Radical Humility: Essays on Ordinary Acts

Edited by Rebekah Modrak and Jamie Vander Broek

What does humility mean and why does it matter in an age of golden escalators and billionaire entrepreneurs? How can the cultivation of humility empower us to see success in failure, to fight against injustice, to stretch beyond our usual ways of thinking, and to foster a culture of listening in an age of digital shouting? With contributions from renowned scholars as well as psychologists, artists, and many others, Radical Humility: Essays on Ordinary Acts offers guidance.

Edited by Rebekah Modrak and Jamie Vander Broek, Radical Humility explores what we can learn from philosophers about why Socrates chose to question everyone—even the Oracle who proclaimed him to be the wisest of men. New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow examines the corrosive effect of Donald Trump’s arrogance on our democracy. Artist Ruth Nicole Brown describes lessons learned from her aunt about living a life of "you before me," and how this informed her work celebrating Black girls. Journalist Lynette Clemetson lays out the conflicts for journalists trained to recede into the background but now urged to be social media presences. And scholars Aric Rindfleisch and Nadia Danienta describe why maker cultures are as good at celebrating failure as they are at championing success. Having witnessed the personal and civic costs of narcissism and arrogance, these and other writers consider humility as a valuable process—a state of being—with the power to impact institutions, systems, families, and individuals, and give voice to the ways in which humility is practiced in many ordinary but extraordinary actions. 


Rebekah Modrak is a writer and interventionist artist whose artworks resist consumer culture. Re Made Co. (remadeco.org) poses as an online “company” to recreate actual company Best Made Co., seller of $350 luxury hand-painted axes, by promoting ($350) artisanal toilet plungers. RETHINK SHINOLA (rethinkshinola.com) guides viewers through the Shinola company’s past and present of marketing White supremacy. Hyperallergic, Core77, The Creators ProjectDetroit MetroTimesDesign Observer, and other publications, have written about her work. She is a Professor in the Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan. 

Jamie Vander Broek is an art librarian at the University of Michigan. She buys all kinds of art and design and artists’ books for her library and runs a book arts studio where you can learn to print with metal type and make books by hand. A few years ago, she bought a book made of cheese for her library. You can read her essay about it on saveur.com. She holds a Master’s degree from the U-M School of Information, and received a B.A. from Wellesley College. Since arriving in Ann Arbor, she has been active in the local art and book communities, and is currently on the board of the Ann Arbor District Library. She lives in a constantly under-construction house with her husband, daughter, and two out-of-control Miniature Australian Shepherds.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Radical humility ...

an introduction, by Sarah Buss

as a new way of being in the world

“Free Yourself by Choosing the Plain Crackers,” by Rebekah Modrak
“Escaping the Gravitational Pull of the Self,” by Jennifer Cole Wright
“Zabeulah’s Lesson,” by Ruth Nicole Brown 

in order to learn and unlearn

“Loving Knowledge Together: Socratic Humility,” by Agnes Callard
“Education Is a Space to Change Your Mind,” by Troy Jollimore 
“Trump, Arrogance, and American Democracy,”  by Charles M. Blow 

as an alternative to hierarchy

“Reconstructing Humility: From Obedience to Respect,” by Aaron Ahuvia and Jeremy Wood
“A Library Is for You,” by Jamie Vander Broek 
“Humus and the Humble Leader,” by Kevin Hamilton

to prevent harm

“The Soul of Medicine,” by Richard C. Boothman 
“Admitting What You Don’t Know is Hard to Do,” by Eranda Jayawickreme
“Don’t Be a Know-It-All: Or, How to Be a Better Friend,” by Melissa Koenig and Valerie Tiberius

in the foreground and background

“Journalism in an Era of Likes, Follows, and Shares,” by Lynette Clemetson 
“Textual Stealing? Copyright, Race, and Elusive Justice,” by Gilbert B. Rodman 
“In-Between Spaces,” by Ami Walsh

even in moments of humiliation

“The Loser’s Guide to Winning: New Definitions of Success from Sport’s Greatest Failures,” by Mickey Duzyj
“Epic Failures in 3D Printing,” by Nadia Danienta and Aric Rindfleisch 
“Humility vs. Humiliation in Old Age,” by Russell Belk 

as possibility

“Whiteness Is Never Humble, Even When It Is,” by Tyler Denmead 
“My Journey from Tech Sector to Kitchen,” by Kevin Em  



 

MARCH 16, 2021 | ISBN: 978-1-948742-96-2 | PHILOSOPHY | 5 X 7.25 | PAPERBACK | $16.95