Amherst College Disorientation 2016-2017: An Amherst United Left Publication

Item

Current View

Title

Amherst College Disorientation 2016-2017: An Amherst United Left Publication

Date

2016

Place

Amherst, MA

extracted text

disorientation
orientation guide

AMHERST COLLEGE

DISORIENTATION
An Amherst United Left Publication

2016-2017
Editors: Alexis Teyie ‘16, Marc Daalder ‘18
Layout Design: Gloria Koh ‘17E
Cover Design: Gloria Koh ‘17E , Young-Ji Cho, ‘18
Copy/Content Editors: Noor Qasim ‘18, Brian Zayatz ‘18, Kyle Ferendo ‘17E,
Emily Willick ‘18
Check out our website at amherstdisorientation.wordpress.com, where you
can find last year’s guide, additional pieces, detailed footnotes, and more
recommendations!
If you have questions or comments, or would like to submit a piece to our
website, please email amherstunitedleft@gmail.com.

1

CONTENTS

2

4

INTRODUCTION

6

ON COMMUNITY
Frank Tavares

9

POLITICS OF THE LIBERAL ARTS
Adam Sitze

13

POPPING THE AMHERST BUBBLE

16

WELCOME TO THE ARCHIVES

19

THE SPECTRE OF BOYCOTT

Brian Zayatz

Mike Kelly

Marc Daalder

22

OCCUPIED BY A MOVEMENT
Edward Melillo

24

BUSINESS AS USUAL?

27

WOMEN CAN’T BE HEROES,
THEY MUST BE MOTHERS

Rojas Oliva

Sheila Chukwulozie

32

REVISITING LOVE IN A TIME OF
CAPITALIST PATRIARCHY
Alexis Teyie

34

LABOR AT THE LIBERAL ARTS
Anonymous

39

RECOMMENDED READINGS
3

DEAR
READER,












































4

Congratulations! Welcome to Amherst! You are now getting oriented;
figuring out what classes you want to
take, who your RCs are, how to get
involved in clubs, and discovering all
the wonderful opportunities Amherst
provides. Although this guide aims
to help you navigate these processes
as well as Amherst as an institution,
it is not, in most cases, a straightforward “How-To” manual. Instead,
the help we offer consists of suggesting how very disoriented a healthy
person naturally feels at Amherst.
By indicating our own attempts to
navigate life at Amherst, we seek to
simultaneously convey and begin to
address this sense of disorientation.
Ultimately, we hope to impel you to
question and, as necessary, resist
the institution in which you now find
yourself.
Beginning with your own experiences
of oppression and resistance, discrimination and activism, we encourage you to connect the constellation
of resistances already present on
campus. From the cultural sharing
on the CEOT Trip to the Women
of Amherst Show; from the radical
books in the library of the MRC to
courses on racism, sexism, and capitalism, one can discern a starry multitude of sites, spaces and meanings.
As you read this guide, we ask you
to rethink what is (im)possible for
Amherst, to reimagine the meanings
this place can(not) hold for us. We

ask you to contribute your story to
Amherst and to prevent the College
from dictating the terms of its telling.
We earnestly hope that you have fun
during your time here—in the sense
of ap proaching fulfillment and selfactualization, which is what the word
ought to mean—and that this guide,
even if only in a small way, serves as
an aid in that process.

vocabulary, a point of departure for
future work. Furthermore, it reminds
us of how we must continue to find
small and big ways to value humanity at Amherst, sometimes neglected
and forgotten here. We also want to
thank activists and comrades from
Amherst (some of whom have graduated, taken time off, or withdrawn
from the College) as well as those at
other colleges and universities whose
Disorientation Guides have inspired
us.

Among the most important concepts
for you to remember during your
time at Amherst is that your education here is more than just your lectures and your readings. An Amherst
education consists of schoolwork,
yes, but you will only reap the fullest intellectual benefits of this school
if you also learn through the activism you do, the communities you
build, the friendships you foster,
and diversity that you explore. We
hope that you will learn from what
we have to share, and we are eager to
learn from you as well. Look at every
event, every talk, every seeminglyidle conversation as an opportunity
for education, and you will thrive at
Amherst.

One final note: Do not consume
this guide for your idle intellectual
amusement or stimulation. The
Disorientation Guide is a call to consciousness, to act to overcome and
reject the forms of injustice and oppression on this campus. Take what
you feel and think—your desires,
your vulnerabilities, your anxieties,
and your dreams—and transform
what this College is, and who you are.
Work with, never against, the allies
among your peers, the faculty, and
the staff. To those who use this as a
support, to understand how institutional structures at Amherst have
positioned you, we hope you find
solidarity among your friends and
fellow students.

We, the authors and activists involved in creating this guide, are
committed to critique and dissent, to
creating and reimagining. Although
we do not speak unanimously, we all
stand by the Disorientation Guide
as a document which presents both
an alternative analysis and a shared

Take care, and arise!

5

ON COMMUNITY

Frank Tavares ‘18







































6

There is something unique about
participating in a creative project in
which you and your fellow students
have a complete sense of ownership,
something that I think is essential
to how one experiences a place like
Amherst College, or at least what
many desire Amherst College to be.
The act of producing something—not
for class or even a traditional extracurricular club, just for the sake of it
—elicits a unique bond not only with
those directly involved, but something larger as well, that seems to
exist in the physical space of a place
as much as in each individual. In a
word, community.
You’re probably thinking that this is
what college will be composed of consistently, and you’re right, though it’s
easy to lose sight of that amidst the
overbearing homework, endless hunt
for jobs and internships, and the
personal crises that inevitably come
up during this turbulent period. In
the midst of all this, it’s hard to prioritize starting such projects, especially
when there often appears to be no
space on campus for these endeavors.
Finding significant funding can be
an immensely bureaucratic task, and
academic departments are often too
preoccupied with their own concerns
to aid student-led projects. It usually
seems as if the school’s administrative structures are more concerned
with the appearance of student
initiatives rather than the fostering

and support of genuine student-let
projects.

is before us, or what seems feasible
in the administrative paradigm we’re
operating within.

But blaming administrative structures can only take us so far, and the
events of this past academic year
show that it is certainly possible to
produce independent projects. The
production of the musical Into the
Woods that occurred last year was
entirely student run, with the help of
an external director and Mark Swanson from the music department. But
it was organized by students. Into the
Woods is one of the most complex
plays in existence, from technical,
musical, and dramatic perspectives.
We staged the production in about
two weeks, and performed it up until
the start of reading period before
finals. And we put the show on in an
ice rink. Almost every obstacle that
could have appeared did. And yet,
where one might look and find an
impossibility, we put on a show.

It’s easy to get lost at Amherst, lost in
homework, in bureaucracy, in frustrations with the administration or
an academic department. And while
we’re busy trying to figure out which
way to go back to some predetermined “path” of how to do college (which
doesn’t actually exist) we forget that
that if we want, we can bring it to a
screeching halt, as we did when students occupied Frost Library for four
days during Amherst Uprising, forc
ing the college to engage in serious
discussions of racism on campus.
I remember in the middle of Amherst Uprising, during a moment of
down-time when people were simply
walking around in the space, I realized this was the first time I felt like
being an Amherst student meant
something. We were a community.
I didn’t get that sense from orientation, from any of my classes or any
events. It was from a community that
arose organically from the students
themselves. I don’t want to portray
Amherst Uprising as something that
existed for “community building,”
and risk erasing the very real pain
that sparked it, and the institutional
and cultural faults that still exist on
campus it addressed. It was a form of
protest with specific goals, the most
tangible of which (the elimination of

I use this example not to advocate
that everyone starts their own musical (not that I’d be against that!), or
to claim that the students involved
were exceptional in any way, but to
show the immense power that we as
students actually have, and what we
can produce when we combine our
efforts and passion. Any one of us is
capable of building something impossible, and it’s imperative we don’t
forget that. We cannot limit our conceptualization of community to what

7

the Lord Jeff) was achieved, illustrating our power as a collective body
of student, staff, and faculty, and
the importance that we utilize that
power.

I remember during my orientation
program—I was in Creative Arts
and Performance (CAP), during its
first year—one of the recent alumni
helping out told a group of us something that bears repeating. She said
never to wait for permission to do
something. Being admitted to Amherst was our permission. I want to
relay that message to you, the newest
class here at Amherst. You’re one of
the most intelligent, talented, and
impressive groups of students in the
country and the world. You’ve been
brought here, together, because of
those qualities. You have four years
together, to build something that
you’ll both take with you and leave
behind. Don’t wait for permission
to begin that work, it’s already been
given by your presence on this campus.

