Transformative Language Arts in Action: A New Book, a New Partnership, a New Journal, and an Annual Conference

Ruth and Caryn at Goddard

Ruth and Caryn at Goddard

In 2000, Goddard College launched the only MA program in Transformative Language Arts (TLA) in the country, and as the program hits its teenage years, TLA is spreading its wings through a new partnership, book, journal, and new growth in its annual conference.

Transformative Language-1cTransformative Language Arts in Action, being published by Littlefield and Rowan at the end of 2014, is edited by GGI Program Director Ruth Farmer and TLA founder and coordinator Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. The anthology features essays on TLA by Goddard faculty, students, alumni, and others outside of the college who resonate with TLA, including Jim Sparrell (faculty), Mirriam-Goldberg (faculty), Farmer (program director), Ezra Nepon Berkley (alumni), Brian W. Sunset (alumni), Yvette Hyater-Adams (alumni), Callid Keefe-Perry, and Juliana Borrero (alumni), plus “snapshots” of people making a living and a life from TLA.

Goddard College has also signed a formal partnership with the not-for-profit TLA Network, which will provide scholarship assistance to all starting Goddard students, in any program the college offers, who have completed the new TLA Certification offered by the TLA Network. The certification would benefit prospective or current students, and alumni ready for more community and livelihood opportunities and direction.

UntitledThe  TLA Network just launched the first professional/artistic/practitioner journal, Chrysalis: A Journal of Transformative Language Arts, which is now available in colleges, universities, and libraries around the world. The journal features articles on TLA scholarship, creative TLA work, and narratives on TLA in the community. The new journal is edited by MA-TLA graduate, writer and mother Amber Ellis.

Closing Circle at the conference

Closing Circle at the conference

Finally, the college was well-represented at the 11th annual Power of Words conference, a project of the TLA Network that started at Goddard College in 2003. Ruth Farmer, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, and a host of TLA students and alumni were part of the over 100 people who gathered Sept. 19-21 in Kansas City. The college sponsored a Discover Goddard reception at the event that brought together storytellers, spoken word artists, activists, writers, playwrights and performers, drama therapists and poetry therapists, singers and songwriters, community leaders and educators, and health professionals. The 2015 conference — featuring writer Jimmy Santiago Baca, playwright Darren Canady, spoken word artists Sha Cage and E.G. Bailey, and poet and activist Xanath Caraza — will be held Sept. 18-20, 2015 at Unity Village in Kansas City, MO.

Posted in journal-Writing, Memoir, Life Writing & Autobiography, Music, Mythology & the Oral Tradition, Narrative Medicine, Narrative Therapy, Poetry, Poetry Therapy, Power of Words Conference, Theater, Drama & Playwriting, Transformative Language Arts, Transforming Trauma | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lindiwe Priscilla Krasin: An Idealogy of the Flesh, Art History, and the Middle East

Lindiwe KrasinMy name is Lindiwe Priscilla Krasin.  I am in the Individualized MA program.  I am a woman of color. I am an ex-sexworker and I belong ideologically to the revolutionary left.  I was born in Gaborone, Botswana in 1976 into a mixed race household.  I was educated in the Sudan, Kenya, Lesotho and the United States.  I have two children at home who may be seen on campus running around with their big afros during residency.  The three of us are Team Krasin.  I also have a son who lives in Massachusetts with his papa.  He is a man now.  His name is Mujaheed which means holy warrior in Arabic.  He was born after my first year of college.  I have been a mother for a long time.  That is why I came to Goddard, because I can be a mom and still go to school.  Now that I have done Goddard I really wish that my son would apply to the BA program.  It would change his life and give him wings.  Wings?  Yes, that is correct.  I said WINGS.  Goddard is a place where human beings build them, sometimes from scratch if need be.

My academic discoveries at Goddard have been beyond fun.  Ecstatic is a better word.  Learning at Goddard has been an amazing experience.  GODDARD IS FREEDOM.  You can study whatever you want.  If all you care about is 16th century Italian shoes they will help you to find a way to specialize in just that, adding other stuff in along the way as is appropriate for attaining a college degree. I did my first semester on the art history of the modern and contemporary Middle East.  I covered the history of art in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and a little bit on Saudi Arabia, namely learning about public art in Jeddah. In my second semester I studied human rights and Palestinian art.   I studied depictions of prostitutes, GLTBQ and nudes in modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art.  As I result I also had to study gender and sexual constructs from the region and Arab modernist theories/treatments of sex and sexuality.  I am doing my thesis on the concepts of the center and the margins in relation to depictions of prostitutes, GLTBQ and nudes in modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art.

