Monthly Archives: February 2019


I want to e-mail this but should not. I have to get it out of me.

The narrative of the beginning of all of this I got from X, with difficulty, during the summer, was:

1. Y had been coaching student practice many hours a semester, for honorarium of $100.
2. The importance of the $100 was that it defined this work as something separate from regular workload. Y did not need to do this work to comply with regular duties.
3. When the $100 was withdrawn Y was offered the possibility of claiming this work as part of service and/or research, or of not doing it — this latter being difficult because it is necessary work to hold the program together, cannot be left undone, X said.
4. The alternative would be for department to find another way to get coaching for the students; other departments have students pay, for instance. But there was pressure, for program integrity, on this instructor to coach for free, X implied.
5. This redefinition of workload, said X, had implications for everyone. What more extra work could the university assign, and tell people to account for it as part of regular workload?
6. Y, however, did not wish to complain and according to X the reason was fear of dismissal. Again, X was concerned about implications for others. Saying this work could now be counted as service or research changed job descriptions, definitions of research and service, and took the descriptions of these things away from faculty, said X.
7. So X decided to go on a campaign, which led to everything else that has happened.

My questions:

a/ Did Y really feel threatened or coerced?
b/ Was program integrity really threatened if the coaching was not done?
c/ Did the department consider any other way to get the coaching done?
​d/ Are other faculty concerned about the disappearance of coaching?

e/ Are there other faculty doing excessive service?

I never got answers to these practical questions. What X has done seems overwrought for what had been in essence a practical problem: students apparently need coaching and if the university provides it, and it is not included in tuition, there needs to be some kind of lab fee to pay for it.

It took me a long time to try to make sense of X’s initial complaints. I don’t know how accurate this narrative is, but I tried to come up with something rational, as opposed to faux rational, and ended up in this game with X where X appeared to be  trying to turn me into an instrument for co-creation of psychodrama. It then turned out that X was engaged in similar games with many others.

I have delegated this and must stay out, rise above the poison.


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Cecilia Simulacrum

Cecilia simulacrum
evoke and elide
appropriate and evade [or bury]

The machine to produce similarities: slavery, contact and mimesis in the Cuban novel Cecilia Valdés … Rev. Ib. XXXIV: 262 (ene.-mar. 2018): 221-233.

[What I found in my notes was completely different: being treated “as a servant” is what irritates me the most — I seem to define this as bald-faced attempts to manipulate; note how it involves not wanting to say no (to someone else) or yes (to what I want), staying on some kind of threshold.]

Kafka story: ape who has to imitate men to survive. He has to suppress own identity (his difference) to be like the Other. This is mimesis and it has to do with the master-slave relation as well as with insanity (seeing oneself as other, being aliené).

DARWIN emphasized difference between savage and civilized man, and the savage’s talent for mimicry. And Adorno-Horkheimer say that the modern subject is created when autonomy is imagined and imitation / mimicry left behind.

P. 224: If mimesis menaces the fixity of identities and differences, defying the classifying eye, we can understand the mixture of terror and fascination it could provoke in the lettered Latin American city (Rama), preoccupied with the rationalization of social space, the identification of deviants, and the meticulous discrimination among races, classes, and types in general; so narratives are about making the encounter with alterity palpable.

*This is what I have always noticed: fear of difference / denial of difference.


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Le plan

1/ To qualify our courses for supplemental instruction we will say we have raised the minimum competency level to graduate. There will be more to the request: we may have to point out that it is not possible, in the first three or four courses, to create people who can easily do the major without supplemental instruction (the alternative would be to hire more and more qualified faculty, so as to be able to have a coherent curriculum and stick to it, but since we cannot, we MUST be able to coach enough students to A+ in the lower level courses).

2/ My colleague will take over the honor society.

3/ My next mini-grant will be for library materials. The other one will be used by me for students — they will not each get their own spending accounts, but will have to sign an agreement to match the money spend on materials for them, and not expect never to buy or read a book.

