A little distraction from work this week.
I’ve been quiet on here the past few months. I’m writing my dissertation and simultaneously working on some stuff for publication.
I’ve also reluctantly re-joined facebook, as it seems that in the two years I left it became impossible not to be on there. Blech. I’m not sure if I’ll stick to it for very long.
June in Columbus = Marxist Literary Group Summer Institute on Culture and Society. Come hang out. Info here: http://mlg.eserver.org/
It’s that time of year again. Great program – you should go…
Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities
London Critical Theory Summer School - 1st July – 12th July 2013
The London Critical Theory Summer School will take place at Birkbeck College, London University from 1st July – 12th July 2013. This unique opportunity is for graduate students and academics to follow a course which will foster exchange and debate. It will consist of at least 6 modules over the two weeks, each convened by one of the participating academics. This course does not offer transfer of credits.
Information and the application form is here – the deadline for applications is Friday 22nd March 2013.
I’m in the thick of dissertation chapter writing, on top of a few conference papers and a heap of applications for fellowships and such. I haven’t been posting for a while, and probably won’t post much in the coming months. I’m anticipating a return in June, after the three conferences I will give papers at this spring conclude.
Just needed to share this, since it perfectly captures my decade-plus-long ambivalence to football.
“I’ve drifted away from football over the years, partly because it’s such an unforgivable time-suck — a few minutes of action surrounded by oceans of advertising, high-end graphics and idiotic banter – and partly because the whole enterprise seems contaminated in so many ways.”
The rest of the article was quite good – a rumination on what we now know about football and brain damage in honor of Super Bowl Sunday.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 12,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 20 years to get that many views.
Call for Stream Proposals
London Conference in Critical Thought
Royal Holloway, University of London
June 6th and 7th, 2013
Building on the success of the inaugural conference, the 2013 London Conference in Critical Thought (LCCT) will offer a space for an interdisciplinary exchange of ideas for scholars who work with critical traditions and concerns. It aims to provide opportunities for those who frequently find themselves at the margins of their department or discipline to engage with other scholars who share theoretical approaches and interests. Central to this vision is an inter-institutional, non-hierarchal, and accessible event which makes a particular effort to embrace emergent thought and the participation of emerging academics, fostering new avenues for critically orientated scholarship and collaboration. Coordinated by colleagues from across the University of London, this year’s conference is to be held at Royal Holloway on the 6th and 7th June, 2013.
We now welcome proposals for thematic streams for the 2013 conference. Last year’s conference included streams as diverse as ‘Critical Human Rights’, ‘Radical Political Rhetoric’, ‘Spatial Text’, ‘The Object: between Time and Temporality’, and ‘Deleuzian Theory in Practice’. It brought into conversation scholars working in the fields of philosophy, fine art, geography, politics, law, musicology, literature, and many others.
The deadline for stream proposals is the 20th of January, 2013. Stream proposals should include abstracts or descriptions that seek to stimulate a range of cross-disciplinary responses. A later call for papers (in early February) will seek proposals for presentations suited to the accepted conference streams, as well as paper proposals for inclusion in a general stream. Given the collaborative nature of the conference, stream convenors will have input into and take a hand in the coordination of the conference.
Please send stream proposals to email@example.com. Details of last year’s conference (including previous streams and papers) can be found on the LCCT website.
The rage and sadness I feel today, in the wake of the murder of 20 children, 6 teachers, and a mother, is almost overwhelming. It is incomprehensible to me how mass shootings have become so mundane in American life, and that reasonable people asking reasonable questions about the tools that make such mass slaughter possible are shouted down in the name of a document written about 225 years ago, when reloading a gun took about a minute resulting in a single shot. The prospect of a firearm used for self defense might have even made sense then – “excuse me, can we pause this robbery for a minute or two while I reload?” – but it certainly doesn’t make sense now.
The law and constitution aside, it is baffling to me how responses that include calls for gun control are considered a “politicization” of a tragedy, but the criticism of those voices calling for gun control is somehow considered politically neutral. How the right to hunt necessitates automatic and semi-automatic weapons capable of firing dozens or hundreds of rounds per minute. How the very notion of self defense is equated with the right to kill.