While at Goddard I have developed what I call An Ideology of the Flesh.  I have taken all of my life knowledge and studies and applied them to both life itself and aesthetics.  My Ideology of the Flesh posits the sexual aesthetic as being one of the most important life giving things a person can do to keep their everyday life full of both adventure and joy.  I see sex appeal/the sex appeal aesthetic as something that is capable of healing a person and society.  I believe that people who are sexy on purpose by ideology and action–like myself—improve the world and channel the energy of all creation into the human body/soul recreating the very big-bang of the universe creating itself in the self every single day.  I really believe this stuff.  I live by it, I teach it when asked and it is what I plan on standing by until that day that I leave this earth.

So, what is the Goddard work/paradigm useful for in life?  The answer is EVERYTHING, everything, every single thing.  Goddard does not just educate students, it changes lives.  I used the holistic Goddard philosophy of creating a degree that incorporates who each of us is and what we study to create a business that is a direct offshoot of my life, my studies and my passions. My business is called Sex & Safari.  I use the sex appeal aesthetic to sell art, culture, style, human rights and nature conservation.  Sex & Safari’s first event is a public photograph exhibit called The Sexiest Women in Maine in Biddeford in January 2015.  You can learn more about it at

Posted in Activism, Embodiment Studies & Body Image, Sexuality & Erotic Studies, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Willa Conway: Cross-Class Giving Circles Bring Greater Justice to Philanthropy

photoI came to Goddard with a loose idea of what I was interested in: racial justice, philanthropy, healing, radical love, and James Baldwin. It makes me smile looking at those disparate ideas now, as those ideas continue to be strong elements in my developing project and vision for my work, they are just a bit more refines. My time at Goddard has helped me develop me ideas into a specific project investigating the intersection of racial violence and wealth accumulation and the ways that philanthropic giving can be used as a way to heal the generational wounds that create and perpetuate inequality.

I live in New Orleans, and my project brings a particular eye to place in terms of history, race, and class nationally and in the South particularly. At the beginning of next year, I will be launching a cross-class giving circle in New Orleans, which gives people of different economic means a chance to pool financial resources and make decisions as a collective about where resources should go. Cross-class giving circles are emerging across the country as a way to address the inequity in wealth, and thus philanthropic dollars. Giving away money collectively is part of a year-long process which begins with political education and community building which centers around self-examination so that we can learn together how unequal access to wealth has effected people on all sides of the economic spectrum.

My studies help build the methodology of the project and consider creative exercises that can be used in groups to explore difficult topics of race and class with an eye on collective liberation. I feel lucky to be part of a community that is challenging this paradigm and working for more democratic ways of being in relationship to wealth and giving. My organizing work is profoundly strengthened by the time I’ve carved out for reading, writing, and thinking, and I know I am able to explore in a way that brings more meat to all that I do.

I honestly don’t think that I would be studying and working towards what I am without Goddard as an institution that allows me to cast my net both wide and deep. Because I am able to bring my self—my experiences, my emotions, my own unique weaving of disciplines—into my studies, my work is able to come from a more authentic and powerful place. I feel more confident in my ability to work in community and own the parts of myself that were formerly aspects I felt I needed to hide.

“The personal is political” has become a more embodied phrase and reality that continues to give me fire to work harder, discover more, have difficult conversations with the people I love and ultimately live in the world in a way that feels in more alignment with my values. Goddard is one of a kind, and the space lets me be that too, and for that I am forever grateful.

Posted in Activism, Community Building, Economics, Methodology, Philanthrophy, Social Innovation | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Artist, Activist, Eco-Educator Kelly Johnson on White Privilege

me-collards-225x300In a recent issue of Feministing, Kelly Johnson, alumni of the Individualized MA program, spoke about taking her Goddard work into the world, working especially in the south with diverse communities on connecting with nature through school gardening programs. In developing her company Wings, Worms and Wonder, she writes,

“When working with communities and introducing health and lifestyle ideas involving food and culture, I have found that it is incredibly important to be aware of the fact that I am a visitor with an idea, not someone in any sort of entitled position to say how another person should live, eat, or plant their yard.”

Read the whole article here.

Posted in Cultural & Cross-Cultural Studies, Environmental, Sustainability & Place Studies, Sustainability, Sustainable Businesses and Communities | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Wendy Weissner: The Complexity of Complementary Medicine

We live in a culture that values evidence-based medicine—or scientific proof that a medicine works and is safe—and yet the holistic healing therapies that fall under the umbrella of “alternative and complementary medicine” are not capable of being adequately evaluated using existing biomedical research methods.

I came to Goddard in February 2012 frustrated by the oversimplification of science that I had witnessed working in laboratories and research collaborations. I wanted to learn a better way to evaluate (prove?) alternative medicine, specifically those therapies associated with Ayurveda, a 3,000-year-old healing tradition with roots in South Asia.

