Paper 2

Our second paper (1200-1600 words) asks you to theorize and reflect on your identity by drawing on the concepts and perspectives of McIntosh, Febos, and Petersen. These readings direct our thinking in a new direction by offering a broader framework for theorizing our identities and experience. McIntosh helps us look outward toward the larger social structures and dynamics that shape our experience; Febos helps us look inward toward aspects of our experience we don’t always think, talk, or write about; Petersen helps us think about how the pressures of life weigh on us.

Your thinking in this paper should look both outward and inward, reflecting on your personal experience and how it fits in a larger social dynamic or context. We want to take our individual experience as meaningful and worth addressing, but we also want to put it into conversation with how identity works more generally. In this sense, you are not making an argument about your identity so much as theorizing how identity works and how it shapes and fits with your experience.

The main goal in the paper is to take up your experience through the lens of one or more of our readings, focusing on some combination of privilege, merit, trauma, difficult experience, burnout, busyness, and exhaustion. Toward that end, your paper should address some combination of the following prompts and questions:

  • What are the main aspects of your identity that shape your experience? What does it mean to occupy your various identities? How do your various identities shape your experience in, understanding of, and orientation toward the world?
  • What privileges and unearned advantages shape your experience? Be specific here: point to specific examples of ways you have benefited from unearned advantages; share aspects of your personal experience that fit here. This can be challenging, as we often don’t notice these things. To work in this direction, you might take McIntosh’s list as a starting point. What else could you add to this list, either related to race or some other aspect of your identity?
  • What sort of disadvantages have you experienced due to aspects of your identity? What sorts of trauma have you experienced related to your identity or how you have been treated? Be specific here, pointing to examples and aspects of your experience. You could also address these questions by thinking about someone else you know; what sort of disadvantages or trauma have they experienced? (You don’t necessarily have to address this prompt if you haven’t experienced any particular disadvantages or trauma or if you don’t feel comfortable writing about traumatic experience in this context.)
  • In what ways have you experienced burnout? In what ways have you felt pressure to succeed or be a particular sort of person?
  • What have you learned about your identity through your work on this paper or throughout the semester? What larger insights or conclusions have you arrived at about your identity or issues of identity in general? In what ways do you think focusing on these aspects of our identity is helpful or unhelpful? What do we learn from this work?

This paper does not require research, but you are welcome to draw on outside sources if they help you develop your thinking. You can include quotes from McIntosh, Febos, or Petersen as well. If you do include any sources, be sure to include appropriate MLA or APA citations.