Violence and Care – ENGL 111

Saidiya Hartman’s contention that “care is the antidote to violence” and Davina Ward’s counterclaim that “violence can exist as care” are in sharp contrast to each other. Reflecting on my comprehension with the course’s central issues and questions leads me to agree with Ward that care is not the antidote to violence and rather that violence can exist as care. ThinkING through everything that I have comprehended in this course is what led me to side with Ward’s claim. This is as course material such as the book “Zone One” and our focus on Hurricane Katrina, notably the documentary “When the Levees Broke,” demonstrates examples of how violence can exist as care. 

The book “Zone One”  by Colson Whitehead  provides an explanation for violence existing as care. This book tells the story of a plague that completely destroyed society. The novel uses the terms “skels” and “stragglers” to describe those who contracted the illness and became zombies. The skels are robust and harm as soon as they see you, whereas stragglers don’t pose any instantaneous dangers.  Mark Spitz, the main character of Zone One, works as a “sweeper”, and the duty of the sweepers is to kill skels and stragglers. As skels and stragglers are deemed a danger to civilization, sweepers commit an act of violence and kill them in an effort to save their society that they care for from these dangerous creatures. This is an illustration of violence existing in the act of care that I learned from the course. This example from “Zone One” connects to Ward’s assertion of violence existing as an act of care in regard to the armed group roaming the streets of their area, seeking for and firing at potential threats following Katrina. Moreover, Ward’s states, “one would be hard-pressed to suggest that the thought of protecting one’s community against threats is a bad thing”. Both of these examples demonstrate violence existing as care as an effort to protect communities against harm.

“Zone One”  by Colson Whitehead demonstrated another example that I learned from the course of violence existing as care in regard to “kill fields”. Whitehead stated, “word first arrived with the new survivors stumbling through the camp gates with their extravagant tales of meadows and mall parking lots brimming with the fallen dead” (pg 135). As explained in the quote, kill fields are full of dead individuals who died in meadows and mall parking lots. Whitehead stated, “the plague had finally, inevitably exhausted what the human body could endure…There was a limit to the depredations, and that meant a limit the devastation” (pg 136). The survivors gained comfort from the dead bodies in the kill fields that the epidemic was dying down. This is a representation of how survivors saw the violence of the plague, which caused people in the kill fields to die, as an act of caring for a hopeful end to their devastation. This example further connects to Ward’s claim that  violence can exist as care. 

In class we watched When the Levees Broke, a documentary by Spike Lee, which showed the heartbreaking devastation that Hurricane Katrina inflicted in New Orleans, Louisiana. The documentary showed that a large number individuals were looking for shelter from Hurricane Katrina, and were told to go to the New Orleans Morial Convention Center.  However, the center was exceedingly over populated, and the shortage of food, water, and medicine caused even more misery. Hurricane victims were led to believe they would receive care at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center, but they instead encountered a lack of food, water, and medicine as well as an overcrowded atmosphere which demonstrates violence in an act of furthering their misery. Therefore, this is a further example from this course where I learned that violence exists as care. Continuing, Ward demonstrates an example of violence existing as care in regard to Hurricane Katrina as well from the film “Welcome to New Orleans”. My example connects to Ward’s example of Malik Rahim who created a health clinic and provided medical care controlled by non-medical personnel who ended up committing acts of violence against those whom they intended to assist. Ward stated “in a very bittersweet way, the clinic was doing an injustice and therefore, in attempting to provide care to people who needed it they were also performing a violence against them”. Both examples demonstrate an attempt to give care to Hurricane Katrina victims which resulted in violence.

“Zone One”  by Colson Whitehead portrayed another illustration of violence existing as care in regard to the love interest between the two characters, Mark and Mim. Whitehead stated, “it was the healthiest relationship he’d ever had, and not because they had a lot in common, such as a need for food, water, and fire”. This demonstrates trauma leading to a strong bond as Mark experienced the healthiest relationship of his life during a zombie pandemic. Moreover, Whitehead stated, “in the time before the flood, Mark Spitz had a habit of making his girlfriends into things that were less than human”.  Therefore, I interpreted that a violent plague caused Mark to appreciate the significance of relationships and to have a newfound appreciation and care for other people. This book demonstrates a violent setting of an apocalypse leading Mark to care immensely for Mim and develop a very strong bond with her.