You will often hear people complain
about a “lack of community” on
campus, as if that is some odd thing
that just happens in some places and
doesn’t in others. But the truth is, we
are our community. That’s where the
power to do something like Amherst
Uprising, or anything else, comes
from. We are Amherst, quite literally.
It wouldn’t exist without each facet
of its community. And if we find that
community lacking, it means it’s our
responsibility to make change. Community requires intentionality and
—to an extent—it requires labor. It
requires us, as members of that com
munity, to reach out to one another
in ways beyond what is prescribed
and facilitated by the administration, in ways that aren’t comfortable
or easy. To collaborate and produce
art or protest or build something
together. It’s on each of us to find
ways to connect to each other on our
own terms, not through intermediaries. If we trust ourselves to be able
to do that, we can find more spaces
in which we can allow ourselves to
naturally come together. When we
feel overwhelmed and such spaces
seem impossible to create, try not to
forget that you are in control and not
in isolation. That as students, faculty,
and staff, we compose our community and therefore can change it to
what we want it to be. It’s not some
amorphous thing that’s impossible
to touch, but tangible and within our
grasp.

8

THE POLITICS OF THE LIBERAL ARTS

Let’s play good news, bad news.

Adam Sitze,
Associate Professor of Law,
Jurisprudence, and Social
Thought

Good news first: you’ve been admitted to the most prestigious liberal
arts college in the nation. Congratulations!
But you’ve heard that one before, and
by now this little bit of over-chewed
praise is likely beginning to taste to
you like spit-flavored gum. A platitude wrapped in a banality. Worse,
a pretty little poison pill: for some,
this praise will become a silent and
hidden burden, the raw material for
a painful and destructive imposter
syndrome, where you come to feel
like everyone at this place belongs
here except despicable me. Praise
in this case decomposes into blame,
or more exactly into self-blame and
shame, with a logic that’s completely
wrong but nonetheless surprisingly
widespread, collectively generated
and experienced, and also, for the
most part, collectively denied. Delicious but toxic, the high fructose corn
syrup of orientation week, this good
news is thus itself a possible beginning of bad news. Take in limited
doses, therefore.
Chew on this dilemma instead: even
though we’re all here at a liberal arts
college, few actually know what the
liberal arts is, was, was supposed to
be, could have been, should be, will
have been, etc. With the one small
exception of our central institutional

9

mission, in other words, we all know
exactly what we’re all doing here.

through their manifold and variegated studies to acquire and discard
skill-sets like snakes shed skin, and
who therefore are well prepared for
a life of job hopping. Above all, we
liberal artists plead, whatever else
you might say about us, please don’t
say we’re “merely academic.” Sure,
we teach students how to properly
wield words like “problematic.” But
we hate elitists just as much as the
next guy. You accuse us of frippery?
Au contraire, mon frere: we’re practical and relevant! As Thomas the
Tank Engine once said, begging Sir
Topham Hat not to send him to the
scrapyard, we’re a very useful engine!

There are really three problems you
need to think about here.
Problem #1: Polite society apparently
thinks it’s really funny to laugh at the
liberal arts. You’ll always get a ritual
chuckle if you scoff self-deprecatingly
at the uselessness of your liberal
arts degree. Especially if the object
of your derision is your training in a
humanistic discipline such as English
or Art History. On the secret list of
extremely reliable, hilarious jokes
that every cultured person evidently
should know, sneering at the liberal
arts somehow seems to have risen to
the very top; if you’re ever anxious
about whether or not you’re funny, in
other words, laughing at eggheads is
a sure bet1.

Problem #3: And with this we reach
the biggest problem, also the one that
most often flies beneath the radar:
the most persuasive defense of the
liberal arts—the claim that, despite
its apparent frippery, the liberal
arts college in fact cunningly offers
superb job training—also gives up the
ghost of the very education it proposes to protect.

Problem #2: Defensive about and
baffled by the widespread regularity of these unfunny, constant and
weirdly aggressive jokes, some
defend the liberal arts in a most unhelpful way—with facts and evidence,
studies and statistics. Or, in a word:
with true unfunniness. The liberal
arts degree does in fact have value,
we insist. The point of a liberal arts
college, we say, is to graduate wellrounded individuals, utility infielders of life and mind, omnicompetent
individuals of superior virtue and
robust health, people who are good at
everything—or at least who are flexible and self-directing enough to be
good at anything, who have learned

Here’s why. The oldest root of the
liberal arts, its most distant but also
most interesting and vulnerable
heritage, is its direct connection to
politics—or, more exactly, to liber,
“freedom.” As a rule: no liberal arts
without some theory of liberty. But
there are at least three such theories
that tend to circulate:
Theory #1: The liberal arts is connected to liberty because it liberates
students from prejudice, superstition, unexamined assumptions,
unquestioning obedience, parochialism—in short, from self-incurred
immaturity. The liberal arts college

1 See Richard Hofstadter, Anti-intellectualism in American Life (New
York: Knopf, 1963).

10

is a place where, through the labor
of disinterested study and self-reflection, the adolescent gives birth to
the adult she already incipiently was
when she was admitted. The aim of
the liberal arts education is therefore
to be found in the very process of
education itself, culminating in the
graduation of free citizens—openminded, tolerant, cosmopolitan free
thinkers who achieve independence
to the exact degree that they first
embody reason.

arts college will never not be elite
and exclusive. But within these constraints it will strive to craft an elite
(but now under a new name, “leaders”) who keep faith with a certain
iteration of democratic politics—the
politics that emerged in the second
half of the twentieth century, and
that sought to include the excluded,
to center on the marginalized, and to
refuse to let accidents of birth predetermine life chances. Freedom in this
case is located neither in the process
of the liberal arts education nor in
its precondition; here the liberal arts
degree itself is construed as a path or
pipeline or passport for a certain sort
of emancipation. It proposes to offer
an increase in social mobility for a
privileged few, who upon graduation
are then in turn expected to embody
the contradiction of the institution
that shaped them, i.e., to function as
an anti-elitist elite, a privileged few
dedicated to opposing privilege as
such.

Theory #2: The liberal arts is connected to liberty because it is available solely to that class of people
who already find themselves unencumbered by the necessities of labor
and debt, who are unconstrained by
the compulsions of extra-academic
forces (e.g. anxious thoughts of what
job may or may not await them after
graduation), and who therefore alone
can afford to truly enjoy the free time
and leisure that is the oxygen of disinterested study and self-reflection.
Freedom is not then produced by the
liberal arts education; it’s the precondition for the liberal arts education. Reason is truly available only
to those who, by birthright or good
fortune, are independent in the first
place; and who, after graduation, are
expected to be responsible for the
generous, charitable uplift of those
who are less fortunate.

None of these theories is without
contradiction; what’s more, each
overlaps and cross-pollinates with
the others in sometimes unpredictable ways. But what all of them share
is a love-hate relation with a fourth
theory, which more and more is
threatening to become dominant—
namely, the idea that the purpose
of higher education in general is to
acquire “human capital”2 and, in so
doing, to win at the game of the competitive job market.

Theory #3: The liberal arts is connected to liberty because it provides
access to forms of cultural capital
that, in turn, correlate with a vastly
expanded menu of life choices. By
virtue of its low acceptance rates, its
high admissions standards, its small
size, and its big tuition, the liberal

2 Michel Feher, “Self-Appreciation;
or, The Aspirations of Human
Capital,” Public Culture 21.1 (2009):
21-41.

11

Now, this fourth theory of education—call it neoliberal3 if you like—
may seem to some to be so obvious
that it should go without saying. But
despite this obviousness, or perhaps
precisely because of it, it deserves
your most tenacious critical scrutiny. It is, in fact, structured by a
fatal flaw: it no longer asks how the
liberal arts might relate to freedom.
It instead asks only how the liberal
arts can conform to the false necessities4 of a market society—which, in so
many different ways, is increasingly
unfree5. But of course, a liberal arts
education that fails to set its edge
against unfreedom is no liberal arts
education at all. Quite the opposite:
when the best the liberal arts can
do is serve a neoliberal master, the
liberal arts become illiberal arts—arts
of explaining in various ways why
unfreedom is, despite everything,
necessary after all.

the liberal arts in general are tainted
and a sham. What’s necessary is to
recognize that, whatever else it may
be, the liberal arts education today
is the site of an open question and
an inescapably political dispute—not
only over what concept of freedom
should inform the liberal arts but
also over how the liberal arts itself
should relate to an unfree society.
Remove the sugarcoating, in other
words, and you find some real food
for thought. Congratulations again.

To resist this state of affairs, it’s not
enough to pick a theory of the liberal
arts and defend it at all costs. Nor is
it enough to retreat to the safety of
a hip smirk and a too-cool cynicism,
concluding that because all theories
of the liberal arts run the risk of justifying illiberal practices,

Be sure to check out
last year’s pieces at
amherstdisorientation.
wordpress.com

3 Pierre Bourdieu, “The essence of
neoliberalism,” trans. Jeremy J.
Shapiro, Le Monde diplomatique
(December 1998).
4 Roberto Mangabeira Unger, False
Necessity: Anti-necessitarian social
theory in the service of radical democracy (New York: Verso, 2001).
5 See Wendy Brown, Undoing the
Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth
Revolution (New York: Zone Books,
2015).

