Philosophy in the American West, A Geography of Thought

Picture of Gerard KuperusUSF Associate Professor of Philosophy, Gerard Kuperus, published a co-edited volume (with Brian Treanor and Josh Hayes, Routledge, 2020) about philosophy in our part of the world—the American West. Cities such as San Francisco and Seattle could be considered to be the contemporary equivalent of Ancient Athens, certainly in terms of its wealth, and possibly also as a place ideal for thinking. While Athens was influenced by Asia to the East, the West Coast of the USA is in dialogue with Asian traditions to the West, Europe to the East, Latin America to the south, and is home to indigenous philosophies. The American West as this meeting ground for different traditions can be seen as a fertile basis for philosophy and it is this insight that provides the philosophical background to Philosophy in the American West.

The project started with the 10th anniversary meeting of the Pacific Association for the Continental Tradition (PACT). The conference took place in 2018 in Yosemite and was organized around the theme “Thinking in the West.” PACT is an organization co-founded by Kuperus and has brought together philosophers from different traditions (including Asian and Indigenous), artists, and writers. As a West Coast organization PACT has always emphasized place even while it has attracted scholars from all parts of the country as well as Europe and Asia. In many ways the book is the result of the collaborations that PACT has engaged in during its first decade.

Philosophy in the American West explores the physical, ecological, cultural, and narrative environments associated with the western United States, reflecting on the relationship between people and the places that sustain them.

The American West has long been recognized as having significance. From Crèvecoeur’s early observations in Letters from an American Farmer (1782), to Thoreau’s reflections in Walden (1854), to twentieth-century thoughts on the legacy of a vanishing frontier, “the West” has played a pivotal role in the American narrative and in the American sense of self. But while the nature of “westernness” has been touched on by historians, sociologists, and, especially, novelists and poets, this collection represents the first attempt to think philosophically about the nature of “the West” and its influence on us. The contributors take up thinkers that have been associated with Continental Philosophy and pair them with writers, poets, and artists of “the West.” And while this collection seeks to loosen the cords that tie philosophy to Europe, the traditions of “continental” philosophy—phenomenology, hermeneutics, deconstruction, and others—offer deep resources for thinking through the particularity of place.

The book contains twelve original chapters, including (besides the chapter and co-written introduction by Kuperus) two contributions from other USF faculty: Amanda Parris (Philosophy) and Marjolein Oele (Philosophy).

For more information:

The Pacific Association for the Continental Tradition (PACT):

The Art of Insurrection

Pedro Lange-Churión and John Zarobell

On Tuesday, April 20, 2021, Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd and the public has seen, at long last, that our justice system is capable of prosecuting and punishing police officers who brutalize black and brown bodies. This decision can in no way reconcile the injustices faced by minorities in this country. Indeed, during the trial, it was reported that on average three people of color per day are killed by police officers in the United States. This story is not resolved but the protests against police violence that took place over the summer of 2020 and the civil disorder that resulted have also reignited a creative legacy of protest art that has been a key element of social protest movements around the world and in the Bay Area.

This piece, a collaboration between us, was an effort to capture the political divides in this country as they emerge on the contested streets of Oakland. The rifts left by Donald Trump’s efforts to drag the country away from any social progress we might have achieved over the last 100 or so years frames both, the civil unrest and our efforts to read it through the renegade public art that materialized in the very center of the city. We aimed to create a dialectic between images and texts about the city, about racial politics, and about the revolutionary efforts to demand rights for all people and to assert, above all, that Black Lives Matter.

Here is an excerpt from the article:


Street sign painted with text "Floydway"
Photo: Pedro Lange-Churión

You had such a vision of the street                                                 As the street hardly understands —T.S. Eliot, Preludes


This renaming to Floydway marks the street as a site of trauma. Floyd himself looks on. It is a moment of discontinuity that generates a new symbolic, an intervention against the reality of the power and violence of the state, manifested in the planning and maintenance of the city. Rancière calls this dissensus, this break in consciousness that emerges from the rewriting of the street in the name of those subverted by it. The subversive laughter brings out an unintended response to the city as it is.

Citation and link to the full article:

Lange-Churión, Pedro, and John Zarobell. “Report from Oakland: The Art of Insurrection.” Theory & Event 23, no. 5 (2020): S-110-S-126.

