Tag Archives: MiddPoints

Blind Date With A Book 2018

two student pose on either side of a book cart

Senior Feb Austin Kahn (2017.5) and senior Prasanna Vankina (2018) pose at the Blind Date With A Book Display in the Davis Family Library atrium.

Name: Katrina Spencer

Hometown: Los Angeles

Role at Middlebury: Literatures & Cultures Librarian

Time at Middlebury: 1 year, 10 days

Katrina, are you prepping a display… again?

Yes, I have a problem.

What’s it about?

My problem or the display?

Both.

I have an obsessive streak that is manifesting itself in this way. The display is a small celebration of Valentine’s Day. It’s called “Blind Date With A Book.” My former supervisor, Jessica Newman, at Steenbock Library at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, hipped me to it.

Doesn’t that kind of crowd the atrium?

Yes, we have a lot of great collections we want to highlight. Currently we have at least three temporary displays there: the Black History Month Display, the New England Review’s display, and Blind Date With A Book. (On the Upper Level, a display called “Hair Me Out” is being prepped, too. See if you can find it.)

a picture of textual instructions for the display

The instructions for engaging with Blind Date With A Book read as follows: 1. Choose an item and unwrap it. 2. Take a selfie for Facebook, tagging
Middlebury College Libraries.” 3. Check out your selection at the Circulation Desk.

What’s special about Blind Date With A Book?

Well, with this one, it’s only there for a limited time: February 11th- 19th. Many of the items are wrapped up so you can’t see what the title is and by unwrapping it, you make a small commitment of getting to know the work without knowing much about its content, hence the concept of a blind date. ;)

Take a selfie with the book you unwrap so we can show the match made in heaven on Facebook. Tag “Middlebury College Libraries.”

Also, don’t miss out on Special Collections’ (SC) awesome event, “DIY Valentine Event,” Tuesday February 13th. SC always has cool stuff.

Cover art for the film Chico & Rita

The cover art for the film Chico & Rita, a Cuban love story..

As an aside, I noticed we didn’t have many love stories featuring people of color so that will launch some new acquisitions: Love and BasketballLove Jones and Poetic Justice. The form at go.middlebury.edu/requests will allow you to make requests, too. For now, minimally, we have Chico & Rita. ;)

Who helped you to shape this?

You want me to name my accomplices?

Yes.

Leanne Galletly did the wrapping. Marlena Evans supplied numerous items, the book cart and the heart-shaped decorations. Kat Cyr also added titles that would be thematically appropriate for the project. I. . . I am an endless source of ideas.

Is that why they hired you?

Maybe. That and the degree (MSLIS). And the willingness.

a book cart with books and DVDs

The Blind Date With A Book display in the Davis Family Library atrium

Can you give us a hint as to what lies beneath the wrapping?

  • There may or may not be a classic work by a world famous South American writer there.
  • There may or may not be a work dedicated to telling Muslim women’s stories of love.
  • There may or may not be the story of two men falling in love and having to hide their intimacy from the world.
  • Maybe.

So who’s your Valentine?

TBD.

Celebrating Black History Month 2018

The Davis Family Library is celebrating Black History Month in February 2018 with a display of books, audio CDs, DVDs, podcast recommendations, multimedia-based interviews and programming. Come to the atrium to see what we have in store and get a sneak peek at go/bhmdigital/. Read below to find out about the variety of ways to engage.

Katrina (Literatures & Cultures Librarian), what are the libraries doing to celebrate Black History Month?

Let me highlight three projects in detail:

a collage of 55 artistic book covers from the Black History Month Display

User Experience & Digital Scholarship Librarian Leanne Galletly has prepared a digital space that allows users to preview the books appearing in the Davis Family Library’s Black History Month display. This collage includes The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, Les Blancs by Lorraine Hansberry, and The Mother of Black Hollywood by Jenifer Lewis, among many others. Click on the image above to access podcast recommendations, too!

