By Susan Lowman-Thomas, Assistant Professor, English Department
Shadows form when light is blocked by an opaque object. Darkness ensues. In societies, shadows are often filled by those who aren’t accepted; who are different; who rebel; who are forgotten. People in the shadows are marginalized and frequently denied benefits that flow easily to those in the light; to those in the mainstream.
The University’s English Department recognizes the importance of looking closely at marginalized peoples—often relegated to the shadows—and is dedicated to setting aside time to talk about the forgotten, the rebels, the outcasts, and the marginalized. The first Out F.R.O.M the Shadows conference was held last October; the second is set for October 11-13 of this year.
Marginalization, Exclusion, and the Generational Impact of Othering
It’s easy to see that marginalization is often social in nature, frequently manifesting as exclusion from certain residential areas, shopping sites, or other gathering spots. This social marginalization is often associated with ethnicity and can result in exclusion that lasts for generations. Inextricably linked to social marginalization, economic and financial marginalization can make it harder for some to:
- Have rewarding jobs
- Purchase homes
- Acquire a good education
- Earn as much as others in similar positions
- Eat well
- Access good healthcare
Like social exclusion, economic exclusion can be passed from one generation to the next. In the political and social realms, shadowed peoples aren’t at the table when decisions that directly impact them are made. They simply don’t have strong voices in determining their own futures.
This, and other areas of marginalization, will be the topic of 2023’s Out F.R.O.M the Shadow conference.
Featured Presenter and Self-Identified Misfit: Lidia Yuknavitch
Featured among the outstanding speakers and presenters at the conference will be the nationally known writer and speaker, Lidia Yuknavitch, author of “The Chronology of Water,” “The Small Backs of Children,” “The Book of Joan,” “Dora: A Headcase,” and “The Misfit’s Manifesto.”
Yuknavitch’s “The Misfit’s Manifesto” runs parallel to her TED Talk “The Beauty of Being a Misfit.” A celebration of those in the shadows, her TED Talk has been viewed by millions. Yuknavitch helps us see that marginalized people don’t always know how to take steps in the right direction because of shame, writing: “It’s a shame we carry. The shame of wanting something good. The shame of feeling something good. The shame of not believing we deserve to stand in the same room in the same way as all those we admire.”
From Slavery, Immigration, and Refugees to Homeschooling and Healthcare: The Faculty Presents
While Yuknavitch may be the headliner, this year’s faculty presenters are bringing a wide variety of peoples and issues from the shadows and into the light. Here is a sampling of the topics to be explored:
- Former slaves and divorce
- Asian immigrants and healthcare
- Hispanics’ race and ethnicity
- Homeschooled children and socialization
- Missing and murdered indigenous women made visible in art
- Native Hawaiian culture and healing from colonization
- Ukrainian war and poetry
- Lower income families’ food insecurity
- Marginalized persons in graphic novels
- Jewish refugees’ active remembrance
In addition, student organizations are participating in the virtual poster sessions of the conference.
Raising awareness about marginalized persons is the first step in ending their exclusion. We can recognize the intersectionality of their situations—i.e., factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, and religion converge to make each individual’s situation unique. We can listen to them while learning, empathize without judging, and act while accepting the differences of those in the shadows. We can learn from the Out F.R.O.M the Shadows conference and help bring valued community members into the light, making our society richer, brighter, and more joyful.