Among The Little People

We are in fairly constant contact with furniture.

Yes, it’s time to sup from the deep, sorrowful well of feminist scholarship and thereby discover previously hidden knowledge. Specifically, regarding the “problematic” nature of preschool seating, on which Dr Jane Bone, a senior lecturer at Monash University, Melbourne, focuses her keen mental cutting beam:

Then there is the ordinary chair, with a seat, back and four legs, usually arranged around a circular table… This chair is ubiquitous. I rarely go into an early childhood environment where there is not some version of this chair. Designed for children, it is sometimes metal, sometimes wooden, either painted or plain, but always – and this is my point – small.

Do try to keep up. This “child-sized furniture, suited to [a child’s] height and weight,” is of course the aforementioned problematic furniture, for reasons that will now become all too clear:

In my first intra-active encounter with the small chair,

Which I’m assuming entails bending one’s knees and lowering one’s buttocks.

I felt that it talked back to me

And what did the tiny chair say?

I felt that it talked back to me about the preschool as a workplace that is gendered, feminised, child-focused and ultimately disempowering.

Continue reading "Among The Little People" »

Slacking For Social Justice, Part Two

Laziness, apparently, is “a political stance.” Specifically

As political action, laziness… provides postqualitative inquiry with an additional tool for contributing to social justice via social research. Laziness combats the neoliberal condition in which academic research is situated and might serve as a virtue of postqualitative inquiry.

Ah, yes. The neoliberal condition of modern academia.

To meet social justice commitments, postqualitative inquiry must affirmatively disavow neoliberalism and confront it with new sets of materialist-empiricist toolkits for configuring assemblages in retaliation of the reductionist economic becomings and becoming-economies. We must refute our work. We must become lazy.

The author of this unhappy word-pile, Professor Ryan Evely Gildersleeve, is the department chair of higher education at the University of Denver. To spare you needless exposure to the professor’s prose, Greg Piper of The College Fix offers a handy summary

Unsurprisingly, the professor says the concept of laziness is used to harm poor people, nonwhites, “overweight individuals” and women. But they can also use laziness as a weapon against “the dominant power structure” by, for example, housekeepers “completing the minimum required to keep their jobs” to protest “the subjugation of their profession and personhood.”

Not hoovering under the sofa is, it turns out, a radical act, a feat of protest and empowerment.

The full paper can be perused here. Though I feel I should point out that it’s a wearying thing and may inspire thoughts of self-harm.

When not championing the doing of things in a tardy, half-arsed way, and driving his car back and forth over the English language, Professor Gildersleeve mingles with “historically marginalised communities” and “non-dominant youth,” where his prose and searing insights will no doubt prompt much nodding and the rubbing of many chins.  

Continue reading "Slacking For Social Justice, Part Two" »

Elsewhere (231)

Katherine Timpf on the latest cause of campus outrage: 

According to an article in the University of California–Los Angeles publication The Rival, people who are kind of into activism but not totally into activism are guilty of “activist appropriation.”

Katie Clancy and Justin Haskins on fake education at Butler University:

In the course’s description, students are told they’ll be taught the real reason Trump won the 2016 election and they’ll be provided “strategies for resistance” to the Trump administration’s evil agenda. “Donald J. Trump won the U.S. Presidency despite perpetuating sexism, white supremacy, xenophobia, nationalism, nativism, and imperialism,” the course description reads. “This course explores why and how this happened, how Trump’s rhetoric is contrary to the foundation of the U.S. democracy, and what his win means for the future. The course will also discuss, and potentially engage in, strategies for resistance.”

Malhar Mali on the dogmatic rot of the humanities: 

Activist professors incapable of surviving in the more arduous disciplines… are the most vociferous in limiting the academic freedom of others. 

Related: The Heterodox Academy Guide to Colleges

And Kevin Williamson on the psychology of the feckless and chronically disorganised: 

The passivity and subjectlessness of these narratives is striking, and strikingly consistent. Domestic events happen. Cheques come or don’t come. (Mostly they don’t.) Husbands are sent to jail, children are taken away by the clipboard-toting minions of Authority, disease descends. The money isn’t there. And, in the end, they are evicted. Bad things just happen, and, today, I am the bad thing that is just happening to one of these luckless and unhappy children of God… They’d had years and years to prepare for this moment, and, of course, they hadn’t… They very much wanted to stay in the house, though not enough to offer to rent it or buy it. But certainly enough to sit tight and hope that the situation would somehow just resolve itself in their favour.