The Black History Month Display in the Davis Family Library atrium, February 1st- 28th, will include books, CDs, DVDs and podcast recommendations created by and about black writers, entertainers and artists. The scope is broad with works from the late sociologist W.E.B. DuBois (1868- 1963) and living, contemporary screenwriter Issa Rae (1985- ); jazz pioneer Miles Davis (1926- 1991) and Grammy award winning rapper Kendrick Lamar (1987- ); the cinematic classic The Color Purple (set in the 1930s and made in 1985) and  filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s Selma (set in 1965 and made in 2014). We’ve also got Senegalese author Mariama Bâ’s French-language classic Une si longue lettre; Cuban singer Celia Cruz’s Azúcar Negra in Spanish; and Pelé: Birth of A Legend, a documentary on the Brazilian futbolista extraordinaire. Blackness, after all, is not contained to any one, geographic region. You can get a sneak peek at the books by visiting go.middlebury.edu/bhmdigital.

eight images of participants who participated in recorded interviews

The In Your Own Words oral history project can be found in the Internet Archive, go.middlebury.edu/ia.

Second, In Your Own Words, an oral histories project, features interviews with students, staff and faculty from the Middlebury community responding to a variety of questions, among them:

  • Racially and ethnically, how do you identify?
  • How do notions of race and ethnicity change based on where you are and who you’re with?
  • What do you wish others knew about race and ethnicity?

These audio recordings cover identities linked to the Southside of Chicago, the Afro-Caribbean and East Africa and can be found on StoryCorps and in the Archives along with pdf transcripts. They will also be aired on Wednesdays February 21st and February 28th from 2:00- 3:00 p.m. on the Middlebury College campus’ radio station, WRMC 91.1. If interested in delving more deeply into personal stories addressing African identities, seek out Life Stories, found in Special Collections, in which three alums,  Barbara Ofosu-Soumah (Ghana), Mukui Mbindyo (Kenya) and Cheswayo Mphanza (Zambia), tell of their their experiences at Middlebury.

an advertisement depicting

On Friday, February 16, 2018, the Davis Family Library will host a Jeopardy-inspired trivia event dedicated to black history and culture. A raffle will be held for tickets to the opening night of the superhero film Black Panther.

Third, a competitive trivia game event inspired by Jeopardy will be held this month. Participants will compete for coveted prizes including board games, coloring books and poetry collections. Audience members can participate in a raffle for tickets to the opening night of Black Panther at The Marquis. Twelve categories have been prepared for the game that cover themes like geography, popular culture, literature and more. Sponsors include the Middlebury College Libraries, Vice President for Human Resources and Risk Karen Miller and the Program in American Studies.

Who makes all this possible?

a cartoon of an African American woman at left on a banner announcing the Black History Month Display

Middlebury College alumna Coumba Winfield designed one of the two banners (pictured above) for the Davis Family Library’s atrium display. She is also the founder of PopGig, a 21st century app that allows users to set prices for the services they seek. Download the app here and hear more about it at the Jeopardy-inspired trivia event!

With fear of leaving someone out, let me describe some of the roles people take on:

  • Kat Cyr, Rachel Manning and their student workers in Interlibrary Loan help to prepare bibliographies and pull featured items from the shelves.
  • Digital Media Tutors like Pedro, Dan, Caleb, Alfredo, Fayza, Rachel and Emma, Cataloging Specialist Marlena Evans, Librarians Amy Frazier and Leanne Galletly and Alumna Coumba Winfield help with developing print banners and advertisements.
  • Kim Gurney and Dan Frostman help to reserve props and digitally mark items as “on display.”
  • Lisa McLaughlin, Michael Warner and Marlena help with much of the invisible magic of ordering items and cataloging print and multimedia purchases.
  • Carrie Macfarlane helps me to problem solve and to manage my own creative ambitions. ;)
  • Every person interviewed shared their personal testimonies, which is no small feat: Jade Moses, Shenisis Kirkland, Clark Lewis, Kemi Fuentes-George, Kizzy Joseph, Nicole Curvin and Sarady Merghani.
  • Patrick Wallace prepared all of the audio files for the Archives.
  • Bill Koulopoulos’ group provided the funds for transcription.
  • Meg Daly and Maddy Goodhart planned the airing of the shows on WRMC.
  • Austin Kahn posted advertisements for Jeopardy.
  • Susan Burch educated me, as she always does, on the Life Stories project.
  • And all this is without mentioning the many people who will be staffing the trivia event!
Twelve headshots of librarians

