WORKING FOR JUSTICE
A Handbook of Prison Education and Activism
By Stephen John Hartnett, Eleanor Novek, Jennifer K. Wood
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS PRESS Copyright © 2013 Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
All rights reserved.
Kings, Warriors, Magicians, and Lovers
Prison Theater and Alternative Performances of Masculinity
After thirty years of participating in, directing, and evaluating violence-prevention programs, the noted psychotherapist James Gilligan came to the conclusion that "the basic psychological motive, or cause, of violent behavior is the wish to ward off or eliminate the feeling of shame and humiliation—a feeling that is painful, and can even be intolerable and overwhelming." One of the goals of interpersonal violence, then, is to "replace [shame] with its opposite, the feeling of pride" (Gilligan, 2001, p. 29). According to Gilligan, any social structure that systematically degrades a group or class of people increases the risk that individuals will act violently to redress their feelings of shame. Sources of shame include poverty and unemployment, lower caste status, racism, sexism, homophobia, and age discrimination. Each of these factors can contribute to feelings of isolation, powerlessness, and humiliation so intense that the need to eliminate them overrides considerations of right and wrong, empathy, and even personal survival. James Garbarino, author of Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them (2000), explains that "those who are shamed are vulnerable to committing violence and aggression because they know that acts of violence against self or others are a reliable method for reasserting existence when life experience has denied it" (p. 132). Throughout my own life, I have seen clearly how shame and humiliation motivate aggression, both in my role as a man among other men, and in my work teaching men at a medium-security prison in Wisconsin. Not only in prisons, but also in schools, workplaces, places of worship, town halls, and private homes, men's identities and relationships are strongly conditioned by the norms of hegemonic masculinity.
In the United States (as in much of the world), hegemonic masculinity—"the most lauded, idealized, and valorized form of masculinity in a historical setting"—is characterized by "male dominance, heterosexism, whiteness, violence, and ruthless competition" (Sabo, Kupers, & London, 2001, p. 5). Hegemonic masculinity reproduces itself by creating structures of division and domination that evoke shame and violence; acts of violence become pretexts for strengthening structures of division and domination. Enter the prison-industrial complex, which is presented as a logical and necessary response to violence, but which functions as an oppressive regime that intensifies the performance of hegemonic masculinity. In a prison environment, men are subject to practices that degrade, humiliate, and shame through heightened performances of dominance, heterosexism, racism, and violence. The damaged human beings who enter the prison and suffer its inhumane culture generally leave it with a deep-seated sense of shame, and with their reliance on strategies of submission and aggression intact, if not augmented. Instead of focusing on the goal of rehabilitation, prisons function as boot camps for the cultivation of the worst kinds of immature, corrupt, and violent masculine identity.
Programs in the arts and humanities, offered within "a pedagogy of hope and empowerment," can be one of the most effective ways of subverting the prison-industrial complex's practices of hegemonic masculinity (Hartnett, 2011b, p. 8). I did not know this in 1995, when I began teaching theater classes at Racine Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison in Sturtevant, Wisconsin. All I knew then was that the men I taught, and myself as well, experienced in our classes and workshops a sense of exhilaration, freedom, and hope, a belief that we could recreate ourselves, and perhaps our world, by performing new lives together. Only later, through my meetings and correspondence with artists, educators, and activists, would I develop a clearer picture of what this all meant within a larger social context. For example, I met Buzz Alexander, co-founder and co-director of the University of Michigan's Prison Creative Arts Project, and learned about his program, which works with incarcerated youth and juveniles in Michigan prisons and juvenile facilities and is dedicated to exposing the injustice of mass incarceration (Alexander, 2010; PCAP, 1990); and I became involved with PCARE, the Prison Communication, Activism, and Research collective, "a group of scholars, activists, and teachers committed to challenging the continued growth of the prison-industrial complex in America" (PCARE, 2007). My growing connections with educators, scholars, artists, and activists have helped me to understand how important it is to write about this work, and to share it with others, so that we can learn from one another and inspire others, sharing our "roadmaps" for how to move from "a punishing democracy to one rooted in mutual respect, community-building, and redesigned arts and educational opportunities" (Hartnett, 2011b, p. 8). This chapter is one more contribution to that conversation.
My comments are based on almost two decades of teaching, scholarship, and activism, as I have spent the past sixteen years using storytelling, dialogue, writing, theater, and Buddhist meditation techniques to create environments that are sanctuaries apart from the normal performances of hegemonic masculinity; these spaces offer prisoners, the homeless, and at-risk youth opportunities to reimagine themselves and their places in the world. I have done some of this work with my students in the Certificate Program in Conflict Analysis and Resolution (CP-CARE) at the University of Wisconsin–Parkside. CP-CARE, which I established in 1996, is centered on a three-course sequence that culminates in a ten-week practicum where students facilitate dialogue, storytelling, and performance with marginalized groups (including youth and men or women in detention centers or prisons). From 2004 to 2008, I directed The Shakespeare Prison Project at Racine Correctional Institution. Each year, I worked with about twenty men over a period of eight to nine months to study, rehearse, and perform one of Shakespeare's plays. Most of the men had never acted in a play before. Through this program they had the opportunity to learn the craft of theater and to perform an ideal of masculinity defined by the values of creativity, discipline, teamwork, leadership, emotional intelligence, artistry, and moral imagination (see Shailor, 2008, 2011a, 2011b).
