Category Archives: What Is A Scholar?

More things I will do

I will find out whether I am still in LASA and ILLI.
I will find out whether I can receive paper copies of my father’s insurance bill.
I will do other things on my lists.

I am changing my life. I do wish the university were not such a space of torture, and that I were not so afraid of it. I want to get over this as I have things to do.

I am afraid of it because it is irrational and it has power, and because I have a tendency to internalize its venom.

Here is a good article on the rhetoric of excellence.



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The market university

In the Verhaeghe book, in the chapter on identity, is a great deal of material on the market university including a list of euphemisms like those I discuss in my article — although his choice of examples is, conveniently enough, a completely different set than mine is. (The list is on page 161.) There is a discussion on how the conversion of the student into customer fits the neoliberal paradigm and signals a completely different vision of education than what some of us may still have. Part of what I am saying in this article is that many of us do not even realize what the world we are working in now is. The market university repurposes our vocabulary and adds new terms which we laugh at and shrug off when we should examine them. There are additional examples of neoliberalism’s use of language (cf. the word “invest”) in this interesting newspaper article. There is also this popular piece on the falsely rational language of (neoliberal) technocrats, and there is a film we should see on the privatization of public education or “corporate school reform.”

I am going to put half an hour into that article early tomorrow morning.

Some more notes for this I have are:

– financialization
– monetization
– corporate
– entrepreneurial
– business model

A decent education is now an elite dream, and if we do not mouth the neoliberal line we are just dinosaurs. Uber is “sharing.” Religious freedom is the freedom to oppress other religions. Fox News was founded to offer “fair” reporting.


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The notes, the notes

I am trying hard to clear my workspace. It always looks neat but that is deceptive since the files and books are not fully organized; part of my block involves not knowing where things are, or not having them at hand. The current revolution has been enabled by my purchase of a new bookcase.

I have notes of all kinds. I have to put them in Evernote, in the right files, and into the right documents but here are some of them, since I do not know what they all mean.


There is a lawn/landscape service, Merlin Lormand, recommended. I don’t need a lawn service but I do need general landscape advice. There are a lot of other people available, too. I tend to think I don’t know who to call but Googling this name leads to many others.


The Baroque is its great heritage (this is why carnavalization is an important concept) whereas the French refer to realism, Enlightenment reason, and the Cartesian tradition. “See also Paz,” I wrote mysteriously.

Latin American writers have a strange relationship to the indigenous and to Europe, I said, and a strange relationship to the world and to themselves.


1. The year 2015 started with the debacle of an administrative snafu that got me extra teaching instead of partial sick leave; in the fall we had the course enrollment crisis and the threat that the major would be canceled. I have doubts about the evaluation of teaching being based entirely on whether or not people’s student satisfaction surveys are below or above the department average. Half must be below by definition, and how many of us are significantly below?

2. The threat to the major led to increased commitments to service in 2016 (cf. getting pressed into service on the website), and also 2017 when I briefly became head of the major committee. I notice that I keep getting pressured to do extraordinary service, against my better judgment, and then punished for it; on the other hand, national and other professional service that I choose is not even recognized as real.

3. What is research? What do we get to call research? (I suspect that what for some is called research, is not, and that my research is less recognized since I am not in one of the fields the university wants to promote. I don’t think this line of discussion would be useful, but I want to keep a private note on it.) But the bottom line, that I do want to discuss, is that I do not want my research time redefined into service time.


I wrote that whether or not its chair were working, the committee existed and its work needed to be done. Colleague 2’s message, despite at times calling for the work to be done, is: “I don’t want to do the work, and I don’t want you to do it.” He should not get to decide these things, said a friend elsewhere. I, however, observe that here, he is allowed to decide them.

Meetings, I wrote, needed to have objectives. The overarching objectives of the committee were to oppose obstruction of activities toward the major, and to promote the major. If the committee members could not do these things, I wanted to point out, they  would effectively be acting to return power to [the deadwood Fulls]. Did Colleague 2 really want that? I wanted to put this question to him — although now, at least, that eventuality seems not to be on the horizon.


