Monthly Archives: April 2019

Psychopolitics 1: the crisis of freedom

I learned about this book from Clarissa’s blog and am now reading it as well. This post is an aide-mémoire, not a full discussion.

a. The exploitation of freedom.
“Freedom will prove to have been merely an interlude.” It is felt when passing from one way of living to another, until this too turns out to be a form of coercion and gives way to renewed subjugation. “Such is the destiny of the subject; literally, ‘the one who has been cast down.’
* We no longer consider ourselves subjugated subjects, but rather projects…the change may seem liberating but the result is a more efficient kind of subjectivation and subjugation
*  The “achievement-subject” absolutizes bare life and labor, which form two sides of the same coin.
* Being free means being among friends. These two words have the same root in Indo-European. That is why academic freedom and collegiality go together; freedom signifies a relationship and a real feeling of freedom occurs only in a fruitful relationship — when being with others brings happiness (3).
* The neoliberal world, however, leads to utter isolation. As Marx indicates, individual freedom is a ruse, a trick of capital. Individual freedom sets capital, not people free. It degrades individuals, who are used to propagate capital, and become its genital organs.

b. The dictatorship of capital
* Industrial capitalism has mutated into neoliberalism. There has not been the struggle that would lead beyond capitalism, pace Marx; “capitalism can always escape into the fugure precisely because it harbours permanent and inherent contradiction” (5) … so we have entered a post-industrial, immaterial mode of production where we are all auto-exploiting entrepreneurs, master and slave in one; class struggle is now an inner struggle against oneself
* There is no multitude, pace Negri; there are only self-combating entrepreneurs. Therefore the cooperative Multitude will NOT throw off the parasitic Empire. This is a complete illusion.
* We are in a regime of auto-exploitation, so aggression is turned against the self. So the exploited do not rebel, but get depressed. We do not work to satisfy our needs, but those of Capital; it generates needs of its own, which we mistakenly perceive to belong to us. “We are being expelled from the sphere of lived immanence — where life relates to life instead of subjugating itself to external ends.” (7) Capital replaces religion as the transcendent order. In this situation politics becomes the handmaiden of Capital.
* Before God we are all debtors: guilty. But debt, or guilt, destroys freedom. Politicians today say high debt rates limit their freedom. Free from debt, we would truly have to ACT. Do we run up debts so as not to have to … so as not to be free, or responsible?
* Benjamin said capitalism was a religion. He noted that it created guilt but not atonement. People seize on the cult of capitalism not to atone for guilt but to make the guilt universal, he said!

c. The dictatorship of transparency
* Thanks to the Internet we are in this panopticon; this has implications.
* Neoliberalism turns citizens into consumers and politicians into suppliers. The demand for “transparency” from politicians is NOT a political demand, but a consumerist one.
* In the past there was surveillance; now we are actively steered.

Axé.

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Imagined globalization (reviewed by Dustin Welch García)

Dustin Welch García, Book Review of Imagined Globalization, AmeriQuests 12.1 (2015). Nestor García Canclini. 2014. Imagined Globalization, trans. G. Yúdice. Durham and London: Duke University Press. Pages: 242. Paperback: $24.95 ISBN: 978-0-8223-5461-1

The recent English translation and publication of Nestor García Canclini’s Imagined Globalization, which first appeared in Spanish in 1999, offers a nuanced examination of globalization that is relevant despite its relatively late English-language arrival. Contrasting with mainstream academic views that have focused heavily on the economic processes of globalization, García Canclini utilizes art, culture, literature and audiovisual platforms as imaginative exploratory tools to analyze the evolving relationship between Latin America, the United States and Europe. His book shows that globalization simultaneously is and is not what it claims to be, as its effects are largely limited to the integration of select countries and their elites, while remaining a far off reality for most of the world’s population.

The introduction by George Yúdice places García Canclini’s work in intellectual and literary context; Yúdice cues the reader in on García Canclini’s background as a philosopher and anthropologist, as well as his socioeconomically oriented approach to literature, art and audiovisual media, which provides rationale for the author’s use of narrative and metaphor in this work. The author’s footnotes all through the book are helpful in updating the reader on the important changes that have occurred since the book was first published.