An image of Middlebury College librarians. (Patrick Wallace not pictured.)

How can we help?

  • Know your librarian. There are 12 of us and we all have different strengths and expertise. 
  • Make appointments. It is a tremendous help to be able to anticipate office visits.
  • Heed advice. Want to develop a display? Read go/displays/. Or want new items purchased? Use go/requests/
A screenshot featuring an image of late author Julius Lester (1939-2018).

A screenshot featuring an image of late author Julius Lester (1939-2018). He is the author of seven items in the Middlebury College Libraries catalog, including Black Folktales. The text reads, “”It’s strange that whites fear that anything addressed to blacks is an automatic rejection and condemnation of them. That is not necessarily so… whites do not want to acknowledge the fact that if they want to know blacks they will have to immerse themselves in what blacks have to say, and that there is no white Dante who can take them gently by their…hands and lead them on a guided tour of blackness and keep them from getting a little singed by the fires.” ~ Julius Lester, in a letter, 1970 (Children’s Literature Review, Vol. 41)”.

 

 

What did you learn in the process of prepping all this?

  • Kathleen Collins was an African American cinematic directing pioneer and a Middlebury Language Schools alum who developed 1982’s film Losing Ground.
  • Stand-up comedian, actress and talk show hostess Whoopi Goldberg directed a documentary about a humorist who influenced her by the name of Moms Mabley.
  • Roxane Gay, writer of Bad Feminist, wrote a work of fictional short stories late last year called Difficult Women. It is en route to the Davis Family Library.
  • There’s a book in our collection titled The Loneliness of the Black Republican.
  • Julius Lester (1939- 2018), author of Black Folktales, recently passed away. With a book history project in grad school, Singed By the Fires, it was his work that first taught me I could incorporate blackness into librarianship. So, I dedicate this work to him.

What’s next?

About a year ago, I wrote that I hoped my work would be contagious. I wanted it to inspire others to further and more regularly engage with difference. People have been receptive to those cues and are creating ever more dynamic discourses on this campus.

From easiest to hardest, Leanne [Galletly] (User Experience and Digital Scholarship Librarian) and I want to make the spreadsheets used for the displays from the last year public. I want to find more time to read, research and contribute to national discourse on librarianship. Lastly, I need to recruit more professional peers who are people of color into my life.

Taste of The World 2018!

image of a wooden cart full of books

Join the Student Government Association’s Social Affairs Committee as they celebrate cultural expo “Taste of the World” from January 22nd- 26th, 2018.

Quick Announcement: This week, January 22nd- 26th, the Student Government Association’s (SGA) Social Affairs Committee is hosting a cultural expo called “Taste of the World,” featuring foods from all over the globe. This week-long event includes explorations of world cuisine, calligraphy, dance workshops, a film screening of Fruitvale Stationan open-mic night interspersed with performances by dance troupes Evolution, Riddim, K-Pop and many more! There will also be a panel addressing several types of art featuring Christal Brown (Dance), Damascus Kafumbe (Music) and Marissel Hernández-Romero (Spanish & Portuguese)! For more information, see the event’s Facebook page at go/middlebury.edu/taste and stop by the Davis Family Library to see this thematic display! Event Contact: Adiza Mohammed, adizam@middlebury.edu.

