Monthly Archives: August 2018

On teaching in the smile economy

Why is it important to refuse the idea of treating students like customers?

Someone said:

Uneven and neglects US studies of managerialism, going out of her way not to cite Aronowitz, Ross, Slaughter, Rhoades, etc. Readings’ work was out of date when published. And it only lightly touches on the smile economy and the vast literature on affective labor. But where it’s good, it’s great.


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Academic advice

Here is one of my favorite pieces on the Ronell case, and here is the other. Both writers are far better deconstructors and are tackling a far more difficult topic than are Ronell and Butler chatting on a line from Aretha Franklin. On her scholarship, I like this piece by Martin Jay.

The MLA wrote us a letter saying they had accepted Judith Butler’s apology for the letter she wrote, and were committed to justice for all. I responded:

Dear Professor Gere,

It was disappointing that so many colleagues signed that unseemly letter – I would have expected better judgment from them. As people who have been in the profession as long as Butler and her friends have should know, such letters tend to be detrimental and not helpful to people under investigation. I do also note the professional harm its circulation will have done the student. I regret that people this indiscreet have so much power in the MLA now.

[P Z Realname]
[Membership Number]

As we know, I don’t like the words procrastination and avoidance, I like the word strike, and I don’t think anyone who has managed to get a degree is a procrastinator or an avoider. Still, after a few traumatic experiences on the tenure track I froze in fear. We are told to be cautious. I still fear that if I allow myself to get lost in the work, and to truly do the best I can in it, I will be forced to a death more painful than any torture I have suffered heretofore. I try to move ahead without really jumping in. In obedient attempts to avoid “perfectionism” I try to rush, skipping steps, and then accuse myself of “procrastination” when I trip and fall because of the step I did not build. We must take advice, but only standard advice, and not our own.

I have, however, finally found a piece of writing on procrastination that I like, because it speaks to fear, because it speaks to the issue of loss of voice.

Procrastination is a form of resistance to the flow of life. When we procrastinate, we are in resistance to our own flow, in other words in resistance to the call of our soul, to the energy of the Universe.

The piece is about living, not about producing, and about love, not self-control. It’s not from a refereed journal, just from someone’s website, and I find it quite interesting.


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Texts I do not have

…not available in Vichy State’s JSTOR.


Denise Ferreira da Silva
Critical Ethnic Studies
Vol. 1, No. 1 (Spring 2015), pp. 33-38
DOI: 10.5749/jcritethnstud.1.1.0033

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How did I say it then

El otro elusivo: la teoría racial de Denise Ferreira da Silva

Abstracto original

This paper will discuss some implications of Denise Ferreira da Silva’s work for the analysis of discourses of mestizaje and exceptionalism in modern Latin American literature, focusing on her concepts of transcendental poesis and the scene of engulfment in Toward a global theory of race (2007). In the modern period mestizaje became a key justification of cultural exceptionalism in Latin America, as well as a foundational myth serving to limit the analysis of race and racisms. Da Silva shows how mestizaje produces the recognizable, yet subordinate racial other on whose ground the modern subject is sustained. Transcendental poesis is the process whereby the spectre of race or radical alterity is at once evoked and elided; the mestizo is produced as the authentic subject while recognition of deeper-hued others is interdicted, or driven underground. This moment of evocation and elision, the scene of engulfment, is dramatized repeatedly in nineteenth and twentieth century Latin American writing. Da Silva’s work elucidates these narrative thickets in a new and theoretically rigorous way. Its insistence on the racial system as a global one enables a new look at race and racisms in Latin America, ­allowing for specificity but not confusing specificity and exceptionalism. The paper will also aim to engage its audience on the question of possible limits to the universalizing claims of da Silva’s theory. Are there aspects of the emergence of race it does not explain?­

Abstracto nuevo

This presentation will discuss some implications of Brazilian critical race theorist Denise Ferreira da Silva’s analysis of discourses on race in Latin America. In Toward a global theory of race (2007) Da Silva argues that racialization is implicit in the construction of modernity and the modern subject. This model enables a new look at race and racisms in Latin America, allowing for specificity but not confusing specificity and exceptionalism. “Transcendental poesis” is the process whereby the spectre of race or radical alterity is at once evoked and elided; the mestizo is produced as the authentic Latin American subject while recognition of deeper-hued others is interdicted. This moment of simultaneous evocation and elision, the “scene of engulfment,” is dramatized repeatedly in modern writing. The paper will consider the value of da Silva’s global paradigm for the local interpretation of racism and racial meaning, and also critique some philosophical bases of da Silva’s theory.

