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after the hiatus: spectacle politics

January 31st, 2011 by slewfoot

Music: Sundummy: Might Voids Collide (2004)

Rosechron and the Juicebase were on a week-long hiatus due to some technical issues, where technical means financial confusion. Thanks to everyone who sent notes of concern and support. Everything is back online for at least another year at this location.

It’s unfortunate that during my absence so much in the speech-related world happened: the President gave his state of the union, Speedy Gonzales gave the republican response, then Egyptians got their collective freedom of speech and assembly on, and then most importantly, Charlie Sheen went to the hospital for a hernia after a coke-infused porn star orgy (is that from snorting or pumping’?).

Oh! Where to begin (again)?

With Michele Bachmann, of course.

A relatively recent congressperson from Minnesota’s 6th district, Bachmann has quickly learned about the close relation between celebrity and politics: circulation leads to attention; attention leads to clout; clout leads to influence. It remains to be seen how much publicity does actually give one access to and influence on policy (that is to say, we really do not know how much the Curtain of Oz really does influence the little man behind the curtain in today’s political culture). On the public screen, however Bachmann has already amassed a number of greatest hits: she opposed increasing college Pell grants as a “gimmick”; she introduced the “Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act” to defend the almighty incandescent from ice-cream swirl bulbs; she declared global warming a “hoax”; she adopted Palin’s weaponry metaphors for various policies (getting her into trouble); and was on board with decrying the “death panels” over the passage of health care reform. When there is a paranoid issue to get sermonic about, Bachmann is on it!

Bachmann has learned the art of what I’ve been calling spectacle politics. Yeah, it’s a relatively simplistic label, but I think it captures the sort of thing we started to see in the 1980s and which has become a full-blown tactic: spectacle politics refers to the mindful manipulation of mass media publicity for short-term political gain. We have had political spectacle since the advent of the newspaper, circular, and penny dreadful, of course. What makes contemporary spectacle politics different is that it is understood wholly at the level of the signifier, relatively autonomous from something like “truth” or “empirical reality.” In fact, no amount of empirical data can dislodge the effects of spectacle politics; it is a politics of the gesture, designed to illicit an affective response from a more-or-less already entrenched political subjectivity.

Wow! That sounds like a bunch of jargon, I know. But it’s easy to see “spectacle politics” at work with the floodtide of examples since the 1980s. Perhaps the first instance of spectacle politics occurred in the 1984 presidential debate with Ronald Regan, in which the former president apparently used false statistics. The debate went well for Regan, since in the moment no one has time to “look up the data”—but later he was called on the carpet for misleading. Today we have various “fact check”-style columns and blogs that attend precisely to this kind of thing, however, that few are really concerned with the correct record is my point: “in the moment” is more important than being right.

Spectacle politics, then, is relatively unconcerned with truth; the practice announces, on the surface, that it is concerned with the truth, but the real slight-of-hand here is that it’s about resonance. It does not matter, for example, that the federal government is not going to take your guns away; what matters is that I say so and your body responds, almost automatically, in fear and disgust—and then in solidarity. It does not matter that “death panels” do not exist in any form in the health care legislation that was passed last year; it does not matter that scientist after scientist has conceded that global warming is actually occurring; it does not matter that the founding fathers were slave-holders and fabricated a governmental structure that actually protects the interests of the wealthy and white. Nope. What matters, rather, is that something has been taken from you! And you want it back!. Spectacle politics leaves the details of whatever “it” is, or the agency of theft, for ‘splanin’ tomorrow. What is important about spectacle politics is an appeal to the extreme, the pointed, or the siliceous.

Of course, our president engaged in a little spectacle politics in his State of the Union address last Monday. “Winning the future” and “race to the top” were the topoi that were deployed to be uplifting, however, social Darwinism is always social Darwinism; such themes depart significantly with the central message of the left (“love your neighbor”) in favor of free enterprise, neoliberal abstraction. Commentators were quick to pounce on the details: well, how exactly do we win the future or race to the top? Again, facts and details are inconsequential, since a fantasy vision was all that was put out there, and mobilizing affect was the goal.