12

POPPING THE AMHERST BUBBLE
Brian Zayatz ‘18
At Amherst College, you will find
that nearly everything you could
conceivably need (as well as many,
many things you don’t) are provided
for you, practically spoon fed to you.
You will find an incredible, diverse
group of people who will challenge
you to think in new ways, and probably form some very close friendships. Your professors will, for the
most part, respect you and care that
you are learning. You will experience
such a lack of want, or at least the
time and energy to want, that you
may never think to explore the other
Five Colleges or the Pioneer Valley,
and you will find yourself in the Amherst Bubble. The Amherst Bubble is
the phenomenon by which Amherst
students only interact with other
members of the “Amherst Community” (a broad term that, it’s worth
noting, is usually implicitly exclusive
of lower-level college employees).

influences the way we think about
ourselves as college students and as
activists.
The residential liberal arts college
was built to be a bubble, a place
where young minds could cordone
themselves off for a few years to
explore, grow, challenge and be
challenged. This model is important
and not essentially flawed, but in a
globalized world, we must understand where we fit in. While it would
be ideal for a small community like
Amherst to be able to govern itself, the College rests on a society
in which people are willing to take
low-paying, menial labor jobs like
those in Val or Facilities so they can
support their families, in which we
can burn fracked gas in our literal
backyard because energy companies
and the government decided that the
health and safety of those who live in
extraction areas are worth sacrificing,
in which America is the richest country on Earth because it was founded
on slavery, effectively exploited Third
World markets, and beat out the
Soviet Union in the race for global
hegemony. These are the things that
you’re not supposed to notice about
Amherst College: how can you study
disinterestedly if you recognize the
injustices on which your education is
founded? I propose that attempting
to see that which we either don’t see
or aren’t supposed to see might bring
us closer to answering this question.

My experience of Amherst College
thus far has been one in which I
have learned to question so much
of the knowledge and assumptions
bestowed on me during my youth in
late American capitalism. I was thus
surprised when I noticed that an
institution which teaches students
to critique the invisible structures in
which we live builds more of its own,
whether consciously or otherwise.
While the Amherst Bubble may seem
like a benign structure that hinders
social interactions at most, it also

13

Amherst College is committed to
the liberal arts college model, which
means it is also committed to bubbles. Administrators of Student
Life joke that Amherst students
think CVS is far away, but instead
of challenging this, they direct their
resources towards more on-campus
programming. The college also works
hard to keep certain employees
invisible: custodians and Facilities
crews work strategically around areas
where students are congregated; Val
is physically structured to keep all
but the servers hidden behind walls;
rotating crews from Grounds come
in for an extra shift Sunday mornings
at 7:30 to clean up the carnage from
Saturday night, restoring some semblance of human habitation before
anyone even wakes up. Naturally,
some of the folks who do this job
might have trouble taking seriously
the grievances of students who, on a
given Saturday night, can barely wipe
their own metaphorical (I presume)
asses.* Though the college is structured to limit interactions students
have with these employees, building
a coalition between students and
workers would be beneficial not just
in short term struggles for better labor conditions for all college employees (student workers included), but
would foster a relationship in which
workers support students during an
Amherst Uprising, and students support workers when they decide our
help is desirable.

protests on other college campuses,
the intercollegiate collaboration
stopped there. AU took place within
the Amherst Bubble, which is not
inherently problematic: we were a
community of people trying to fix the
problems within that community.
But periodically, some sharp object
would get close to the edges of that
bubble: from the inside, it came from
students whose bodies had been
racially marked their entire lives and
saw all too well how Amherst fit into
larger systems of oppression from
which they had hoped for some escape during their time here. From the
outside, journalists poked their heads
in (or in Conor Friedersdorf’s case,
apparently just googled us) and tried
to make sweeping claims about a
movement that was really intimately
about Amherst College. The Amherst
Bubble thus proved itself to act more
as a selectively permeable membrane
that lets many things in (admitted
students, racism, and journalists, to
name a few), but keeps our bodies
and minds firmly enclosed. The Amherst Bubble is built out of our privilege, yet protects us neither from the
injustices we bring with us to college,
nor from those that can be inflicted
during our time here by something as
seemingly benign as mediocre journalism. Our resultant insularity thus
prohibits the coalition-building that
makes the movements we care about
so much stronger.
If we’re looking for a model of coalition activism, we need only look to
our neighbors. In May 2016, the
University of Massachusetts system
became the first public university
system to pledge divestment from
all fossil fuels. The students who led

Despite the light-heartedness with
which most students use the phrase
“Amherst Bubble,” I found it was
most on display during 2015’s Amherst Uprising. As much as Amherst
Uprising was inspired by concurrent

14

Divest UMass achieved this victory
through collaboration: with other
students from throughout the Five
Colleges and beyond, with community members from all over the Pioneer Valley, and with broad support
from their own student body. Divest
UMass spent years building relationships, not just preaching the intersectionality of climate change, but
supporting their peers in struggles
against racism, labor exploitation,
and the high costs of college. When
the time came, they said the word,
and held a nearly two week occupation of an administrative building,
demonstrating collective power that
the administration could not deny.
If Amherst students want to harness
the incredible resources around us,
be it for Divest Amherst, Amherst
Uprising or what have you, we first
have to be a resource. We must
learn to really support our neighbors
within the Amherst Community and
beyond.

ate the vibrant Western MA music
scene. But don’t stop there: we have
to pop the on-campus bubbles, too.
The classroom might be the only
space on campus that isn’t owned by
any specific group, but now that the
Socials have been removed, campus
geography will change. Take advantage of that: occupy spaces you might
normally avoid, talk to people you
wouldn’t normally talk to, talk to upperclassmen, talk to athletes if you’re
a non-athlete and vice versa. Go to
tea times and encourage the rest of
your dorm to do the same. Living
in a theme house divided by racism
and classism has shown me how
important it is to communicate with
our neighbors—even if we don’t like
them, we have to love them.
As Amherst Uprising showed,
we’re not immune to the follies of
the broader society in which we’re
situated. People have a tendency to
form bubbles, because they’re easier
to navigate: we stay in the Amherst
Bubble, and skillfully navigate the
bubbles we’ve formed within the
campus community. But just as one
of the goals of our liberal arts education is to challenge that which we
took for granted in our lives before
we arrived here, we must turn our
gaze to the invisible bubbles in which
we currently live, and decide which
structures promote education, equality, and growth, and which ones
hinder us.

To pop the Amherst Bubble, we have
to start with its smaller, constituent
bubbles. This is difficult because the
college gives us everything we could
ever want: our professors are topnotch, campus programming is nonstop and overflowing with money for
you to plan whatever events might
be missing, and our diverse student
body ensures that there’s no possible
way to gain any new perspectives by
travelling anywhere else, right? Well,
no. Make friends at the other colleges—each one has its own variety
of personalities different from the
rest. Go to events in town, not hosted
by any of the colleges, and find out
what’s important to the people who
actually live around us. Appreci-

*These are my own reflections from
working Grounds—the views presented here do not necessarily reflect
the views of any college employees.

15

WELCOME TO THE ARCHIVES
Amherst College Archives:
Without You, We’re Nothing

Mike Kelly, Head of Archives
and Special Collections

Let’s start with one of the more technical definitions of Archives, from the
Society of American Archivists:
ARCHIVES: 1. Materials created
or received by a person, family, or
organization, public or private, in the
conduct of their affairs and preserved
because of the enduring value contained in the information they contain or as evidence of the functions
and responsibilities of their creator…
(Society of American Archivists Online Glossary.)
When Amherst College builds a new
building, or establishes a new major,
or awards tenure to a faculty member, the documents generated in the
conduct of that activity generally
end up in the Archives, on A-Level
in Frost Library. It’s important to
note that materials come to us only
when the activity from which they
sprang is finished; transfer to the
Archives generally marks the end of
the first phase of any document’s life
cycle. Once transferred to our care,
we physically organize these materials into acid-free folders and boxes
then create finding aids that describe
those materials. Then, they wait.
Take, for example, Walker Hall,
which once stood on the site now
occupied by Frost Library. We have

16

extensive documentation of the
construction of Walker Hall between
1868 and 1870, the Walker Hall fire
of 1882, the reconstruction in 188283, and its final demolition in 1963
when construction of Frost began.
Apart from the Walker Hall cornerstone that was incorporated into
Frost, all that remains of this building is the correspondence, photographs, drawings, and other business records in the Archives. These
remains are inert, sitting quietly in
their folders and boxes, waiting for
someone to breathe new life and new
meanings into them.

of dialogue and student activism was
the establishment of the Black Studies Department at Amherst College.
(Read more about that here: https://
consecratedeminence.wordpress.
com/2012/02/03/the-beginnings-ofblack-studies-at-amherst/) A professional scholar of student activism
during the Vietnam era will likely
have a different view of those materials than an Amherst student who
participated in the Amherst Uprising of 2015, or an alumnus from the
Class of 1971.
Sticking with the theme of student
activism, the Class of 1966 recently
celebrated one of their members who
died long before their 50th Reunion this past May: Marshall Bloom.
Bloom is a perfect example of how a
collection that begins with a single
alumnus results in a major research
collection of interest well beyond
Amherst. Marshall Bloom was a
student activist while at Amherst
and went on to found the Liberation
News Service in the late 1960s—an
alternative press service for the growing underground press in the United
States and beyond. The Archives
holds Marshall Bloom’s personal
papers as well as the Bloom Alternative Press Collection of several
thousand underground newspapers
published between 1968 and about
1980, including nearly complete runs
of The Black Panther, Palante, and
Akwesasne Notes.

