One of the main reasons I took this course is so I could learn how to critically engage with and re-imagine the past from the perspective of those voices which do not occupy the dominant narrative. History is told by people in power-some voices are heard while others are not. In my portfolio I’ve gone back to each of the units and revolutionary artifacts we have had and come up with possible alternatives or “voices from the margins” that relate to the topics we have studied but may not be as popularly represented.
Unit One: Our first artifact was Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” We examined the pivotal role he played in the Civil Rights Movement. While he was the figurehead of the movement, we can also study the important role played by Ella Baker. She served as the national director of several branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She played a pivotal role in both the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She was the one who organized the founding conference of the SNCC at Shaw University in Raleigh and served as its Executive Secretary.
Unit Two: Our second artefact was Ptolemy’s system of geocentric spheres. We studied the Copernican revolution and the shift from the geocentric to the heliocentric theory of the earth’s motion. While we attribute the heliocentric theory to Copernicus, there is evidence of an Indian philosopher Yajnavalkya (c. 9th– 8th century BC) who posited the idea that the sun was at the center of the solar system. There is evidence of him stating that that the sun was “the centre of the spheres” as described in the In his astronomical text Shatapatha Brahmanahe wrote: “The sun strings these worlds – the earth, the planets, the atmosphere – to himself on a thread.” He is credited as making one of the earliest references to heliocentricism and also realized that the sun is much larger than the Earth.
Unit Three: Our third unit focused on the Rwandan genocide and Hannah Arendt’s theory of the banality of evil. I found a photo-series of members of the Hutu majority who risked their lives to shield and protect Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide. This is pertinent to our discussion on the banality of evil. Not everyone was banal in their evil and was party to the horrors that were carried out during the genocide. The series of photographs tells the stories of ordinary people who are not often spoken about or celebrated for their incredible and heroic efforts.
Unit Four: The fourth unit focused on the poetry of Paul Celan and the way in which he reclaimed the German language after the Second World War. A poet with similar themes in her work is Rose Auslander. She was a Jewish poet from Bukovina and was a survivor of the Holocaust. Like Celan, she also spoke about reclaiming language and distinguished between national identity and individual identity that is formed by language. “My fatherland is dead/they have buried it/in fire./I live/in my motherland/word”
Unit Five: This unit focused on the science behind how we see art and the move towards abstraction. All the artists we focused on were men, and we could have also studied the works of abstract artists such as Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Perle Fine, Joan Abott, and Mary Abott.
Unit Six: Dostoevsky’s Demons highlighted the dark side of revolution and to some extent the relationship between Russia and the West. An alternative to this is Svetlana Alexievich’s “The Unwomanly Face of War.” This work tells stories of women living in the Soviet Union who became soldiers in 1941 during the Second World War. She conduced oral histories of this women and her work revealed the horrors of war while challeneging notions of femininity and the patriarchal idea of women waitng behind at home for their husbands to return from war. Her work gave voice to people who were previously unheard, which is why she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2015.
Unit 7: Unit 7 revolved around memory, body, and trauma. Our main artifact was a protest concert held by an Oki Dub Ainu band. We spoke about using the body, art, and music as a form of activism and resistance. Another example of such resistance is the Kabir Kala Manch, a cultural organization from India that aims to spread an anti-caste and pro-democracy message through music, poetry, and theatre.
Unit 8: This focused on Ulrike Meinhof and the revolutionary terrorism of the Red Army Faction in Germany. This reminded me of the revolutionary terrorism of the Naxal Movement in India. My state, West Bengal was one of the main areas where this movement emerged. Naxals, who are labeled as illegal terrorists by the government in India, aim to establish a communist state and follow the Maoist doctrine of peasant led revolution. They represent the most poort and marginalized people in India. They have waged guerilla warfare for decades against target including politicians, landlords, business people, and security forces and have also damaged infrastructure such as transportation, communition, and power lines.