Response to the article in Pam’s “Housing Loss: The Grief and Other Losses”

Original post here.

The article shared by Pam really got me thinking about the blame and lack of control felt when one is involuntarily pushed into homelessness. In Pagliarini’s attempt to explain how “learned helplessness” is an eventual learned symptom of being poor in America, he undermines the real issues at hand and continues the endless cycle of blaming the poor for being poor. In effect, he’s labeling the victims of systematic violence as the actual origin of this violence because they haven’t taken a hold of their own “control” yet.

The thing is, people who have fallen victim to foreclosure and homelessness really don’t have a lot of room to exercise their own control and agency. The mindset that these people have merely “given up” as a result of endless financial strains is problematic.

Despite Pagliarini’s attempt to set his article outside of the “Get Rich Quick” mentality, it ends up being exactly that. His article is riddled with a white privilege perspective with some classist ideals sprinkled in here and there. If we were to shove this article into Lelah Turner’s hands and say “Alright, here’s the answer to your problems. Get going!” she would laugh our face. It almost reminds me of the pee scene in The Turner House when Cha-Cha realizes the kind of life he is “destined” to live. From Cha-Cha’s perspective, as a black boy growing up in Detroit it’s as if his agency had been inherently taken away from him from day one.  Ideas like “Get Perspective!” and “Achieve Success” are unrealistic and problematic to advise to people like Cha-Cha or Lelah (Cha-Cha being a black man and Lelah being homeless, both under their own kind of systematic pressure) because they haven’t had the same set of opportunities laid out for them.

Two paths to dehumanizing human beings

I was just reading this interview with Matthew Desmond, whose book Evicted just won a Pulitzer. I haven’t read the book yet and am hoping it’s not in the tradition of Alice Goffman’s On the Run.

But given Dominion‘s deep and complicated human characters, this line really jumped out at me:

“There are two ways to dehumanize: the first is to strip people of all virtue, the second is to clear them of all sin.”

Response to Jenna Lawson’s Post “Mr. Blandings’ Dream House and Aunt Jemima”

Original Post by Jenna Lawson:


From your blog post this sentence, “I think sanitized versions of American history relate strongly to the American housing crisis, especially in neighborhoods that have retained racial homogeneity in the present without making any attempts to integrate”, stands out to me because it reminds me of my mention earlier today in class about Levittown. During 12th grade I took a class to learn about NY state’s history; of course during the class my teacher discussed the history of Long Island. One of our discussion was based on Levittown and how racist the town used to be and still, as you said, “retains racial homogeneity in the present without making any attempts to integrate.


Some history on Levittown is that it was created after WWII when many soldiers were trying to find their own home outside NYC. William J. Levitt decided to buy land on Long Island and created 5 types of houses that were extremely similar, but gave the buyer the idea of individuality (this was the first mass produced suburb). To buy the house, like any house today, the owners needed to sign a contract. Part of this contract stated that  “the property could not be used or rented by any individuals other than those of the Caucasian race”. This contract was in accordance with the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) at the time (<,_New_York>).


During my teachers discussion he told us of how he had a friend, who is African American, and refuses to drive through Levittown because of its history, and some people on Long Island nicknamed the area “Racist Levittown”.

Sometimes when I can’t find something, something equally useful pops to the surface

I was trying to find  Mother Jones article from about 10 years ago because it made a claim that when a house (or apartment, or any dwelling) approaches about 2800 square feet (I think), it becomes impossible to clean that place on one’s own. Someone else must be hired to do the cleaning.

But I can’t find the article, but in the meantime, Google yielded this article from a 1908 Ladies’ Home Journal. It’s titled ‘“I Want to Build a House’: An Architect’s Frank Talk with the Man or Woman Who is About to Build.”

Maybe it’s worth a read!

found from craigslist

Noa Wesley is a senior at Cornell and an artist who works in multiple platforms, with an especially keen eye for photography.  found from craigslist is a Tumblr blog that Noa created a year ago where she re-posts various craigslist ads; these are absurd (and often hilarious) objects and photos that create a telling portrait of our relationship with our consumer-goods. When viewed altogether on the blog, her gallery is a reflection of our contemporary identity and how it evolves with the internet and social media. Additionally, it has challenged some of my own ideas on what we constitute as “art”.

Noa is an old friend of mine, and a chance encounter with her this weekend led to a discussion about her blog and how it covers themes such as “performance”, “waste”, “origins”, and many others that are prevalent in our classes’ texts and discussions.

One of the things that you notice when looking at Noa’s blog is that the humor derived from the ads comes from the amateur nature of their photographs; while sometimes it is obvious that the seller is trying to be humorous, it is normally ambiguous whether or not the comedy is intentional. This ambiguity is what drew me to her blog; Noa’s selection does not feel mean-spirited because she is not making fun of the sellers or their advertisements. Instead, she is inviting the audience to interpret and relate to the sellers. She told me “These are artifacts that are brought from the private sphere and into the public. I think it’s interesting that the person behind the camera has a relationship with these objects that they don’t want them… at one point they had a use for these objects.”

There is also a sense of primitive and amateur mercantilism on display that I find very interesting “Some of the photos are just so unappealing,” Noa says. “If someone posts a picture of a used makeup brush and it’s in a pile of dirt, who is going to buy it?”

In the texts in class, we explore the ideas and feelings behind homes and property, as well as the often careless swindling that goes into the trade. While I find Noa’s blog intriguing as an extension of both personal and financial performance, I’d love to hear your own thoughts!

Democracy and Citizenship in Our Time (and in Mr. Blandings’ Time)

On Friday April 7, 2017 I was fortunate enough to be able to attend one of the panels during the Democracy and Citizenship in Our Time teach-in that took place on campus. Topics that were discussed during Panel II included LGBTQIA+, education, economic inequality, immigration, and disabilities. I was particularly intrigued with what Dr. Kathleen Mapes had to say surrounding economic inequality in America and how this problem has been brewing for decades.  After our recent viewing of the 1948 film, “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House”, I felt this topic to be especially relevant to the themes that we have been discussing thus far in this class this semester and I wanted to explore how economic inequality is presented in the film and the effects that it has on the audience’s interpretations of what it means to build your dream home.

Continue reading “Democracy and Citizenship in Our Time (and in Mr. Blandings’ Time)”

Housing Loss: The Grief & Other Losses

I’ve been considering how it affects a person to lose their home as a result of foreclosure, extreme weather, or otherwise. In my dirge essay, I touched on how Lear and Leah were impacted by losing their homes in King Lear and The Turner House. Fortunately for me, I have no personal experience with losing my home, so this post will be pulling mainly from the readings. Continue reading “Housing Loss: The Grief & Other Losses”

Space in Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House

I had never before seen Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House, but after watching it in class I was struck by how much it related to my own upbringing, specifically in the context of space.  In the movie, it is comically shown that the 4 person family does not have enough space in their Manhattan apartment.  Scenes such as Mr. Blandings and his wife fighting over who gets to use the bathroom mirror demonstrate that personal space is definitely an issue for this family, and is ultimately what leads to their moving out of New York City.  Growing up in New York City myself, I can relate to these issues of personal space, and although they are certainly comical in the film does not mean that they are at all an exaggeration.  Sharing a one bedroom apartment with my sister and two parents, personal space always was, and still is a point of contention in our household. Continue reading “Space in Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House”