Published: August 21, 2020
Over this past spring and summer, our worlds got exponentially smaller. More cramped for those of us quarantining with roommates or family members. Lonelier for others facing lockdown in solitude. Deeply unsettling and precarious for all as the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism further shattered our sense of national and institutional identity, the broken shards reflecting and refracting the troubling ways in which we may have viewed labor, value, identity, belonging and membership all along.
It is a seismic shift we've been undergoing. And in that slippage, the fault lines have revealed so much that has been buried beneath layers of collective amnesia like geological strata, their reemergence forcing a critical relearning of our realities and a discomforting recognition of culpability in reinscribing the constructs of white supremacy within our communities, in particular within architecture and at Yale. The indeterminacy of our times has transformed us, and thinking through precarity has refocused our lens on social analysis and the discourse around it on our existing platforms of communication. Suddenly, "Paprika! [was] looking a little more like…Paprika?"
The immediacy of content and ad hoc nature of publishing on the new Paprika? Rolling platform this summer has felt apt for the current moment. A makeshift, patchwork attitude permeates throughout that feels connected to the tradition of activism currently at an all-time national high ever since the May 25th murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis PD. There’s the irregular yet persistent publishing schedule and the multiple, interwoven On the Ground(s) personal reflections that read like a digital game of Catch Phrase. There’s the utilitarian, ever-expanding collection of open source resources,student & alumni penned calls to action and calendar events around the most pressing concerns of COVID-19, anti-racism and immigration. The modes of engagement are kaleidoscopic and abundant.
Paprika? Rolling is both product and process. Recently published essays like Audrey Tseng Fischer's (M.Arch I 2022) "Event Reflection: Policing without the Police" sit alongside archival pieces like Caroline Acheatel's (M.Arch 1 2017) "Incarceration & Social Justice"(2015) to produce a quasi- and evolving conversation between the two that reaches across time. Read together, Acheatel's critique of the architect's problematic participation in prison design and Fischer's spotlighting of the hidden insidiousness underlying new technologies coded with racist algorithms cast the enduring and propagating legacy of white supremacist systems of oppression as invasive kudzu that must be completely uprooted. Leave it, and you risk never attaining true freedom from oppression, which in Claudia Ansorena's (M. Arch II 2022) world might equate to downing spoonfuls of her Cuban-American "How to get away with racism" recipe, "laden with acerbic guilt and soaked in ignorance" (which this writer couldn't help but imagine tasting a lot like Monday's blundered attempt at keto avgolemono, the curdled chicken broth seasoned by salty tears of regret).
Forgo the seeding of new alternatives, and we end up with creeping, intractable white supremacy kudzu that looks a lot like the iconic ivy blanketing many a New England college campus. In Rukshan Vathupola's (M.Arch I 2020) deep dive into the revival of Collegiate Gothic architecture, we are confronted with the knowledge of how this architectural style has been historically wielded with intent to racialize academic spaces, leaving minority students to feel "spatially unwelcome and out of place" within their "heritage" surroundings. As Vathupola points out in his concluding notes, this is all the more disturbing when we consider the style’s renewal in the Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges at Yale designed by former YSoA Dean Bob Stern, completed just three years ago. Institutional amnesia no doubt makes "innocence" altogether too easy to claim. And this innocence has other homes beyond the Collegiate Gothic, within the Brutalist walls of our own Rudolph Hall.
The Visibility Project yields a glimpse into the structural framework of the home that white supremacy has made for itself at the YSoA. Visualizing data and anecdotal experiences from almost two hundred current and past students, the project reveals the many ways in which the concerns of marginalized minority students continue to be sidelined and ignored today. You can literally hear first-hand accounts of this experience from recent graduates Limy Rocha (M.Arch I 2020) and Jen Shin (M. Arch II & M.E.M 2020) in their recorded conversation for Paprika?'s new In the Pit podcast series, an episode so full of nourishing affirmations (and bookended by a cathartic, collective breath) that this listener was left vibrating with renewed energy many hours later. Refuse to confront and unlearn white supremacy, and you can even end up with the literal erasure of folks, which is exactly what happened to urban designer and visiting YSoA lecturer Justin Garrett Moore who was erased by ARCHITECT magazine, as discussed in Episode 006 with Araceli Lopez (M.Arch I 2021) and Ife Adepegba (M.Arch I 2021).
The patchwork narratives and attempts at mutual aid that have coalesced unto the living repository that is Paprika? Rolling are like organisms themselves collectively working towards the creation of a new landscape. They are the time- and space-making projects that persist in spite of white supremacy's practice of necropolitics. And if their pulses of growth seem a bit odd or rhythmically off at times, that may just be further testament to how the things we systematically ignore never fit within capitalism's supremacist timeline of progress in the first place. For too long have we trivialized and de-centered all that runs counter to a hegemonizing status quo abraded of sensitivity to difference - of gender, of race, of nationality, of class. Thanks to a global pandemic that has permanently shifted our existence towards precarity, maybe now we don't ever need to.
Until next time,