On Very Short Introductions

woman hovering over a table of books

Literatures & Cultures Librarian Katrina Spencer poses with the Very Short Introductions display. With more than 500 titles, these works represent one of the libraries’ most diverse collections.

Hey, there’s a new display up of Very Short Introductions to usher in the New Year. Come check it out, January 3rd- 26th!

Katrina (Literatures & Cultures Librarian), what are these books?

Every title featured on the table belongs to the Very Short Introductions series. They attempt to treat big themes in relatively few pages. The topics covered are broad in range from anything as abstract as “love,” as concrete as “water,” as complex and involved as “American politics,” as controversial and problematic as “racism” and as esoteric as “Kant.”

How many do we own?

Between the print and digital volumes, our MIDCAT catalog shows records for over 500 items in the Very Short Introductions series.

multicolored cover art for a book

The cover art used for the Very Short Introduction on love by Ronald de Sousa.

Why are they on display?

Aside from having beautiful, eye-catching colors and covers, J-Term is dedicated to studying one particular theme intensely and for a brief period of time. These items are rather “meta” because they have the same objective. Do you see what we did there? ;)

How do I get access to more?

Visit go/midcat/ (or, from off campus, go.middlebury.edu/midcat) and type in “very short introductions” as a keyword search. The results will list what we own in our collection in both print and e-format.

Is there a place that I can see the whole listing in the series?

Yeah, if you check out the Wikipedia page, you’ll see every theme that’s covered, starting with “classics” and all the way through “the immune system,” as of January 3rd, 2018.

multicolored cover art for a book

The cover art used for the Very Short Introduction on hormones by Marin Luck.

How long will they be out in the lobby?

We’ve chosen a small collection of thirty items to represent the series and they will be in the lobby either from January 3rd- January 26th or until you, your buddies and colleagues pick them up and check them out. ;) You can always pick them up off the shelves to check them out and remember that Armstrong has various very short introductions in its holdings, too! For example, climate change, fungi, hormones, infectious disease, moons, nuclear physics and viruses, just to mention a few!

How many can I check out?

We haven’t got a limit.

multicolored cover art for a book

The cover art used for the Very Short Introduction on Islam by Malise Ruthven.

Is the writing accessible?

I say yes. However, reading them is not like reading a novel. The works are more academic in nature and reflect the words of experts and years of research. While made and written for the layperson, don’t expect character development– perhaps except in the cases of Jesus, Muhammad, Goethe and other historical figures– and plot. (Speaking of which, they could likely use some historical figures who are women in this series like the Queen of Sheba, Juana Inés de la Cruz, Marie Curie and Malala Yousafzai. Just sayin’.) They are written to be informative and, as with many other items in our collection that serves academic needs, you may find yourself drawn to certain chapters or sections and less inclined to read from the first word to the very last.

multicolored cover art for a book

The cover art used for the Very Short Introduction on African History by John Parker and Richard Rathbone.

Can I use these works for my research?

Yes, of course! Though tiny, these works are credible sources that can supplement broader research and be cited like any other. Here is a sample citation:

Parker, John, and Richard Rathbone. African History: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.

For more on citing, visit go/citations/ (or, from off campus, go.middlebury.edu/citations) or see a librarian at the Research Desk.

multicolored cover art for a book

The cover art used for the Very Short Introduction on colonial America by Alan Taylor.

Which is your favorite?

Me? I’m partial to the ones that feature religious themes, like the Koran and the Bible. Religion shapes so much of our lives and mores and having the opportunity to understand the contexts in which sacred texts were born is really enlightening. Since developing November’s display featuring Native American history and related content, I’ve also been eyeing the one on North American Indians. And there’s the one on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, something I’ve been trying to get a greater grasp on for nearly all my life.

Who’s behind this effort?

