Seeing the Whole Picture
by Yvonne Palmer
Americans in Their Own Words
In 2017, anthropologist Holly Swyers and researcher Jacqueline Vazquez, frustrated by the polarization of US politics, embarked on a project to try to get folks of opposed political factions to see one another as people. Our idea? We would collect life stories from people from across the political spectrum, doing something between Studs Terkel's life history projects and Brandon Stanton's Humans of New York. We would present the stories, but we would not introduce the people telling them by their political affiliations. Instead, we would leave political affiliations in an appendix, asking people to guess who called themselves conservative or liberal (or as it turns out, a complicated mix of multiple other potential affiliations).
As we began work on the project, our excitement grew, and we had ambitions to see a book in print before the 2020 US Presidential elections. In 2019, we hired on three research assistants: Cassidy Herberth, Emily McCusker, and Amya Quillin, and by the end of that summer, we had a complete manuscript ready to go. We just didn't have a publisher.
We never found one, but we still love this project and the people who gave freely of their time to be interviewed. We believe the we are no less in need of stories to connect us and to challenge the us-vs-them logics that have dominated the past several years of US American politics. Hence this website.
For folks who are interested in reading this in the form we imagined the book, we have provided a trail through the pages of this site using a "next" button.