They’re Just Old Buildings, Right?

Picture 29

Prompted by the discussion surrounding Rachel Dolezal’s NAACP resignation, this series of posts is about how and when we take performativity seriously…, and when it bows to interests in historical or experiential specificity.

My brother, Elliot, who died in 1996, was mentally disabled. That’s him above, with my two sisters. And that’s me on the far right; he was 12 years older than me and, as a baby, had taken a particularly bad fall from his highchair; presumably, that’s what caused what, just a couple years later, became painfully apparent to my parents: he had no speech development and began suffering from repeated grand mal seizures. I won’t belabor the tragedy of his life and death, but suffice it to say that in the 1950s there was little choice but to institutionalize him, when he was a young boy, in a government-run institution. So his profound cognitive problems were quickly compounded by a number of physical problems — who knows what all abuse he was subjected to over the course of his life, but from the “cauliflower ears” and missing teeth that soon resulted, well…, it was apparent that life in the institution was horrendous. Continue reading “They’re Just Old Buildings, Right?”

Isn’t it Ironic, Don’t You Think?

kumareThis morning on the radio I heard a story, rebroadcast from September 2012, on the recent film “Kumare,” described on its website as “a feature documentary film about the time filmmaker Vikram Gandhi impersonated a fake guru and built a following of real people.” The interviewer on the radio program — Maureen Fiedler, host of “Interfaith Voices,” a program predictably about inter-religious dialogue and mutual understanding — asked the director/star a final question: Continue reading “Isn’t it Ironic, Don’t You Think?”