Abstracto en español 1—Usar este

En este trabajo consideraremos algunas implicaciones del trabajo de la teórica Denise Ferreira da Silva para el análisis del discurso racial en América Latina. En Toward a global theory of race (2007) propone da Silva que la racialización está implícita en la construcción de la modernidad y del sujeto moderno. Este modelo ofrece una perspectiva nueva sobre raza y racismo en el continente, teniendo en cuenta situaciones específicas sin justificar lecturas excepcionalistas. La “poesis trascendental” es el proceso en que la raza, o la alteridad racial se evoca y se esquiva simultaneamente; se produce al mestizo como el sujeto auténtico y se ocultan los rastros de otros más oscuros. Este momento de evocación y elusión, “la escena de engullición”, se dramatiza de manera repetitiva en la escritura moderna. Analizaremos el valor del paradigma global de da Silva, y de sus bases filosóficas, para la interpretación local del racismo y los modos de signifación racial.

Abstracto en español 2

El trabajo considerará algunas implicaciones del trabajo de la teórica Denise Ferreira da Silva para el análisis del discurso sobre mestizaje y excepcionalismo en América Latina, enfocándose en los conceptos depoesis trascendental” y “escena de engullición” elucidados en Toward a global theory of race (2007). En el período moderno ha servido el mestizaje como justficación del excepcionalismo cultural y como mito fundacional que encubre la persistencia del racismo. Da Silva muestra cómo en realidad produce el otro racial en el que se sostiene el sujeto moderno. El espectro de la raza, o de la alteridad radical se evoca y esquiva al mismo tiempo; se produce al mestizo como sujeto auténtico y se oculta la faz del otro más oscuro.

Puntos: what I said then, but will this order work?

0. Numerous 19th century texts (e.g. Ma., C.V.) raise, and do not resolve, questions of race.
These don’t get “solved” until Vasconcelos, Freyre, “color cubano,” etc.

1. Como han señalado Angel Rama, Jean Franco, Doris Sommer y muchos otros, desde principios del siglo XIX han intervenido los letrados para legitimizar narrativas ejemplares de la formación e integración nacionales. Al mismo tiempo han trabajado para forjar las nuevas naciones como entidades constituidas por discursos, símbolos, imágenes y ritos (aquí parafraseo a Arias, 703).

2. Uno de estos discursos es el mestizaje, término con múltiples significados e implicaciones, pero que ha servido como discurso nacional y continental, sobre todo a partir de los años 1920 y 1930 (con la obra de Vasconcelos, Freyre y otros). Ha funcionado la idea del mestizaje como herramienta ideológica para la unión nacional, como arma de combate contra la hegemonía norteamericana, y como rechazo al racismo. Sabido es, sin embargo, que mestizaje y racismo también coexisten (de la Cadena, Portocarrero, otros). Como mito fundacional, el mestizaje también ha servido para limitar el análisis de raza y racismo, y para justificar el excepcionalismo cultural.

3. Este trabajo comenta algunas implicaciones del trabajo de Denise Ferreira da Silva en Toward a Global Theory of Race para el análisis de la representación de la racialización y jerarquización racial en ciertos textos literarios claves (“ficciones fundacionales”) latinoamericanos.

4. Trabajo con Ferreira. da S. porque necesito una base teórica para un proyecto mayor que es secuela a

Foundational Fictions de D. S. [Explain what Sommer’s book is; it has has conciliatory view]

5. Lo que noto en novelas como Maria y CV es que retratan (tienen como tema) la diferencia racial y dan todos los elementos para analizarlo, pero luego esquivan el tema: matan personajes, mudan la familia a la ciudad, etc. Sommer ve esta literatura como conciliatoria, mestiza, nation-building pero yo lo que veo es desgarre, violencia, etc. o sea la no-resolución. En parte, quieren forjar patria SIN resolver el problema racial y en parte es que están yuxtaponiendo diferentes discursos de la época, y no han tomado una decision

6. Lo que sí hacen es proponer, forjar sujeto mestizo latinoamericano, latinoamericano como entre-lugar, y/o latinoamericano como sujeto cruzado por conflictos raciales. Este sujeto existe en un contexto en que la problemática racial se evoca y se esquiva, se plantea y se reprime o se silencia;

ello no es solamente (como alguna vez dijo M. de la Candena) porque raza en A.L. es cultura (por lo cual la discriminación se justifica en términos culturales y lo racial se define por prácticas culturales, sino porque se está intentando definir el entre-lugar del sujeto de las nuevas naciones (filosofías subalternas, etc.)

