Academia’s (Ab)Normal: Reconciling the Minority’s Double Consciousness in the Institution

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(Cover: http://www.amsterdamunited.org/project/itooamuva/)

By Nina Mesfin

Introduction

“The training of the schools we need today more than ever,–the training of deft hands, quick eyes and ears, and above all the broader, deeper, higher culture of gifted minds and pure hearts.” – W.E.B. Du Bois, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” (2007: 5)

Before I arrived at university, I did not know that you could make a career out of academia. I expected to waltz in, study hard for four years, then waltz out again. I was completely unprepared for the world I would soon find. Despite my immersion in a hyper academic environment, pursuing a career in academia seemed intangible for me: a woman of color. This stemmed from the fact that professors who looked like me were few and far in between. Although many treat university as the great equalizer, a space where all of one’s past struggles and experiences cease to matter the moment one steps foot onto campus, academic institutions exacerbate differences in lived experiences. For the first time, I became acutely aware of my intersectional identity and acquired the tools necessary to articulate what I had only ever been able to describe as fleeting feelings. Continue reading

Guerilla Kitchen: Respite in Consumption

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By Charles Bardey

Introduction

As my first introduction to volunteering at Guerilla Kitchen, I was given two main instructions: (1) hang any pots and pans on hooks to preserve the limited space; (2) don’t break the food processor, because it’s “really, really important.” This instruction was part of no official orientation, but was instead dashed off quickly by Elise, a longtime volunteer and organizer at Guerilla, as she showed me the locations of items as we came upon them in the kitchen and dining room: salt, beans, cutting boards, beer. She was remarkably friendly, considering that I could have been literally anyone: I had entered a roomful of twenty-somethings busily chopping vegetables, and had meekly offered myself as a volunteer to a young man behind a bar, who directed me to Elise. The tour was brief, as Elise had to return to preparing in the kitchen—it was already 4:16, and the kitchen would be open in just under two hours. “See who you can help,” she offered, leaving me standing awkwardly in the middle of the dining room. Mercifully, that didn’t last long: a twenty-four year old Dutch art student named Emily invited me to chop a box-full of apples with her in preparation for dessert. This, at least, was a task I knew how to do. Continue reading

“It’s Going to Work Out”: Negotiating Anxiety and Passion in Studying Humanities and Social Sciences

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By Scarlett Stemler

“And what do you want to do with that?” This is the question humanities and social sciences students are continuously asked when they state their degree. As a student studying an Arts degree, majoring in sociology and anthropology, at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), I have experienced this question many times. I started out my university education in a Bachelor of Psychology, a hard degree to get into and one that holds a lot of prestige. But I found psychology to be cold, rigid and impersonal and I felt there was no space for my own voice. In contrast, I took elective subjects in sociology and anthropology and absolutely loved these from the start. Subjects such as ‘Rethinking the Social’ and ‘Understanding Cultural Experience’ totally captured my whole heart and mind. In each lecture, time would stop and I would be happily swept into this exciting, new world full of questions and open doors. After two years I went from semi-soft to soft, from psychology to arts.

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“Just because it looks cool”? An exploration of young people’s reasons for shopping second hand clothing

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By Caroline Sprangers

I moved to Amsterdam this summer, August 2016. When coming to a new place to live there is always a lot to take in and a lot that is different. One of the things I noticed my first days when biking around the city was the amount of second hand stores. Having a personal interest for second hand clothing I was naturally happy about the discovery. I couldn’t believe how many stores there were! And not only stores, but also markets and special events dedicated to second hand clothing. As a sociology student it also got me thinking – the flourishing market of second-hand clothing is made possible because there is a customer demand, so what reasons do people have for shopping for second hand clothing? Why is it attractive? How come it’s popular? These thoughts motivated me to look deeper into the second hand shopping scene. Continue reading

The Privileged Mutt

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By Maria Mankin

Introduction

I was raised in a relatively small suburb ten minutes outside of Chicago. While the city itself is home to people from all different walks of life, River Forest was not necessarily a breeding ground for diversity. All of my friends were white, and their parents came from the Midwest or somewhere nearby. They ate bland chicken for dinner, watched football at night, and took trips to their local country club on the weekends. My family, on the other hand, strayed quite a bit from this suburbian norm. Both my parents were immigrants, three different languages were bounced around in my home, and we never went to a single football game nor had memberships to the local country club. I wasn’t aware that this was different until I was exposed to the standard that all my friends prescribed to. When I would go to their houses after school, I realized that my living situation was abnormal. Being a young, impressionable child, all I wanted was to fit in. I began to question why my family couldn’t just be like everyone else’s. This yearning to conform bred a strong resentment towards my biracial identity. I grew embarrassed of my mom’s Mexican accent, and detested the abundance of Russian food that filled our refrigerator. However, as time passed and I became more assured, I started embracing my ethnicities. These various moments of self-realization ultimately led to an overwhelming sense of pride and respect for my heritage, subsequently resulting in a deeper understanding of what it means to be biracial. Continue reading

The Meaning Behind “He Hawaiʻi Au”: An Exploration of Native Hawaiian Youth Identity Formation and Activist Involvement

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By Kelly Lehua

I’m sitting in one of the plastic chairs in our Thursday Youth Cultures work group. I had decided to shake it up a little bit today by sitting on the other side of the room today. I was feeling dangerous, young, and alive.

We were discussing the state of youths in today’s society. Listening to other people’s comments, I got that itching in my finger and up it went. Taking a deep breath in preparation to drop some major knowledge, I chimed in with a Hawaiʻi-related comment. I spoke with confidence because I knew what I was talking about. After I had finished talking, I remember the room being silent for a second. It was just enough time for me to start feeling a little uncomfortable when Yatun, my Youth Cultures instructor, looked me dead in the eye and said in her ever-calm voice, “You’re an activist.”

In that moment, you could have told me that I was the next Miss USA and I would have believed it more. I was absolutely floored.

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Mockery or Reverence: The Responsibilities of Drag

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By Kenneth Jarvis

Introduction

Drag has been creeping into mainstream consciousness since the release of Paris is Burning in 1991, the seminal documentary following the ball culture of the late 1980s. This familiarity has reached a new level with the success of RuPaul’s Drag Race, introducing a new generation to contemporary drag culture and its current top stars, including Alaska Thunderfuck, Willam Belli, Sharon Needles, Latrice Royale, as well as reintroducing RuPaul into American popular culture. While the show has mainly been shown in the United States, it has a worldwide fan base and has proven an influence on LGBT communities everywhere, representing a global drag culture.

While the growing influence of drag culture has received mostly positive reception, there is the question of what it means for men to dress as women for entertainment. For many drag queens, their performance is reverent to womanhood as well as challenging social gender constructions, but for some women drag is offensive mockery. There is also the question of whether drag queens as performers of womanhood should help advance the state of feminism, and the question where to put the boundaries between offensive and comedy. It is possible that because under the drag many of these queens are biologically men they are manipulating their male privilege in being able to use womanhood to comedic effect, but then cross back into their privileged position as men.

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