The more laughable and inelegant political spectacle, of course, came from Michelle Bachmann, who apparently at the behest of the Tea Party (yeah, right, LOL), asked her also to respond to the president’s speech—in addition to the official Republican response. Of course, the GOP leadership was livid. And with good reason:

The better brand of spectacle politics does not announce itself to be such; it obscures, in other words, it’s in-the-moment politiking in long-term clothing. To put this in terms Francis Bacon would recognize, spectacle politics goes for the immediate passions at the expense of will, however, it appears to be a willed politics toward long-term ends. Most of us are very tired of Sarah Palin, and her response to the shooting in Arizona seem to have destroyed her aspirations for the presidency, however: Palin understands the rhetoric of spectacle politics. She “gets” it, however much she misfires from time-to-time. Bachmann is . . . well, she’s a stupid version of Palin.

Bachmann makes few attempts to adopt the appropriate rhetorical guise; she adopts the Perot-era chart persuasion tactics (which are, I think, effective), but ends with sweeping stupidities. The most glaring, of course, is the reference to the Iwo Jima image:

Just the creation of this nation was a miracle. Who’s to say that we can’t see a miracle again? The perilous battle that was fought in the pacific, at Iwo Jima, was a battle against all odds, and yet the image of the young G.I.s in the incursion against the Japanese immortalizes their victory. These six young men raising the flag came to symbolize all of America coming together to beat back a totalitarian aggressor.

The image shown behind Bachmann has been embroiled in controversy, since many have argued it was staged—perhaps a nascent awareness of the role imagery plays in spectacle politics. I think its fair to say the photograph was not staged—and that’s an important point. What Bachmann fails to mention is that Iwo Jima was a controversial battle, many argue that it was unnecessary and too costly, since the Japanese island was tactically worthless. In other words, Bachmann chose the signifier qua signifier for it’s affective resonance.

“America! Fuck yeah!”

So: yeah, spectacle politics, you say. “No shit, Joshlocke!” you say. It may be obvious to readers here, but the scary part concerns the hundreds of thousands if not millions that fist-pumped Bachmann’s “response.” These people include, for example, my own parents. And whenever I try to explain the relationship between empirical truths and spectacle politics to them, they roll their eyes or suggest I am “patronizing.” I’m mildly successful when I explain how Obama is doing it (“yeah!” they say), but when I say, for example, Palin or McConnell is doing the same thing . . . .

The challenge is how to explain this logic in a way that is not patronizing to those for whom it is most effective. And the problem at the core of this challenge, of course, is that we can’t.

this whole program . . .

January 17th, 2011 by slewfoot

tiderpricks and lettle mirthquakes

January 16th, 2011 by slewfoot

Music: The Cure: Entreat (1989)

I am enjoying a Pedron anniversary series robusto, which a new acquaintance gave me as a surprise gift at another friend’s birthday party last Friday night. It is mild, slightly peppery, and smokes cool.

I was going to write a blog post this weekend detailing my issues with Obama’s eulogy from last week. My friend Christopher made some compelling points in favor of the speech yesterday at brunch. He said the genius of the speech was Obama’s removal of the nation state as the foundation of his emotional appeal. That hadn’t occurred to me, since one assumes (always already) the head of the country evokes the nation-state. I’ll have to rethink my thoughts and feelings about the speech, now, but I still say the ending was kitsch (and for me, that is the grossest form of nationalism; cf. The Unbearable Lightness of Being). If anyone can talk “sense into me,” it’s my friend Christopher, whom I adore.

This morning I attended the first church service on a Sunday in over twenty years. Sitting in the pew I was overcome by memories from my youth, the type of ambivalent overcoming that puts a lump in one’s throat. The only things I know about Universal Unitarians is this: (a) they read all sacred texts as metaphor and allegory, and are against literalist interpretations (e.g., fundamentalism); (b) they are “all denomination,” welcoming even Atheists; and (c) all the stuff I read in a five page pamphlet given to “visitors.” The latter included a lot elaboration about (a) and (b). I enjoyed the service, I enjoyed getting out, meeting new people and shaking a few new hands. Folks were friendly. Apparently the church I attended is overcoming a “crisis” of some kind and in search of a new minister. The sermon was about “letting go”—letting go of whatever it was this church recently endured. I gathered it was some sort of contentious church politics. And, not the best sermon for a visitor to attend. I was lost for most of it. I stayed after the service and tried to meet people, but congregants were so busy mingling with people they already knew I couldn’t catch anyone’s gaze. So I left. I may go back. I may not. But I am curious to know what happened to the church to inspire such a sermon.

I am surprised at how well behaved my dog is on road trips. At home Jesús can be such a terror, but in the car and in stranger’s homes he’s rather polite. During the car drive to Bryan and back, Jesús napped quietly in my lap, and didn’t even stir during clutching and gear changes. Good dog.

