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Please Remove This Label

by David Hollander MFA ’97

Illustrations by Joseph Adolphe

The ability to categorize—to organize the world’s complexity into digestible bundles—is one of our species’ defining characteristics. It’s how children learn language. It’s how scientists study and describe phenomena. It’s how a supermarket touts its wares. It’s also how we mentally divide the general population into discrete communities. Belonging to social groups may help us forge a sense of self, but it can also fuel some of our worst human tendencies—toward fast and faulty judgments, willful ignorance, and oppression. With this in mind, five faculty members discuss their efforts to see beyond collective labels and to reveal the irreducible complexity of communities large and small. Their goal is to replace the propensity for judgment with a slower, more reasoned approach to other minds.

Label illustration