Academic Risk and Freedom in Dangerous Times Interdisciplinary Action Group Plan

[et_pb_section admin_label=”section”]
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[et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text admin_label=”Text”]Stephen Zunes (Professor, Politics), Susan Katz (Professor, International & Multicultural Education) & Aaron Hahn Tapper (Professor, Theology & Religious Studies)

Since the three of us have been teaching and writing for many years about human rights issues, including those involving the Palestinians, we all have been watching in dismay as scholars expressing public criticism of Israeli state policy violating such international legal norms are being branded as ‘anti-Semitic.’ In the process, scholars have been censored, forbidden from speaking at conferences, and/or even denied tenure at their universities. As faculty in the humanities and social sciences, we are generally encouraged and obligated to expose and condemn human rights violations as they occur both in our own backyard as well as in countries around the world.

Criticisms of human rights abuses by U.S. allies have often been met with pushback; yet human rights opponents have been particularly successful in squelching criticisms of Israel, the world’s only predominantly Jewish country.  Raising concerns about Israeli violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention principles in regard to occupation along with many other international human rights norms often leads to accusations of bias against the Jewish people and undermining their survival as a people (even if we are Jewish ourselves).  This phenomenon seems particularly acute in institutions of higher education in the U.S., where supporters of Israel’s right-wing government have wielded unusually strong political influence. Our Center for Research, Artistic and Scholarly Excellence (CRASE) project was designed to examine these contradictions and address their implications for academic freedom in general at this pivotal moment.

Inspired by the fall forum co-sponsored by the Tracy Seeley Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) and CRASE, our project addresses the current dangerous threats to academic freedom that are becoming widespread in universities under the veil of countering anti-Semitism. Our project has two components: First is writing and submitting a manuscript for publication in an academic journal. We have completed preparing this article, which looks at the broader political context as well as documents and analyzes cases in both the University of California and Catholic, primarily Jesuit, universities, where scholars critical of Israel have experienced harassment and/or repression. Furthermore, we examine the implications not only on academic freedom but also on campaigns for corporate responsibility, the growing threats from real anti-Semitism, and broader discourse on human rights, international law, and U.S. foreign policy. We are now considering which journal in the areas of human rights and peace studies will be most appropriate and impactful for its publication

The second part of our project is a forum at USF in Fall 2019. We are very excited to announce that this event will take place on October 22nd, with renowned critical feminist scholar and political philosopher, Judith Butler, as the keynote speaker.  Butler is not only Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory at UC Berkeley, but also she has been outspoken about current threats against academic freedom and how the charge of anti-Semitism against the movement for Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) is being used to suppress activism (


  • Judith Butler, Hannah Arendt Chair, The European Graduate School + Maxine Elliot Professor of Comparative Literature and Critical Theory, University of California, Berkeley
  • Zahra Billoo, JD, Executive Director, Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) San Francisco Bay Area
  • Aaron Hahn Tapper, Mae and Benjamin Swig Professor of Jewish Studies, Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice, USF
  • Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics, USF


  • Susan Katz, Professor of International and Multicultural Education, Human Rights Education, USF

Mark your calendars for this special event on October 22, 2019 from 5–6:30 pm, in Berman Room, Fromm Hall. A reception will follow at Maraschi Room, Fromm Hall.[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column]

Healing Through Grassroots Social Justice Movements Created for Educators, by Educators

Farima Pour-Khorshid, assistant professor of Teacher Education, writes about Bay Area social justice movements in education and their impact as a researcher and educator.

T4SJ participants on stairs

Over the past seven years, I’ve felt honored to organize with the Teachers 4 Social Justice (T4SJ) in San Francisco. I initially heard about the T4SJ annual conference back in October of 2012 during a time that I was desperately searching for intellectual and emotional support in my practice. To give some context, I had just returned abruptly to California after living and teaching in Nicaragua for two years because my brother, Mazyar Pour-Khorshid Jr., died unexpectedly just after his twenty-fifth birthday. I was struggling with my mental health, and the pain of that tragedy felt all-encompassing. Yet, despite my grief, I started a PhD program and also returned to teach part-time in my Bay Area community two months later. I figured that the busier I was, the less time I had for depression. That year I remember crying regularly in my classroom during recesses, lunch breaks, and after school. The reality was that my teacher education program did not equip me with knowledge or resources to know how to cope through personal and second-hand trauma as a teacher and I felt overwhelmed.