Last night, at a wine party, I was amused by how amused 20-somethings got cutting off the tops of champagne bottles with a sharp knife. They were positively giddy by the rite. I doubt all the champagne was even drunk (though I’m sure there were many, er, drunks).

After church I went to get groceries. So did, apparently, everyone else that goes to church in north Aus-Vegas. On my iPhone I searched for a suitable recipe (I settled on Chicken Marsalla). They didn’t have any pancetta, so I bought the most fatty looking prosciutto I could find (in the end, it worked just as well). As I was returning to my car, a tall-ish man with long, black curly hair approached me. He was walking toward the store, but he caught my eye. Just as we were passing, he lifted his right hand to reveal it was wearing a puppet head. I think it was a monkey. He said to me with his puppet, “Bonjour!” in a happy, cheerful tone, and then the man smiled really big. I laughed aloud at the sudden surprise in the Central Market parking lot. It was raining.

I kinda wish I knew him. I bet he drives an art-car, or one of those funky, hipster bicycles. He’s keepin’ Austin weird—and randomly cheerful.

I talked to my mother this afternoon, as I usually do on Sundays. My peeps are just emerging from a major snow/ice storm in Georgia. My mother said she went to the grocery store today, as it was the first time they could get out of the driveway in a few days. She said the cat and dog food aisles were bare, and that she had to feed her kitties “crap.” I didn’t inquire further, because I realized I forgot to buy cat food myself today. Whoops.

I asked after cat food from my neighbor, who was peeling potatoes. Her four-year-old daughter was running around the house in her underwear, until a Tom and Jerry cartoon caught her attention. My neighbor and her husband own a cabin in St. Thomas, where they have just returned after a two-week holiday. She was tan. She gifted me two cans of cat food and a bottle of Ponche Kuba, the latter for taking care of her cat during her travels. Ponche Kuba tastes like egg nogg, but without the nutmeg. It is an after dinner drink one can only get in the Caribbean.

Ponche Kuba reminds me of Billy Ocean. Well, not really, but typing the word “Caribbean” does. So, I think a video is appropriate. Here it is. Sony music has requested that I not embed the video. Sorry.

I had a phone conversation with a mentor and friend whom I mistakenly thought was angry with me for something I wrote. It turns out she was teasing me on Facebook, but that she did want to talk about scholarship. We talked about Lacan and poststructualism. Not deeply, because both of us are wearing our Sunday brains. But enough to clarify a misunderstanding and reassure each of our intellectual bonds. I felt a lot better after that conversation.

I drafted two letters of nomination. The letters still need work and polishing, but they’ll be good to go by Tuesday.

I’m looking forward to traveling to New Orleans at the end of this week to celebrate a dear friend’s monumental birthday.

I’m also looking forward to getting back into the classroom. Last year I realized I truly loved teaching, and for the most part, this realization is age-related. It’s not that I didn’t love teaching before, it’s simply that I was ambivalent about it because of the problems that come with walking into a classroom saddled with my personality. As I’ve gotten older, students see me less as a “buddy” and more as a parental figure, which has made teaching so much easier for me. Every succeeding year it seems I have less personality conflicts, although the entitlement issues and petulant demands persist.

This morning’s political shows, as well as 60 Minutes, were dedicated to discussing the Arizona shootings. Much attention was on the psyche of the shooter, and whether there were “warning” signs. There were “warning signs” aplenty. But nothing could be done about them, because the shooter never made a physical threat. This reminded me of my own experiences with students with obvious mental instabilities (all male, all with issues similar to the Arizona kid). In addition to myself, I know a number of teachers who have had to deal with “unstable” students and, in each case, the police could do nothing because there were no statements of physical threat. I do think we need to have laws in place that better enable law enforcement to do preemptive things with students that are unstable and create an uncomfortable environment. I don’t know how to go about this without trampling on basic civil liberties.

I took my time making the Chicken Marsala for dinner tonight. It turned out delicious. I can also get three meals out of it. This will come in handy for the remainder of the week. This time I used white meat (dark meat, it turns out, is actually both more flavorful and more healthy), because the market had no boneless dark meat. I pounded the crap out the breasts with a meat hammer until they were about a half-inch think. This turned out to be an excellent decision.