As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets, on any subject, in the comments.

Clown Quarter Chronicles

Those of you with a taste for academic papers that actively resist human comprehension may wish to follow the tweets of Amir Sariaslan, who catalogues some of the more challenging items in supposedly scholarly publishing

It’s an acquired taste, I know, but there’s a grim fun to be had in spotting the ostentatious and apparently random use of the word “neoliberal,” as, for instance, when pondering “neoliberal” orgasms and the “technology of sexiness.” Alternatively, music lovers can mull the pressing need for hip-hop to “escape from false consciousness and resist hegemony,” and some of you may be seduced by “queer architecture theory,” specifically, a “theatrical queer feminist interpretation of architecture.” Others may wish to while away their lunch hour with a paper “using straight and white teeth as a metaphor for straight and White identity,” thereby revealing how “straight White identities” are “arrogant and ignorant” and “often problematic.

No, please. There’s no need to thank me.

Slacking for Social Justice

It’s the latest thing, according to Riyad A Shahjahan, an assistant professor at Michigan State University, and whose areas of expertise include “social justice theory” and “pedagogies of dissent.”

In recent years, scholars have critiqued norms of neoliberal higher education by calling for embodied and anti-oppressive teaching and learning. Implicit in these accounts, but lacking elaboration, is a concern with reformulating the notion of ‘time’ and temporalities of academic life. Employing a coloniality perspective, this article argues that in order to reconnect our minds to our bodies and centre embodied pedagogy in the classroom, we should disrupt Eurocentric notions of time that colonise our academic lives. I show how this entails slowing down and ‘being lazy’.

Yes, comrades. We must “disrupt Eurocentric notions of time.” And temporalities, obviously. Postcolonial theorising is the only way to challenge the “neoliberal higher education climate” – hold that thought - and those “colonial binaries such as superior/inferior.” We must “dislodge higher education from neoliberal personhood.” As the exact nature of Dr Shahjahan’s problem has been buried under rhetorical rubble, I’ll translate as best I can. You see, being expected to keep up with the pace of lessons and deliver course work on time can induce feelings of discomfort and inferiority in those less able and conscientious, thereby resulting in “exclusionary effects,” which, it turns out, are oppressive and unjust:

These internalised temporalities may have especially exclusionary effects on bodies and selves. For example, Brandt (2008) found that the hurried pace of homework, exams and research associated with molecular biology laboratory class conflicted with a Navajo student’s sense of time. Thus, Navajo students internalised a sense of ‘being less than’ and felt guilty.

However, armed with our postcolonial theorising and postmodern bafflegab, and by stressing the mystical exoticness of people with browner skin, we shall set the people free from the “dominant culture of disembodiment” and the “temporal colonisation of our bodies” – i.e., expectations of punctuality, attentiveness and general competence:  

To undo this colonisation of our bodies, we should strive to ‘embody’ ourselves: inhabit our bodies fully, acknowledge the interconnection between mind, body, spirit, and contest the insertion of the body into the market.

Yes, we must contest the insertion.

Continue reading "Slacking for Social Justice" »

A Lively Gathering

This just in:  

A woman has been charged with attempted murder after stabbing another woman at the biggest art fair in the US, in an attack that was wrongly interpreted by onlookers as performance art.

No. Don’t. Bad dog.

Siyuan Zhao, from New York, was arrested after stabbing the victim’s arms and neck with an X-Acto craft knife during a fight at the Art Basel event in Miami Beach on Friday. The victim, who has not been identified, was taken to Jackson Memorial hospital with non-life-threatening injuries… While she was being patted down, Zhao spontaneously stated: “I had to kill her and two more.” She is also alleged to have said: “I had to watch her bleed!”

Both ladies are believed to have been patrons of the art fair, not rival exhibitors.

Other witnesses later thought the police tape cordoning the area was an art installation.

Via Julia and Chester.

Reheated (29)

For newcomers, three more items from the archives.

No Ego Whatsoever, Just an Urge to Control

Ken Loach is selfless, heroic and countercultural. And so the state should force you to give him money.