4/ I have to post to Moodle for one course and put up instructions for a make-up written composition and oral composition for the other course.

5/ I have to grade very many papers.

6/ I will read at least two articles for my own reasons before I do any of the above.

7/ Good-bye.


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El futuro

“Great comparison to the Elsevier model. Also, LSU-BR now has outrageous targets for online enrollment: 5,000 students. If we think of the twenty or so other campuses that have their own targets and if we take a very conservative number of, say, 1,500 per campus, we end up with 30,000 online students. This raises two points. The first is that such numbers would constitute another major campus, indeed one bigger than LSU in Baton Rouge. That would be a major institution that is operating in a variety of unregulated spaces. The second point is that, in my judgment, such projections have something Malthusian about them. I doubt that the population and the market in Louisiana can even remotely sustain them. When we consider that every other state in the nation is doing the same thing, we quickly conclude that the online thing is a bubble.  Or, more likely, a kind of propaganda tool by which administrators try to look with-it and active even when the numbers won’t support that impression.”

“Think the Elsevier model as opposed to publishing? Good grief!” 

“LSU-S has perhaps the largest MBA program in the USA, 3000 students. It was covered in the Washington Post recently. In my opinion, Academic Partnerships, their recruiter, has created a diploma mill. It has NOT led to prosperity at LSU-S. Beware of Academic Partnerships.”



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Vanguard of the Atlantic World

I have the book and have read a lot of it; this is the article and I am going to recycle the paper copy, but not after saying, or recalling, a bit about it.

How did Mexicans and Colombians envision and emplot modernity in the 19th century? The author posits an “American republican modernity” that lost out after about 1875, as more conservative notions of modernity (technological innovation, industrialization, state power) became dominant.

* 1868 orator in Mexico, announcing that (Latin) American democracy will spread to Europe, emancipating it: this was said in the context of the victory over Maximiliano and the restoration of a Republic in Mexico. It went against the prevailing notion of the day, that modernity had started in Europe and the U.S. and would spread from there to the so-called peripheries.

1. Most professional scholars of modernity, beginning with Hegel, think the opposite. Giddens says so, too. Sanders: modernity is not an analytical category, but a discursive force. It is not measurable; it is only a normative and judgmental comparison.

2. Many 19th century political thinkers would have agreed with these scholars. Sarmiento and Alberdi, for instance. And many current scholars have accepted Sarmiento’s vision as representative. BUT if you read newspapers, not these elite people, you see that “American republican modernity” was actually quite widespread in the mid 19th century.

3. And this period of Latin America’s claim to modernity was short-lived. It lost out to other versions of modernity, but not before profoundly challenging the political, intellectual and social history of the Atlantic world.

* On p. 111, see the marvelous quotation from the writer in Cali. Europe is backward, Latin America is modern. Also,  it was believed that economic prosperity would follow if political modernity were created. There is another beautiful quotation on 113, about slavery; then Sanders points out that Europe was now “embarking on a SECOND great wave of imperial conquest, creating a colonialism that would define dominant visions of modernity until this day … [and that] Mexicans proposed a countermodernity that rejected the right of power and equations of civilization with violence.” That is to say that they did not accept the modernity that is the other side of coloniality but proposed another. And the constitutions of that period showed it.

* Emphasized were universal fraternity (116), antiracism (117), the identity of citizen (117) … and note how important all of this was when the state was still weak to nonexistent and nations undefined (119).

+ BUT: economic liberalism meant that the demands of capital became more important than democracy or the demands of the subaltern by the last quarter of the century. It was more and more believed that to achieve economic modernity one would have to sacrifice democratic and republican political modernity, which meant the poor lost rights and the subaltern were excluded.

* Mexico and Colombia thus no longer saw themselves as standing at the vanguard of the Atlantic world, but as the opposite; and they dropped the democratic values that earlier on they had espoused.