I think the guy with the puppet in the parking lot made my day. I think I’ll buy me a hand puppet too, and do the same thing randomly for someone in a parking lot this week.

suture: after the violence

January 13th, 2011 by slewfoot

Music: The Charlatans: Us and Us Only (1999)

This Saturday I was listening to the radio when it was announced that 22 year old Jared Lee Loughner opened fire—with semi-automatic Glock and an extended magazine of 30 bullets—into a crowd gathered in a Safeway grocery store parking lot. The group had assembled to talk to and meet democratic representative Gabrielle Giffords, who regularly held “meet and greet” style gatherings in public. The massacre left six people dead and thirteen wounded.

It appears Loughner is mentally unstable, and a quick study of the young man’s Internet presence indexes psychosis: paranoia, aggression, and an inability to adhere to the basic rules of grammar (which, he notes, is deployed by the government as a means of mind control). It’s difficult to deny the claim this man was not in his “right mind.”

The more interesting claims circulating in the MSM this week, however, concern whether Loughner’s violence was indicative of “the Right mind.” Some have suggested, for example, that although he was deranged, rightist rhetoric may have “pushed him over the edge.” Sarah Palin’s infamous map featured rifle sight cross hairs over the districts of candidates she’d like to, er, take-out. The implication here is that weapon metaphors may have influenced Loughner to shoot. This reminds me of the famous Judas Priest case from the 1980s when the parents of suicidal teens charged the band with planting subliminal messages in their music (“do it!”). Of course, the difference is that there was no subliminal messages in the heavy metal tunes, whereas cross hairs are indicative of weaponry (as is Palin’s motto, “don’t retreat, reload”).

Others on the right, such Prof. Richard Vatz, have responded that forging a link between extreme rhetoric and physical violence is “fallacious,” and the charge is really only registering the frustration we feel because of the senselessness of the rampage.

Paul Krugman of The New York Times is probably responsible for catalyzing this national discussion because of his Monday column “Climate of Hate.” He argues the shootings are a symptom of a larger, “eliminationist” rhetoric coming from the right. The line crossed is, apparently, ad hominem: whereas the dems are apt to criticize and idea or policy or argument, the “conservative Right” (particularly pundits) are much more likely to “make jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post.” Response from folks like Palin has been swift; Palin argued yesterday in an Internet address that violent rhetoric has always been a part of our political landscape and that no one’s perfect. She also insinuates the calls to “tone down” the tenor of political rhetoric are attempts to stifle free speech.

I find this public discussion fascinating, especially because it is one of those rare moments in which large audiences are asked to think about rhetoric and the nature of persuasive influence. The question that is being asked is this: Did the tone and character of our contemporary, mainstream political rhetoric have something to do with Loughner’s violence? It’s just an excellent question, and one that forces us to think critically about rhetoric as such.

The answer, of course, is both “yes” and “no.”

On the side of the “no,” of course, direct, causal claims are impossible to make. It is no longer a question that Loughner was mentally disturbed. And, as my colleague Dana Cloud has argued relentlessly in the past couple of years, calls for a more “civil” discourse are often sounded to drown-out dissent. In this respect Palin has a point—something White House spokesman Robert Gibbs conceded today a press conference.

On the side of “yes,” however, we have to consider the ways in which reducing violence to a singular, individual’s deranged mind participates in the rhetoric of monstrosity, the transformation of flawed human being into an agent of evil. This form of “projection,” of course, absolves us of responsibility and causes to overlook larger, systemic ills. Did Palin cause Loughner to lose it? No. Is Palin’s rhetoric part of a larger discourse that makes violence part of a master narrative? Yes.

Let me put this differently, with apologies Mick Jaggar: “I shouted out, / Who killed the kennedys? / When after all / It was you and me.”

I was very impressed with Kathleen Hall Jamieson’s recent appearance on the PBS News Hour. She was careful to suggest that there are likely, statistically, no more mentally unstable folks in the general population than, say, a century ago. What has changed, however, are media technologies—technologies that make it possible for folks of a like mental character to gather and swarm, and technologies that make it possible, increasingly, for an individual tailor media exposure to his or her tastes. In other words, we live in a time in which media exposure is selective.

