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The GRANDMOTHER of All Updates

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May 12, 2017





Greetings! I have been gone a very long time, I know. A lot has happened since the last time I posted an update, and a lot is still happening. I’ve literally been made physically sick from some of the vitriol I faced in the past few weeks (more on that later) but, overall, I’m excited about beginning several new chapters, literally and metaphorically.


First, I want to thank everyone who has supported me, via donations and/or subscriptions. Your support keeps me working and helps me produce work and analysis that isn’t often published elsewhere.  My apologies to the donors to whom I have not yet personally responded; please forgive me for that — it’s been a horrendous time, but things are finally settling down, and I’ll be in touch soon.


Thank you also to those who have supported my politics and work either by writing to me directly or reposting it and discussing it everywhere. To those who demand that I change my politics: Yeah, no. I’m not here to attract followers and become a Social Media Queen; I’m here to reach out to actual readers who engage my work even when they disagree (note that “engage” does not have to mean “agree”). I’ve never sought to work on a piece to make friends but to follow the integrity of my thinking and politics. I go where the work takes me, in terms of fully engaging its trajectory with integrity, not to get to where all tomorrow’s parties are.


I know that some of you are just itching to use this post, which you will also receive via email, to write to me to “TAKE ME OFF THIS LIST” and to hurl some bilious bit about how disgusting you find me, possibly with the intention of forwarding your words on to your social media overlords so they might reward you with an invite to their super secret clubhouse.  Please, take your drama elsewhere.  If you’d like to be taken off my email list, just send a single word, “Unsubscribe.”  


Remember the rule: Dance like you’re alone in your living room.  Email like every word you spit out could one day become part of something like a Jenny Holzer series set in Times Square.  With your name and address attached.


Below is a fairly bare-bones set of links and updates about what I’ve been up to, followed by news and tidbits, and then some pieces from the archives.


Where I've Been

I was on the Christopher Lydon podcast, “Open Source,” on an episode which attempted to define neoliberalism.  As you know, I usually tell people which part of the show I’m in and leave it at that.  But I think this show did a great job interviewing a range of people for their expertise on particular topics — I was asked to talk about neoliberal feminism — and it really does provide an excellent set of viewpoints and analyses and an introduction to neoliberalism.  If you’ve always wondered what the term might mean and/or are looking for a resource to share with friends, students, comrades, family, this is the episode to go to. You can listen to “Welcome to Our Neoliberal World” here.


I wrote this, “The Dangerous Academic Is An Extinct Species.” (now sometimes referred to as the Dodo piece). I’m very proud of it, and delighted to report that it has literally gone around the world, drawing responses from a range of people, not just formal academics, everywhere. It has already been integrated into several conversations about academia, given the current state of crisis in higher education institutions, and I’m excited about the many possibilities I’ve been offered, of engaging in longer and more direct conversations about the issues I touched upon.


The piece is over 3000 words long, and covers different questions about the nature of “radical” academic work. Yet, in one tiny, dusty corner of social media, a mere 300 words (in a piece that was ten times that length) on the case of George Ciccariello-Maher (GCM), has drawn a vast and disproportionate and incredibly toxic and often personalised set of responses. None of the people writing angrily about the piece, tenured or tenure-track faculty or adjuncts, and many who hover around the edges of academe, responded to me directly, but they spent literally days fulminating against a relatively tiny section of the article, insisting that it was an entirely personal attack on Ciccariello-Maher.  I recorded nearly all of the responses (in life, it’s important to keep track of paper trails) because I knew there was a piece in all that, a theoretical and analytic piece about the state of academia.  


Ironically, the responses proved everything I had stated in the article itself, including my points about the massive pettiness to which academics are prone. Also ironically, several of the people raged to my editor that my piece should never have been published, and demanded to know why it was published — views that are contiguous to outright censorship — but they also insisted that I was ignoring the suppression of Ciccariello-Maher’s free speech. At one point, one of them went so far as to write a status update (cleverly framed as a general comment but with also framed with enough particularity to make its target clear), liked by GCM and vigorously applauded by others, stating that I should just kill myself (that particular profile is now dormant and I'm sure the "likes" will soon be retracted if possible).