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Les notes du jour

For my essay on the market university: California is the worst state in terms of education vs prison investment: they spend $11K per student and $64K per prisoner each year.

In news of my other essay:

+ in the early 19th century, “whitening”was not yet a wish. And people did not want to admit that free women of color could be married or respectable. Plaçage is a white myth, a U.S. literary trope, based actually in fear of black men, although it is apparently true that some of those who came to N.O. from Haiti after the revolution had to take recourse in prostitution.

+ Clark: fear of the mulata displaced fear of Haitians

+ look again at the end of El Zarco, and at Amalia and Martín Rivas. Note how Sommer’s “foundational fictions” fail to found. And find out who used the term, “incest ex machina.”

+ novels permeated with the idea of possession, ownership; identities that are layered

+ novels that lend themselves to readings that support both liberating projects and repressive ones; these projects and readings don’t seem to enter into dialogue with each other but to cancel each other out, stifle each other, so we get this confused discourse.



Filed under Race book, ULS Presentation

Des livres pour mes cours

García Lorca

Summer reading: Stainton, Leslie. Lorca: a dream of life, Bloomsbury Books 2013, 978-0747544456; Graham, Helen. The Spanish Civil War. A very short introduction. OUP 2006. Butler, Christopher. Modernism. A very short introduction. OUP 2010. 9780192804419. Winkiel, Laura. Modernism. The basics. Routledge 2017. 978-0–415-71370-2.

Complete works, for students: García Lorca, Obra completa, Ediciones de Bolsillo 2018, 978-0747544456.

Complete works, for library: García Lorca, Obra completa, Akal 2008, 9788476004135.


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Those notes

I need to organize my notes. And files. As we know, and in a better way than making these blog posts. But for today: we will start here, anyhow, any way.

Cecilia Valdés the novel is anti-colonialist, pro-elite, pro-white and pro-patriarchy (and check Doris Sommer on this; I am in the whole project arguing against Sommer’s conciliatory view on things). That discerning eye is the eye that knows how to distinguish color, and thus protect hierarchies (I think).

Villaverde is a U.S. Hispanic writer, and Cecilia Valdés is an international novel. Related is Cane River. It’s the national novel of Cuba but also a New Orleans novel, and its kernel is the plaçage myth.

There is a book by one Beaumont, L’esclavage aux Etats-Unis. This author accompanied Tocqueville on his voyage. There is also Mathew Guterl, American Mediterranean and Coolies and Cane; he also has a book about seeing race. Louisiana looked to Cuba, for instance, for models of how to deal with the Chinese.


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The critical university

My other friend(s) said this and I have to make the point explicit in my talk: “It’s important to recall why higher ed is important in the first place, imho. Namely: as a site to cultivate and protect and project critical thinking about the burning issues in our world.”

ETA: My other friend said: “[S]omething that we face as a real problem writ large, is the fact that we have lost our ability to recognize the larger scope of history and to see what was done in the past, as neoliberalism has done an absolutely fantastic job of making the present seem like the past, in that they make what is now ‘common sense’ seem like the historical reality for all of history basically.

That last is key for my other article. The landscape has changed and we are told it has not, and old gestures are called new when they are not, yet when performed do not mean in the same way, and old language is used in new ways, yet said to mean the old things.


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Some fragments toward my presentation

Cuts to higher education in Louisiana over the past ten years have been some of the deepest in the nation, and have caused what could be termed an effective privatization of public universities; tuition and fees have grown rapidly and unsustainably (100% at LSU). The resolution could be supported and adopted by Faculty Senates and other entities, as well as supported by individuals, as the issue is of broad interest, to students, their families, faculty, and also administrators and politicians. We aim to bring to the center of discussion the role that public universities serve as a “public good,” not just as a private benefit to graduates. This understanding, of course, was central in the Morrill Act that formed land-grant colleges in every state, although it has been eroded in recent times. But Newfield believes this erosion can still be reversed.



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