To extend Jamieson’s analysis here we can turn to Jodi Dean, whose recent book Blog Theory: Feedback and Capture in the Circuits of Drive captures something else (and, thankfully, in the stable form of “the book). Dean suggests that we live in a time of “communicative capitalism,” which refers to, among other things, a society in which communication is exploited via the superegoic command, enjoy! Drawing from the Lacanian work of Slavoj Zizek, Dean argues we are living in a time of the “decline of symbolic efficiency” (yes, Rufo, can already anticipate your eyes rolling). The argument is complex, but is more easily grasped with common examples. The first one Dean uses is blog comments: sometimes its difficult to know when someone is being ironic or serious, playful or simply mean. The anchor or master signifier that “fixes” meaning is eroding or gone. Or, to quote a favorite Jane’s Addiction song, “camera got them images/camera got them all/ Nothing’s shocking/ Showed me everybody/ Naked and disfigured/ Nothing’s shocking.” Dean also refers to the decline of symbolic efficacy as “whatever culture” (I had an exgirlfriend who often said, “whatevs!” and it drove me up the wall). The decline can be described, alternately, as the fading of the Big Other or the decline of the Master; opinions proliferate, that’s all there is, just one more profile, one more unstable joke, one more flame work. Whatever. Nothing’s shocking.

I think Dean captures quite well the context in which these new calls for “civility” are taking place. The call is not for civility at all, but rather, for the Big Other to fix things, to anchor it down. “We want our suture!”

In film studies, suture theory has a long and complicated history. The idea of the suture refers to the way the spectator is bound to the story world of the film in ways that escape her conscious perception. Traditionally, the debate has boiled down to whether or not it is a singular shot sequence (e.g., from secondary to primary identification) or if “suture” refers to a broader range of techniques. I subscribe (following Silverman) to the latter understanding of suture.

I think, in the context of this week’s violence, that the conception of the suture is apt. Like the point de caption in Zizek’s conception of ideology, suturing in this context represents the reassignment of a master narrative that fixes meaning, however temporarily, when we encounter the Real (here, the realization that violence is a rupture, death awaits, and so on). Was Loughner’s act of violence senseless or unspeakable? Well, of course not. We’ve all seen Palin’s map. The narrative of political assassination is a common film plot—as it is in American political history (check out this map, for example). I think Jamieson’s observations about the end of isolation, combined with Dean’s take on the decline of symbolic efficacy, helps to explain how Loughner’s act of violence, while of individual volition, was nevertheless systemically produced.

Which brings me, sadly, to Obama’s eulogy from last night. Yesterday my friend and advisee Sean Tiffee defended his prospectus; he’s writing about horror film as a form “working-through,” and we talked a lot about master narratives and their failures after Nine-eleven. I started writing this blog some days ago, before I knew Obama was giving this speech. Then, last night, I found myself perplexed by the memorial service: people were hooting and hollering, as if at a pep rally. That improper audience tone gradually disappeared once Obama started speaking. The tone changed. What was a strangely celebratory mood became somber.

What was going on? Of course, it was the return of the Big Daddy who would, once again, sew it up. Obama referenced Christina-Taylor Green repeatedly, the nine-year-old shot by Loughner who was born on September 11th, 2001. Green became the condensation symbol for “healing,” and Obama declared if there were rain puddles in heaven, she was dancing in them. Obama turned this latest rampage into the master narrative of Nine-eleven, that wound that is continuously sutured (still) as the dominant narrative of the national political will. This massacre had nothing to do with Nine-Eleven. But Obama made it so. Thereby, kitsch was used to suture and the systemic reasons behind the violence were covered over, once again . . . until, of course, the next eruption.

it’s lpd friday!

January 7th, 2011 by slewfoot

I’ve been following the Legendary Pink Dots since I bought my first album of their’s in 1992. This album marks their 30th anniversary (I picked it up today). I interviewed the band for college radio in 1994, and Edward was just the nicest person. We disagree on the issue of abortion (which is what we discussed vis-a-vis a track from Shadow Weaver, Volume One). They’re still as singular and awe-inspiring as ever. And creepy. Still creepy. But pretty creepy. Oh, I dunno. Go buy their stuff and listen to it at 3:00 in the morning. You’ll hear.

the academic fashion show

January 3rd, 2011 by slewfoot

Music: Bats For Lashes: Two Suns (2009)

A moment of synchronicity: I have been reading Lynne Huffer’s Mad for Foucault today, which has been rubbing me the wrong way (mostly for stylistic stupidity, not the actual research), and then I read my colleague and friend’s blog about enduring graduate school, which led me to a blog about “100 Reasons Not to Go to Graduate School.” The 40th reason listed for not going to graduate school is that “faddishness prevails,” and the example is the work of Michel Foucault:

If you have any doubts about academic faddishness, consider the French intellectual Michel Foucault (1926-1984), whose name and ideas have proven wildly popular in academic circles. To see just how popular he is, try a little experiment. Google the name “Foucault.” Now Google the name “Aristotle.” This is an imperfect experiment, given that there is more than one Foucault, etc., but the results should surprise you. Is it even remotely possible to consider the influence of Foucault in the same league as that of Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)? You can almost be forgiven for thinking so after a few years in graduate school.