Loach has said that he wants to make the British “confront their imperialist past” and in 1977 he famously rejected the offer of an OBE, supposedly on principle, denouncing the honour as “despicable… deferring to the monarchy and the name of the British Empire, which is a monument of exploitation and conquest.” However, this principled adamance did not inhibit the director’s 2003 acceptance of the Praemium Imperiale – the World Culture Prize in Memory of His Imperial Highness Prince Takamatsu. His Imperial Highness was of course the brother of the 124th Emperor of Japan, Hirohito, whose activities and ambitions were, it seems, altogether more moral and glorious. 

Postmodernism Unpeeled

A discussion with Stephen Hicks.

Writing in Innovations of Antiquity, Ralph Hexter and Daniel Selden dismissed “transparent prose” as merely “the approved mode of expression for the society and values of the newly empowered middle class.” In the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Mas’ud Zavarzadeh denounced “unproblematic prose and clarity of presentation” as “the conceptual tools of conservatism.” The rejection of transparency as “conservative” is particularly odd, since transparency makes a claim amenable to broad critical enquiry, and thus to public correction. Presumably, if you prefer arguments that are comprehensible and open to scrutiny, this signals some reactionary tendency and deep moral failing. On the other hand, if you sneer at such bourgeois trifles, you’re radical, clever and very, very sexy.

When Scolding is the Payoff for All That Piety and Angst

A Guardian journalist dares to send her daughter to a private school. Socialist vindictiveness promptly ensues.

Has Ms Murray not heard the sermon of Arabella Weir, whose definition of a “good, responsible citizen” still rings in our ears and swells our hearts? And who tells us that state schools are virtuous because they teach children “who to be wary of, who to avoid” and “how to keep their heads down,” (though how these things will be learned is oddly unexplored). And what of Kevin McKenna, a man no less pious, who tells us that parents who view the comprehensive system as inadequate – perhaps because of their own first-hand experiences – are by implication wicked and that such parental waywardness is intolerable and should be banned? Has Ms Murray not been told by those who know better that children aren’t special and should be sacrificed for society and the glories of socialism? Perhaps she’s been reading those surveys of state school teaching staff in which respondents report “a climate of violence,” “malicious disruption” and damage to personal property as “part of the routine working environment.”

Now stock up on canned goods and liquor and explore the greatest hits

Elsewhere (36)

David French on the lowering of higher education:  

If you have college for all but don’t dumb down the standards, the dropout rate will stagger the imagination. If you have college for all and lower standards so that most can earn a degree, then you devalue college by transforming it into something more like a longer and (much) more expensive high school. So then the high-achievers will feel an even greater imperative to go to the next level. High school becomes middle school, college becomes high school, graduate school becomes college, and our prolonged adolescence continues and worsens.

KC Johnson revisits the reality-bending scholarship of “post-structuralist teacher-critic leftist” Wahneema Lubiano:  

For Lubiano, “altering reality within the sphere of influence of a dominant culture instead of simply representing it complicates the discourse.” But, of course, “altering reality” allows the scholar to read into the text whatever preconceptions (about the pervasiveness of racism, in the case of Lubiano’s dissertation) he or she brings. Who needs evidence when you can simply “alter reality”? Lubiano isn’t worried about such a problem, in any case, because her dissertation’s approach allows her to move beyond the great enemy of the contemporary academy: “assumptions that hide their dependence upon white, European and American, middle-class contexts.”

Readers will recall that Lubiano rails against the “hegemony” of “Western rationality,” which, she tells us, “marginalises other ways of thinking about the world.” The professor – tenured at an elite university - is apparently “physically traumatised and psychologically assaulted” by, among other things, global capitalism. 

And Fabian Tassano on ersatz subversion

I don’t wish to argue about my precise political preferences, and I suppose it’s fairly obvious that I’m no great fan of socialism. But what I write in this area is determined by what I experience as being the dominant ideology - every society has one, of course. This happens to be leftist as far as British culture goes, and has been at least as far back as when I was at college (the eighties). Even in the heyday of Thatcherism it seemed fairly obvious that the intelligentsia was dominated by people who despised the Right. […] The worst sort of dominant ideology is the kind which portrays itself as not dominant but counter-cultural, like the present one. (See pseudo-iconoclasmpseudo-challenge, etc. Also note the similarities with communist regimes which try to use the notion of being in a perpetual state of revolution against the bourgeoisie.) As it says on the back of the Mediocracy book: Subversion as counterculture is inspiring, subversion as dogma is obnoxious.