Every– EVERY– display is a group effort. Many invisible hands make these displays possible. While I’m a great source of ideas ;), Kat Cyr, Rachel Manning and their student workers help to pull items from the shelves, Marlena Evans consistently has excellent feedback (and leadership) on design and Kim Gurney and Dan Frostman exercise a lot of patience with me and my constant requests for reserving props and status changes. Come by and see the culmination of our work!

Interlibrary Loan Winter Break Service Update – 2017

Due to the holidays, shipping madness, the increased risk of losses, and the lack of open libraries willing to send things, the Interlibrary Loan Department limits ordering and shipping during the second half of December.

If you need anything before winter break request it now!  Interlibrary loan requests submitted to ILLiad after Dec. 15th will be ordered in early January.

ILLiad article requests will continue to be filled by RapidILL through Dec. 22st, but requests must have a valid ISSN and year to be processed by Rapid.

Use Worldcat to find your citations and submit your loan requests!

 

Throwback Thursday: Zach Schuetz

 

Some of the employees working within the libraries once had other roles and separate affiliations with Middlebury. Follow their (r)evolutions on the first Thursday of every month this semester.

Name: Zach Schuetz  

Former Role(s) on Campus: Class of 2011, Japanese Major, Linguistics Minor; Japanese Language School 2009

Current Role on Campus: Senior Technology Specialist; Advisor, Xenia Social House

When was this photo taken? Fall 2008, at the Quidditch World Cup (then hosted in Middlebury.)

What were you doing in this photo?

Just observing, though in other years I competed or performed with the Mountain Ayres for the halftime show.

How have things changed in your life since then? I’ve gained a lot of perspective on what I want out of life and what I’m willing to do to get there. For example, I love teaching, so at the time I was planning to be a college professor. But I’m not that excited about doing original research, so instead I found a position where I still get to teach and answer questions, but in a less formal setting, and without the stress of grad school and adjunct hell.

What hasn’t? I still speak Japanese sometimes, and I still enjoy watching anime, playing tabletop games, and attending events at Xenia. I also wear my wizard hat to work on special occasions.

What’s your favorite thing about your job? The satisfaction of solving a difficult puzzle, helping students and faculty do all the awesome things they do (both in an IT context and at Xenia), and getting to live and work in the wonderful community at Midd.

What is on the horizon? Getting more involved with the community and seeking social and romantic opportunities here and in Burlington. Paying off student loans and saving up for a down payment on a house so I can start to think about settling down.

For more posts like these, like our Facebook page.

what is whiteness?: a critical examination

The Davis Family Library has highlighted a variety of groups through displays over the last 10 months including racial minorities, the LGBTQ+ community and the disabled. Take the opportunity now to critically examine whiteness as an identity and system of privilege. Visit the Davis Family Library lobby December 1st through the 17th to see works that highlight this topic. Also, listen to Drs. Laurie Essig and Daniel Silva interrogate whiteness as a social and historical construct via StoryCorps with transcript found at On Whiteness with Laurie Essig, Daniel Silva, Katrina Spencer. Use the whiteness glossary to enhance your vocabulary surrounding this topic. All underlined terms and more appear in the glossary.

Listen to the “On Whiteness” interview here.

From left to right, Daniel Silva, Katrina Spencer and Lauries Essig

From left to right, Middlebury College Portuguese Professor Dr. Daniel Silva, Literatures & Cultures Librarian Katrina Spencer and Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies Professor Dr. Laurie Essig participate in an interview in which they address the topic of whiteness. Listen to it via StoryCorps.

Names; Hometowns; Roles on Campus; Times At Midd:

AM: Addie Mahdavi; Newfane, Vermont; American Studies Major— Part of Middlebury Anarchist Coalition; Women’s Ultimate Frisbee. I’m entering my fourth year at Middlebury.

AF: Amy Frazier; Memphis, Tennessee; Film & Media Librarian; 2 years.

KS: Katrina Spencer; Los Angeles, California; Literatures and Cultures Librarian; 10 months.