That’s where you come in.
Every researcher brings their unique
perspective to the raw materials
stored in the Archives, a combination of scholarly training and personal experience that colors their
understanding and interpretations
of historical evidence. Apart from
the inevitable decay that comes
with the passing of time, the documents housed in the Archives do not
change, but our understanding of
those documents shifts constantly.
For example, the Archives holds a
substantial collection of documents
from the four times the college cancelled classes in response to student
protests in 1969 and 1970—protests about issues of race, economic
inequality, and the Vietnam War..
One outcome of those multiple days

17

There are two important points
here: first, the Archives holds a vast
amount of material that is NOT specifically about Amherst College; the
Bloom Alternative Press Collection
is just one of hundreds of collections
in our care. For instance, we hold
the corporate archives of Samuel
French, Inc., one of the largest and
oldest publishers of play scripts in
the English-speaking world. It is at
the college because the President
of Samuel French, M. Abbott Van
Nostrand, graduated from Amherst
in 1934. More than 50 years ago, he
started sending the college regular
shipments of newly published plays
and various historical corporate
records. Today, we have one of the
largest collections of published plays
in the country, and we have unique
holdings of correspondence and
other records that document the
details of theatrical publishing, especially in the late 19th and early 20th
centuries.

the Archives and it will remain part
of the permanent record of student
life at the college. If you are part of a
student group or organization, try to
save one or two copies of everything
your group produces—flyers, posters,
programs, photographs, recordings
of events and performances—to deposit in the Archives. The future will
thank you.
Archives are sites of power and
authority; if documents are not
collected and preserved, the events
that generated them can and will be
forgotten. Even when documents
are safely stored in the Archives,
they are inert potential until they
are brought to life by a researcher
through that individual’s unique lens.
As a new member of the Amherst
College community, you will likely
have questions about everything
from the search for a new mascot to
why Converse Hall has “Converse
Memorial Library” etched above the
main entrance. Why is The Octagon
an octagon? What were the Socials?
How many Amherst graduates have
served as directors of the CIA? Are
there any instances of cannibalism in
the history of the college? All these
questions and many, many more
can be answered in the Archives.
The answers are waiting to be mined
from the hundreds of thousands of
documents sitting patiently on the
shelves for you to read, and perhaps
to add to. The history of your time at
Amherst will only be as complete as
the records you leave behind.

The second point is that many of the
collections in the Archives are only
here because of the students, faculty,
and alumni who thought to deliver them to us. The official college
records come to the Archives moreor-less automatically; the records of
student activism and other studentdriven activities are much more likely
to fall through the cracks. Darienne
Madlala ‘16, one of the co-founders of
the African and Caribbean Students
Union (ACSU), personally delivered
the ACSU constitution to the Archives, along with posters and flyers
for the many events they sponsored
between 2013 and 2016. That material is now part of the Amherst College Clubs & Societies Collection in

Come visit.

18

THE SPECTRE OF BOYCOTT
Marc Daalder ‘18
A spectre is haunting college campuses - the spectre of boycott. All
the powers of the United States
have entered into a holy alliance to
exorcise this spectre: Christie and
Cuomo, AIPAC and J-Street, Republican PACs and Democratic platform
committees.

3. Respecting, protecting, and
promoting the right of Palestinian
refugees to return to their homes and
properties in Israel proper
BDS draws from opposition to South
African apartheid as a historical precedent. The Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) was a Britain-based
campaign to boycott, divest from,
and sanction South Africa until the
apartheid policies were ended. By the
time apartheid was dismantled in the
1990s, the AAM had had an extraordinary effect, making sanctions a
core political issue in most Western
powers, pushing numerous universities and other influential institutions (including, in 1988, Amherst
College) to divest from the country,
and initiating a number of consumer
boycotts.

American-Jewish newspapers ruminate on the dangers of the Boycott,
Divestment, and Sanctions campaign
(BDS), and the susceptibility of
young college students to its wiles.
AIPAC defines it as a “nefarious effort,” and supports the laws passed
by eleven states to outlaw the campaign. But is BDS really as horrible
as AIPAC and Hillary Clinton and the
Republican Jewish Coalition all want
us to believe? What is this movement
that is regularly characterized as
anti-semitic, or as a “a campus movement to destroy Israel masquerading
as a political critique?”

Whether or not Israel meets the
requirements for an apartheid state
is certainly debatable. Given that
there are two systems of law in the
occupied territories, one of military tribunals for Palestinians and
another of civil courts for Jewish
settlers, that Palestinians regularly
suffer from unfair restrictions on
their freedom of movement, and that
the Israeli Knesset is considering
passing a law that would effectively
instate the death penalty only for
Palestinian terrorists and not Jewish
ones, it is certainly inching towards
that direction. Regardless, BDS is not

Officially, BDS is an explicitly nonviolent movement to boycott products manufactured in Israel, divest
the endowments of schools and other
institutions from Israel, and to push
for state-level sanctions of Israel until three core demands are met:
1. End Israel’s occupation of the West
Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem
2. Recognize the fundamental equal
rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of
Israel

19

founded on anti-apartheid principles,
but rather anti-occupation ones, and
even Israel’s most stalwart ally, the
United States, recognizes its occupation of both the West Bank and Gaza
as such.

but it cannot be a democratic Jewish
state.
Critics of BDS also assert that, by
boycotting Israel but not other states
that have committed international
crimes, the BDS movement is applying an unfair—and anti-Semitic—
double standard. Yet, oftentimes BDS
activists are also vocally opposed to
brutal regimes in other countries,
and people cannot be expected to
treat every issue in the world with
equal and passionate attention.
Why Israel, then? To begin with, the
United States and other Western nations have such close-knit economic
and military ties with Israel that
an economic approach such as that
advocated by the BDS campaign is an
extremely effective form of nonviolent resistance.

As with every movement in the
political firestorm that is Israel/Palestine, the BDS campaign is a source
of great controversy and has come
under heavy criticism since its initiation in 2005. Some critics go so far as
to argue that BDS is inherently and
entirely anti-Semitic – that by deploying what AIPAC calls “economic
warfare,” BDS seeks to delegitimize
the fundamental existence of the
state of Israel.
However, none of the movement’s
three demands express any sense
of such delegitimization - only a
legitimate criticism of Israeli policies. The opposition to the occupation is widely supported not just by
dozens of UN resolutions, but also
by the stated foreign policies of a
vast number of nations, the United
States included. Recognizing equal
rights of all citizens is a basic tenet
of a democratic state. While it is true
that recognizing the right of return
for Palestinian refugees could fundamentally alter Israel’s demographics,
rendering it no longer a “Jewish”
state by numbers alone, that is not an
effective argument to deny people the
personal property that was illegally
seized from them or their families 68
years ago. The only way to enforce
Israel’s Jewish character would be
to implement a number of anti-democratic and ethnocentric policies in
support of Jewish nationalism. Israel
can be a democratic state for Jews,

As well, many BDS activists have a
personal stake in anti-occupation
work. Some are Palestinian, or have
relatives or friends who are. Many
others are Jews, such as myself, who
see ending the occupation as an integral part of making Israel the greatest and most democratic nation it can
be. In fact, Israel’s military-intelligence establishment has explicitly argued in recent years, most poignantly
in the documentary The Gatekeepers,
that the occupation is actively harmful for Israel’s national security. To
truly care about Israel as a state with
potential for a democratic future, and
not as an ultra-nationalist occupying
force, is to oppose the occupation.
This is not to say that the BDS and
anti-Zionist movements are completely free of anti-Semitism. It’s not
hard to find a plethora of incidents
involving anti-Semitic attacks spring-

20

ing from activists involved with BDS,
and this is a serious problem that
these campaigns face. These hateful
impulses must be unequivocally condemned, rooted out, and cast aside in
favor of an intersectional movement
based in Jewish-Muslim solidarity.
This would embrace the principled
critique that lies at the core of the
BDS movement—that Jews and
Palestinians can live side-by-side in
peace and cooperation.

position in terms defending academic
freedom, writing that “it is the very
definition of academic freedom that
freedom of inquiry should not be
constrained by political pressures.”
And yet, dismissing even Biddy’s implication that academia and politics
are mutually exclusive, Amherst still
chose in 1988 to divest from South
Africa, and in 2006 from Sudan
while under pressure from activists.
Clearly, it will be a while until the
“political pressures” condemning the
Israeli occupation reach whatever
pitch Biddy deems sufficient to warrant a threat to academic freedom
—in the meantime, we can only work
to heighten those pressures through
our activism and, yes, through our
academics.