The perpetual revolution against the bourgeoisie can be seen in its full glory here. “By doing this I can give ideological assistance to the people.”

Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Ignorant Teachers, a New Socialist Ideal

Your host has an article posted over at Minding the Campus. It expands on a few themes that may be familiar to regulars here.

Natural variations in cognitive ability, unlike those in musicality or athleticism, are a thorn in the paw of devout egalitarians. Avid readers of the Guardian’s arts and music pages would no doubt feel free to delight in the prowess of, say, Helen Mirren or Pinchas Zukerman without believing that everyone they passed on the street could with training do the same. It seems that only intelligence attracts contrarian manoeuvring.

The latest example of which comes via Fabian Tassano, author of Mediocracy: Inversions and Deceptions in an Egalitarian Culture. Tassano steers us to the claims of senior philosophy lecturer and Guardian contributor Dr Nina Power, who insists, apparently based on nothing, that “everyone has the potential to understand everything,” and that equality of intelligence is “something to be presupposed” because – well, just because  - “everyone is equally intelligent.”

Dr Power’s assertions are bold and her reasoning unobvious, indeed difficult to detect - thus meeting the key criteria of Very Deep Thought. She refers to the French postmodernist Jacques Rancière, whose “axiomatic assertion of the equality of intelligence” is, we’re told, “one of the most important ideas of the past decade.” On what basis Rancière felt entitled to make such claims - and why Dr Power sees fit to agree with them - remains somewhat mysterious. Dr Power does, however, cite fellow philosopher Peter Hallward, who tells us, “Everyone has the same intelligence, and differences in knowledge are simply a matter of opportunity and motivation. On the basis of this assumption, superior knowledge ceases to be a necessary qualification of the teacher, just as the process of explanation… ceases to be an integral part of teaching.”  

On this, Dr Power elaborates, highlighting another benefit of the egalitarian ideal: “In principle then, there is no reason why a teacher is smarter than his or her student, or why educators shouldn’t be able to learn alongside pupils in a shared ignorance.” 

Knowledge, competence and the ability to explain – none of these things will be needed in our socialist utopia. Children will simply inhale education or absorb it through osmosis. On reflection, a couple of the teachers at my old comprehensive were particularly unskilled at explaining their thinking and struggled to remember facts. At the time I had no idea this would soon be regarded as a cutting-edge educational strategy.

The full article is here

Elsewhere (29)

Andrew Withers on the totalitarian roots of the Fabian Society:  

These ‘intellectuals’ regarded the working classes as something akin to livestock.

Further to this epic thread, Ann Althouse talks with Glenn Loury and notes how concern for “harsh language” and “violent metaphors” is not without class implications

I think that if we go too far in the direction of this civility and etiquette, we’re kind of privileging some people over others. We’re privileging people who are more educated, people who come from a background where politeness and niceness is the cultural style, and delegitimising people who come from a different sort of culture, where maybe exaggeration and harsh speech is the thing.

Greg Lukianoff on free speech and “dangerous speech”:

Any system that allows for censorship must place an actual, flawed human being in charge of deciding what can and cannot be said. Once the power to censor has been granted, it follows like night follows day that those in charge will be more likely to use this power to punish people with points of view that they simply dislike than those with points of view they favour.

And Jonathan Rauch, author of Kindly Inquisitors, on the same: 

[Postmodernists] say... you should put in place the political system that most advantages the weak and minorities. I think that’s the wrong answer because what happens in practice when you do that is someone’s going to have to decide who’s the weak and who’s the minority, and who isn’t. And that means the Dean of Students or whoever it is at the university is going to have to be in charge of policing the boundaries of criticism and therefore policing the boundaries of thought... The University of Illinois system, to the extent that it fires people for offending someone, says the boundary of criticism in debate is wherever the most offended student can persuade the university to put it. And of course the next thing that happens is you have a campus offendedness sweepstakes to see who can get offended the most and thus become the gatekeeper for speech. 

 By all means add your own.

You Are Privileged to Witness Just How Brilliant I Am

Omar Kholeif, whose plea for racial favouritism in the arts recently entertained us, is enthused by a project named Unrealised Potential.

The project features,

An expansive collection of proposals from a breadth of contemporary artists, writers, musicians and curators.

And how does it work?