LE: Laurie Essig; from a lot of places, mostly NYC; Professor of Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies; 11 years

DS: Daniel Silva; Newark, New Jersey; Professor of Portuguese; 4 years

TA: Tara Affolter; Peoria, Illinois; Professor of Education Studies; 9 years

Do you identify as white? 

AM: I do identify as white. My relationship with whiteness can feel complicated by my also being Iranian (and vice versa), but I am read and I move through the world as a white person, so that’s how I identify racially.

AF: It’s just an acknowledgement of reality: I’m so, so white. My family is all WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) on one side, and Scots-Irish hillbillies on the other. Being from the South adds a flavor, if you will, to my whiteness, but not always a welcome one.  

To the left, a list of ethnicity estimates categorized by geographic regions and percentages; to the right, a word map highlighting areas that coincide with Katrina Spencer's DNA

A screenshot of Katrina Spencer’s ancestry.com results revealing that 81% of her DNA is shared with groups originating in Africa and 19% of her DNA is shared with groups in Europe, originally posted on Glocal Notes, a blog from the International and Area Studies Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

KS: No, I don’t, but, as I was once told, my skin didn’t get to be this color on its own. That is, there is some history of miscegenation in my genes. When I had my DNA evaluated, it was revealed that 19% of my ancestry is European. So, no and still no. But maybe a little?

LE: I am white. Whiteness is written onto my body, but it is an unstable whiteness as a Jew. Jews became white in the US after World War II, but that whiteness has always been a not fully completed project as we can see from the present rise in anti-Semitic groups and politics. Also, in Russia- where my family is from and where I have lived a lot- Jewish is a different racial category than (white) Russian.

What is whiteness?

AM: Whiteness is a racial category that changes over time to include and exclude different ethnic groups based on relationships of power. There is no discernible culture or shared set of features that all white people have in common, aside from the shared experience of holding race-based power and privilege.

AF: “White” is what we (white people) inadvertently made ourselves when we decided that color was an acceptable basis upon which to oppress and subjugate other human beings. If they were black and brown, then we were white, even if we didn’t intend to define ourselves in the process of dehumanizing others. And I think whiteness is the baggage — the habits, the assumptions, the presumptions and privileges — that we acquired when we separated ourselves from other people. In more popular terms, I think whiteness encompasses whatever is easy, comfortable, accessible, and unchallenging for white people.

KS: “White” is frequently an “unmarked” identifier, mistakenly understood to be the default category for “authentic American” and synonymous with “standard,” “neutral,” “morally right,” “upstanding,” “correct,” true,” “sincere,” “altruistic,” “wholesome,” “pure,” etc. In our society, too often, “white,” as a noun, is equivalent to “person,” which renders non-whites something else.

Whiteness, on the other hand, is quite closely correlated to the multiple ways in which the dominant culture protects, promotes the interests of, perpetuates and preserves the privileged status and wealth of the [frequently] lightly complected descendants of Europeans and those who “pass.” (Those who “pass” may trace their ethnic and racial origins to groups outside of Europe but may share enough physical features that resemble whites that, to some degree, they are integrated into this group, are not perceived as imminent threats, and benefit from this acceptance.)

In essence, whiteness encompasses how our societies receive and respond to people identified as “white.” It is important to note that the category has been mutable for centuries and that its impact and power are transnational. Through art, media, economic relationships, and the legacies of colonialism, this system of privilege has been spread across the globe. It is not uniquely [North] American.

one white woman at left and a black woman at right in the post-Civil War southern United States

A still image from the 1939 cinematic production Gone With the Wind. Actress Vivien Leigh (left) and Hattie McDaniel (right) are featured in their roles, respectively, as Scarlett O’Hara and Mammy. The characterizations are race-based, Scarlet being prim, cultured and privileged; Mammy being wide, uneducated and subservient. Image Source: Creative Commons

LE: Whiteness is a historical project, one that began in earnest in the U.S. after the Civil War. When racial hierarchies were unmoored from slavery, they were reestablished, as W.E.B. Dubois tells us, through “the Color Line.” Jim Crow policies in the South, but also federal immigration policies, incarceration of “enemies” like Japanese Americans, and the denial of employment and educational opportunities were all linked to this Color Line. Who achieved “whiteness” and who did not in the past 150 years or so is not set in stone, but an ongoing battle.