It was challenging to think through the tension created both Hartman and Ward’s assertions. However, I ultimately strengthened through thinkING  through both of these statements, as well as by thinking through class content that taught me that violence can exist as care. Before writing this essay I thought to myself, is there a right assertion to chose? What if I chose the wrong claim? I realized that there was no “wrong claim” and that this essay was an opportunity for me to look back and think about what we did this semester, and what meaning I could make of what we did.  The meaning I have taken away from the course’s central issues and questions as well as the material I provided in this essay led me to conclude that violence can exist as care,

Mini- collab 2

The NACE Competencies stands for the National Association of Colleges and Employers. This helps illustrate the skills that most people already have, but in reality, don’t know the power of these skills and how they impact one’s career within the workforce. There are eight career readiness competencies: career & self-development, communication, critical thinking, equity & inclusion, leadership, professionalism, teamwork, and technology. When it comes to reading aloud Shakespeare’s The Tempest, there are many factors that contribute greatly to the process of each other’s understanding of the context of the play. Using a traditional text like The Tempest allows students to use their critical thinking skills to understand the text through a deeper meaning by analyzing an older text through modern meaning. Students can interpret an older text meant traditionally for a Renaissance English class, but this course gives students the opportunity to see a play about hurricanes and mythological beings/events to modern-day understanding of institutional discrimination seen within Hurricane Katrina. How ancient rituals and knowledge connect all human beings to each other like the burial rituals done within New Orleans. These understandings help students connect to a greater sense of knowledge. Through the utilization of NACE competencies such as critical thinking and teamwork, the class was able to collectively discern and discuss various connections within the dialogue of The Tempest to course concepts. For instance, Caliban is referred to in a dehumanized, earthly manner, often chastised by Prospero as wasteful. Prospero additionally prompts a natural disaster as a means of bringing about a renewal or cleansing in an attempt to free himself from previous worldly hindrances, an example of the expenditure concept we discussed during class. When it comes to reading something like The Tempest, reading aloud isn’t something that comes easy and natural to most. More often than not students read within their mind, but while reading aloud there begins to develop a level of professionalism that everyone is contributing to the reading as much as possible, putting in their best effort. This allows for equity and inclusion to build off of each other through teamwork. This shows the level of NACE Competencies usage within an English class that can occur using the basics of communication to work with others like one would within a workforce. So why does this matter? This is a question that may seem basic to most, but rather oftentimes overlooked. This concept of the NACE Competencies allows for an understanding of growth within your peers. We as college students are in different/similar paths of life, but are all learning the importance of how these skills can be used within the workforce and on our resumes outside the classroom. 

Written by: Elizabeth Gambino, Meredith Amodie, Katlin Mcneil,
Aidan Lewis, and Audrey Smeaton

Violence, Performance, and Waste – ENGL 111

In the book Cities of The Dead, Roach states, “a stark definition emerges from Bataille’s meditations on “catastrophic expenditure”: violence is the performance of waste”. Oftentimes when people are violent, they are getting rid of their angry emotions and try to take it out on something or someone else. People may have a build up of wrathfulness, rage, and frustration and feel the need to release it. This then results in an expenditure and waste of negative energy.  Moreover, in class we talked about how an individual being violent may expend their negative energy with a purpose towards someone they don’t like, or even towards people they like or love. This is as a person may think another person is disposable, and therefore perform violence towards them. In regard to violence is the performance of waste Roach asserts, “to that definition I offer three corollaries: first, that violence is never senseless but always meaningful, because violence in human culture always serves, one way or the other, to make a point; second, that all violence is excessive, because to be fully demonstrative, to make its point, it must spend things—material objects, blood, environments—in acts of Bataillian “unproductive expenditure” (or Veblenian “conspicuous consumption”); and third, that all violence is performative, for the simple reason that it must have an audience—even if that audience is only the victim, even if that audience is only God”. In this essay I will demonstrate how Roach’s violence is the performance of waste and the three outcomes he suggests provide insight on the course’s core issues and questions thus far.

Roach states, “Girard’s idea that sacrificial violence operates as a kind of expenditure through which society prolongs its sense of coherence in face of a threat of divisive substitutions owes its understanding of excess to him” (pg 40). In class we highlighted Roach’s emphasis on the terms “sacrificial violence,” “expenditure,” both “productive” and “catastrophic”, and “pressure” on page 40 and 41.  These phrases were then added to our course concepts list. In our class discussion on the course concept expenditure, we discussed many examples of ways things can be expended such as money, time, people, and resources. An example of time being expended and wasted if you sleep your time away. Continuing, during class McCoy told a story in terms of expenditure and violence and performance and waste. In McCoy’s first year in graduate school she was a TA making six thousand dollars a year and went to visit one of her college roommates. Her roommate’s step mother, who was wealthy, had just returned from the casinos in Atlantic city. The stepmother had a pile of cash she won at the casino and stated, “I don’t even know what to do with all of this money, I should just throw it away”! McCoy emphasized to our class the fury that she felt in that moment and that she wanted to leap across the table and throttle her, although she didn’t. This is because her roommate’s step mother did not appreciate what she had, and may have intentionally made a mockery of McCoy. In regards to expenditure and violence of the performance of waste, this story demonstrates the stepmother saying she plans on expending and wasting her money, therefore leading McCoy to violence and wanting to throttle her.