Beyond my personal struggles, I was constantly reminded of my unhealed trauma from my K-12 schooling experiences within the same district that I was teaching in. I felt triggered each time I witnessed students of color being either spoken about or treated in dehumanizing ways. Mandatory district sponsored teacher professional development and school collaboration meetings added layers of frustration to my experience because I began to realize how my professional learning maintained white supremacy. I began to feel like I was part of the problem, because after all, I was an actor within a system that was fundamentally toxic and inequitable in its very design.

I attended the T4SJ annual conference in October of 2012 after having a conversation with a community-based educator at my school. I left the conference feeling so inspired by all of the teachers and organizers that I met, the radical workshop topics, social justice resources and by the collectivism that permeated every conversation and space I was part of throughout the day. I decided to sign up for a monthly drop-in meeting the following month. I attended and felt rejuvenated by the level of commitment that these educators demonstrated after a long school day as they learned about and critically analyzed a range of problematic issues within education. In so doing, they revealed an impressive depth of knowledge that I had been hungry for since I entered the profession.

My involvement within the organization allowed me to conceptualize my research as meaningfully embedded in my practice and in solidarity with other educators in the field. T4SJ shifted my purpose in my practice as a public school educator, my trajectory as a doctoral student, and my activism as a grassroots organizer. For example, the more I reflected on some of my own racialized and gendered traumatic experiences, the more I began to think about what healing could look like within our organization and across education spaces. I wondered about how T4SJ could offer support, and I proposed creating a racial affinity group within the organization, especially because I yearned for that kind of space in order to sustain myself in the field. Two other T4SJ comrades of color, Karen Zapata and Chela Delgado, joined me in this endeavor and led us to cultivate a sacred space named H.E.L.L.A., a racial affinity group to support critical educators of Color. Being that we are situated within the Bay Area, centering the word hella was an important identity signifier and served as our acronym for our group’s political and pedagogical commitments to healing, empowerment, love, liberation and action (H.E.L.L.A.). Our approach has been rooted in healing centered engagement, which was influenced by the work I was doing with my mentor, Dr. Shawn Ginwright and the Flourish Agenda team. Our approach to collective healing is grounded in the power of our counternarrives as we’ve engaged deeply in Testimonio as Radical Story-Telling and Creative Resistance for sustainability in our work.

My involvement and leadership within T4SJ over time led to my involvement in other grassroots activist collectives like the Bay Area chapter of the People’s Education Movement which our very own Dr. Patrick Camangian cofounded. I also became a board member within the national Education for Liberation Network, which organizes Free Minds Free People, a grassroots national conference that brings together teachers, young people, researchers, parents and community-based activists/educators from across the country to build a movement to develop and promote education as a tool for liberation.  Collectively, we see activism as a shared struggle for human being which is essentially the “struggle for the inalienable right of all people to human be—to be liberated from any project of violence that treats persons as property, persons as things, persons as disposable, or persons as in any other way less than fully human” (p. 247). This struggle is also connected to building movements to end the prison industrial complex in our schools, the movement for ethnic studies, healing justice and more.

All of the justice-oriented liberatory education collectives that I have been part of have supported and matured my politic of radical teacher learning and support. My scholarship is deeply rooted in and emergent from these relationships with educators and activists as we collectively navigate structural violence in and out of educational spaces. I think it is critical for educators and educational researchers, spanning any level of their career, to be involved in liberatory education organizations. We are teaching, organizing and researching through an apolitical, color evasive, neoliberal education climate which has negative implications on our socialization, pedagogy and sustainability in the field.