How does whiteness manifest itself at Midd?

AM: In a lot of ways, but maybe most clearly in the assumptions made about what people need and don’t need in order to thrive here. Socially, academically, economically, and culturally, Middlebury is definitely designed to be a place where whiteness and white people can flourish, which doesn’t necessarily mean we will, but we are certainly better situated to do so than people of color.

AF: I find it genuinely difficult to address this question articulately, because the degree to which whiteness is manifest here is… kind of overwhelming. I mean, how does water manifest itself in the ocean? Look down; you’re soaking in it. One of the more pernicious habits we still frequently perform is to regard a “typical” member of our community as white. What does a Vermonter look like? What does a Middlebury student look like? The first face that pops into my head is still a white one. Demographically, that’s probably not so far from the reality, but the assumption behind it can lead us to dismiss, discount or even just overlook the perspectives of people of color as those of “other people.” They’re not other people; they’re us.

Cover art from Sara Ahmed’s book Living a Feminist Life

LE: Sara Ahmed tells us that in historically white educational institutions like Midd, the very space itself is oriented around whiteness. To enter this space as a non–white body is to be immediately hypervisible and, in many ways, suspect of not belonging. That certainly happens at Middlebury. It has the look and the feel of a gated community- golf course, tennis club, the “rural,” even the use of an “e” at the end of the Grille to mark it as “olde English”– make this a space where bodies that have primarily existed in white spaces are “comfortable” and also unmarked/invisible.

KS: I was reading a piece covering Dr. Angela Rose Black that features a question she regularly poses: “Who gets to be well?” and it’s a relevant one for our campus and “community.” Who gets to to see himself/herself/themselves regularly reflected in our curriculum, faculty and staff? Who gets multiple and diverse opportunities to pick from a sea of mentors they trust? Who gets to be inspired by high-ranking Middlebury personnel who look like them? Who gets access to high quality mental healthcare provided by people who intimately know of their cultural experiences? Who consistently has their presence on this campus accepted, lauded and taken as a given? Who can attend a lecture by a controversial figure whose writings imply a racial hierarchy, enter it with a neutral mindset, and walk away utterly unscathed by its implications? Who is welcome to make serious mistakes and be excused for them? If we honestly answer these questions then we can see the ways in which whiteness manifests itself here in Middlebury.

In what ways can whiteness be problematic?

AM: When whiteness is equated with normalcy, as it often is (e.g. in the language of referring to people of color as “minorities”), it positions all other races as deviant, and leads to marginalization and invisibility or hypervisibility. Because white colonizers, scientists, politicians, theorists, etc. have violently maintained power for so long, whiteness is centered as the dominant cultural narrative in the United States and as a result institutions like Middlebury, which should be accessible to everyone, are designed only to meet the needs of white people.

AF: If “whiteness” is a product of our dehumanizing of other people, it has also served to partially separate and disconnect white people from most of the rest of humanity. This weakens us as individuals and as a society; it has led us to do things and construct systems that make us, in turn, less human.

three images of Katy Perry dressed in intercultural garb

A 31 July 2014 screenshot from Twitter user @CraigSJ‘s feed featuring white singer Katy Perry with an ancient Egyptian hairstyle and bejeweled teeth (at left), in a kimono (at top right) and cornrows (at bottom right).