You see what I mean about toxicity.


There were some extremely interesting points raised by others in the spirit of genuine inquiry and which they openly and freely raised with me; I will be addressing those in a follow-up piece titled, “Power Itself.”


Here, I’ll be looking at the responses to the Dodo essay.  I’ve waited and been working on this for a while because I don’t want it to simply be a reaction to the vitriol hurled at me. Given the extremely personal and even violent invectives I’ve seen, I’ve had to physically, mentally, and emotionally, and intellectually process the very visceral feelings they evoked in me; at one point, my body and mind felt like they needed to just shut down — which would have been an interesting way to carry out the mandate that I kill myself.  


But I don’t want the piece to be reactive.  Rather, and this is why it is taking so long, I want it to be reflective and diagnostic, analytic and thoughtful, the opposite of the toxic responses. There’s a tendency among people who spend their time obsessing in and about social media to also insist that diagnosing it is somehow irrelevant and petty. But as I’ve indicated before, in my work on Suey Park, we ignore its currents at our peril; I also think that social media needs more, not less diagnosis, but in a more psychoanalytic fashion.  


Not diagnosing how and why people engage with social media the way they do is, I constantly argue, exactly why so many across the board feel they can use it with impunity. It’s the reason why so many on the left decry the violence of right wing nazis against marginalised people and simultaneously issue calls for those nazis to be beaten up in public.  It’s the reason why leftists see no contradiction in calling for a leftist, brown, queer woman to kill herself while declaring the righteousness of their “socialist” utopia. Diagnosing all this enables us to think about social media in structural terms, as a repository of political and cultural impulses that implicitly and explicitly direct how we formulate political will.  Not diagnosing it, which is what so many prefer, allows it to fester and run amok, churning up the most lurid wishful fantasies that go unquestioned and dismissed as venting.  To be clear, my aim is to diagnose, not to discern and classify what, for instance, counts as “hate speech” or not.  The “left,” such as it is, needs to become better about being the left, and it’s time that we began examining the contradictions in which we find ourselves mired.


But more later on all that, and onwards to everything else I’ve been up to (and this will be a partial list because, so much!).


I moderated a discussion at Columbia College for Trikone Chicago, on the now banned film Malayalam film, Ka: Bodyscapes, By Jayan Cherian, on April 15.


I gave a talk at Platypus on socialism and liberalism; I’ll have a transcript up soon.


That same day, I also presented a workshop on Against Equality.  You can listen to the discussion here. I’ll have more on that soon.


I gave a talk at a New School conference on the 6th of May. I’ll have that transcript up as well.


I was on this amazing podcast with Queer Cafeteria (more about them in a separate piece): “We Deserve Nice Things.”  My bit starts at 23:00.


I was also on BItch Media’s Popaganda, “Queering Family Values.” My bit there starts at 26:00.


I have a lot of new projects for the website forthcoming (including that podcast series I’ve been speaking of; I've been working on getting enough to afford decent software), alongside some external bits of work that I’m excited about; more on all that soon. And if you're on my email list, you'll soon be getting this in a fancy new newsletter form.


News and Tidbits from Around the World

I often have issues with Democracy Now for its supplication to celebrities (Amy Goodman’s face lights up with a huge smile and all the joy of a fanboy if she can even utter the name of a celebrity, major or minor, and she practically melts when she’s interviewing one of them), and its annoying habit of spending entire hours with people like Bernie Sanders and Noam Chomsky while they say the same thing they might have been saying for the last few years. But it does feature interviews with people who otherwise don’t appear in the mainstream media, as in this segment about the French election which includes and interview with Yasser Louati.


The Onion on vegetarian options at events.


