Reimagining & Theorizing the Inspired Box
Almost thirty years ago at a secondhand sale, I came upon a small wooden box filled with tiny scrolls. The writing on the lid was barely legible: "The Inspired Box." Each scroll contained a Bible verse; the paper instructions glued to the inside of the box instructed the user to "read and replace for a lifetime of comfort and to be inspired."
I found this exercise to be meditative, almost like receiving a fortune. At times when I needed a bit of guidance, I would ask The Inspired Box a question and retrieve a scroll. A method, a series of steps - opening, taking in the colors, smelling the wood, picking up the tool, inserting it into a scroll at random, unsheathing, unrolling, replacing. A tiny dance, too small for the entire body. A tiny scroll, too small for more than a tiny verse, open to interpretation to apply as an emotional salve anywhere it was needed.
It became a form of self-care.
Years later, as a feminist/womanist, mother of a daughter, and doctoral student immersed in the pursuit of untangling and disambiguation of critical theory, the theme of self-care continued to arise for me throughout our readings from Module 2 (Feminist/Womanist Theory).
As a woman, I am harmed by patriarchy, by sexism, by gender binaries and toxic representations of women and girls in the media. Inspired by the work of SenseLab, I wondered if it was possible to reimagine The Inspired Box in a secular, feminist/womanist way that would become a tangible object designed as a meditative practice and salve for healing those wounds. I also wanted to reimagine the box as an alternative means of archiving our own experiences with feminist/womanist critical theory texts.
I began by seeking out my friend and colleague Casey Blake Dailey, with whom I worked at a mental health organization in Syracuse, New York, who is a wood-burning artist. One of the joys of conceptualizing this project is that of supporting a woman-owned artistic venture. I found a wooden box with curved sides and mailed it to her in Clayton, New York, near Watertown, where she burned the figure of a woman into the lid. We decided on a rainbow of watercolors for her body to represent and include every woman, cis- and LGBTQ.
Casey burned the names of each place that the box has traveled onto the bottom: A small town in Montana, where it was made, to Upstate New York, to Mountain View, California where I live in Silicon Valley, to Denton, Texas, where it will travel to the Department of Dance at Texas Woman's University. Should it travel elsewhere, I kindly request that the recipient burn or etch the name of the location into the bottom of the box alongside the others.
The box itself is now complete, and the process of creating and filling the scrolls that will reside inside it is underway. My ask of those of you reading this is to please send me any feminist/womanist quotes that you have found inspiring from the readings. Please feel free to include movement instructions as well. I will do my best to include all submissions received, and I will also fill the scrolls with my own takeaways from our readings as well as movement directives that I have found empowering and helpful.
This project is dedicated first and foremost to my daughter Anja, whom I am working constantly to educate and empower, and who is already attuned to issues of sexism and gender-based discrimination at a young age. It is also dedicated to the women of our cohort and department as well as our male allies who support us in our work and activism.
Critical Theory References
Ahmed, Sara. 2017. Living a Feminist Life. Durham: Duke University Press.
Anzaldúa Gloria. 2012. Borderlands: the New Mestiza - La Frontera. San Francisco, CA: Aunt Lute Book Company.
Hong, Grace Kyungwon. 2015. Death beyond Disavowal: the Impossible Politics of Difference. Minneapolis (Minn.): University of Minnesota Press.
2016. SenseLab. Accessed October 23, 2018. http://senselab.ca/wp2/immediations/anarchiving/.
Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta. 2017. How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books.
The Initial Design
The Wood-Burning Process
Why do we choose the archival format(s) that we use? Why do so many Western academic works speak of living subjects primarily in the third person when the archival process could be made so much richer by allowing the subjects to speak for themselves? Can this change the way that we think about the nature of discourse, of the “conversation” we speak of in academia? Can we etch our knowledge into the structure of our daily lives? Can we hold our knowledge in our hands, select and unfold it, contemplate it and experience healing?
I encourage all of you to contribute a scroll and engage in this archival process encapsulating our experience in Module 2 of this experimental course in critical theory.
Watercolors & Representation
Scrolls & Submissions
Collaboration with Feminist Yoga Entrepreneur Donyae Coles
Boats, birds, ships, and corpses... Scrolls for the Tiny Meditations box are underway! Donyae Coles of Fat Witch Yoga, who received her yoga certification in Minnesota and operates a feminist/womanist, gender-and body-inclusive yoga studio in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has kindly collaborated with tinychoreographies to include some feminist yoga and movement inspirations for the tiny meditations box. As of December 2018, this box has already supported two female entrepreneurs and mothers in its development.