We cannot afford to ascribe to the dominant culture, and our integrity lies in the ways we push back against white supremacist ideologies embedded in everyday school policies, practices and interactions. This work cannot be done in isolation, coalitional resistance is and will continue to be our lifeline. However, there is a deep level of humility that must undergird our solidarity, which mustn’t be confused with charity or saviorism, because in the powerful words of Indigenous Australian activist and educator, Lilla Watson, “If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

As we continue to engage in the labor of love of teaching, organizing and researching for social justice, let us not neglect the spiritual and emotional aspects of our lived experiences. Our mental health matters, especially in the face of structural violence and oppression. Collective healing is such an important form of activism that our world is in desperate need of and creating healing spaces is critical for our wellbeing and sustainability in our struggle for liberation because, in the words of Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”.

Flint’s Legacy: Trusting Science and Pursuing Justice

A Series of Events sponsored by a CRASE Interdisciplinary Action Group Grant

Event #1: Public Enemy, an Adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People

Produced by the Performing Arts and Social Justice Program

On April 25, 2014, water officials from Flint, Michigan celebrated as they pushed the button that moved the city’s water supply from the Detroit River, which had supplied it for decades, to the heavily polluted Flint River. The benefits were almost purely financial.

Continue reading “Flint’s Legacy: Trusting Science and Pursuing Justice”

Adventures in Digital Humanities

As a librarian who is passionate about languages, literature, pedagogy, and research, I’m curious about how technology assists their study and practice. I’m also confident that technological innovation needs the critical and constructive perspectives of humanities students and scholars. For these reasons, I wanted to become more proficient in a field that delves into many of these interests and concerns: digital humanities (DH). So, I decided to attend the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (or DHSI) at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.

DHSI has been held at the University of Victoria for almost two decades. It’s evolved over time into a 2-week institute where participants take intensive, week-long classes in a particular area of digital humanities. There are also preconference sessions, conversational  sessions, and daily colloquia. Longtime practitioners in DH teach, learn, and share ideas and projects alongside professors, librarians, archivists, graduate students, independent scholars, and journalists from all over the world — some who have been using digital tools and methods in their work for a long time, and others, like me, who are just starting out.

I arrived at DHSI with all of the anticipation, excitement, and nervousness that new learning adventures often bring. I soon found that I had nothing to be apprehensive about because DHSI and the University of Victoria provided a welcoming environment. And, any lingering homesickness that I might have been harboring was quickly abated by an assigned reading which mentioned Roberto Busa, a Jesuit priest and librarian who is often cited as the father of digital humanities. I learned that in the late 1940s, Busa asked IBM to assist him with work on the Index Thomisticus, a tool that made Thomas Aquinas’ corpus searchable. This project was a multi-year endeavor and a great example of the Jesuit influence on DH.

Digital tools are built a lot faster than they were in the 1940s. I learned that common DH methods and projects – such as text analysis, data visualization, mapping, and online publishing – may have any number of different tools, both open-source and proprietary, that scholars use to help them ask and answer new questions. One tool that I particularly liked experimenting with was Voyant – a simple and easy-to-learn open source text analysis and data visualization tool.

Voyant Tools analysis of DHSI website text
Screenshot of a Voyant Tools analysis of DHSI website text

Playing around and experimenting with different tools was fun, but a common refrain at DHSI was to be reflective and discerning about the use of these tools and their value to one’s particular research or projects. Course facilitators stressed that vetting tools is an important part of their research process.

As a result of the reflection and learning I was encouraged to do at DHSI, my own notion of and interests in digital humanities expanded considerably. I began conceiving of my own DH less in terms of tools and methods like text analysis, and more in terms of creating digital collections in collaboration with community stakeholders.

For example, how can I creatively use, remix, learn, and tell new stories or ask new questions with our existing library collections, both digital and analog? And how can I enhance these stories with multimodal learning and experience – by including aspects such as 3D replicas, sound, maps, and timelines? How can I involve our campus community in this endeavor? And, in keeping with our USF mission of changing the world from here, how do projects like digital exhibits make scholarship accessible and in service to communities outside of academia?

Furthermore, the two intensive classes that I took at DHSI – Critical Pedagogy and Digital Praxis in the Humanities (facilitated by Robin DeRosa and Chris Friend)  and Models for DH at Liberal Art Colleges and Four Year Institutions (facilitated by Angel Nieves and Janet Simon) –  encouraged participants to integrate student learning early and often in our DH work. In one of my classes, we talked about creating an online, interactive and open source Early American English literature textbook with and for undergraduates.