At Amherst, at least, pro-Palestine
and BDS-oriented groups do not in
my experience have a problem with
anti-Semitism. In part, this is because these groups are rather ineffectual—besides a few tense clashes in
spring 2015, and the semi-frequent
bringing of various pro- and anti-occupation speakers to campus, Israel/
Palestine dialogue is more or less
invisible.
Hampshire College, one of the members of the five-college consortium,
was the first US school to divest
from Israel, but no others in the area
have followed suit. However, there
is a strong network of pro-Palestine
organizations in the area, from Jewish Voice for Peace Western Mass
and Students for Justice in Palestine
at a number of schools, to UMass’
International Socialist Organization
chapter and the much more centrist
J-Street U.
Is Amherst likely to embrace BDS
any time soon? I would imagine not.
When the American Studies Association (ASA) moved to endorse BDS,
President Biddy Martin released
a statement strongly opposing the
ASA’s decision. She grounded her op-

21

OCCUPIED BY A MOVEMENT
I vividly remember my first sit-in.
The contagious energy of group
solidarity, the echoes of call-andresponse protest chants, and the
mingled aromas of warm pizza and
freshly photocopied flyers invigorated an otherwise cold, bureaucratic
space.

Edward “Ted” Melillo,
Associate Professor of History
and Environmental Studies

In the fall of 1996, hundreds of college students, human rights activists,
union members, and working-class
women, men, and children occupied
the rotunda of Pennsylvania’s capitol building in Harrisburg to protest
the deep cuts to welfare and health
care programs signed into law five
months earlier by Governor Tom
Ridge. At the time, Ridge was living
in a 26,000-square-foot mansion,
subsidized by taxpayers to the tune of
$1 million per year. Although my fellow protestors and I did not achieve
our primary objective of changing this debilitating legislation, we
played a small part in reinvigorating
a national conversation about issues
of poverty and their relationship to
an economic system riddled with
inequalities.1
The Harrisburg sit-in was the first
time I thought of myself as an activist. During my undergraduate years
1 For more, see:
https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.
edu/content/philadelphians-campaign-against-welfare-cuts-unitedstates-1996-1997

22

at Swarthmore College, participating
in social and environmental justice
movements led me to appreciate
direct action as an embodiment of
democracy with a lower-case “d.”
Although elections are crucial features of an open society, by stepping
outside of the ballot box to advance
change through more persuasive
means, we become the leaders we
had previously only imagined voting
for.2

From the vantage point of history,
you will be in good company. For
hundreds of years, movements for
social and environmental justice have
drawn upon the boundless energy,
optimism, organizing power, and
resourcefulness of college students.
During the nineteenth century,
young women and men on campuses
played key roles in the successes of
the antislavery, eight-hour workday,
and women’s rights campaigns. Likewise, during the twentieth century,
students at colleges and universities
were the beating heart of the Civil
Rights and anti-Vietnam War Movements. The twenty-first century has
already witnessed widespread and
consequential anti-racist activism,
campaigns to win justice for victims
of sexual assault, and efforts to move
beyond a fossil-fuel-based society.
These struggles have animated millions of students across the United
States and the world. It is stimulating to study such movements, but it
is even more exhilarating to become
part of them. 4

It is tempting for new students to
envision your undergraduate careers
at Amherst as a series of inwardlooking pursuits. Resume building,
hedonism, and social networking can
be valuable realms of experience.
However, your four years at a prestigious institution occupied by lively
minds and energetic bodies offer new
and exciting possibilities for more
broadly defining what “Lives of Consequence”—the much-touted slogan
embedded in the Amherst College
Mission Statement—might look like.3
2 On the longstanding relationship
between democracy and social movements, see: Michael Denning, “Neither Capitalist nor American: The
Democracy as Social Movement,” in
Culture in the Age of Three Worlds
(New York: Verso, 2004), 209226.
3 The mission statement can be
found at:
https://www.amherst.edu/amherststory/facts/mission

4 For an introduction to eleven of the
more recent social and environmental movements that began on campuses, see:
https://www.freshu.io/taylor-lang/
the-biggest-social-movements-ledby-college-students-in-history

23

BUSINESS AS USUAL?
In November of last year, as part
of its ever-escalating campaign to
be disappointed by administrators,
Divest Amherst asked President
Biddy Martin to release a statement
on her position regarding removing
any investments of Amherst College’s $2 billion endowment from
the fossil fuel industry. This was part
of a year that also saw Naomi Klein,
the Town of Amherst and 73% of the
participating student body endorse
the struggle to get Amherst College to
divest. Biddy wrote us a response—
which you can read in full on Divest
Amherst’s Facebook page1—and
nothing else really happened. But it’s
important, given Biddy’s position as
a spokesperson for our school, to examine her response and understand
what it says about Amherst’s attitude
towards climate change, as well as
how our campaign might respond accordingly. The letter starts spectacularly enough:

Rojas Olivia ‘19, Divest Amherst

“I appreciate your steadfast and passionate commitment to preventing
the catastrophic effects of climate
change…I agree that climate change
poses a grave and imminent threat,
particularly to those least equipped
to deal with its consequences, and
ultimately, to all, should we fail to

1 https://www.facebook.com/Dives-

tAmherst/photos/a.45537991453734
6.1073741829.449485308460140/94
9662188442447/?type=3&theater

24

develop and implement the policies,
technologies, and practices that will
make a difference.”

we keep handing over our money,
those movie prices are going to hang
tight. When we buy those tickets we
are saying, in the only terms movie
studios care about, that we think
movies are priced just right and
business should continue as usual.
And it does. The only way to express
our internal disapproval and hope
to change those prices is with our
money; in other words, we shouldn’t
give our money to things we think
are bad. This power of expression
through money is what can be so
soul-crushing about capitalism, but
it can also an incredible tool for
change.

Wow, this is going great! Biddy is
on our side! Climate change is a real
threat that demands a wide variety
of responses! I feel like we’ve already
divested!
“I do not agree with the assertion
that if we do not favor divestment
then we are supportive of the fossilfuel industry’s exacerbation of climate change.”
Oh.
Seeing as Biddy makes no further
argument to support this claim—despite being the only explicit argument her letter advances—let’s jump
back to high school economics in a
small city in Texas where my teacher
is asking us if we think movie prices
are too high.

This is why Biddy is so wrong and
why divestment is so powerful.
Divestment rips away the social and
economic license fossil fuel companies have to continue with business
as usual. Divesting our endowment
is the $2 billion megaphone that tells
fossil fuel companies that we do not
support their exacerbation of climate
change. If we fail to exercise this tool,
Amherst College will continue to
be an institution that endorses and
subsidizes the practices that directly
lead to carbon emissions and climate
change, with all of the accompanying
threats to life on Earth. If we want to
be serious about Amherst College’s
impact on global climate change,
divestment is really as serious and as
necessary as it gets.

“Sure?”
“But you all still go to the movies,
right?”
“Well…yeah?”
“Aha,” squeals good ol’ Mr. Pratt,
because he’s caught us in a delightful hypocrisy. See it turns out that it
doesn’t matter how we feel about our
consumption because just as long as

25

The letter continues with some comments about fiduciary responsibility
despite data showing that investment
portfolios that ditched holdings in
fossil fuels outperformed their oilmoney counterparts.2 Then there’s
mention of the steps Amherst College
is already taking to address environmental concerns, mostly through
the creation of the Office of Sustainability and a series of vague promises
to create frameworks and strategies
for more informed investments.
These are all wonderful things, sure,
but certainly not mutually exclusive
with divestment or somehow make it
unnecessary. Really, until we divest,
these commitments and promises
to sustainability are just the empty
grumblings of someone still handing
over their money for a movie ticket,
still complicit with business as usual.

everything it can to help Biddy Martin and the Board of Trustees make
the logical jump from fear to action.
As UMass showed this past year
when its Board of Trustees chose to
divest following student occupations
and activism, it is pressure from the
student body that makes this jump
possible for otherwise mulish administrators. So my final bald-faced
plea is that whether you’re a first year
who’s still reeling from the disorientation of it all, or a jaded senior
listlessly flipping through this before
smoking another clove cigarette,
you’ll help us out by joining divestment and doing a little rabble-rousing for the Earth.

I’ve only been at this school for a
single year and the failure of the
Board of Trustees to divest and
Biddy’s failure to support us has gone
from confusing and disappointing to
absolutely heartbreaking. The justifications they provide don’t hold up
to common sense and their meaninglessly abstract stances and commitments are up against the very real
and very concrete pain that climate
change is creating for students at this
school and people around the globe.
I’m glad Biddy takes this seriously,
that she’s scared and sees the reality
of our situation, but concern without
action is meaningless. So this year
Divest Amherst is going to do

See more at
amherstdisorientation.
wordpress.com

2 https://www.theguardian.com/
environment/2015/apr/10/fossilfuel-free-funds-out-performed-conventional-ones-analysis-shows

26

WOMEN CAN’T BE HEROES,
THEY MUST BE MOTHERS
In the beginning—according to
Yoruba mythology—the creator of
the world Olodumare, sent 17 gods to
establish the earth. 16 of those gods
were male and one was female: Her
name was Osun.

