Category Archives: ALFS presentation

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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Mundos neoliberales

Here we have a very important article on the neoliberal university, that I will study, called “Contingent No More.” Related to it is the infantilization entailed in reducing citizens to consumers. This post mentions a book on advertising and persuasion, which according to Cliff Arroyo emphasizes infantilization as a key to coercion.

This journal Transmodernidad, that I should read more in general, also has in it Mignolo’s manifesto on decolonial thinking, that I should become able to discuss in a detailed way, and easily. “Epistemic disobedience” is the keyword.

“The social sciences are totally corrupt, and they don’t liberate themselves at all from the corruption, especially in those countries.” –Jean Franco, PMLA 131:3 (May 2016): 735. This is very interesting and I would like to hear more. These sciences are imbricated with a repressive state apparatus, I am assuming this means.

I’ve ordered Franco’s Cruel Modernity for the library and will read it. I’ve been reading about it and enjoying the reading. I see why Clarissa reacts as the does to Franco’s discussion of Luz Arce, but it appears to me Franco isn’t judging her but analyzing the function of her book. I’m finding the articles on Franco in the 2016 PMLA instructive for reasons going beyond the discussion of this book.

It’s exciting. My mind is clear and there is so much to read and write. To contemplate the experiences of past minds I’d like to read Defoe’s journal of the plague year, too.


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A chronicle of crisis

I want to read Bauman’s Social Europe book. Perhaps, since the book comes in non-traditional forms, this is something I will do while traveling.

I submitted something to my writing group but must not forget to do something with it once I get it back. It has potential to be overshadowed but should not.
After I finish this next paper I must keep working on it, dividing time between it, my out of field paper, and course preparation. Then the question of our grant proposal will come in, and I do not want to miss a beat now.

That means, of course, that I cannot participate in any of my typical self-destruction or self-doubt now; others need me to be whole and want to know what I have to say.


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On political euphemism, it is very important to note that the PATRIOT ACT (which was not patriotic) and then, rising to a new level of irony, became the FREEDOM ACT.

I read about the lives of Elena Garro and Helena Paz Garro and it was sad. Both died ill, poor and alone; Paz’ death coincided with the pomp and circumstance of her father’s centenary celebration. Garro’s self-imposed exile had to do with the tangled politics around the events of Tlatelolco, and Paz Garro was a talented person who struggled with her parents’ shadows.

About writing, I read this:

Why couldn’t the boy just have refused to sign the letter? Why the paralysis? For Freud, the unconscious was inherently conflictual, and in this example, the boy may have felt both the wish to sign and not to sign the letter. This would have stirred up his oedipal conflict with his father and the guilt that went with it. The symptom allowed him not to sign and, through the physical pain of the paralysis, punished him for his guilty wish.

This applies to many things. (I am convinced Freud is right about many things, and that he is discredited because he is too intellectually demanding and not enough of a profit center.)

Fraught is the word my friend used to characterize the situation at my university. Fraught is the feeling I have and fraughtness is the opposite of peace. It is the affective challenges, not the intellectual ones, that are hard.

I am involved too much, some would say, in service, administration, politics, advocacy; politics and advocacy are me and service and administration are extracted from me in a situation fraught with double binds. One should ignore everything and tend to one’s work, except that those who do this, can do because they have more people to share service and administration with. And the university wants you overworked, so you cannot do advocacy and politics–and it wants you to internalize that view.

And the reason I do not like academic advice is that it ignores context. “Work in the office,” it says to people who have no office (to give a simple example). Context matters. More profoundly, academic advice supposes that everything can be remedied with self-discipline and self-help; you are a neoliberal subject who, if deserving, will excel without context.

People think one should awaken in the morning thinking of discipline, schedules and getting things done, but I think one should awaken thinking of love.


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Neoliberal and other subjects

General broadcast: you have to have a self and self-respect every day, and treat yourself as well as you do your pets and children. I constantly forget to do this, and it does not set the best example.

I tend not to have enough ego because in Reeducation I withdrew so far, I could not think. I dreamed at the time that I was having myself frozen so I could live inside a metal box, until it was safe to come out again. The alternative still seems to be sometimes the role Hattie diagnoses in one Meg:

She insists on falling apart, because she is trapped by all those crazy, murderous male egos, her brothers, and their manipulative guilt-tripping alcoholic mother. . . .

And Henry Giroux struggles when he writes and gets depressed over the state of the world, and I find it helpful that he says this. He is struggling in his study, and we can struggle, too.

What kind of world can we imagine? Hobsbawm knows. He also published his last book at 94, never left the Communist Party, and was yet another person who, as a child, was a German-speaking Jew, before events intervened. The Right is the enemy, but liberalism is the problem, he says.

Another person who talks about the relationship between the subject and the neoliberal state is Wendy Brown. Here is the text. The state is a market state, the university is a market university, and we are market subjects (formed by the market and the market state, furthermore). Read:

…neoliberalism normatively constructs and interpellates individuals as entrepreneurial actors in every sphere of life. . . . A fully realized neoliberal citizenry would be the opposite of public-minded; indeed, it would barely exist as a public. The body politic ceases to be a body. . . . Other evidence for progress in the development of such a citizenry is not far from hand: consider the market rationality permeating universities today, from admissions and recruiting to the relentless consumer mentality of students as they consider university brand names, courses, and services, from faculty raiding and pay scales to promotion criteria.Or consider the way in which consequential moral lapses (of a sexual or criminal nature) by politicians, business executives, or church and university administrators are so often apologized for as “mistakes in judgment,” implying that it was the calculation that was wrong, not the act, actor, or rationale.

Of course, one of my papers has to do with the formation of subjects by the state. This article on free speech and liberal society has something to do with state and subject, that I might articulate.

Liberalism sees racism as something political, and therefore contestable. It is not. It is a systemic and historical fact with material consequences, whether they be economic or threats of bodily harm — something at the core of Taylor’s book and research. But liberalism operates in a world of ideals, not material reality, and it cannot help but conceive of racism in terms of free speech. It’s something that can be mitigated through reason or debate, that is, through the central tenets of free speech and the marketplace of ideas. But just as neoliberals mystify government complicity in and control over markets, liberal idealism mystifies racism via free speech, and obscures the fundamental fact that there are limits to free speech.

Let us see: racism has material origins and is constitutive of the state, not a blemish upon it or an idea up for debate. It is a systemic fact. My paper is not on free speech, or on speech — or is it? The problem seems to be that one important role of liberal discourse is to obscure race as systemic fact.


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