Why this is the most important semester you will ever spend at Pitzer College

Educating in Response to this Turbulent time

Pitzer has always been a place of activism and of community engagement, offering courses meant to have our students and even our faculty look outside of themselves and what they have known in their own experiences. What time more than now should we need this as the world moves to distance learning for safety and while tensions rise and break over the race issues in our country. Below are the voices of some of our professors and how they plan to engage with these challenges in our Fall 2020 semester.

Studying the OG Authors and Activists Foundational for the BLM Movement

Come join the push to topple confederate statues by reading the Original Gangstas of the philosophy that Black Lives Matter: antebellum Black/Slave Abolitionists. These OG authors and activists are the radical foundation and historical link for BLM activism pushing back against police brutality and social violence against Blackness today. Antebellum OG resistance challenged the story of white supremacy and systemic domination via writing, underground rebellions, cultural (re)-presentation and the creation of a new national imaginary of freedom and equality, one that benefits all people of all cultures through the courage of Black/Slave Abolitionists’ fight against the odds for the corrupted soul of the nation. What is one of the most relevant and educationally important classes you can take this pandemic fall? ENG AF 12a Introduction to African American Literature Before 1865! Why? Because national institutions are founded on and still yet function to deny slave histories and therefore continue to visit violence upon Black humanity while both confederate statues and confederacy ideologies continue to pervade systemically. We will examine why those confederate statues are such unacceptable symbols of our national imaginary with their take-downs both literally and ideologically long overdue. Please note this course is part of Prototypes Women’s Center building towards a larger bachelors-level curriculum so we will work with the California Prison Mothers Program students on Zoom with us from their residential library space.

–Laura Harris, English and World Literature, Africana Studies

Dan Segal

Dear History of Anthropological Theory Students:

As you are thinking about this upcoming “online” semester, I wanted to share with you my own thoughts about teaching our seminar this fall.

Here’s my main point: the seminar will not be defined by being taught online.  

Of course, being online will have some impact, but mostly the seminar will be defined by our working through great readings together, by way of intensive and careful analysis.  And it will be defined by it being a singular opportunity for you to build on, and reflect on, all of your previous course work in anthropology.  If studying anthropology has mattered to you, that’s what will define the seminar.  Not zoom.

That we will pursue the seminar in zoom meetings rather than a physical room is not going to change the issues regarding social theory and the politics of the discipline that are central to the seminar.  Reading by electrical light rather than daylight does not change the fundamental and complex act of reading.  It’s still reading.  (We are, of course, obligated to think about and take action in response to the carbon footprint of the electric light.)

While I think the impact of the technology is being greatly over-stated, other things during this COVID pandemic will be different and will matter educationally.  To start, we will be more concerned with building skills to connect richly beyond the local (with people in other parts of the world, also impacted by the pandemic), and more concerned also with building skills to live and deal with disruption to established institutions and practices.  Those are skills you will likely need at other moments in your adult lives—whether because of other pandemics or because of disruptions from our fossil fueled climate catastrophe.  None of us would have chosen to have this pandemic as a supplement to the education we provide, but this has been chosen for us—and I can assure you that we will pursue this in ways that will enrich our seminar.

Finally, let me get nitty-gritty. 

I am super excited about teaching a new book in the history of anthropology, which will be among our very first assigned readings.  It is Margaret Bruchac’s Savage Kin: Indigenous Informants and American Anthropologists.  Bruchac is professor of anthropology and Coordinator of Native American and Indigenous Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and this book re-tells the history of early US anthropology by centering the Native Americans who were key intellectual, social, and political resources for founding figures in the academic discipline.  Please get your copy now.

And also nitty-gritty: the one thing about the technology that does matter for students that I learned about from teaching in May is that each student needs a good audio-video connection for the in-class discussions.  One student in my spring seminar only had an audio connection by cell phone, and in that case the technology did fail us.  So if you do not have a good audio-video connection for our fall seminar, email me right away—and I will put you in touch with the right persons at your college to provide you the tech support you will need to join us for what I am confident will be a singularly rich seminar in the History of Anthropological Theory.

Thanks for reading; looking forward to being in seminar with all of you.