BLINDNESS ESSAY (15%) — due March 25
What I would like you to do for this essay should be relatively straightforward, and should not require you to do additional reading or online/library research…. although you may have to google a few things about your hometown. This is a reflective essay. This means that you should use the existing materials from the course module and reflect on them. (If it helps, think of it as more of a ‘journal entry’ than a ‘research paper’.)
Part of being a good anthropologist is learning to see critically. For this assignment, students are required to use narrative to “describe culture” for those who do not have access to visual materials, who cannot see, or for whom the “obvious” lessons of a given image is not so obvious… you can not assume a “picture is worth 1000 words.” After reading the module materials and listening to the podcast, please write a brief (~3 page) essay about them.
Your essay should contain the following sections:
A. SELF-REFLECTION ON VISUAL CULTURE
After having watched the clips on AD, what did you learn by watching the videos with description? Did you gain any insights into what is important, culturally, to describe? (Please explain.) Did watching with description help you to “see” better? How so? Importantly, what additional benefits are there from audio description for sighted viewers?
B. YOUR COMMUNITY & YOUR CAMPUS
Re Community… Where is the closest movie theater (or other place) near where you live that offers AD? How far is this from your home? How many sites offer AD within 20 miles of your home? Would you have a choice of movies (or other cultural programming) to see, if you wanted to watch a film with description?
Re Campus… Is AD available on campus (other than in my class)? Where on campus have you been exposed to AD? Why do you think it is that way? If you have not been exposed to AD on campus, where are the three most critical places that you think should begin offering AD (or using image descriptions) where it does not currently exist? What specific 2 suggestions would you make to help increase the amount of AD on campus? Do you have any suggestions for increasing knowledge about and presence of AD in the culture at large? What is the concept of “universal design” and could that help make AD more common?
C. THE SOCIAL MODEL & SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF BLINDNESS
In this section, please refer to the “Becoming Batman” (Invisibilia podcast) and “The Making of Blind Men” excerpts to address “expectations and access” vis a vis blindness. Did these materials convince you that the disability of blindness is located in the social fabric and not in one’s body or its functioning? If so, how so? If not, why not? What specific parts of these works were most poignant in demonstrating the social model, and that blindness is a social construction?
D. GENDER & DISABILITY
Is the “lived experience” of being blind different based on your gender? Are blind women constructed the same as blind men? Please refer to the article, “A Blind Man’s Harley”, in this section. What struck you as odd or important from this work? Did it change what you knew about “learning to be blind” or “learning to be female,” or how those two things intersect?
E. SELF-REFLECTION ABOUT BLINDNESS
Please reflect here on what you’ve learned generally about blindness and our cultural assumptions. For example, you could discuss how your ideas have changed over time and what influenced that change. You could discuss how assumptions and expectations define the nature of the “blind experience” and/or how that can change through new attitudes, experiences, or accommodations. Please provide at least one personal example of an incident where you culturally encountered “blindness” (social interaction, tv show, etc). Do you think about this differently now, after exposure to these materials, how so?
Students should write a minimum of three pages about the above themes. Essays should be double-spaced; max 12-point font and max 1-inch margins. There is no additional rubric but stronger essays will demonstrate competency of the three assigned materials noted above (i.e., do you show you read/listened to them AND thought deeply about them?) Essays will be graded by the professor.