Sheila Chukwulozie ‘17E

Without consulting her, the 16 male
Orisas came into earth and made
decisions about the ways the world
would unfold. They picked out the
textures and the colours of this new
world without considering or caring
that Osun might have had opinions
about just how brown the sand would
look or how brittle it would feel. They
fashioned the order of the world
she would live in without asking her
how she wanted to live, or even what
she needed to stay alive within it. In
other words, they couldn’t have made
the phrase “it’s a man’s world” any
clearer.
All of a sudden, rain stopped falling on the earth: The male Orisas
watched the earth crack in the dry
heat. Yet, that wasn’t the worst of it:
The heat turned all the plants into
ash and soon, they had no food to
harvest. There was no drop of water
to quench their thirst. The famine
caused too much hunger and the
drought too much thirst. So the male
gods spoke amongst themselves and
agreed they should return to Olodumare and ask their creator for a
solution.

27

“How many of you did I send down
there?” Olodumare asked when confronted by the 16 male Orisas.

whole story, but this creation story
is not more far-fetched than any
creation story: Just like the Christian
story of Adam and Eve revealed the
patriarchal culture of the countries
that endorsed it, the Yoruba creation
story reveals some of their old cultural values. Regardless of whether
there was a tape recorder in Olodumare’s kingdom or not, the point of
this story is clear: The Yoruba people
who created this myth believed that
Olodumare only needed to send one
female Orisa, and they also believed,
strongly, that She was the only Orisa
with the power to nurture life or to
end it.

“17” one of the Orisas replied.
In the hope that they would figure
out where they failed, Olodumare
prodded further; “and how many of
you are here now?”
They looked around and counted
each other.
“16”, the same Orisa who had spoken
before announced.
“One of you is missing” Olodumare
confirmed the obvious yet important
fact.

Panic stricken, the other 16 orisas ran
down to earth to beg Osun to forgive
them. They wanted to live and they
knew they would die without her forgiveness. Pained and pregnant, Osun
made a promise: If she gave birth to
a son he would act as mediator between her and them. But, if she had a
daughter, there would be an impasse.
In her book African Wo/man Palava,
Chikwenye Ogunyemi simultaneously describes the collective panic
of the male orisas and the strength of
the single female orisa:

“The one you seem to have forgotten is Osun, who controls the river.
And it is the river who controls all
the water in the earth. Through her
magic, she sends the water from the
ground into the earth and it falls
back as rain. Without her, there will
be no rain. And without the rain, the
soil will be dry. And if the soil is dry,
there will be no food. And if there is
no food, there will be no life,” said
Olodumare.

“The male orisa, marvelling at the
magic of the womb, stunned by the
silence of the womb which they could
not hear, the darkness of the womb
which they could not read, the mystery of the womb which they could
not decipher, prayed fervently for a
son.”

All the male Orisas begged Olodumare for a solution. He refused. He
left them with a warning instead: “If
you ignore life, life will ignore you”
As Chinua Achebe wrote in Things
Fall Apart, “there is no story that is
not true.” No one is sure that Olodumare actually said that last line - or
any of it. No one is even sure the
creator is a spirit man named Olodumare. In fact, you might laugh at the

At this point in the story, there’s
an interesting dynamic to note in
the (re)telling: Though Osun is
confirmed to be the orisa of all the

28

sources of life on earth, it is never
assumed that she controls the creative design of human life specifically.
This is important to observe because
it speaks to the constant placement
of women at the center of nurturing,
with the responsibility to deliver and
preserve life but usually, without
the honor of creating that life. Even
though Osun is seen to be the source
of life on earth, the Yoruba have still
made Olodumare a man, in control of
the design that happens beyond the
earth—He is still in control of She.

cal pain women go through is categorized as “female pain,” the pain men
go through is nationalized and made
to stand alone in its glass box as just
pain. Male pain is displayed to be the
biggest tragedy while female pain is
normalized to be psychological inconvenience which women choose to
complain about. Male pain is a threat
to masculine strength and endurance
while female pain is femininity.
Leslie Jamison articulated this
perfectly in her book The Empathy
Exams:

As well, let us consider the moment
in this Yoruba myth where the woman is only consulted when the crisis
is becoming unbearable for everyone. Not just unbearable for her, but
unbearable for everyone—man and
woman alike. It seems like a crisis
unbearable for women is just a mere
fact of life as a woman but a crisis
unbearable for everyone warrants all
16 Orisas travelling to Olodumare’s
palace to declare a national emergency. But in fact, we are not sure how
long Osun had to suffer alone and in
isolation from the world she was sent
to live and lead.

“The moment we start talking about
wounded women, we risk transforming their suffering from an aspect
of the female experience into an
element of the female constitution—
perhaps its finest, frailest consummation. The ancient Greek Menander
once said: “Woman is a pain that
never goes away.” He probably just
meant women were trouble, but his
words hold a more sinister suggestion: the possibility that being a
woman requires being in pain, that
pain is the unending glue and prerequisite of female consciousness.”

How did they forget her, how long
did it take for her to realize they
might never remember her if she
didn’t remind them?

To use “Woman” as a metonymy for
“Pain” is to give Woman little or no
opportunity to be anything other
than pain. To say women feel pain is
closer to a truth. To say some women
get pained is even closer to a more
specific, and more accusatory truth.
But to say “Woman is a Pain” is to
marry woman and pain in a predestined union that cannot be argued or
treated away.

This idea of forgetting female pain
mirrors the frequent nationalisation of male suffering. The stakes
for male and female pain are quite
different: One of them is made to
seem at odds with the very idea of
their identity while the other one is
made synonymous and inseparable
from their identity. While the physi-

Leslie Jamison continues:

29

“A 2001 study called “The Girl Who
Cried Pain” tries to make sense of the
fact that men are more likely than
women to be given medication when
they report pain to their doctors.
Women are more likely to be given
sedatives. The study makes visible
a disturbing set of assumptions:
It’s not just that women are prone
to hurting—​a pain that never goes
away—​but also that they’re prone to
making it up. The report finds that
despite evidence that “women are
biologically more sensitive to pain
than men … [their] pain reports are
taken less seriously.” Less seriously
meaning, more specifically, “they are
more likely to have their pain reports
discounted as ‘emotional’ or ‘psychogenic’ and, therefore, ‘not real.’ ”

ise safety and happiness to women,
the men were able to disguise their
need to express and validate their
usefulness as sacrifice and goodwill for the women. In Women with
Mustaches and Men without Beards,
Harvard Professor Afsaneh Najmabadai uses the crises in Iran as the
looking glass through which she
confirms that.
“Manliness performed by women
was a marker of shame by men...
National sovereignty and masculine
honor became the prizes of a changed
regime...Women’s presence on the
streets was often viewed as a sign of
things gone wrong,” she writes.
By this, she claims—rightfully so—
that the male egotistic desire to prove
himself as saviour was probably
stronger than the selfless motivation
to save female life.

There’s a systemic erasure of female pain and at the same time, a
prioritization of male suffering. For
example, historically, during wars of
national independence, women were
often asked to keep their problems
on hold while men fix bigger problems, as if female life and public life
are mutually exclusive concepts.
Even today, when movements for
racial justice are largely fortified and
created by women, fights for Black
women’s rights, such as equal pay,
are still prefixed as “women’s issues”
and are therefore considered only
women’s business to deal with.

In Wole Soyinka’s Death and the
King’s Horseman, the King’s Horseman—Elesin—is called to kill himself
in order to be a companion to the
King who has just died. When one
of the women asks if he is scared to
die, he lets her understand that it is
in not dying that he loses everything:
“Life is honour. It ends when honour ends,” he says. As his job is to be
with the King all through his life and
his death, he does not believe there
can be anything worth living for if
he does not fulfill the job he believes
he was called to do. To understand
a character like this to also understand the mentality of many male
citizens who believe it is the core of
masculine identity to protect women.
Therefore, though it disguises itself
as a selfless sacrifice, Elesin shows

Instead of acknowledging that issues that greatly affected the quality
of women’s lives were being sidetracked, women were asked to “stay
in line.” Staying in line was seen as
prioritizing national freedom over
personal freedom. Furthermore, by
using narratives of freedom to prom-

30

us that there is a loss that men fear
more than the loss of physical life:
the loss of their masculine pride.
Loss of male life in struggle wins decorations and honor but loss of female
life in the struggle to endure female
pain is not honorable because it is
normalized. It is not romanticized
because it doesn’t seem to happen for
any cause.

when men undergo the same experiences, they are idolized, exalted,
made into heroes. This is so even
when the men’s sacrifices harm women—that harm is dismissed or made
invisible. But when a woman dares to
sacrifice in such a way that men are
harmed, it is seen as anathema to her
role as nurturer and protector - a role
that goes unrewarded when she does
faithfully fulfill it.

Most importantly, surviving with female pain is largely invisible and we
are convinced we have to see things
to believe they are real and true.

It’s easy to read the story of Osun
and think that she wasn’t a hero, but
rather was just a woman. Apparently,
women can’t be heroes because they
have to be mothers, and what type of
mother wouldn’t save life?

