Friday, February 4, 2011

Notes from the Symposium: Tracy Xavia Karner

Noted sociologist Tracy Xavia Karner moderated the symposium at DiverseWorks in Houston on September 11, 2010, where Elizabeth Kleinveld, Dr. Tony Lewis, Carl Lindahl and Jan Gilbert discussed the impact of Hurricane Katrina. 

Ms. Karner has graciously allowed us to share some excerpts from her introduction.


Sociologists talk about "turning points" in a life: Moments where everything changes... Turning points are instances when you know nothing will ever be --or feel-- the same.

We all have turning points --graduation, marriage, becoming a parent, divorce, loss of someone we love-- so we understand how there are various moments in life where we are called to think about ourselves or our lives in new ways. The life strategies we used in the past are no longer relevant. The expectations we had disappear. Our assumptions are shattered.

Most commonly these are personal--individual moments--where the way things were: what we thought we knew about how life would work out, and who we were, and what we were or were not capable of have changed irreversibly.

Sometimes, however, these moments of transition are historical and shared by many. Some are man-made, like the devastation of war. Others are natural disasters, like earthquakes and hurricanes, while others are a combination of both.

When the turning point event is shared, the expected safety net can disappear. We cannot turn to our friends and family for security, or safety as they are in the midst of the crisis as well. In shared events not only is our own life transformed forever, but everything around us shifts as well.

Yet, it is often at these turning points, that new understandings, new expectations, new ways of being begin to emerge. The casual event opens up a space for exploration that we seldom see or seek while life is steady and predictable. Thus, we begin to try to make sense of what has occurred, and what we will do now.

Telling our story is how we come to understand.

Telling our story to others, and having them as a witness to our transition becomes vital. Some events, traumatic beyond the realm of normal, seem to defy telling.... But the need to tell --to express-- is key in moving beyond the event to ones' new life, ones' new self.

In this instance, creative expression serves as a witness, as an act of healing, and as an act of hope.


"Every word contains a hundred, and the silence between the words strikes as hard as the words themselves. They wrote not with words, but against them."
- Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor (Wiesel 1978, p. 200)

"Art may in fact achieve what life cannot."
- Lawrence Langer (from Holocaust Testimonies, 1991, p. 204)

No comments:

Post a Comment