García Canclini goes to great lengths throughout his book to illustrate how the notion of a bright economic future brought about by globalization, as it is frequently understood, is precarious and fails to account for the importance of how cultural products and language imbue meaning and continuity into the social relations we hold dearly. In doing so, the author repeatedly rejects the tension between the ‘defense of identity’ and ‘globalization,’ but rather asserts that we must to learn the benefits of understanding of how we can act and be in relation to other groups, engage with heterogeneity, inequality and difference. The author describes globalization in a way that recognizes its structurally fragmented nature and the inherent difficulty in offering a unified explanation of a multi-dimensional process, saying that it is “…a collection of processes of homogenization and, at the same time, an articulated fragmentation of the world that reorders differences and inequalities without eradicating them” (25). He urges the reader to consider that globalization should not merely be seen as a series of economic operations and faceless transactions, but to see the fundamentally human foundation in this process and also, to recognize the “dramatic rifts endured by people who do not live where they are born” (41).

Demonstrating the continued relevance of his work, García Canclini discusses how interculturality is more prevalent through media communication than through in-person migration. It is quite easy for goods, communication and financial investment to pass from country to country and thus, globalization is thus more easily imagined for its market-friendliness than it is for its human-oriented element. As the author quite rightly puts it, we have transitioned from “enlightened modernity to neoliberal modernity” (51). Despite discussions about the integration of Latin America with Europe, more than at any other time in their history, interculturality comes a distant second to the demands of the market.

Perhaps where García Canclini’s argument is most deft is in his consideration of art, literature and other audiovisual media and related platforms and how they are conceived of within the processes of globalization. The author keys in on the tensions between producers and distributors of more traditional forms of art and culture and the commercial firms that dominate the field symbolically; a public arena that is geared towards traditional cultural expressions and the multi-national conglomerates that hold sway over much of the communication processes. He makes the case that recent advances in technology, coupled with large economic investments driving mega art projects, music, TV and movies, have allowed little room for experimenting into arenas that do not lead to large profits. The author highlights the pressures that results from attempts to play by market rules, which only augments the asymmetries between producers and consumers of content, urban centers and rural peripheries; and despite a newfound emphasis on cultural diversity, the range of entertainment produced is always constrained by the drive for market expansion. His greatest concern is not that the growth and prominence of cultural industries in the age of globalization may standardize and make uniform the world’s diversity, but rather that it will lead to “the institutionalization of innovation, criticism and uncertainty” (136).

In the book’s last chapter, García Canclini reiterates his main argument, discussing the patchy and unbalanced distribution of the effects of globalization. García Canclini frames the “dual agenda of globalization,” (152) where worldwide financial systems and mass communication grow amid evermore unified markets and lowered political discrepancies, all the while, they work to reorder and reshuffle the unequal distribution of wealth and resources while not actually eliminating these unjust circumstances. The book closes with an epilogue, an interview that takes place in the fall of 2011 between the author and Toby Miller, which provides the reader García Canclini’s reflections on the events that have taken place since the book’s initial publication, as well as more current developments such as the rise of Asia, recent trends in reverse migration, the Occupy Wall street movement, Arab Spring, the Chilean student movement and the emerging rejection of globalization.

The strongest attribute of García Canclini’s work is found in his approach that decenters the long-standing Euro-American focus on globalization, while adding great nuance to debates that have long been characterized by social scientists who have either celebrated the grand accomplishments of globalization or crafted sweeping narratives of the suffering and violence wrought by globalization’s multiculturality. García Canclini creatively marshals autoethnographies,fictional scenarios, metaphors and cultural theorizing to compel the reader to consider global horizons broader than those imagined and channeled by the United States’ and Europe’s anthropological purview.

Dustin Welch García
University of Washington

Very well. I will finally read the book.

Axé.

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“Saving my strength for running”

I started being depressed on November 19, 1991 and may have stopped on April 3, 2019. That makes it less than 28 years. Most people I know have not known me that long. But the cause would have been deciding it was necessary to take Da Whiteman’s ideas seriously and the cure, realizing exactly how ridiculous they were and starting to laugh.

“They are paper tigers, fuck them all,” someone said years ago and I did not understand it, did not believe it, but the plot of the continuing melodrama, or mellow-drama here has given a Balzacian twist so forced as to lack verisimilitude, yet it is real and while everyone else wrung their hands I burst out laughing.

I’m saving my strength for running.

Axé.

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Aisha Finch, Forging race and nation

Forward by Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, with essays by Reynaldo Ortiz and Matt Pettway, among others.

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Academic capitalism

If you search this as a keywords through your library interface you will find that there is a great deal of material, much of it in Portuguese and Spanish.

There’s a name I’ve been given, Adrianna Kezar, on this but based on titles, a review she wrote seems more immediately interesting to me now than her other work.