We don’t know change when we
don’t see it. Think about it: When we
think about revolutions, we think of
visible signs of frustration: people
marching; people talking (loudly,
on megaphones); people fighting;
or, people dead—all visible signs of
active disruption. Change is usually
marked by sacrifice; doing something
you would normally, not do. Heroes are people who transcend their
ordinary selves to save lives. So in
that case, how can we acknowledge
that childbirth revolutionized the
world if childbirth is not disruptive
but expected. And furthermore, since
it’s expected, it ceases to become
impressive. It’s just like pain when
gendered: the pain doesn’t need to be
treated as a disruption of your body’s
normal functions because it is the
normal function of the female body
to experience (and therefore withstand) all kinds of pain. For too long,
pain has been marketed to us as the
joy of motherhood.
The daily pain and sacrifices suffered
by women are normalized, whitewashed, or outright ignored. Yet,

31

REVISITING LOVE IN THE TIME
OF CAPITALIST PATRIARCHY
A lot has been said about our generation’s relationship to relationships, especially the hookup culture
on college campuses, such that the
whole topic might seem over-analysed. Amherst will teach you that
overanalysis is close to impossible.
But I’m not here to reiterate how
self-obsessed we are, how incapable
of genuine connection. I’m not here
to blame, as many techno-dystopian
narratives suggest, the digital era and
its rationalization of relationships;
the creation of a great marketplace of
sex, which does not necessarily imply
greater freedom; and the systematic
stripping away of the mystery of love
and the chance encounters we imagine romance emerges from thanks to
Hollywood’s endless meet-cutes. As a
Marxist feminist, however, it seems I
must have an even grimmer take.

Alexis Teyie ‘16

Feminism has already offered several
critiques of love, primarily identifying love as an instrument in “patriarchy’s ideological armament through
which women became hooked into
dependent relationships with men,
entered into an unfavourable legal
contract (namely marriage) and
ultimately ended up with care of the
children,” as Carol Smart summarizes. Love itself may not necessarily be
toxic, but it appears almost too easily
coopted in the service of the logic
of power. Even feminist critiques
themselves sometimes slip into
heteronormative rhetoric. But, there

32

are multiple axes of power, hence my
commitment to that fraught identity,
Marxist feminist; there is more than
one kind of ruler and ruled, just as
there is more than one way of ruling.

Amherst’s imperative: Terras Irradient. I am convinced that the work of
studying is to learn how to love. To
learn how to love is, as Rainer Maria
Rilke wrote, “the ultimate, the last
test and proof, the work for which all
other work is preparation.”

If patriarchy seems to doom lovers to unequal relationships, then
capitalism might just be the nail in
the coffin. Love may have predated
capitalism but romantic love in particular developed just as capitalism
was amping up, and in our era, love,
romance and sexuality have come to
occupy a central place in our individual life stories. Due to the grafting of romantic love onto consumer
capitalism, we might say love has
become commoditized, relationships
reduced to cost-benefit analyses and,
defined by the language of bargaining and exchange, we have become
irreversibly alienated from nature,
each other and ourselves. That is a
truly discouraging thought.

I will not insult your intelligence
by proscribing a rigid definition of
love. But, I will say, the love I speak
of doesn’t mean escaping our own
individual loneliness only to isolate
ourselves in the conventional form of
the couple, without acknowledging
or respecting our various solitudes.
It means moving beyond eros to caritas, beyond a deceptive idyll to what
may be the solution to our fractured
selves and communities. It means
recognizing that a discussion of love
is not out of place in philosophical
and political discourse, that, in fact,
any truly radical project is based
upon an expansive love that opens
outwards and upwards, constituting
and connecting the multitude, transcending difference. If love’s utility
as a political force that can produce
networks of cooperation does not
convince you, believe, at least, that
love is neither spontaneous nor passive. Believe that even though love
has multiple scripts, depending on
gender, race, class, etc., the habits
of the heart which it engenders are
transformative, and your one mission
while at college is to allow yourself to
be transformed. Be transformed.

Yet, I still remain faithful to the idea
of love. To be sure, love as a concept needs some rehabilitating. You
might think of it as frivolous, or so
drained of meaning that it now only
comprises hollow rituals. It might
seem flimsy and impossible to pin
down, and yet I have found love to be
a resilient concept, with a core that
may be inert currently, but is not less
animating; a core that I consider necessary to excavate if we are to fulfill
our full human potential and achieve

33

LABOR AT THE LIBERAL ARTS
A make-your-own smoothie bar at
breakfast and an all-you-can-eat buffet for dinner. Gourmet desserts and
hors d’oeuvres at talks by renowned
scholars and activists. A fee-based
laundry service that picks up, washes,
dries, folds, and returns your clothes
to you. A gym and newly-renovated
pool you can use for exercise. A wellappointed game room with foosball,
a pool table, and board games to
relax. A set of four new dormitories
featuring outdoor basketball and volleyball courts. Colossal amounts of
funding available to all residents for
planning community events. A career
center staffed with seasoned professionals who can get you the jobs you
want. These are just a smattering
of the innumerable services offered
to you as a matriculating student at
Amherst College.

From Whom It Did Concern

This list of services conjures up images of the “amenities arms race,”
the competition to provide the most
appealing set of perks and extras in
college residential life in order to
attract and woo the “best” students.
Top-of-the-line steak restaurants,
jacuzzis, spas, and climbing walls
tempt the desires of prospective
students to matriculate to a college
where they can indulge in exorbitant
luxuries. That colleges are providers
of services to and for students is one
manifestation of the corporatization
of higher education. For students,
this means that they regress from

34

intellectually curious explorers of
knowledge, theory, and philosophy
to, in the words of 1960s Berkeley
activist Mario Savio, the “raw material” which colleges can exploit and
professionalize in order to become
profitable educational investments.
They become consumers of food,
clean clothes, alcohol, parties, sleep
deprivation, study abroad experiences, extracurriculars, and grades. Organized by a concierge desk, known
at Amherst as the Office of Student
Affairs, at best these services support
and amuse them and make them feel
at “home,” or at worst, distract and
shield them from the intellectual,
social, and emotional growth they
might want to undergo during their
time in college.

monotonous, instrumental and/
or physical activities that are either
necessary for human life or used
to create worldly objects. Activities
like cooking food or cleaning living
spaces are two obvious instances of
labor that Amherst does not require
of its students and, to some degree,
actually prevents its students from
doing. (You will soon discover that it
is difficult to live off campus or get off
the meal plan.) Unless a student has
been given a financial aid package
that requires work-study, she rarely
so much as steals a glance around the
dirty-dishes conveyor belt in Val and
almost never witnesses the thankless
labor of custodians, who clean up the
vomit, beer, and broken glass littered
around campus and expel the alcoholic and bodily odors permeating
common rooms and bathrooms after
weekend parties.

Although it would be hyperbole to
claim that Amherst has embraced
some of the more gratuitous features
of residential life (e.g. hot tubs, massage therapy) which other colleges
have, it would not be unreasonable
to say that, like its peers, Amherst
has molded itself into a serviceproviding institution for studentconsumers. As consumers, students
become, not emancipated from, but
shielded from the labor and work
which can be rewarding and enjoyable and which are necessary for the
operation of a residential college like
Amherst. By labor and work, following Hannah Arendt, I mean the sorts
of disciplined, repetitive, cyclical,

I want to suggest that the concealment of work and labor, the feeling
that students have that, by entering
this elite institution, they have risen
above instrumental, managerial,
specialized, and potentially alienating activity, actually creates its own
set of problems, three of which I
point out here. First, the devaluation of work and labor coupled with
the elevation of success imposes
ludicrous expectations of the appearance of perfection on students. On
a campus where work is shunned,
students cannot show the struggle

35

that they may go through to complete assignments. Nonetheless, their
peers and the institution recognize
them for their achievements. And so
they brag about how little sleep they
get, how much extra work they have
done, how many summer internships
they’ve had, and how many awards
they’ve won, never mentioning the
toll that a lack of sleep, leisure, and
vacation have on their mental, physical, and emotional health. They feel
the need to appear superhuman by
doing and then hiding extraordinary
amounts of human work. Their accomplishments have to appear effortless and magical, and yet be herculean. What results is procrastination:
you can’t start working too early at
the risk of struggling, and by starting
late, you can appear to have labored
as little as possible (when you really
in fact pulled an all-nighter).

itself into grades and awards. Professionalization encourages students to
tailor the courses they take to their
future job prospects, job prospects
deemed “compatible” with “liberal
arts” careers (read: Wall Street, Silicon Valley, MD, corporate JD). Even
worse, it encourages thinking students to define themselves by their
jobs, by their professionalized lives,
and seems at once to limit the space
of thought to their jobs and to throw
thought out of their jobs. If all the
work, especially thought-filled work,
you do is for your job, in a world of
employers who capitalize on liberalarts-style education, you might be
too exhausted to think and act freely
outside your job.
Third, the concealment of economic
labor suppresses another type of
labor: the performative and affective labor expected of and imposed
on students of various historicallyoppressed identities. At last year’s
protests on campus, one common
thread, repeated in the testimonies
of many students, notably women
of color, was the exhaustion which
accompanied the tedious storytelling
in which they engaged so that their
unique experiences would be recognized by fellow students. Black and
Latinx students described how tired
they were when they had to constantly work to have instances of racism
validated by white students. International students resisted their branding as the exoticized spokespersons
for their countries and cultures. Poor
students, as Amherst Professor Elizabeth Aries has noted, had to negotiate the bourgeois, materialist world
of the upper class at Amherst. The
labor which comes to light when you

