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  • MOSAIC: On Graduate Reflection, Body, and Writing
  • Margaret Rhee (bio)

This poem written on my body will not stop You cannot arrest this poem without it growing bolder. I wanted to give you a poem, but I offer my body instead.

-- Alison J. Harrington (1999)

An aesthetic arrangement that culls pieces into pattern—jagged edges, broken, yet bridged together, then apart—a mosaic offers a model of collectivity and representation. As an interdisciplinary space, it is fitting that the MIGC (Mid-West Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference) thoughtfully centered MOSAIC as a central thematic of the conference. When asked to create a social practice workshop for the conference, I organically turned to the artistic assemblage. Mosaic-as-conceptualization includes collective writing and making within an interdisciplinary space. In addition, criticality, creativity, and the body foster graduate reflection on writing.

Remember the body as poetry.

As an artist and poet, many of my projects are collaborative, and I am most interested in how communities can create together.

I began my talk for the conference with lines of poetry by (then) student activist Alison Harrington, that evoke the power and vulnerability of the student protestor and her body. Performed by student activist Margo Kelly in the documentary film On Strike: Ethnic Studies 1969 - 1999, Harrington’s words speak to how the “poem” is “written on my body,” and how inexplicable poetry is from protest. Harrington was a hunger striker who among others, demanded change within the university through their bodies as activist means. When I was an ethnic studies graduate student at UC Berkeley, hearing Harrington’s words offered how the body and poetry are a means for transgression within the university. Read by Kelly, the poem by Harrington also echoes the collaborative force of writing, reading, and rereading.

How does one collaborate (write and dream) within the university context? [End Page 92]

Activism is most often understood as a movement that includes a collective of people.

Activism is also poetry and disciplinary boundary crossing.

Within the legacy of ethnic studies, when I was a graduate student, creating interdisciplinary spaces was of incredible value to my commitment to political spaces within graduate education.

I organized several events fostering this approach, and it shaped my current social practice. To help frame the MOSAIC workshop, I shared examples of interdisciplinary projects.

Similar to my previous projects, I hoped the MOSAIC workshop participants would leave with a sense of empowerment and reflection on their writing and their bodies that crossed disciplinary boundaries.

I hoped they would leave with a sense of creating together, but process is priority.

I am unsure, and that is what makes it art.

In many ways, the MOSAIC workshop and the developing digital artwork is the manifestation of the participants’ bodies and writing.

Their names are below, as collectively and creatively, we created together.

In part, our collaboration flowed into form, dialogue, mosaic.

Margaret Rhee [End Page 93]

Participating Writers:

Sean Nolan :: Soham Patel :: Jenni Moody :: Allain Daigle :: Matt Schneider :: John Roberts :: Noel Mariano :: Christina Lee :: Jeremy Carnes :: Alison Sperling :: Loretta McCormick :: Shanae Aurora Martinez :: Alexandra Fine :: Daren Fowler :: Rachel Tindall :: Jessica Johnston :: Kris Purzycki :: Kennan Ferguson

Writing Prompts

Prompt One

  • • “Censor the body and you censor breath and speech at the same time. Write yourself. Your body must be heard.” – Hélène Cixous

  • • Many academics often exclude themselves within their academic writing due to a pressure of disembodiment. Are there ways you have been censoring yourself or not writing from your body? If so, identify ways your body and identity can be heard in your writing.

Prompt Two

  • • In a critique of the academic institutional complex, poet and scholar Fred Moten writes, “The only possible relationship to the university today is a criminal one.”

  • • What are ways you can have a criminal relationship and transgress rules of the academy?

Prompt Three

  • • “Bodies are maps of power and identity.” – Donna Haraway

  • • Reflect on Haraway’s quote and think about the wholeness of your body. Look at your hands and reflect on what work your hands do through memory and observation.

  • • Then identify another part of your body. What story does it tell about your power and identity as a graduate student?



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pp. 92-95
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