The unproduced ideas are lined up in the first gallery, alongside a set of terms and conditions, whereby visitors are invited to purchase the artist proposals for ‘realisation.’ The setting adopts a similar structure to an auction space, where a red sticker is placed on each idea sold, with the purchasing ‘producer’ being offered two years to realise the project, before it returns to the marketplace.

Isn’t it just wonderful? And so terribly clever. Visitors to the exhibition get, 

The opportunity to purchase the right to interpret and realise an artist’s idea.

An artist’s idea. Oh fortune, she smiles upon us. Think of it as a remix, but with no original recording, or demo, or evidence of talent. Apparently, this constitutes,

Critical and, at times, contradictory commentary about the commercialisation of the arts.

And not a cheap and derivative hustle. Why, the very idea.

Some readers may recall the ICA’s Publicness exhibition of 2003, which - in ways never quite specified - “interrogated globalisation” and “notions of the public realm.” The exhibition’s four-page press release promised the thrill of “proposals for projects that may never be realised.” In other words, the artists were so heady in their conceptualism they could short-circuit the tiresome business of actually making or finishing anything, and could instead be acclaimed - and paid - simply for airing “proposals.” One almost had to admire the efficiency. After all, it saved everyone – especially the artists – a great deal of time and trouble. Though you can’t help wondering how the artists would have felt had the audience adopted a similar approach to visiting the ICA: “Let’s not bother going and just pretend we did…”

And lets not forget the non-existent giant flying art banana, a theoretical masterpiece that cost Canadian taxpayers over $130,000 and which, had it materialised, would have said something unflattering about the previous incumbent of the White House. Because, hey, artists are just so goddamned edgy.

But back to Mr Kholeif and his keen curatorial insights:

The very act of potentially encouraging complete ‘amateurs’ to consider the delivery parameters of such creative output offers audiences an insight into the graft and expertise required to produce a successful creative project, while simultaneously reminding them of the risk involved... What is worthy here is this notion of process: audiences are granted the privilege of witnessing the multifarious facets of an artist’s psyche.

You heard the man. It’s a privilege. Well, having climbed the heights of Mount Vanity, let’s bask in the glow of that creative lava stream, shall we?

Continue reading "You Are Privileged to Witness Just How Brilliant I Am" »

Reheated (11)

For newcomers, three more items from the archives

Postmodernism Unpeeled

A discussion with Stephen Hicks, author of Explaining Postmodernism.

Writing in Innovations of Antiquity, Ralph Hexter and Daniel Selden dismissed “transparent prose” as “the approved mode of expression for the society and values of the newly empowered middle class.” In the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Mas’ud Zavarzadeh denounced “unproblematic prose and clarity of presentation” as “the conceptual tools of conservatism.” The rejection of transparency as “conservative” is particularly odd, since transparency makes a claim amenable to broad critical enquiry, and thus public correction. Without transparency, what do we have? A private language shared only by likeminded peers in which one is free to assert largely unopposed? [...] Presumably, if you prefer arguments that are comprehensible and open to scrutiny, this signals some reactionary tendency and deep moral failing. On the other hand, if you sneer at such bourgeois trifles, you’re radical, clever and very, very sexy.

Blunting the Senses in the Name of Fairness

The Dalai Lama gets it wrong. Cultural equivalence debunked at length.

Rosie O’Donnell was happy to assert that, “radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America.” But while red-faced evangelists may say, for instance, that gay people are wicked, damned to hellfire, etc, I don’t know of any internationally renowned Christian leaders who are calling for the imprisonment and killing of gay people. Unlike the supposedly “moderate” Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who insists that gay men and lesbians should be “killed in the worst manner possible.” Not condemned, ‘corrected,’ prayed for or pitied, or any of the usual nonsense spouted by Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson et al; but murdered - as brutally as possible.

The Flow of Ideas

Professor Sharra Vostral exposes the humble tampon as an “artefact of control.”

Note the professor’s confidence as she rushes to the podium on Mount Grievance. She is righteous and wise, and apparently telepathic. Non-literal uses of the term “patchwork” must assume whatever sequence of ideas suits Professor Vostral’s worldview. Used metaphorically, the word “patchwork” must signal disdain for quilt making, quilt makers and, by implication, an entire gender too. There can be no doubt about it. “Patchwork” simply is a “gendered insult” - one “based in derogatory understandings” of a “woman-based art form.” It’s “embedded,” apparently.

Excavate the greatest hits.