Second, the hide-and-don’t-seek
game of labor has actually occurred,
paradoxically, alongside the professionalization of academic thought,
whereby the College adopts policies, expectations and rhetoric that
instrumentalize critical thinking for
economic ends. By categorizing labor
as instrumental and distasteful, the
College eliminates the possibility that
laborious activity can generate creativity, thoughtfulness, and self-fulfillment in those who engage in it. Put
differently, the emancipation from labor might actually turn students into
people who view thought itself as laborious, leading them down a shady
road toward apathy or anti-intellectualism. It may uphold the classroom
as the site of thought, and simultaneously limit thought to the site of the
classroom, professionalizing thought

36

hear about the struggle to radicalize,
contest, and work through imposed
social roles bespeaks the inevitable
existence of labor at the College, even
for the students who allegedly rise
above it. It illustrates that only some,
the already-privileged, are actually above the social, affective, and
performative work which students of
color, as well as queer, female, nongender-conforming, international,
and poor students must engage in to
be heard and recognized socially.

group of protesters who do not study,
plan, formulate, debate, and organize before they go into the streets to
march. The time, energy, discipline,
and endurance required in order to
think and act critically cannot be
reduced to rehearsed and expected
answers and solutions already given
to you by the forces which try to
reduce thinking or acting to likes,
swipes, and clicks. Surely, to do so
would be antithetical to the freedom
to think and act on which the liberal
arts is based.

Both the unrecognized social labor
of students and the unrecognized
paid economic labor of employees
(student and otherwise) are seen
as obstacles to and below the act of
critical thinking which the liberal
arts college is supposed to instill in
its students. However, I would argue
that “thought” itself has qualities of
labor. Can one ever write with logical rigor, pathetic aura, and ethical
appeal without deep and profound
reflection, reflection that takes focus
and discipline? Is not the abundance
of words, phrases, notes, harmonies, theorems, hypotheses, designs,
questions, and answers so great that
to even begin to think about how to
choose among them necessitates a
reflective and perhaps maddening,
tiresome, or overwhelming process
of coming to terms with that abundance? It is surely impossible to
imagine an eloquent essayist who
strives toward lucid prose not spending hours, perhaps days or months,
writing, revising, rereading, and
editing her work. Or a musician who
does not practice, to the point of dull
repetition, her scales and scores so as
to go on stage with as much performative virtuosity as possible. Or a

I don’t mean to repeat the highly
questionable mantra that if you work
hard, you will succeed and be recognized as economically or socially
successful. Nor am I advocating that
you all start singing “Clean up! Clean
up! Everybody do your share!” as if
you were children, self-imposing a
proletarian lifestyle just to experience it as something foreign. I’m proposing that you not presuppose that
the freedoms that the liberal arts and
Amherst College can and should offer
are freedoms from labor and work,
as if labor and work were necessarily
exploitative, abusive, and alienating.
Put differently: perhaps the freedom
to which the liberal arts aspire is also
a freedom from the belief that the
liberal arts is above labor and work.
Who is to say that an amateur cook
preparing dinner for his family, who
spends hours chopping vegetables
or salting fish, cannot or should not
imagine flavor combinations that
create new gustatory experiences? Or
that a farm worker, spending days
picking vegetables, milking cows,
and gardening, cannot also go study
philosophy on the weekends? Or that
an elite liberal arts college student

37

who spends hours reading Bourdieu
and running lab tests cannot also run
a campus coffee shop, cook meals
communally with fellow students,
manage and make guidelines for a
community of people living together
in a house they run, and orchestrate
the performance of student groups?
Or that she cannot go on to become a
maple farmer, a glassblower, a substitute teacher, an itinerant traveler,
a train engineer, a custodian, or even
a cook at a small, liberal arts college?

for friends, maintaining reasonably
good hygiene, and interacting with
peers all require labor and work.
And so I ask you, the new student,
how you will approach the work and
labor you will do at Amherst? Will
you view your academic writing, your
social interactions, and your activism as analogous to salaried employment? As preparation for a job? As a
manifestation of a passion to make
the world more just? As a marker of
your burning intellectual curiosity to
explore fields unknown to you? As a
desire to form a community of intellectual and social peers? I don’t have
an answer, but it might be something
to work through now.

For you, the new student, this essay
is meant to renew your commitment to building and creating the
community you live in, rather than
parasitically living off what has been
supplied to you for your consumption. From the question of power,
student-created and led initiatives, in
which the labor and work of the initiative are performed and organized
by students, open up student decision-making, so students command a
substantive voice in how those initiatives operate. And such a thought
might not seem appealing. But, a
well-known Amherst figure wrote
that “community is the product of
work, of struggle.” In fact, one might
understand that a new community
forms as its members question and
even resist the standards by which
the community into which they’ve
been thrown exists. But struggle is,
as this quote suggests, work. It is not
easy, not even necessarily successful.
It can be full of joy, and, surely, is
not necessarily alienating. But it can
also be boring, humdrum, and even a
little stressful.
Thoughtful study, political and social
struggle, preparing a meal with and

38

RECOMMENDED
READINGS

ALEXANDER, Michelle. The New Jim Crow. New York: New Press, 2010.
ALINSKY, Saul. Rules for Radicals. New York: Vintage, 1989.
BADIOU, Alain. The Communist Hypothesis. London: Verso, 2010.
BOUTELDJA, Houria. “Feminist or Not? Thinking about the possibility of a
‘decolonial feminism’ with James Baldwin and Audre Lorde.” Tabula Rasa,
July 2014.
BRECHER, Jeremy. Strike!. Boston: South End Press, 1997.
BUTLER, Judith. “Boycott Politics and Global Responsibility.” Lecture, Tufts
University, Sommerville, MA, March 2012.
Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me. New York: Spiegel and Grau,
2015.
CRENSHAW, Kimberlé. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity
Politics, and Violence against Women of Color.” Stanford Law Review, July 1
1991.
DARCY, Steve. “The Rise of the Post-New Left Political Vocabulary.” The
Public Autonomy Project, January 27, 2014.
DAVIS, Angela Y. Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine,
and the Foundations of a Movement. Ed. Frank Barat. Chicago: Haymarket
Books, 2016.
DERESIEWICZ, William. “The Neoliberal Arts.” Harper’s, September 2015.
DOUTHAT, Ross. “College, The Great Unequalizer.” New York Times Sunday
Review, May 3, 2014.
DRABINSKI, John. “Diversity, ‘Neutrality,’ Philosophy.” May 11, 2016.
EPIFANO, Angie. “An Account of Sexual Assault at Amherst College.” The
Amherst Student, October 17, 2012.
FADULU, Lola. “The Sad Black Kids: ‘Waking Up’.” AC Voice, August 10,
2015.
FANON, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press, 2004.
FRASER, Nancy. “Heterosexism, Misrecognition, and Capitalism: A Response to Judith Butler.” Social Text 52/53 (1997): 279.
GAYER, Nora. “On (In)Accessibility at Amherst.” The Amherst Student,
March 24, 2015.

39

GOLDMAN, Emma. Anarchism: What It Really Stands For. New York:
Mother Pub Association, 1916.
HALPER, Jeff. War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians, and Global
Pacification. London: Pluto Press.
HICKEL, Jason. “Aid in Reverse: How Poor Countries Develop Rich Countries.” New Left Project, December 18, 2013.
KELLY, Mike. “Oh, Lord Geoffrey Amherst was a soldier of the King.” The
Consecrated Eminence, March 22, 2013.
KLEIN, Naomi. This Changes Everything. New York: Simon & Schuster,2014.
LENIN, Vladimir. “‘Left-Wing’ Communism: An Infantile Disorder.” In Collected Works, 17-118. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964.
LINDSAY, Andrew. “Black Lives, Shadow Lives: A Response to All Lives Matter.” The Amherst Student, October 22, 2014.
LORDE, Audre. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Trumansburg, NY:
Crossing Press, 1984.
LUXEMBOURG, Rosa. Reform or Revolution. New York: Pathfinder Press,
1973.
MARX, Karl and Frederich Engels. “The Communist Manifesto.” Marx/Engels Selected Works, Vol. One. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1969.
MCRUER, Robert. Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability.
New York: New York UP, 2006.
MORAGA, Cherríe, and Gloria Anzaldúa. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. New York: Kitchen Table, Women of Color,
1983.
SINDHU, Siraj. “Do Liberal Amherst Students Have a Responsibility to Pay
for Far-Right Conservatives to Speak on Campus?” AC Voice, November 14,
2014.
SRIDHAR, Meghna. “The Lack of Leftist Discourse.” The Amherst Student,
September 24, 2013.
TURSE, Nick. Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in
Africa. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2015.
UNKNOWN AUTHOR, “Unnecessariat.” May 10, 2016.
ZINN, Howard. A People’s History of the United States. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.

For an extended list of recommended readings sorted by topic, please
visit: amherstdisorientation.wordpress.com

40

Item sets