Of course, the statement is exaggerated to make a play at humor, but having just read a book that forges a false binary between Foucault and my chosen faddish theorist, Jacques Lacan, the blog drew more than a chuckle from my bloated, holiday belly.


The truth is, of course, that those of us anchored in the theoretical humanities do tend to pick and choose this or that theorist to follow and read more deeply. This tendency is born of two things: academic tradition and what is pragmatically possible. The force of academic tradition is from philosophy: early in your graduate education you range widely until you happen upon a thinker that makes sense to you, for whatever reason, and then you dig your heels into it, him, or her. This mid-century academic habit, however, was unrelenting: you’d pick a philosophical anchor and never did you waver for your career (let me tell y’all sometime about my epistemology professor and Quine). Thankfully, while the inertia of this impulse is still with us in the academic humanities, like the institution of marriage itself, academics are no longer forced to make life-long ideological commitments to certain lines of thought. From what I can sense, the more pragmatic rationale tends to dominate the theoretical humanities today: you read a given theorist more deeply, not only because you identify with the thinking, but simply because you cannot read them all. This is to say, as a graduate student you don’t glom onto a particular perspective or theorist because you are deeply convicted in their thinking and are prepared to follow that line of thought for your career, but rather because you simply can’t read and digest everyone.


During my graduate study, after reading and trying to digest all the theorists I encountered, I felt most at home with Kenneth Burke and, by extension, Fredric Jameson. Those are the folks I read most often and deeply. I thought of myself as a Marxist. My dissertation reflects this orientation, as does my first book. After taking my first job, in a reading group I was introduced to Slavoj Zizek, and I became enamored with psychoanalysis, not because I thought it was “cool,” but because it made me think and it seemed to resonate with my experience. As a graduate student I was always into Freud, don’t get me wrong, I just didn’t identify as a Freudian and didn’t understand it. Today, however, I think my work is most associated with psychoanalysis, and it’s quite interesting to see how my first book is “read” through that lens by reviewers (because there’s very little psychoanalytic anything in it). More than one reviewer describes my largely Jameson-inspired read of occult rhetoric as “psychoanalytic,” and that is telling. A-hem.


I think most of us in the theoretical humanities, early in our career, find a thinker that inspires us to think, and we’re so exhilarated by that “oh, wow” factor that we cotton to their writing, and then before we know it, we’re thinking along their tracks. My advisor, Robert Scott, always warned me about getting trapped by the “tracks” laid by others: “You are not a Burkean,” he would say, “you are a Joshian.” And while I knew what he meant, at the same time I recognized that there are levels of insight. Some people are more creative and insightful than others. Some people are more creative and insightful than me. As a scholar, do I need to be as creative and insightful as the theorists that inspire me?


Frankly, to be an academic there is only one tenable answer: No.


The charge of “academic faddishness” is premised on the notion that scholars must be individually brilliant, that all of us must somehow be gifted with unforeseen insights that spring from genius, like magic. The more realistic and honest and ethical academic disposition is that an interesting and insightful idea, no matter who advances it, should be acknowledged and pursued and developed.


I admit I am sometimes irked by colleagues that urge me to read this-or-that new theorist (currently it’s Ranciere) because it’s what’s everyone’s reading. A dear friend sometimes asks me, “what are you reading these days?” often probing for the next exciting thinker that she’s yet to hear of. I admit I sometimes feel weird saying, “er, Freud.” But if I track her correctly, the question is not so much born of fashion than it is active thinking: so-called “academic faddishness” is really about restless thinking, about thinking actively and anew, about a restlessness of settled assumptions. In other words, while I certainly identify with the need and comfort to settle on and know a certain terrain of thought, at the same time I recognize and value the ever-changing interest in the “next theorist” of our time.


Some call it “faddishness,” while others might celebrate the roving interest in this or that thinker as “restless thought.” I think it’s a little of column A and B, and as much as I know it makes more work for me, at the moment I favor value column B. And so I order the Ranciere books . . . .

josh makes a pizza

January 2nd, 2011 by slewfoot

Music: Nick Cave: Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! (2007)