9 May 2022

Dear Everyone:

I so enjoyed being with so many of you on Friday, both for the program meeting (for current faculty and students earlier in the day) and the open awards and prizes celebration later in the afternoon. In the earlier, we talked the substance and substantive future of the program and heard from faculty and students about things near and dear to us — including the multifaceted importance and affordances and joys of multilingualism and matters of (restricted) access related to material conditions, and the importance of fully acknowledging and honoring transness as well as the age and experiential heterogeneity of student cohorts. It was also an opportunity for me to recognize and offer thanks to the many, many people who participate in the life of the program by engaging administrative work in addition to teaching and writing and everything else; I’m sharing the attached slides to extend that recognition and as invitation to extend our collective gratitude to all!

The prizes and awards event focused attention on students in later stages of the program, and those who are now graduates! It was such a treat to see some people whom I haven’t been with since teaching the intro seminar some years ago, on top of welcoming all such occasions to dissolve the resistance to gathering that has accompanied COVID life. You’ll see in the attached (with giant thanks to Nancy Silverman for managing all of it and organizing and crafting the event, and to the anonymous members of the prizes committees for the heavy lift of labor this process requires), an invigorating sense of the immense and vital and vibrant expansiveness of the work people moving through the program undertake. Warmest gratitude and congratulations to all!

I extend such appreciation and congratulations to everyone, really, regardless of whether there’s been a milestone met or award or fellowship received this past year. I talk sometimes of grabbing joy when and wherever we can, trusting you know that I say such things in part simply to remind myself to do the thing. I have the aligned thought these days of how grounding the small moment, the minor  accomplishment, the ordinary act, can be. Outside of the melodrama that can be the climate of the academy, the quotidian acts that comprise a day have for me been crucial to holding the undertow at bay — I think there’s lots of mixed metaphors or something in that last phrase — lol! — but I think/hope you’ll get the sense of what I’m finding my way toward expressing…

In writing this, I’m coming to understand that what I’m getting at is appreciation fornormalcy of thoughtfulness and engagement and collegiality that I’ve experienced so fully this year, these past years. I’m offering below a poem Suzanne Ouelette (emeritus faculty in Critical Social Psych where I also hang my hat) shared recently that captures some of this….I don’t at all think kindness is the answer to the massive problems of the world we’re facing, but I do rather think it’s necessary to do the work to address those problems…thank you all for your acts of community and common cause, big and small!

Wishing you a last full week of classes full of interesting ideas, good conversation, and abundant encounters with kindness!


Small Kindnesses

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.”
                                         – Danusha Laméris

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