Weissner 2014At the same time that I was rejecting oversimplication, I was observing the entanglement between methods and results, decolonizing indigenous methodologies, and proposing new ways for managing complexity. My graduate studies culminated in a deeper understanding of the cultural construction of science, illuminating the edges, limits, and boundaries of biomedical scientific methods while simultaneously appreciating the strengths of non-dominant scientific methods.

As a student in the Health Arts and Science MA program at Goddard, I benefited greatly from the faculty and student presentations during the weeklong residency each semester. In particular, the workshops on collective ethnography, embodiment, arts-based inquiry, complementary dualities, and medical anthropology influenced my work in unexpected and important ways. In addition, I was able to draw upon my advisors’ expertise in cultural studies, medical anthropology, herbal medicine, consciousness studies, and yoga, which all shaped my end product. The program’s flexibility and openness provided the space I needed to rigorously investigate “medicine” and to appreciate the entanglement and complexity of medical systems across cultures.

After graduating in 2014, I applied what I had learned by writing a review on anantamul, an Ayurvedic herb that is gaining popularity in the U.S. marketplace. By presenting both Ayurvedic and Western evidence on the safety and efficacy of anantamul, my goal was to honor the herb’s complexity. To that end, I reviewed close to 100 biomedical studies, presented the biomedical evidence alongside Ayurvedic theory and textual evidence, and submitted the article to Ayurveda Journal of Health (accepted and will be published in the Fall 2014 issue).

At present, Ayurveda Journal of Health is not included in the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s journal index ( This database is arguably one of the most important and comprehensive biomedical databases in the U.S. Diana Lurie, PhD, the Editor-in-Chief for Ayurveda Journal of Health, is beginning the (long) application process required for indexing the journal. Past issues of Ayurveda Journal of Health (previously known as Light on Ayurveda Journal) often contained articles that cited classical Ayurvedic knowledge, and distribution was generally limited to within the Ayurvedic community. By publishing more articles that present biomedical evidence in conjunction with traditional and textual evidence, the journal will receive more credibility in Western biomedicine as a “scientific” journal. As such, it can be listed in this database, which will bring more visibility to the field of Ayurveda, and bring a complementary viewpoint to biomedicine.

Up next—I continue to write and am working on another manuscript—the part of my thesis that describes the globalization/scientization of Ayurveda. Also, I have been exploring opportunities with organization that published herbal monographs to see if there is a way to bring more visibility to Ayurveda there. In this regard, two potential future projects could be (1) assisting with the development of comprehensive, complex reviews on Ayurvedic herbs and (2) establishing a writing/training program that would teach students how to use biomedicine to complement their studies of “alternative” medicine.

Posted in Ayurveda, Ethnobotany, Global Studies, Health Arts & Sciences | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pamela McGrath: The Brazilian Martial Art and Dance Form of Capoeira, Healing, and Community

As part of my thesis project, I am creating a short documentary film that is a blend of video footage and interviews that document how the Brazilian martial art and dance form of Capoeira acts as a form of healing movement to cultivate community and foster resilience in youth. The interview process started last winter and the interviews consist of both student participants as well as master teachers from as far away as Brazil and as close as Maine, where I live and train Capoeira.

The primary focus of my research is emotional trauma from loss. When I started out in my research of how healing movement can cultivate community and foster resilience in youth to help heal emotional wounds, I learned that there wasn’t much existing documentation out there to pull from, and therefore needed to create my own. Throughout the interviewing process, I was able to capture this research and document it through video. Along with these interview clips, I’m beginning to blend them with video footage I’ve collected over the years, from Brazil, California, New York, New Jersey and more. In order to capture a wide variety of style and teaching methods, as well as student diversity, I was able to travel to many different states and meet new and experienced students.

10533165_10101813565392269_7333630462614846194_oI think there are lots of arts-based programs that currently exist that allow youth to heal and grow from their practices. My goal is to show that not only the movement of Capoeira does this, but also the natural combination of music, language, singing, and instrument playing that is also vital to the art form. Together, the movement and arts work together to create room for healing and growth. In other martial arts, there is no music component that exists. In some visual and creative art forms, there is no music. In some dance forms, there is no language component. The list goes on, but my contribution to the greater community is that the art form of Capoeira and its unique blend of arts, allows it to naturally be a healing method for emotional turmoil.

There have been many magical moments during the creation of this documentary film, some being the answers that I’ve received during the interviews. Although I had a goal of receiving answers to my questions that would help in my research, I learned about different perspectives and view points from the interviewees. I also learned that many of the interviewees have had a personal experience or trauma that had led them to find Capoeira as a means of self expression and personal healing. I didn’t find this surprising, but rather interesting and exciting as that is the path that led me to this art form—the loss of my mother. The more and more I speak with people and learn about their life experiences, the more I learn about how traumas have impacted their lives and what they did for themselves in order to move forward from sometimes horrific and life-changing experiences. This is the work that I hope to help children and youth with in the near future when my degree at Goddard is complete.