During class, we discussed that human beings can be constructed as waste. An example of human beings being constructed as waste that we talked about during class is how a lot of cities bring their waste to more rural areas. Another example of human beings being constructed as waste is in regard to the film When the Levees Broke. Spike Lee’s documentary When the Levees Broke depicts the havoc that Hurricane Katrina’s breaking of the levees caused in New Orleans, Louisiana. In the film, Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans that were in need of help expressed their frustration that president George Bush originally stayed on holiday and was extremely delayed in helping them. The fact that President Bush did not take responsibility until nearly three weeks into the aftermath of Katrina while so many people were suffering is alarming. In the book Unfathomable City Solnit and Snedeker stated, “Imagine that even though the levees failed and people were left behind, everyone in a position of power had responded with urgent empathy so that no one was left to die on a roof or in an attic, and the dehydrated elders, the hungry children, the stranded population of New Orleans’s poorest neighborhoods were rescued and protected”. This further demonstrates that human beings being constructed as waste as President Bush and those in positions of power did not prioritize helping individuals in New Orleans. Moreover, an individual from the film When the Levees Broke stated, “they are not doing anything for the katrina victims, and the aftermath to me is worse than the actual levees breaking”.  This demonstrates that both human beings and cities can be constructed as waste. Another example in the film, When the Levees Broke, demonstrated how people were treated like animals when Hurricane Katrina hit in New Orleans. A woman in the movie stated how victims could not brush their teeth, change their clothes, or take a bath, and for days people did not eat. In the book Unfathomable City Solnit and Snedeker stated, “the bitterness of Katrina in New Orleans was not only that people in that city (out of 1,836 total casualties throughout the Gulf Coast) died and didn’t have to, but also that many thousands more felt as though they had been treated as outcasts by their society”. In other words, thousands thought they were treated as “waste” by their society. These examples from the film, When the Levees Broke and the reading Unfathomable City indicate that people and cities, like the New Orleans Hurricane Katrina victims, can be and were constructed as “waste”.

 In class, we talked about several kinds of “waste”. It is common for waste to lead to disposal; for instance, if you have a “supernumerary” amount of something, it can go to waste.  Continuing, waste can manifest in a variety of ways, especially that memory and forgetting are factors in.  An example of this is the massive inflatable slide of the Titanic that we were shown in class in the beginning of the semester. In Echoes in the Bone Roach states, “echoes in the bone refer not only to a history of forgetting but to a strategy of empowering the living through the performance of memory” (pg 34). In class, we connected this line from Echoes in the Bone to the tot-tanic and unpacked how the tot-tanic is a approach of empowering the living through memory performance. Despite the fact that children may not be aware of what happened to the Titanic and all of the lives lost, people allow their children to play in this bouncy house in the present, forgetting about the tragedy of the Titanic. Therefore, children use this insanely disrespectful bouncy house as entertainment by performance of fun. The tot-tanic constructed the Titanic and those that died on it as “waste” given the incredible amount of disrespect in making a Titanic bouncy house that children play on for entertainment. 

Throughout this essay, I demonstrate how Roach’s violence is the performance of waste and the three outcomes he suggests provide insight on the course’s core issues and questions thus far. I did this by thinking through class material and connecting to Roach’s violence is the performance of waste. Connecting our class material to Roach’s Cities of The Dead  furthered my analysis and understanding of Roach’s violence is the performance of waste. My analysis matters as it connects Roach’s violence is the performance of waste to important course topics such as “expenditure”. The course concept “expenditure” furthered my thinking on the many ways things can be expended, and how expenditure can also lead to violence. Continuing, my analysis connects Roach’s violence is the performance of waste to how human beings and cities can be constructed as waste. It is extremely important to recognize how horrible it is for human beings, such as New Orleans Hurricane Katrina victims, to feel themselves and their city are treated and looked at as “waste”.  My analysis also lead me to think about several kinds of “waste” and the many ways that “waste” can manifest that memory and forgetting are components in.