It is often said that we teach what we need to learn. Nowhere in my teaching career have I found this to be more the case than in my creation and implementation of a new course for our university’s curriculum titled, Sociology of the Body.
Art-making, like any other activity can be contemplative, with a mindful disposition. I have been working with mixed-medium painting that layers narratives and invites a first person journey deep into my experiences. From those inner journeys, I am able to gather insights about self in relation to other, privileges, ways in which our life experiences shape our understanding of oppression, resistance, justice, and liberation.
This activity helps students see the significance of partial perspectives; that every one of them sees the world through a particular lens, a lens that is shaped by their identity location. We get a more complete story by placing them in dialogue with one another.
If you haven’t heard: it has been a challenging year to inhabit a Black body as social media and cyber-activism have allowed us to witness the ongoing assaults against Black bodies on American streets, in parks, in the aisles of big-box stores, during traffic stops and in an array of public and private spaces.
When people first hear terms like “mindfulness” or “contemplative,” it is common for images of cross-legged silent meditation or perhaps uttering “Om” to be conjured in the listener’s mind. This is a stereotype of course, and like others, it is constructed from things that actually happen (i.e. seeing someone cross-legged and meditating and/or chanting) and then extrapolated into a caricature of reality.