Goddard holds a special place in graduate education, in my opinion. I don’t feel that I would have been able to do this work at another college or in another program. Goddard has given me the opportunity to evolve within my research and path, and this is something I greatly appreciate. As we all change and evolve in our personal lives, it was important for me to know that my educational path evolved with me, and was fully supported by all of the advisors that guided me along the way. Growth, expansion and evolution are encouraged, and because of this and the support of the faculty and advisors, I feel it makes for a very rich experience and education that you can’t find anywhere else. All of the residencies that I’ve been to have opened my eyes and mind to new topics, meeting new people and seeing new perspectives. The low-residency model has also been a perfect match for me as I am able to work on my own at home with the energy and support I’ve received from the residency. The friendships I’ve forged over the past couple years have such strong bonds, and we all work to support each other throughout the semesters. The Goddard experience is truly profound and has made me a stronger thinker, writer and researcher.

Posted in Arts-Based Inquiry, Cultural & Cross-Cultural Studies, Filmmaking, Health Arts & Sciences, Transforming Trauma | Tagged , | Leave a comment

David White: Deconstructing “The White Man’s Indian” In Favor of Cultural Respect and Equality for All

10444379_712734498788545_9102908171576252971_nDavid White is working on his MA in Individualized Studies at Goddard‘s Graduate Institute.

My work has always been about exploring the ways in which identities are constructed, and how those constructions shape the beliefs and experiences of those who choose – or are forced – to embody them. For example, I’m currently working on my thesis, which is an analysis of the primitive/modern dichotomy created by white America during the industrial age (1860-1920) in an effort to establish the modern American identity. Though this process was really quite complex, I believe that its success depended heavily on Western society’s cultural construction of a binary opposite that wasn’t simply an Other, but an anachronistic Other – and there was arguably no better symbol of pre-modern America than the Native peoples who inhabited the land before first-contact.

Simply put, through stereotype, myth, and rhetoric, the dominant culture created a universal Indian (primitive, savage, and decidedly non-Christian) to symbolize the past that they were attempting to define themselves apart from – or in some cases embrace – during the push towards modernity.

While this is in many ways a historical research project, my goal is to not simply belabor the sins of America’s past, but rather my hope is that I can demonstrate how this now archetypal “white man’s Indian” was constructed and perpetuated, to shed light on the variety of ways that it has impacted the lives of Native peoples and cultures, and emphasize how it can and should be deconstructed in favor of cultural understandings that are more realistic and respectful.

Despite being separated by over one hundred years, there are many similarities between the industrial era and the present day, particularly when it comes to white constructions of ethnic or racial identities. So, while I do hope that my work can contribute to the academic, social, and political dialogs around Native or Indigenous representation, autonomy, and self-determination, my goal is to emphasize that these cultural constructions of the Other are not unique to Native/Western relations, or limited to the past, but rather they remain an all too common element of American culture that carry profound and lasting effects for the individuals and groups onto whom they are applied.

As someone who is not of Native heritage, and whose work has until recently been focused on mid-to-late 20th century American history and culture, this work has had a significant impact on my perspectives on everything from research methodologies and federal policy to cultural appropriation and the construction of historical narratives. Though, if I was asked to identify one thing that surprised me the most, it would have to be when I began to accept that I am no more immune to falling for or creating unrealistic identities of an Other than anyone else would be. While I was well aware of the complexities of colonial history and the nuances of the American empire, it was only after months of research that it occurred to me that I had been relying on my own version of the Native/Western binary system in which I had cast the Western majority as the tyrannical villain and the Native minority as the peaceful and unfortunate victim. Though this perspective was certainly well-intended, it also reduced hundreds of enormous and wildly diverse groups into two inaccurate and unrealistic camps that are no more useful than the archetypes of cowboy and Indian. It was somewhat startling to recognize this in my writing, but I think that this is the point at which my work took a turn away from romantic and idealistic rhetoric, and towards becoming what I hope it will be: the kind of honest analysis that is capable of contributing something important to the struggle for equality in the United States.

Having always been the type of person that needs to figure things out for themselves, rather than follow a prescribed list of resources or course syllabus, and the environment and faculty at Goddard have offered the flexibility and patience required for taking a somewhat esoteric or under-developed idea and turning it into a solid work that is the culmination of my own ideas and passion, rather than just something that meets some universal criteria for graduate education. My thesis goals are ambitious, I admit, but if there’s any institution that will give me the tools and support needed to achieve them, it’s definitely Goddard.

Posted in Activism, Anthropology, Cultural & Cross-Cultural Studies, History & Political Science, Identity, Methodology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment