Category Archives: ALFS presentation

Pour mon article

Nothing I am saying about the neoliberal university has not been said before, but in popular discourse, including among professors and within universities, people are acting as though it had not been. Therefore, my article is necessary and is not redundant.

What is fresh is my focus on vocabulary.

My point is similar to one Clarissa makes, that modernity (and capital) have become liquid, while we still think about them as solid. The university is neoliberalized, privatized, marketized, yet has a discourse that implies less has changed than what actually has. We should be aware of this, and also resist the use of certain new terminology because of what it is designed to naturalize for us.

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The week’s writing report

I decided that perhaps PMLA or Profession, and not a radical education journal, are the place for that article.

I realized my book title might only cover the Caribbean case. And a question I got: does my contention that race and state are a really different focus from mestizaje and nation hold together?

For that other article, where are my opening ideas? Let me see: while racial meaning is local, white supremacy is global. Keeping this in mind helps us avoid exceptionalist stances, and also helps protect against the shading of race into culture (I think). (I will continue.)

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After the University, Long Live the Academy!

I do not normally reblog things, but look at this.

chad wellmon

This is the slightly edited text of a talk I delivered as the Hansford M. Epes Distinguished Lecture in the Humanities at Davidson College on October 19, 2017. It gathers some of my thinking and writing from the past six months around the question of the university. And, as with most things I write these days, I am particularly grateful to Matt McAdam for helping me think through these big questions and for making generous contributions. 

In 1917 a group of German university students invited the renowned sociologist Max Weber to Munich to participate in a lecture series entitled “intellectual work as vocation” [geistige Arbeit als Beruf]. The students met weekly in the backroom of a bookstore as the Bavarian chapter of the National Federation of Independent Student Groups, a loose association of students established around 1900 to make sense of the radical changes German universities had…

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Ruins of modernity

Detroit is an example of the ruins of modernity Benjamin discusses (cf. the Angel of History); how far do these ruins extend? For my article, I want to think about that.

Harvey: the molecular logic of capital, as opposed to the logic of the state, the state logic that accompanies capitalism.

I have to finish my ALFS article even if the fight is lost because someone has to leave a good analysis, testimony, a record of what happened. (That is of course why it should go to an academic journal; I keep thinking of it as something that should ALSO be an op-ed; there were also my two posts in Remaking the University that I meant to rework, with the unfinished third segment, for The Nation and did not.)

This is what I say.

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Some random notes from earlier

The book I bought and then lost was Judith Shapiro, Community of Scholars.

Badiou has a book or essay called “Vat is een volk?” that I should read.

Michael North’s book The Baltic would be worth reading. So would Lefebvre, Marxist theory and the city.

Kant’s 1764 observations on feeling; the sublime and the beautiful; have to do with race; so does the origin of the 3d critique on aesthetics; mestizaje was supposed to improve the looks of women; these ideas have something to do with the Caucasus that I must reconstruct.

There was Georg Foster, who traveled with Captain Cook, and attempted to understand the concept of races, apparently said there were no races (this is something to be verified).

See also Arendt on Kant’s 3d critique, and Kant’s introduction to Anthropology. It is from Kant’s discussion of the inner and outer judge that some of these ideas about race come; also, the idea of natural science and teleological nature come from the debate on race.

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Some things I learned at the conference

I learned a number of the things one normally learns, about new work, ideas, books. I learned that I have to actually write the proto-article I presented on: it is time to write it, and the thinking will come in the writing. Here are some of the other things I learned.

My projects are many and complex. They are like those of the stars and people who get invited to be keynote speakers. This is why I always end up in conversation with those people. And someone told me that it involves having the kind of thick education that many professors don’t have anymore.

Anyway, the reason I don’t develop my projects well enough is that they need R1 time and confidence, ideally, or barring that a more positive or at least less hostile work environment; and also that I’ve always been taught to be tentative, to limit myself, not to jump in with both feet. Jumping in with both feet is something within my power, as well as leading myself from the head and not pushing myself from the back (this last is what those who say their problem is not liking to write do). And standing up against mistreatment.

Also, I remember that in Reeducation I was not only accused of being too logical, but having excessive powers of concentration and focus. I kept saying these were just my academic training, and that I needed them, they were a tool of my trade, but my Reeducator was looking for pathology and thought he might be able to tackle me with an OCD diagnosis. I was afraid of this because I was afraid of the drugs I would have to take, and tried to show that I could destroy or disable my powers of concentration and focus on my own, without drugs (thus also proving I was not wicked, and trying to earn the right to something more like psychoanalysis).

The other part of Reeducation was academia and in it I was shocked to find myself, first, in a teaching-and-pampering situation and next, in a research-first situation where research wasn’t an intellectual endeavor but a measurable production endeavor for the university as industrial complex. It took me a long time to understand these situations and my lack of comprehension of them.

I think that for my article on neoliberalization these things are important. I remember some of the first signs of it when I was a student. We took them seriously but did not understand them as completely as I do now (and it’s not a question of hindsight; the information existed but we did not have it). I think that the whole time I have been a professor is the time in which this destruction has been happening. We’re accused of not having stood up to it but in my case it has been not understanding it, or at least not understanding it immediately. I have only become really able to understand it recently.

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Not of general interest

So: for that ALFS article, for which I have so much material and so much writing, but not a clear enough shape, I have these thoughts:

1. We have this situation:

Les valeurs d’émancipation et d’égalité n’animent plus le système universitaire, qui est devenu un système de tri de la population. Durant mon enfance, l’éducation était émancipatrice. Il y avait un bon niveau de tolérance à la déviance. Il y avait des profs d’histoire ou de philo communistes, anarchistes… Aujourd’hui, un impératif de perfection et donc de conformisme s’est mis en place. La fonction objective du système est de trier les gens et de retenir ceux qui sont les plus disciplinés et conformes. Au bout du bout, les gens qui finissent à la tête du pays sont incapables d’avoir une idée – je vous laisse imaginer à qui je pense.

But since liberal values are still invoked and a lexicon alluding to them is still used, the situation is hard to see. At the same time (and coming from the other direction), most people now were born to a university system where these values had already been abridged and the neo-liberal or corporate, or even the entrepreneurial university had already begun to take shape.

2. Can I afford to go to ACLA and if I try, should I present on Vallejo…or what? I have NOT written my Vallejo panelists as I had planned to do, or Emmanuel on a modernism / primitivism panel, and I should keep these ideas in mind.

3. My notes after ACLA in Utrecht: “Keep working on this paper. Keep working in general, you deserve it.” It is very hard for me to remember such things when I am here at Vichy State-Maringouin, but I am getting a bit better at it.

(Now I will go to the library, and then I will continue to think about the ACLA question.)

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