The responsibility for these tragedies is complicated, and we must ask the difficult questions of ourselves that we always somehow avoid. As Judith Butler points out in Precarious Life, some responsibility (even a great deal) belongs to the perpetrator, without a doubt. But violence, mental illness, and the tools that make mass slaughter possible are collective, transindividual phenomena. By allowing 280million+ guns in our communities is bad enough; combine that with a culture that fetishizes exceptional violence – so deeply ingrained in the myth of the American West and the virtuous lawman dispensing justice even when the law fails – and the results are catastrophic. An economic and social system that abandons the most precarious among us and actively fuels the violent act as a legitimate response to even the smallest social infractions is equally guilty than any single troubled individual.
I watched network and cable news coverage of the Sandy Hook murders for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, or maybe even since 9/11. Each time I seek out the news, I am awed by the blatantly irresponsible spectacle that passes for journalism. From CNN identifying the perpetrator’s brother as the shooter and then finding the wrong Ryan Lanza on facebook, to the reporters trying oh-so-hard to get the Connecticut State Police representative to identify the shooter and victims well before any body had even been conclusively identified, to the FBI profilers and academic criminologists reporting on the revenge motives of the perpetrator before the police even knew who was involved. Even if everything they claimed ends up being confirmed, it seems wildly irresponsible to claim to understand a killer without extensively interviewing friends and family, studying medical and psychiatric records, and/or waiting for the release of some sort of personal statement that could shed light on motivations. And then there were the journalists interviewing children. And the reporters asking “how do you feel right now, describe how you’re reacting to this tragedy” as if any response would be adequate to feed a populace literally sustained by an entertainment and media complex steeped in schadenfreude.
Not that I have any faith that the system will “fix” the problems. The NRA is one of the most powerful lobbies in the country; the representative system is designed to encourage gridlock; state legislatures are passing ALEC legislation left and right (see Michigan and the “right to work” among other things); the fetishization of the free market and the 2nd Amendment will undoubtedly continue to stew into the mire of shit we call freedom – the freedom for kindergarteners to be murdered so Uncle Mitt and Aunt Sarah can continue to hunt caribou with AK-47s…
Even if we stopped the sale of all firearms tomorrow we’d still have almost 300 million guns in America. Gun control doesn’t even begin to address a number that large.
Frustrated. Incoherent. Angry. Sad.
Adam Gopnik, writing for the New Yorker, captures the rage perfectly:
And now it has happened again, bang, like clockwork, one might say: Twenty dead children—babies, really—in a kindergarten in a prosperous town in Connecticut. And a mother screaming. And twenty families told that their grade-schooler had died. After the Aurora killings, I did a few debates with advocates for the child-killing lobby—sorry, the gun lobby—and, without exception and with a mad vehemence, they told the same old lies: it doesn’t happen here more often than elsewhere (yes, it does); more people are protected by guns than killed by them (no, they aren’t—that’s a flat-out fabrication); guns don’t kill people, people do; and all the other perverted lies that people who can only be called knowing accessories to murder continue to repeat, people who are in their own way every bit as twisted and crazy as the killers whom they defend. (That they are often the same people who pretend outrage at the loss of a single embryo only makes the craziness still crazier.)
So let’s state the plain facts one more time, so that they can’t be mistaken: Gun massacres have happened many times in many countries, and in every other country, gun laws have been tightened to reflect the tragedy and the tragic knowledge of its citizens afterward. In every other country, gun massacres have subsequently become rare. In America alone, gun massacres, most often of children, happen with hideous regularity, and they happen with hideous regularity because guns are hideously and regularly available.
The people who fight and lobby and legislate to make guns regularly available are complicit in the murder of those children.
David Graeber reformulates Foucault’s notion of power/knowledge to take into account the very real, material violence of the state in Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology. He writes:
Such a theoretical emphasis opens the way to a theory of the relation of power not with knowledge, but with ignorance and stupidity. Because violence, particularly structural violence, where all the power is on one side, creates ignorance. If you have the power to hit people over the head whenever you want, you don’t have to trouble yourself too much figuring out what they think is going on, and therefore, generally speaking, you don’t. Hence the sure-fire way to simplify social arrangements, to ignore the incredibly complex play of perspectives, passions, insights, desires, and mutual understandings that human life is really made of, is to make a rule and threaten to attack anyone who breaks it. This is why violence has always been the favored recourse of the stupid: it is the one form of stupidity to which it is almost impossible to come up with an intelligent response. It is also, of course the basis of the state. (72-73)