #syllabi for topics in all fields of study especially in the humanities and the arts. In my filed of study (Contemporary Art History) we would especially benefit from a #syllabus pertaining to American museum collection practices and exhibition histories because of the traditional hierarchies that exist in the arts.
For example, the current series of exhibitions called Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA are now up throughout Southern California (including Santa Barbara) from September 2017 until January 2018.
Organized by the Getty Foundation in Los Angeles PST LA/LA presents exhibitions based on the influence Latin America and Latino art/culture has had on Southern California and the dialogues that exist across boarders. The aim of these exhibitions is to promote artists from other countries and exhibit art in context with artists from different countries. In most cases the artists included in these exhibitions have never had their artwork exhibited in California or the greater United States. Although there is a page for teachers on PST LA/LA’s website, this exhibition could also benefit from its own #syllabus. This hypothetical #syllabus would possibly intersect with #ImmigrationSyllabus. The art world needs more #syllabi because exhibitions build on each other like articles in journals do. It is also important to note that museum catalogs, reviews, and articles seem to be costly and hard to come by. Access is not always equal and people who don’t have regular access to a university library or internet access for that matter miss out.
As my examples above illustrate, there would be a lot of overlap in the #syllabi of the art world, which I hope would not only foster more interdisciplinary work and communication, but also a better understanding overall of where we are at. As Lisa A. Monroe pointed out in her post “Making the American Syllabus: Hashtag Syllabi in Historical Perspective” for the in Black Perspectives Journal, #syllabi have sprung from a long history communities taking it upon themselves to self-educate. Monroe describes the goal of #syllabi is “to arm educators and parents with resources to discuss current social conflicts, to provide historical contexts for racial terrorism and for academic activism, and to empower people in and outside of the classroom to take informed action however they may choose.” In this way #syllabi combats the problems that come along with the proliferation of media, such as fake news because they are transparently ran and organized by networks of scholars, activists, and people across disciplines.