I also heard about student DH summer fellowships, where students earned summer course credit for conceiving of and creating a DH project in collaboration with faculty mentors. For example: Lauren White, a junior at Gettysburg College and a double major in Environmental Studies and English, worked with Musselman Library as a Digital Scholarship Summer Fellow. Using a platform called Scalar and material curated from her institution’s special collections and archives, White created This is Why We Fight, an interactive timeline of student-led social justice movements at Gettysburg College.

Gettysburg College student Lauren White’s project This is Why We Fight
Screenshot of Gettysburg College student Lauren White’s project, “This is Why We Fight.”

Here is another example of a project that I enjoyed learning about: Undergraduate and graduate students and their professor, Dr. Kristin Allukian at the University of South Florida, used a platform called Omeka to create, in consultation with a librarian, a searchable, cataloged digital collection or database of suffrage postcards, and are using this database alongside historical research to analyze and ask questions about these artifacts and their historical context. Their work is online and available for anyone to browse or use.

With examples like these as inspiration, I returned home from DHSI thinking about related projects I’ve worked on in the past, and those I’d like to work on in the future. I’m still interested in text mining and analysis (particularly after reading this article). But as a result of attending DHSI, I’m interested in so much more now.

My time at DHSI inspired me to consider the rich content in the USF library’s digital collections and how I might embark on a digital project or exhibit with students that curates content from and uses these collections to tell a story like the one Lauren White tells in “This is Why We Fight.” For example, what stories might be told with the library’s newly digitized collection of USF Foghorn newspapers? I’ve also been browsing Calisphere’s collectionsand digital exhibits for examples of exhibitions and ideas. Calisphere is a project of the California Digital Library, into which all ten University of California campuses, in addition to other California universities, libraries, and cultural institutions (including USF) have contributed digitized content. Last year, Calisphere began accepting proposals for exhibits, or “curated sets of items with scholarly interpretation that contribute to historical understanding.”

My two week immersion at DHSI was, of course, not nearly enough for me to become fluent in digital humanities. As many people I met at the institute suggested, however: it’s OK to start small, and learn from each other as we embark on this work. Collaboration and continued professional development is key. I now feel comfortable tapping the community from DHSI for help in this endeavor. A few librarians at Gleeson Library | Geschke Center also have interests in digital humanities and digital scholarship. I know our Digitization Librarian, Jessica Lu, our scholarly communications librarian Charlotte Roh, and others are excited to discuss the possibilities of DH at the University of San Francisco, too.

Colette Hayes is an assistant librarian at Gleeson Library | Geschke Center.

Trans-Scripts: CRASE-Sponsored Dramatic Reading and Photography

Event Organized by:
Jane Bleasdale, Ph.D.,, Assistant Professor, Department of Leadership Studies
Amie Dowling, MFA,, Associate Professor, Performing Arts Department
Daniela Domínguez, Psy.D.,, Assistant Professor, Counseling Psychology Department

With Donald Trump in office, 2017 was a challenging year for the transgender community in the United States. President Trump’s inaccurate understanding of sexuality and gender has led to the reversal of Obama-era positions on transgender rights and the creation of policies that attempt to harm transgender students, troops, and workers. Disheartened by these discriminatory attacks, professors Jane Bleasdale, Amie Dowling, and Daniela Dominguez felt the need to take action against President Trump’s attempts to silence and oppress the transgender community.

Sponsored by the Center for Research, Artistic, and Scholarly Excellence (CRASE) and the McGrath Institute for Jesuit Catholic Education, we produced “Trans-Scripts,” an artistic celebration based on the words and lived experiences of people from the transgender community. Trans-Scripts is a dramatic reading that is grounded in intersectional practice, an appreciation for the preservation of transgender rights, and a spirit of resistance to the reversal of progress. This performance featured transgender students and alum, women from El/La Para Trans Latinas, and photographs of transgender women by Kique Bazan of El/La Para Trans Latinas.

Photo credit: Kique Bazan

The process of creating “Trans-Scripts” started with 58 pages of interviews conducted by Professor Bleasdale with transgender individuals who attended K-12 Catholic and Public Schools. The interviews were edited to a 14-page script, and a backdrop of layered text from the Trump administration was added. Six rehearsals were held, and throughout the creative process, the producers provided mentorship, training, and encouragement to performers, which created avenues for them to feel empowered to use their voice and assert the value of their performance.