Here’s another media deal that will further consolidate news and journalism.


Here’s a piece on the hidden history of the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) research department.


Toshio Meronek writes about YIMBYS for TruthOut in “YIMBYs: The "Alt-Right" Darlings of the Real Estate Industry.”  Read on to find out what that acronym stands for, and more.

Maximillian Alvarez has this out on the Baffler site, “Contingent No More.”


A former refugee strikes back against the dominant discourse’s demand for gratitude and says, “We Have No Debt To Repay.


Listen to Mindy Swank talking about her horrific experience with the anti-abortion crowd, an experience that turned her into an abortion rights activist.


The photographer who took that iconic photograph of “Napal Girl” is retiring.


A Short Description of Cultural Appropriation for Non-Believers,” by Rajeev Balasubramanyam,

is funny and brilliant, and gets at the issues like no one else does.


On a similar topic, this is also from McSweeney’s and equally lovely, by Josh Freedman: "This Authentic Food Is Delicious, But I Think My Mouth Is On Fire.”


Here’s a really interesting podcast from History Extra, on Women in Popular History (they mean, women historians writing about history)


Please God, Stop Chelsea Clinton from Doing Whatever She Is Doing.” Please.

Weird South Africa HufPo thing.


Here's a piece on reforming the Humanities PhD.


Minority Graduate Students Are Less Likely to submit Work for Publication.”


A 2000-foot asteroid missed us. Happy Survival.


The Onion on Trump and Queer Theory.


The Onion’s older piece on liberal/progressive wishes for the end of Trump resonates even more now.


Here’s the best visual response to United Airlines.


Some analysis of UA, by Patrick Blanchfield:


The Digital Divide is real.


Steven Salaita has a new piece, on Palestine and Academic Freedom.

Female dragonflies fake sudden death to avoid male advances

Here’s “How the Ivy League Collaborates with Donald Trump.”

Did you hear about Fyre Festival?  Even if you didn’t, this article, an insider’s view, is hilarious and worth reading all the way to the very last sentence: I Worked at Fyre Festival. It Was Always Going to Be a Disaster.


"The View from the Back Row", a Current Affairs interview with journalist and photographer Chris Arnade is really worth reading.


Angela Lansbury is one of my favourite actors, a woman who has just worked, worked, worked her entire life, with discipline and a commitment to her craft. Here’s an older interview with Barbara Walters.


Here is a Corgi that grew a pumpkin patch by pooping out some seeds.


From the Archives


My piece on Class Shock: Affect, Mobility, and the Adjunct Crisis.


Here’s my “We Were There, We Are Here, Where Are We? Notes Toward a Study of Queer Theory in the Neoliberal University.”


Here’s my review of a book, Girldrive, that details what happens when two clueless women drive across America with a full tank of gas and all the privilege in the world, and try to find feminism only in the people they know.


Gay Marriage Hurts My Breasts.


On Malayalam and Melancholia.


Such Beastly Love: Animals and Affect in a Neoliberal World


On Racism and the American Pit Bull.


I wrote on “trash animals.”


The Handmaid’s Tale is currently playing on Hulu, in a new incarnation. I point out that the dystopia featured there is already here, in my “Rights Make Might: The Dystopian Undertow of Hillary Clinton’s Elite Feminism.


Are Private Prisons Really the Problem?


“Your Sex Is Not Radical.”

Choose Your Elite: Edith Windsor, Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump.”


April 26 was Alien Day. Here’s my “Killing You Softly With Her Dreams,” where I analyse Arianna Huffington’s sleep empire in the context of the lives of xenomorphs.


Who Loves Teaching? Free Speech and the Myth of the Academy as a Place to Love and Be the Left” seems even more relevant now. Ask for a pdf if you can’t find it.


Finally, I leave you with Nick Drake’s “Fly,” keyboards and viola by John Cale.


Image: Pierre Bonnard, "Young Woman Writing," 1908

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