Course Reflection

The transformative nature and flux of a place has peaked my interest since my junior year of high school. Living in the geographical small yet densely populated state of New Jersey, I often witness the architecture and culture of city change by simply walking across a street. Prior to this course, geographic location and bounds defined my definition of place and culture; however, the text about critical regionalism provided by Powell exposed me to interesting ways of viewing culture beyond physical demarcations.

Powell states the region can be defined by a culmination of personal experiences as seen through the “Murderous Mary” tale. Prior to Dartmouth, I only defined culture by physical attributes and forthright cultural aspects as seen through my Dartmouth Supplement; however, I’ve transitioned to viewing culture as a more broadly outlined concept defined by the people within a region rather than allowing popular media to represent a region’s culture. Although I speak against allowing media to define a culture in my Dartmouth Supplement, it becomes difficult to avoid doing so because physical distance can sometimes prove to be a factor in creating stereotypes; moreover, these stereotypes are usually heavily influence by the media. For example, when I write about the beauty that exists in the people of Newark, I speak against allowing the media to flood opinions about the city because they only broadcast the violence that occurs in some regions of the city and corruption that exists within the city government; however, the people within the city are genuine and are truly vibrant and gladly call the city home. Rather than allowing media to taint my impression of a place or region, I need to rely more heavily on the personal description of a place to control my bias. If I were to take a different approach to the Dartmouth Supplement Essay, considering that I was not planning on connecting the essay to the social justice work I did at my high school over the course of two years, I could have used the initial two paragraphs of my essay to craft an essay about how my personal story upbringing in Newark contributes to the definition of Newark’s culture.

In addition to my Dartmouth supplement, I utilize Powell’s definition of Critical Regionalism to define place in Project 1 where I use Chance The Rapper’s song “Everybody’s Something” to analyze the current state of Chicago. In order to emphasize one of his key ideas in his essay about Critical Regionalism, Powell uses the “Murderous Mary” story that originated in his hometown and evolved into a folklore-type tale; moreover the purpose behind telling the story in his essay is that there are multiple ways to define place which can including specific stories that originate in a specific region. Powell’s definition of critical regionalism is that the culmination of personal narratives and stories about Chicago contribute heavily to the definition of a place; moreover, he believes that a place should be definition of a place should remain an ongoing debate and remain in flux. In my essay about Critical Regionalism, I was able to apply his definition to the music video of Chance The Rapper’s “Everybody’s Something” and explain how his video displays his personal narrative about life in Chicago and how he argues that the culture of the city should change for the better and remain in flux. Prior to this class, I would have not been able to analyze culture in this regard.

In Project 2, I analyze both the United States as a region and Newark as a smaller region within a large region through the concept of localism; however, Powell’s definition of critical regionalism can be applied to this essay as well. The argument I generated in Project 2 involved the local protests that occurred between 2011 to the present concerning the prominence of charter schools and the privatization of the Newark public school system. Although the majority of my argument focuses on the possibility for the protests to increase their spaces of influence and political scale, the argument also serves as a testament to the Powell’s argument as it applies to the United States. Analyzing America as a whole serves as a strong example of the Critical Regionalism outlined by Powell. Although the country is divided into states, America remains a melting pot in of various people and cultures from around the globe. As time progresses, America adapts various traits of different cultures and attempts to make those traits uniquely American. However, the disparities between the regions involving other factors like socio-economic issues contribute to the cultural divide in some cases. Although they cause social divide in some cases, they may cause unity in others. For example, I discuss the local protest involving Newark Public schools in Project 2. I state that the reason the rise of charter schools does not benefit the children within the city is because charter schools use a lottery system to accept students; moreover, the lottery system may not place a student in the school that serves their needs which leaves failing public schools as the only option for low-income families. Although richer neighboring cities may not display similar issues, major cities across the country show similar problems with their public school systems. This contributes to Powell’s argument about Critical Regionalism, culture goes beyond the superficial and geographic boundaries of a region; moreover, culturally defined regions do not need to have uniquely distinct traits, different regions can share traits. Powell believes that the traits that individual places contribute heavily to the definition of place.

Overall, the term critical regionalism especially Powell’s interpretation of the term allowed me to view and interpret culture of place in a unique way.