The final performance took place during the week of Transgender Awareness on November 14, 2017, at the University of San Francisco’s Intercultural Center and included a 30-minute dramatic reading and a 30-minute panel discussion led by the performers. The artists delivered an intimate performance that reflected the sociocultural challenges that Dr. Bleasdale’s participants have experienced throughout their journeys. The performance was infused with music selected by the research participants to help audience members better understand the affective dimensions of their lives. “Trans-scripts” was a performance that was as strong and powerful as the transgender communities it represented.

During the panel discussion, faculty, students, community members, producers, and performers, discussed strategies to dismantle cisgender privilege and other forms of oppression. Performers encouraged professors at the University of San Francisco to deepen their relationships with transgender students in order to build safer, more inclusive, and thriving classrooms where their identities are honored. They also drew attention to the importance of using correct pronouns as a demonstration of respect, awareness, and solidarity with the trans community.

Surrounding the stage were 26 photographs captured by Kique Bazan, a longtime activist for justice with years of experience working with advocacy organizations and an adjunct lecturer at the University of San Francisco (USF). His photography contested conventional social constructions of transgender individuals and encouraged cross-cultural dialogue on the importance of moving beyond the male-female dichotomy to increase understanding of the complex multicultural and intersectional identities of the transgender individuals that emerge and develop within them.

Photo credit: Kique Bazan

“Trans-scripts” was well attended with over 70 guests which included women from El/La Para Trans Latinas, outreach educators from the Asian Pacific Islander Wellness Center, the Director of USF’s Counseling and Psychological Services, the Director of the Lane Center, the Director of the Intercultural Center, staff and faculty across USF, and many others. Given the presence of monolingual Spanish-speaking guests from El/La, event programs were offered in English and Spanish. During the panel discussion, I provided translations throughout the dialogue to ensure the participation of our Spanish-speaking guests. During the discussion, audience members expressed powerful emotional responses to the performance.

We believe that our event sent a message to the Bay Area community that the University of San Francisco is interested in creating inclusive and affirming environments where transgender students, staff, and faculty can feel safe, protected, and celebrated.

Photo credit: Kique Bazan

Aesthetic Activism: Bullets Into Bells and Social Justice

The day I started writing this essay, two students were killed in yet another high school shooting in the United States. This time it was in New Mexico. The day I came back to revise, a policeman had shot and killed a 6-year old boy in San Antonio. Today, as I go back over this a third time, there was a school shooting in Kentucky. Two students were killed; 18 injured. Every day I have returned to work on this piece, there has been a shooting in this country—two were school shootings. I will type that again: Every day I have returned to work on this piece, there has been a shooting in this country—two were school shootings.

On Monday, December 5, 2017, the nation paid remembrance to the Sandy Hook school shooting, a massacre of 26 people, including 20 elementary school children, which happened five years ago. That same day, a book I’ve been working on for close to two years was published to commemorate and honor those who survived.

And those who did not.

That book, Bullets into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence, is an attempt to address what public health experts are calling an epidemic in contemporary America. Bullets into Bells pairs 50 poems by a range of American poets with responses from survivors of shootings, community leaders, and activists in the anti-gun violence movement. For example, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jody Williams responds to “Dancing,” an incredible poem by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, that traces the history of ammunition, beginning with Prometheus stealing fire and ending with an indictment of colonial violence and the American propensity for mass killing, most recently at the Pulse Night Club:

They were dancing in Orlando, in a club. Spring night.
Gay Pride. The relation of the total casualties to the history
Of the weapon that sent exploded metal into their bodies—
30 rounds a minute, or 40, is a beautifully made instrument,
And in America you can buy it anywhere—and into the history
Of the shaming culture that produced the idea of Gay Pride—
They were mostly young men, they were dancing in a club,
A spring night. The radio clicks on. Green fire. Blue fire.

About this poem, Williams writes, “I love the myth of Prometheus stealing fire—stealing some of the god Zeus’s power—for the benefit of humans. I’d like to rewrite it for our times. In my version, Prometheus would steal gunpowder, nuclear weapons, and the makings of killer robots and bury them deep in a cave on Mt. Olympus. To save human beings from ourselves.”

In another heartbreaking collaboration, Samira Rice, Tamir Rice’s mother, responds to Reginald Dwayne Betts’ unforgettable poem, “When I Think of Tamir Rice While Driving.” Betts’ poem begins:

My two young sons play
in the backseat while the video of Tamir dying
plays in my head, & for everything I do know, the thing
I don’t say is that this should not be the brick and mortar
of poetry.

Samaria Rice, Tamir’s mother, begins with a heartbreaking confession:

“When I think of Tamir as his mother, the woman who gave birth to him, I wonder why my son had to lose his life in such a horrific way in this great place we call America.” Toward the end of her response, she directs her anger, appropriately trenchant, at larger forces that continue to threaten the marginalized and disenfranchised: “Injustice in this country is pitiful and pathetic. The injustice starts with economics, education, and politicians.”

Samaria Rice’s voice joins a chorus of others – the Emergency Room doctor on call during and after the Sandy Hook shooting; DeAndra Yates, the mother of thirteen-year old Dre Yates, who was killed by a stray bullet fired from outside the birthday party he was attending; Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action Against Gun Violence, and Abbey Clements, the second-grade teacher at Sandy Hook who saved two children. Their words and those of some of America’s most celebrated poets—like former U.S. Poet Laureates Natasha Trethewey, Billy Collins, Juan Felipe Herrera, and Rita Dove—create a chorus that evokes both elegy and action.

None of us involved with the book know if it can have any short or long-term impact in regard to gun violence in the U.S. In truth, probably very little. But, Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro read Abbey Clements’ statement from Bullets into Bells on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. The book has received a great deal of attention from the mainstream press, including features in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and PBS. So, people are listening. People are reading.

But, are people changing? Are ideas galvanizing? I am not an optimist, but I am not a pessimist either. Somewhere between those poles is a belief that the right series of actions can’t, forever, do nothing.

The West Coast launch of Bullets into Bells will take place on February 22, 2018 at the Mechanics Institute Library in San Francisco. It will feature poets Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman, Jane Hirschfield, and editors Alexandra Teague and Dean Rader. Respondents include Rev. Michael McBride, Catherine Stefani from Moms Demand Action, and George Garvis, Executive Director Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice.

Global Manifestos Workshop

Organized by:
Pedro Lange-Churion, Modern and Classical Languages
Tanu Sankalia, Art + Architecture
Sumer Seiki, Teacher Education
John Zarobell,  International Studies

FTC Panelists
Panelists at Global Manifestos. Photo by John Zarobell.

Global Manifestos was an innovative workshop for students, faculty and the public that encouraged individuals to share their experiences and reactions to the changes in the art community wrought by globalization. This event was part of the Forum for Transnational Collaboration that occurred on November 17th-18th, 2017, which brought scholars from around the world to voice their perspectives on how globalization has affected the art world in their own domains. The workshop provided an opportunity to elaborate on these vocalizations by giving all participants an opportunity to express their own views on globalization in the form of a manifesto that can be articulated in 60 seconds or less. Further, the organizers of the event (all members of the CRASE Art and Globalization Faculty Research Circle) brought camera equipment out to Oakland’s First Friday Arts Walk on October 6th and to the Minnesota Street gallery complex on October 14th to film public participation outside of the academy. We encouraged all participants to speak impromptu, but we also worked with USF students, faculty, and staff to script manifestos during the first day of the Forum that they could read or designate for others to read at the recording on November 18th. All of the participants of the forum were asked to draft or improvise a manifesto on globalization to ensure that many different global perspectives were represented.

Dialogue In Between from Pedro Lange on Vimeo.