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Reading for pleasure Friday

Other people read novels but to regenerate I like to read academic articles out of immediate field. This is Silvia Goldman, “Alonso Quijano o el relativismo inmutable,”  RILCE 24.2 (2008) 323-337.

DQ: between the medieval and renaissance worlds, dramatizing the social transformations that occurred with the advent of print culture … “El Quijote es el primer Alonso Quijano (pre-imprenta) leído por el segundo A. Q. (post-imprenta); es el hombre medieval que ya no es leído por el hombre renacentista que está por ser; representa al hombre instalado en el umbral de un modo de percepción inclusivo, sostenido en la naturaleza multidimensional de la palabra oral, y un modo de percepción exclusivo, cuyo método de conocimiento se basa en el análisis y en la desarticulación rigurosa de las diversas capas que conforman el escaenario de lo ‘real’.” (323)

Perception as instancia individual y absoluta de la experiencia vs. perspectivismo … DQ is el hombre engrosado sobre sí mismo and is therefore a meta-lectura de la identidad.

McLuhan (The Gutenberg galaxy): print is the technology of individualism. DQ reads print about a world that is growing obsolete. So there is a clash of technologies: manuscript and print, and of two ways of reading, aloud and silently. DQ has characteristics of the new person: aislamiento, soledad, duda and perspectivismo.

This article is very interesting. Quijote reads like an hombre tipográfico and this derealizes reality (because of the nature of the sign); he ends up fabricating a self-referential world. This article is VERY interesting! Reality is determined by the perceiver and reading is an adventure in which self is created and assured.

You need a perspective to get an identity; DQ se convierte en sujeto que se debe solamente a sí mismo. He’s Cartesian: reality is doubtful, and the subject creates it as [he] creates [him]self. THE NEW TRANSCENDENTAL SUBJECT IS THE READER/WRITER. Universe is now read in a linear way, like a book (silently) read. And this way reading requires persistent vision and becomes LA GARANTIA DEL SER.

DQ is trying to use this modern technology to install himself in a pre-imprenta era. But the issue is that the book is a comment on the literate world, the print world, and is an impulse toward it and its many possibilities… AND he’s a modern character in that he wants to sanction the autonomy of individual thinking and feeling.

Also, much of the novel takes place in ventas, which are crossroads para excellence (and we are talking here about DQ as a kind of crossroads); in the ventas people read aloud to groups, which confiere sacralidad a la venta, in this communal experience. But DQ prefers to read alone.

The novel installs the reader in the text, although ones the duques come in there is ficcionalización a la inversa; the novel installs itself in the reader. And in Part II, el hidalgo se hace testigo del potencial de su lectura/escritura (331).

— And there is more here, including the idea of the “libro-personaje.” I am fascinated by this article and now want to teach the Quixote.

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La nostalgie

It is raining and it reminds me of Mexico, Chile, Berkeley, Oregon, places I wish I lived and where I could walk to bookstores. I would like to stay home and read today and this would in fact be research. “Tenho saudade de tudo.”

My colleague says the problem here is that so many in the upper administration have never worked at another university, and are products of this culture. They see as normal unprofessional behavior that is not tolerated elsewhere.

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Another world

I got up in Dupont Circle and walked past the row houses to a café, had coffee and came back and packed. I walked to the metro and rode to the airport, changing trains once. At the airport I read old notes on Vallejo and transcribed them, including the outline of an old conference paper, and it was very interesting.

On the plane I finished rereading Bodas de sangre, which I am teaching, and it was interesting as well. When I arrived to New Orleans I picked up the car and drove three hours to western Maringouin, where I haggled with a telephone repair shop, and then came home.

At home in the country I was so shocked to have been in the city and now here, I went into a depression. I decided to hide from the world by reading a biography of Leopoldo Panero, which was fascinating. I have never seen the film El desencanto for some reason, and I must.

I was in another world and I immersed myself in reading about further ones. I felt terrible that I was not engaged in grading or local service, although I was traveling on national service and suffering with it. But reading is also part of my job.

__

The meeting I went to was sad, contentious and worrisome, but I was four nights in a cosmopolitan, urban area, and I am suddenly in the country. It is so different, it does not seem real. As usual I am terrified to go in to work, but I will do it.

Notice, though, how in a day of travel I read and thought quite a lot about these three authors, and how it is not that aspect of work that scares me — it is not the material, or the research, or the preparation of college-level classes.

It is that I must repress so much self here, perhaps, and that self arises so easily when I leave, and is so hard to shed. My graduate student feels this too, so I am not alone.

Axé.

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