No rants. No bullying. No personal remarks. The work is the important thing.

No personal remarks. No yelling, no accusations, no untruths. Have an agenda and keep to it.

For me, in the committee: Keep dignity. Do not argue or explain; do not engage with ridiculousness. Insist on getting on with business and focusing on tasks.

My friend said the main issue was my, or Colleague 2’s relationship with colleagues. I note, though, that the advice on keeping meeting focus on work and tasks was not new. I was insisting on those things. That was what was getting me so much grief.


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The modern workplace

Working classes internalize harm. They respond to hurt and pain that liquid capital inflicts on them by, first and foremost, self-harming. It’s easier for them to believe the neoliberal narrative that they fail because something is wrong with them. So they self-punish and self-destruct.

Creative and professional classes have better defenses against this. They externalize the harm. It’s not “I failed because I’m inferior” but “he failed / needs to fail / because he’s inferior, evil and horrible.”

Conclusion: prepare for epic battles as professional classes fight for survival on the rapidly shrinking professional arena.

I went on a forum where job seekers discuss the academic job market in languages. And the mechanism is always the same. The moment somebody is rumored to have gotten a job, there’s a flare-up of the most outlandish accusations against that person.

Neoliberalism has mechanisms in place that obscure what it really does in order to preserve the consensus that neoliberalism is good and has to remain in existence. This is one of them.

I react like the working classes. And I know this about the job market. All those reactions of the professional classes seem so immature to me. Perhaps mine is as well.


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Sur la linguistique

Why was it that, back then when we were in Comparative Literature, we thought Linguistics was the other cool field? I think it had to do with not being a discipline that reproduced a nation-state or the Area Studies model, and that was theoretical, and that (we thought then) could begin to dismantle colonial arrangements of knowledge. And Philology was falling out of fashion. I announce that I have now decided Linguistics is about as uncool a field as can be found. I am for Philology and against Linguistics, on grounds that linguists do not speak languages or know anything about them. Linguists with deep knowledge of a language other than their own may receive an exception, as may those who study their own language exclusively. All others, however, are frauds. They should return their degrees, and resign their professorships. If you do not realize there is a difference between being a fully educated speaker of a language and a person who is functional for tourism in it, then you have no respect for it or for its speakers, let alone for it as an academic field; you have no business remaining in play.


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1. Catalan is a language, not a dialect. 2. All of Spanish America speaks Castilian. 3. There are very many literate Mexicans, including winners of the Nobel Prize in literature, and Mexicans are completely comprehensible to other Spanish speakers. 4. I, as a person who speaks educated Spanish and am really competent in it, can (a) INSTANTLY switch to using the vosotros form for you informal plural, it is no stretch, and (b) INSTANTLY switch to voseo for you informal singular, it is no stretch at all. 5. Forsooth, those kinds of grammatical differences among regions, and differences in regional vocabulary, are ELEMENTARY. 6. There are ways in which my Spanish is not as sophisticated as that of some educated native speakers but these subtleties lie at FAR more advanced levels than being able to understand regional differences in normal speech. 7. In academia, we hire on expertise and publications, not on accent. So YES, it is possible to be an expert on Spain without being a Spaniard or speaking like one, and YES you would still be respected as an expert.

I guess you can tell I had an argument with someone today.


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Encore une fois, what I learned in psychotherapy

That I was not just a person with a question, but an unredeemably flawed person due to the sins of my ancestors. The worst of it, and the proof of it, was that I could not see my own inferiority. The only cure was to self-flagellate in some manner, and I certainly did not deserve any kind of consideration or help; I could not hope anyone would ever talk to me.

I had learned these things as a child, of course, but as I grew I stopped hearing them and I had not expected to have to hear them again. But then I heard them, and I hear them waking up most mornings still. (And I should not have the intellectual inclination, because it hurts people.)


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