7. Por eso es que son interesantes e iluminadores las ideas de transcental poesis y scene of engulfment en Da Silva, porque describen ese momento de formación.

8. Da Silva: teoría; teoría global; idea de lo global que incluye A.L., BIEN. Ahora: el problema segun ella es la modernidad/colonialidad y el sujeto cartesiano u occidental. Es una lectura posmodernista del sujeto (y he tenido dudas porque creo que esa lectura descontextualiza un poco y culpa un poco demasiado, pero bueno).

9. Poesis trascendental: el proceso en que la raza, o la alteridad racial se evoca y se esquiva simultaneamente; se produce el mestizo como el sujeto auténtico y se ocultan los rastros de otros más oscuros. ES la creación del yo trascendental (y es inestable porque el yo trascendental latinoamericano se compara al europeo) [EJEMPLO]

10. Scene of engulfment: momento de evocación y elusión. El otro tiene que estar allí pero tiene que estar subordinado. [EJEMPLO]

A. Hay 2 aplicaciones:
1. el proceso de formación del sujeto (como sujeto mestizo, sujeto élite masculino entre-lugar), y 2. el hecho de que los textos sugieren que este hecho es problemático pero postergan un enfrentamiento directo con el problema. (El otro tiene que aparecer y desaparecer—y la dificultad de este proceso tiene que hacerse visible y luego ya no)
B. Soluciones: hay otros mestizos y otros híbridos, no solamente este mestizo élite; y otras formas de identidad/subjetividad no trascendentales.

Obras citadas

Arias, Arturo (2016). Article on Jean Franco, PMLA 131.3.



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Pushkin House-Musuem 23.VIII-16.IX


Here is the poster for my cousin Alexei Aizenman’s centenary exhibit at the Pushkin House-Museum on Arbat, in Moscow. You should really go if you are in town.

In other news Gukira is a good blogger with an interesting post on Freire; I am told he is also the author of the best piece on Avital Ronell. A good writer and courageous.



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I have started paying $30/year for this site, to get the ads off it, and I am going to clean it up. I will be one of the last bloggers.

I have discovered this poet, Silvia Goldman, who turns out to be the author of this piece I read some time ago and liked, as well as the author it is on and the site, Vallejo & Co., that reproduced it.

I have seen that not all professors are as badgered as I, and remember there was a time when I was not, either. I am trying to channel it.

August 2018 marks the quincentenary of the beginning of the Atlantic slave trade.

This is one of the professors who apparently has new, as yet unpublished research on it. Another is David Richardson and he is at the University of Hull. There is also David Wheat at Michigan State (I should have been an economic historian).


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They will next read translation manuscripts in the summer of 2019.


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Giroux: “The great philosopher Antonio Gramsci, who was one of the first Marxist theoreticians who understood that almost every act of politics is a pedagogical practice, wrote a brilliant essay in 1916 on why he hates the indifferent. What he understood was that indifference, my term, was not an action that existed in a void but a learned political practice; that is, it was an operative pedagogical force that often hid beneath the ideological deceit of commonsense, the notion that there is no alternative, and a mass produced manufactured ignorance or form of public pedagogy that today parades under a notion of civic stupidity that proclaims its support for “alternative facts”, “enemies of the people,” and there is not such thing as the truth. Consciousness as the motor of thought, desire, agency, and struggle is a burden for many today because it refuses the notion of fate, easy orthodoxy, economic determinism, and the silly discourse of objective contradictions, not to mention the collapse into political purity and the notion that biology drives our politics. Consciousness is a site of struggle not a vacuum waiting to be filled with academic platitudes. It is the site where indifference is challenged and gives rise to educated hope and collective struggles.”

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This book

The blurb: Rejecting the view that social categories of difference such as race and culture operate solely as principles of exclusion, Denise Ferreira da Silva presents a critique of modern thought that shows how racial knowledge and power produce global space. Silva proposes that the notion of racial difference governs the global power configuration because it institutes moral regions not covered by post-Enlightenment ethical ideals.

[Station break: I am reader 144365 and should call in. The university system is not your friend, nor is the university (necessarily). This is my first self-care day at work in many years.]

Here is a useful review. I would like to be able to read the whole thing but this is useful. And there are my extensive notes. Remember: race is constitutive of modernity and this is why the problem of racism does not go away. Also remember: I understand this book better than I think and it is probably also better than I think.


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Una iluminacioncita

The rhetorical and narrative move I have been referring to, to myself, as “evoke and elide” all this time, is also, or is parallel to another which is “assimilate and erase.”


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