The goal of the Global Manifestos Workshop was to present an alternative to the model of economic globalization by providing a platform for multiple and diverse articulations on globalization. The voices of artists, curators, and critics who do not operate in the United States and Europe have been considered marginal but scholars and professionals need to rethink these norms. Further, the sense the public has about the effects of globalization on their daily lives has not been explored in this context. Thus, the focus was to explore the developments of artists and institutions from the (former) periphery that diffuse their own innovations into global culture and, in so doing, transform the meaning of the visual arts, social dynamics and market processes of the art world. We believe that alternative geographies result from new cultural and economic patterns and these develop unprecedented networks of engagement and participation that this forum was able to capitalize on. The resulting film not only presents the global participants, but also local voices from various communities throughout the city who were encouraged to record their own views. We found locals—old and young, with a variety of professional experiences, ethnic backgrounds, and perspectives on the impact of globalization in their lives—to speak on camera. In this way, we have sought to maximize the variety of voices that contribute to the fabric of the completed film.

Jose Luis Aranda, a graduate student from USF, worked with Director Pedro Lange-Churion to edit the final version of the film so none of the manifestos are viewed in complete form. This intentional approach contributes to a kaleidoscopic whole that reflects a wide array of voices that exemplify diversity and demonstrate the many perspectives on preservation in the midst of change.

Enemy Alien: Uncovering Family History

Sherise Kimura reflects on an artifact as part of 10 x 10: Ten Objects, Ten Stories presented in conjunction with the Thacher Gallery exhibition Something from Nothing: Art and Handcrafted Objects from America’s Concentration Camps, August 21 – November 15, 2017.

Artist unknown. Cane. Circa 1942-1943
Artist unknown. Cane. Circa 1942-1943, National Japanese American Historical Society, San Francisco, California.

On this beautiful wooden cane, the inscription reads in English, “In enemy alien camp, North America, New Mexico, Lordsburg.” The cane is a work of art, but it also served a useful purpose. I heard that many canes were made by older Issei, first generation Japanese immigrant men, to help with walking on the uneven terrain in the camps.

The “enemy alien” camp at Lordsburg has a special meaning to my family and me because my paternal grandfather, whom I never met, was among the Issei held at Lordsburg. Lordsburg was the U.S. Army camp that held the largest number of Issei, who at the time were not allowed to become naturalized U.S. citizens. Later my grandfather was transferred to the Department of Justice (DOJ) Santa Fe Camp and finally returned home to Hawai‘i in November 1945 after nearly three and a half years.

I only learned about this story of my grandfather about two years ago from a book my cousin, Colleen Kimura, wrote about her father. Because my father could offer very little information, I started doing my own research. I was surprised to find records for my grandfather in the National Archives WWII Alien Enemy Detention and Internment case files, which document the detainment and internment of suspected alien enemies under the Enemy Alien Control Program. In his files were his Alien Registration Form, a warrant for his arrest, camp behavior reports, and various administrative and procedural documents including correspondence about his possible parole to the War Relocation Authority (WRA) camp in Jerome, Arkansas, given that his two sons were U.S. soldiers in combat. Most revealing was the transcript of his hearing shortly after his arrest. I learned that his home had been searched as part of the raids after the attack on Pearl Harbor when martial law was imposed in Hawai‘i. Based on some spurious charges, he was declared an alien enemy and recommended for internment for the duration of the war. His family was not told when or where he was being sent.

My grandfather was 54 at the time and had lived in Hawai‘i for 35 years. He was a blacksmith for a living, worked on a pineapple plantation camp with his family, and was active in the local community.

Growing up in Hawai‘i, I heard few personal stories of internment or incarceration, most likely because Hawai‘i did not experience the same mass incarceration of Japanese Americans that had transpired on the mainland. Fewer than 2,000 people, or 1% of the Japanese population in Hawai‘i at that time, were incarcerated. This was largely due to the fact that the Japanese comprised over one third of the population of the Territory of Hawai‘i and their labor was essential to the economy. Interestingly, the memory of internment in Hawai‘i is finding greater public awareness in recent years, with the uncovering of the Hono‘uli‘uli internment camp, the largest of 17 camps in Hawai‘i.

Late in his life, my uncle reflected on his father’s internment and acknowledged the sorrow my grandfather must have felt when he returned to Hawai‘i at the end of the war while the nation celebrated. In 1956 my grandfather eventually left Hawai‘i and his family and returned to Japan, where he passed away two years later. According to my uncle, although he never spoke it, my grandfather felt he had no place in this country anymore–where he had lived most of life, where he had raised his family, where all five of his sons had served in the military⎯but where he had been treated like a criminal.