Reconsidering the Margin Response – Joanna

There were quite a few points in this that I found interesting. The overarching one is the importance of CHOICE in marginalization, particularly relating to questions of power and agency.

This reminds me of one misguided project done by some Stanford students when I was an undergraduate. They wanted to point out how we ignore homeless people when we pass them on the street, so they dressed up as homeless people in order to prove this point. There are many many issues with this, many of which are articulated by Jodi Rios and her experience with her students. One, there was no knowledge or connection to actual homeless people and their experiences. The students who did this were very much coming at the issue of ambivalence towards homeless from their own privileged perspectives. They did not consider the very fundamental difference from their experience and someone who is actually homeless, which is that they made that choice. Similar to celebrities who have done the poverty challenge, the key difference in this is that they have CHOSEN to experience the experience of being marginalized with the full knowledge that they can return to their previous privileged position. Furthermore, the environment in which they chose to stage it, the Stanford campus, also invalidating the thing that they were trying to prove – that we “privileged” do not see or treat homeless as people – because there was an unfeasibility to the premise that a bunch of college-aged homeless people moved onto the Stanford campus overnight.

I found interesting this quote: “The appropriation and use of space are political acts” (46). While Rios talked about it primarily from an architectural perspective, I think it also speaks to our spacial relationships, which stem from the physical space that our bodies take up. When we do sit-ins and march, we use our bodies to take up space in a way that is extremely political, but even the way that we positions ourselves in relation to other people in a room (a classroom for example), says a lot about the politics of power and marginalization within a social group and environmental setting.

My thinking around problems of race and class and gender often come back to something that Rios says: “There is a difficult balance to strike between the transformative potential of opening oneself up to different ways of understanding the world and the tendency to essentialize difference in order to define, describe, and ultimately consume it” (46). I find fascinating that the way that we connect and abstract hard to pin down things like experience or a world view has an inherent danger to oversimplify views in a way that is somewhat arbitrary other than many others also use the same mechanisms and categories to oversimplify. How we balance the use and necessity of abstracting complex concepts so that we can internalize them AND the dangers of oversimplification is a very salient and important to reflect on.

One thought on “Reconsidering the Margin Response – Joanna”

  1. Thank you so much for this, especially the last paragraph. I hadn’t really considered the ramifications of abstraction vs over simplification, so it was much appreciated food for thought.

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