KS: A large debate over the last few years addresses cultural appropriation. When white people or other groups tap into a tradition that is distinctly not theirs and profit from it while frequently and simultaneously demonizing the originators of said tradition and/or divorcing the originators from their cultural product, we encounter serious problems. We see this in music, fashion, art, culinary practice and more. As the many think pieces suggest about the Internet suggest, white people twerking in cornrows while wearing “grills” is seen as edgy, “adult” and alluring; black people twerking in cornrows while wearing grills is seen as low-class, shameful and hypersexual.

LE: Hegemonic whiteness is problematic because of a long history of being used to create social hierarchies- not just against people of color, but against sexual “degenerates” and “white trash” (poor whites). Whiteness is also problematic because, like gender, it can operate as “commonsense” and “real,” when in fact it is historically specific and culturally determined. But perhaps this is also the contradiction that can be exploited within whiteness- the space where hegemonic whiteness can begin to fall apart.

What motivated you to be a part of this display? 

AM: One of the reasons it’s easy to center whiteness as the norm is because we seldom engage with it as a phenomenon worthy of critical examination. When we question the development, maintenance, and impacts of whiteness, we come closer to de-centering it from seeming “natural” in the American social landscape and create space to value and support different racial and ethnic identities and experiences.

AF: “When all you’ve ever known is privilege, equality feels like oppression.” We see this in aggressive, destructive action all around us, and the fundamental lack of self-awareness and perspective in large swaths of white society is fuel on the fire. And as a white person, I think I have two absolute obligations: to be proactive in working to combat my own gaps in awareness and perspective; and to be open, responsive, and frank in conversation with others. So things like this are an opportunity, even in a small way, to challenge white supremacy from the white side.

KS: If you come to the Davis Family Library regularly, where I am the only black employee, you’ll know that with the help of many students, staff, and faculty,  I’ve been helping to develop displays about various cultural identities since Spring 2017. When I started, I had no intention of critically examining whiteness. But after Jonathan Miller Lane’s Rifelj lecture and call to action in September, I felt motivated to do so. Essentially, if we talk about blackness, brownness, yellowness and redness, we must establish opportunities to talk about whiteness as well. They all exist in a system together. It doesn’t make sense to talk about four of them and not the fifth. We must position our lens of scrutiny and inquiry on the dominant culture, too.

LE: All of the courses I lead are situated in critical race theory and one of them, White People, focuses specifically on the history, economy and culture of whiteness in the US. I truly believe that we don’t spend enough time trying to think critically about dominant categories, whether it’s hegemonic whiteness, normative heteroseuxality, or heteronormative masculinity.

What resources on whiteness might you recommend to Midd folk? 

AM: There’s a document called White Supremacy Culture from Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups, by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun which is really useful for thinking about how white supremacy manifests covertly in group cultures. White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh is a good place to start for white people who aren’t sure how privilege affects their everyday lives.

AF: The podcast Scene on Radio did an excellent 14-part series on “Seeing Whiteness.” I think this can be an accessible place to begin for those who’d like to start their own work unpacking whiteness, drawing on the perspectives of both white people and people of color, and featuring some of the best scholars working in the field. It’s long, but absolutely worth the time spent.

a book cover with a thumbs up

The cover art for the book Stuff White People Like by Christian Lander

KS: There are more to choose from than you might expect and ultimately it will depend on the readers’ objectives. But, if you want something “light” and “fun,” I’d start with Christian Landers’ Stuff White People Like. I like it because, intentionally or not, it hones in on the conspicuous consumption as an attempt to prove one’s belonging to a social class. If you’re looking to develop a bibliography, you can visit this research guide, What Is White Privilege? , that I started shaping while in grad school. And if you’re looking for people of color to lead the discussion, I Am Not Your Negro, a documentary film that centers the late author James Baldwin, a vocal critic of whiteness, conjures some serious food for thought. It’s available through go.middlebury.edu/kanopy, free to people within the Middlebury “community.” And, of course, come see the display.

LE: There’s so much! Here’s a copy of my syllabus, which includes:

Click here to visit the whiteness glossary produced by Middlebury staff and faculty.