In this chapter, I focus on the Theater of Empowerment, a performance-based course emphasizing personal and social development. In particular, I discuss a version of the course entitled Kings, Warriors, Magicians, Lovers, which makes use of Buddhist meditation, Jungian archetypal imagery, creative writing, and experimental performance as methods to explore healthy, mature expressions of masculinity. The perspective offered in the course incorporates both the feminist critique of a sexist, patriarchal model of manhood, and the Jungian vision of a male identity that evolves toward wholeness, embracing both masculine and feminine characteristics. The objectives of the course are to show the destructiveness and futility of identity projects based on domination and violence and to investigate and practice meaningful and viable alternatives for masculine identity. For me, working for justice means marshaling the joy of performance to provide models, working spaces, and collaborative occasions for prisoners to explore new modes of creative, caring, and compassionate masculinity.
The Theater of Empowerment: Performing New Lives
My course in the Theater of Empowerment (TE) begins from the observation that we are all actors in the theater of everyday life. While our performances are always unique, they are also echoes of archetypal roles that human beings have been playing for thousands of years. According to Robert Moore, a Jungian psychoanalyst, and his colleague Douglas Gillette (1990), the four central archetypes for men and women are King/Queen, Warrior, Magician, and Lover. They offer a map for men to use in rediscovering these archetypes, so that we may progress from less mature levels of development to greater maturity. Based on these goals, participants in the course agree to form a learning community dedicated to the study of the archetypes, and to exploring their relevance to our lives through meditation, storytelling, dialogue, writing, and performance. In a safe environment where we agree to respect one another's dignity and privacy, we commit to a process of personal growth that is driven by the support and challenge we offer one another. Our goal is to more fully develop our capacities as human beings, with an emphasis on accountability, responsibility, and service to others.
I tell my students that the archetypal images help to make sense of the great and mysterious forces that permeate our lives: the sources of life and death, the nature of the cosmos, good and evil, emotional impulses, consciousness, and so on (see Jung, 1981, and Campbell, 1949, 1959, 1962, 1964, 1968, 1991). Moore and Gillette focus on the archetypal roles that humans have defined for themselves over the course of their existence, and with an emphasis on the masculine, they identify four: King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover. Although all men have access to each of these archetypes and, ideally, embody all of them to the fullest extent possible, our incarnation of the archetypes is a developmental process, and along the way, there are inevitably challenges.
From this Jungian perspective, archetypes are initially diffused patterns of energy that must be recognized, understood, and integrated into our personalities in order for us to be healthy, whole, and fully functioning human beings. When a constellation of energy such as the King (representing order, stability, centeredness, fertility, and blessing) is not fully recognized and integrated into one's consciousness, a person is said to be possessed by the shadow manifestation of the archetype. In the positive, active pole of possession, the person identifies with the archetype. (Jung uses identification to indicate an unhealthy fusion with unconscious material.) Through a process of fixation and ego inflation, the person comes to believe that they are (or must be) "the only King" (what Moore and Gillette refer to as the Tyrant). In the negative, passive pole of possession, the person inhabits the role of the Weakling and feels cut off from the qualities of the King, seeing (and often resenting) them only in others.
What I teach the men is that our development as human beings is a lifelong process of personal growth, where over time we integrate more and more of our human potential (represented by the archetypes) with our own unique histories, capacities, and circumstances. One way to achieve that integration is to study the archetypes, through specific persons (historical, literary, cultural) who illuminate and inspire. Another way to work toward such clarity is to recognize the shadow manifestations of the archetypes: in recurring conflicts, which can help us to see our particular brands of self-aggrandizement or self-deflation; in recurring patterns of emotional distress, which show us where we are "stuck"; and in our fixations on particular people or types of people, which can help us to locate the cut-off aspects of ourselves that we need more fully to appreciate and develop in order to be whole. (In addition to the previously cited works of Campbell, Jung, Moore, and Gillette, I recommend Edinger, 1972, Hollis, 1996, and Johnson, 1991, as essential readings on the subjects of archetypes, the shadow, and personal transformation.)
