Monthly Archives: August 2015

Katrina 10

New Orleans in the Atlantic world, that would be the course for me to give. There is this, but there is also much to say about things Spanish. I suppose I could allow research papers on topics such as “Sidney Bechet in Paris,” and here is Bechet’s complete discography.

There is so much reporting on this tenth anniversary. I do not have time to read everything but I am heartened to see that not all of the reporting is as celebratory of the so-called recovery as was Obama’s speech.

Here is one example, from Aljazeera, and here is another, from Diane Ravitch.

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The news in Oceania

There are large screen televisions everywhere and they report incessantly on the mass shooting of the day. I am reminded of the constant war reporting in 1984.

By electronic mail on the home front, we are warned daily about a black man with an automatic pistol who has attempted an armed robbery at the edge of campus.

The shootings happen daily elsewhere and are reported upon in great detail. The attempted armed robbery always takes place between midnight and dawn and the message about the perpetrator varies slightly but is essentially always the same.

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Vignette

The student said the school mascot was wimpy. “It is not a local symbol, and it is not even an animal, it is just a piece of fruit. What can a piece of fruit intimidate? Nothing.” The university spends money on such things, he went on, “but not on education.” The new sculpture in the quad is “tacky, which together with the expense it surely incurred, embodies everything that is wrong with the university.¨

I said that at my university those statements would become an editorial cartoon in the student newspaper, that would go viral.  He said that could never happen here, as everything is so controlled, and reprisal for disrespect is so certain.

What fascinated me was that at every point he saw things so much more clearly than I. I would not say such trenchant things about the school and its purposes, nor am I as aware and also accepting as he is of the dangers that inhere in expressing such perceptions.

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Cut from my document, but it is so juicy

If we are to have student activity…

CHAIR MUST MANAGE AND LIMIT THE POWER OF THOSE INSTRUCTORS WHO WITH ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT OR COMPLICITY HAVE:

1. Discouraged students from the major: stop putting them in a position to do so (get them out of 300 and 400 level courses where they have this kind of influence);

2. Worked against the creation and sustenance of extracurricular activities: stop putting them in a position to do so (again, get them out of 300 and 400 level courses where they have this kind of influence);

3. Sent Spanish Club and Sigma Delta Pi dormant / have not had time to do all related paperwork. We must allow someone responsible to revive Sigma Delta Pi and support current leaders in broadening (and making official again) the activities of the Spanish Club.

I can hardly believe that I am having to make such low level recommendations, but it is so. Parties from above are about to kill several majors and at the same time, suggest that random student activity will save them. Ce n’est pas vrai: no desperate activity should be encouraged and one should organize.

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For the first day of classes

All last year I had been amazed that this particular student appeared to have become a born-again Christian. Now he has a new name and it is clear that in fact he has converted to Islam.

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Manuela Picq

An important scholar keeps emailing this listserv I am on, questioning Manuela Picq’s statements that she was beaten by police during her arrest and detention last week. He says it is important not to distort facts and that researchers must be objective. I understand that, of course, but do not really understand him, and I am not sure I want to intervene in this debate. However, it appears to me that:

1. The professor suggests that Manuela Picq is not a credible witness, or not a reliable narrator.
2. He appears to imply that beatings are only beatings if they are really bad. (I wonder exactly how bad they would have to be to count. I note that this is a common reaction to police brutality. In the United States it is a current justification of torture, and the minimization of violence against women is of course common.)
3. He seems to believe that even journalists covering a situation should keep a very safe distance from any melée.
4. He seems to be opposed to the combination of research and advocacy and activism. I disagree, of course. (I am assuming he does realize that even non-activist researchers have an analysis, a point of view.)

Qu’est-ce qui arrive ici?

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Hannah Arendt

Hobbes was the true, though never fully recognized, philosopher of the bourgeoisie because he realized that acquisition of wealth conceived as a never-ending process can be guaranteed only by the seizure of political power, for the accumulating process must sooner or later force open all existing territorial limits. He foresaw that a society which had entered the path of never-ending acquisition had to engineer a dynamic political organization capable of a corresponding never-ending process of power generation. He even, through sheer force of imagination, was able to outline the main psychological traits of the new type of man who would fit into such a society and its tyrannical body politic. He foresaw the necessary idolatry of power itself by this new human type, that he would be flattered at being called a power-thirsty animal, although actually society would force him to surrender all his natural forces, his virtues and his vices, and would make him the poor meek little fellow who has not even the right to rise against tyranny, and who, far from striving for power, submits to any existing government and does not stir even when his best friend falls an innocent victim to an incomprehensible raison d’état. For a Commonwealth based on the accumulated and monopolized power of all its individual members necessarily leaves each person powerless, deprived of his natural and human capacities. It leaves him degraded into a cog in the power-accumulating machine, free to console himself with sublime thoughts about the ultimate destiny of this machine, which itself is constructed in such a way that it can devour the globe simply by following its own inherent law.

Here are some additional notes.

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Ryan Craig

C’est donc en raison de ses faiblesses et non de ses réussites que l’université américaine présente une menace: tout l’invite à inventer d’urgence des solutions innovantes et, pour les rentabiliser, à les diffuser à l’étranger. L’Asie sera sa première cible, pour des raisons démographiques et économiques. Mais l’Europe sera également touchée si les Etats-Unis créent ou promeuvent des programmes ou des approches attentifs à l’employabilité des diplômés.