To put these theories into practice, my course in the Theater of Empowerment offers an invitation for imprisoned men to take responsibility for their own betterment through a conscious and intentional participation in their own archetypal journeys. The voyage involves mind, heart, and body, combining formal study of the Jungian archetypes with Buddhist meditation practice and theater. To illustrate for readers how I work with the Jungian archetypes, I offer in the following sections a commentary on each of the four major models of masculinity, explaining how I conduct the initial exploration of the archetypes with my students through film criticism, personal applications, and writing.
The King archetype is the central male role, the father image, and it points to men's capacities to create, to make order, and to provide sustenance and blessings. These themes are exemplified in the stories of Jupiter and Zeus; of Aton, the Egyptian sun god; and of the Hebrew kings and princes. From the Jungian perspective, an important goal in human life is to find a way to access an essential archetypal energy, such as the King, in a balanced and integrated way. Too strong an identification with the King can result in the evolution of a Tyrant, someone who is insecure about his leadership abilities, and who defines himself solely in terms of his ability to control and dominate. When he sees others displaying the qualities of kingship, he feels elevated to the extent that they mirror him, and deflated to the extent that they are independent of him. In Jungian terms, this is the "active pole" of the King's shadow. Alternatively, too weak an identification with the King can result in the evolution of a Weakling, someone who cannot recognize or value his own abilities to create and make order. He sees others as possessing these qualities but cannot see them in himself. This is the "negative pole" of the King's shadow. The person who integrates the King's energy into his personality structure in a healthy way finds ways to appreciate his innate capacities, while at the same time developing means to embody leadership and creative force in appropriate ways. When a perso has successfully integrated the King, he understands and respects the qualities of Kingship without needing to grasp them; the principles of creativity, order, sustenance, and blessing are served, not disowned or possessed (for more on the King archetype, see Jung, 1959; and Moore & Gillette, 1992a).
To examine these archetypal patterns as manifested in individual human lives, we explore a wide range of examples. I usually include one or two films for each archetype. For the King, I use John Sayles's film City of Hope (S. Green et al., 1991) and focus on Wynne, an African American city alderman. At the beginning of the film, Wynne is a highly principled, hard-working, and in many ways courageous leader, but his attachment to principle is overly professorial and somewhat detached from the everyday language and concerns of the black community. He undermines his own ability to lead (showing signs of the Weakling) by channeling the Innocent, Denying One (the passive shadow of the Magician—in this case, someone who does not want to engage in life fully, because that would entail the sacrifice of a perfect adherence to principle). As a consequence of his unwillingness to get his hands dirty, Wynne is disconnected from the working class and poor in his district, and even despised by some black activists. While in many ways he is a King (with a clear vision of social justice) and a Warrior (always fighting for what is right), Wynne's vision and courage are largely dissipated because they are not yet connected to his Lover (in particular, someone who feels connected to the black community), or the Magician in his fullness (in this case, someone who not only has high values, but also knows how to "play politics").
The turning point for Wynne comes when he seeks the advice of a wise elder: the former African American mayor of the city. The ex-mayor helps Wynne to see that it is possible (and necessary) to engage in political maneuvering, make calculated compromises, and fight for social justice. Wynne is inspired, and in a following scene, he accesses the energy of the King. At an African American community gathering addressing recent incidents of racial injustice in the city, Wynne calls for a spontaneous march on the mayor's banquet, which is going on at the same time, just a few blocks away. His constituents are energized and fully behind him. They march down the street and into the banquet hall, where the mayor is in the midst of addressing a gathering of the wealthy and powerful. As cameras flash and reporters scribble away, Wynne turns toward the podium: "Mr. Mayor, got a minute?" In this moment, Wynne has clearly arrived as the King.
I also use Bruce Beresford's Black Robe (Lantos et al., 1991), based on the historical novel by Brian Moore (1985). Father LaForgue, a seventeenth-century Jesuit in Quebec territory, is a Tyrant who (along with other French Catholic priests) imposes his vision of God's will on the Algonquin people in order to "save their souls." As we saw with Wynne in City of Hope, LaForgue's identity is interdependent with, and conditioned by, his orientation to all of the other archetypes. LaForgue's identity as a Tyrant (narrow-minded, controlling, punishing) is related to his inability to access the Lover (his own vulnerability, and his capacity for love and compassion). LaForgue's Impotent Lover conditions his orientation to the Warrior and the Magician as well. While his capacity as a Warrior can be seen in his unswerving commitment to his faith, he is often timid when confronting danger, and he clearly veers toward the Sadist and the Masochist when he literally flagellates himself in order to repress his sexual desires. LaForgue tries to impress the Algonquin with his Magician-like abilities, including his literacy, his musicianship, and his performance of sacramental rites. However, these displays lead the Algonquin to perceive him as more of an Evil Sorcerer, or Manipulator—someone who is trying to control them, rather than acting in their best interests.
Excerpted from WORKING FOR JUSTICE by Stephen John Hartnett. Copyright © 2013 by Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS PRESS.
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