Ces nouveaux modèles seront payants : le marché, en tout cas en France, est prêt, car, depuis dix ans, la croissance du privé et des filières sélectives est spectaculaire. Les fonds d’investissement ne s’y trompent pas : quand leur intérêt pour l’éducation relevait il y a cinq ans de la sphère privée – quelle école pour mon enfant? -, il est désormais de plain-pied dans leur agenda professionnel. Le pedigree de Ryan Craig en témoigne : il dirige University Ventures, l’un d’entre eux…

Read the whole thing.

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Identity politics, students as customers, and academic freedom

If adjuncts and tenure-track professors are disempowered in relation to their students, the solution isn’t to attack students. . . . sneering at undergraduates with too many feelings or an unsuspecting woman who had the misfortune of tweeting about the biases of scientific research and discourse.

Rather, it’s to focus on a university system that treats students as customers and faculty as the interchangeable means of production. If you care about academic freedom, care about that.

Read the whole thing.

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Libraries and electronic copies exist

I wanted to see this film here in Barcelona but I don’t think I am going to get to it. (There is so much else I have not done.) I will leave here the fantastic 1999 edition of the DK Eyewitness Barcelona Travel Guide because there is a 2014 one that can be had.

I will also leave PMLA 109:2 (March 1994). I have been carrying it around so I would finally read it, and I have not done so yet. It has articles of general interest, like one “Sorceresses, Love Magic, and the Inquisition of Linguistic Sorcery in Celestina” and then the article I have always meant to absorb, David Spurr’s “Myths of Anthropology: Eliot, Joyce, Lévy-Bruhl” which I really need to study.

But the piece is in JSTOR and if you look at it on line, you see who has cited it and what their pieces were about. Spurr says Joyce “sees in anthropology as a discipline the tyrrany of the rational, colonizing mind intent on objectivizing or romanticizing the lives of subject peoples. Joyce has little patience for nostalgic myths of the primitive like those purveyed by W.B. Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory.”

Foucault makes a distinction between anthropology, a totalizing discourse, and ethnology, which is situates itself within historicity. Ethnology uncovers the relations between representation and the material conditions of existence (these are Spurr’s words); in this critical analysis of representation, ethnology is allied with literature that is “fascinated with the being of language” (I believe that is from L’ordre des choses).

Spurr: “Whereas Eliot mythologizes history, Joyce appears … to historicize mythology…. Joyce collapses both myth and history into a radical materiality of language….

This all has to do with Oswald de Andrade and Vallejo, you see.

It is more difficult but I am also leaving Latin American Research Review 50:2 (2015). It has all these marvelous things in it and I so prefer to read on paper, but it is also so accessible online.

There is a piece by one Mark Daniel Anderson, “Modernism, crisis, and the ethics of democratic representation in Fernando del Paso’s total novels” that I need to seriously read for several reasons. One, for its main points, which I think are true (see the abstract, against the now traditional opposition of novela total and testimonio).

My reasons for being interested in it has to do with questions of the production of meaning, the critique of the transcendental subject, the latter as the subject of nationalism as well as universalistic humanism, the limits of avant-garde techniques, the relationship of art to civil society, the appropriation of avant-garde esthetics for institutional purposes (which happened by the 1930s), conciliatory mestizaje (mestizaje as mark of shared citizenship) and more. Benito Juárez is the indio oficial … who has the blond Maximilian shot … and so on, and the mestizo classes rise (peacefully and naturally, by consensus according to the PRI mythology, but look at the facts) … and I must read Fernando del Paso, Noticias del imperio and more.

Anderson also says (44-45) that the collage technique creates a collective identity not formed via the “machined seamlessness of nationalistic essentialism.” Rancière says art creates dissensus (not consensus, which Doris Sommer and others claimed it did for 19th century Latin America and which one can see that it tried to do) — creates dissensus via the strategic use of impropriety and misplacement. Bürger associates this technique with the avant-garde but Rancière extends it to any symbolic representation (because representation always maintains a supplementary, decentering, critical relationship to discourse and reality itself).

QUESTION, THEN: If that is true, then is Julio Ortega’s current “deconstructive” reading of Vallejo fuzzy, and what about “critiques of representation” — ? I have to relearn, or learn for the first time perhaps, the meaning of a certain body of theory.

Anyway, there is a great deal in that article. In the journal, there is another piece on why Latin American scholars do not participate in Latin American Studies (because they identify as agents of change, not experts in field merely contributing to knowledge) … and this is one of the articles on the bifurcation of scholarship, so is important; and there is important work on indigenous literary heritage, and a review article on several books, Indigenous and Black Intellectuals in the Lettered City. But the paper version of this journal is staying here, and now that I am a serious scholar again I should be posting all of these notes in Evernote and Zotero, not here; yet somehow I think the most clearly here.

The Anderson piece causes in me Vallejo lucidity, however. As I have always said, Vallejo is hard to read because there is no transcendental subject to guide us and no plot in a traditional sense, nor are the apparent themes really the themes — although there are recurring words and techniques, work on or against grammar and vocabulary. Ortega says, as I said at one time and many have suggested, that he is “undoing” the transcendental subject and also representation, forging a new language so as to forge a new subject.

But avant-garde “dehumanization,” as Anderson points out, did not directly foment ethical self-awareness or engagement with others, and this is what Vallejo does work on (from early on, one might add, not just in España which may be not be his most magisterial work but his most facile).

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