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Identity Politics = Gulags! So what?

Am I the only one who finds it strange that those who promote a culture of "calling out", a problematization of every cultural production as being "problematic" because it does not demonstrate x political concern, and campaigns to "check the privilege" of others within the same left milieu, are the very same people who are by-and-large opposed to the history of actually existing socialism and the "totalitarianisms" of the Russian and Chinese Revolutions?  After all, if you're going to problematize the practice and ideas of people––that is, claim that they aren't politically up to par and demand that they rectify their understanding of things––then, if your politics is ever operationalized, you can't just assume that things will be rectified spontaneously.  Indeed, you're demanding that people be forced to recognize that they are wrong, that their understanding of reality is oppressive; you're already, in some manner, forcing …

How To Be A Feisty Theorist

In an effort to catch up on professional development, I've spent the past month immersed in the work of philosophers/theorists that are deemed important.  Maybe it's because I was partially trained in "analytic philosophy" that I am somewhat allergic to the ways in which "continental philosophy" is articulated, but damn I'm yet again annoyed by the fact that I'm reading thinkers who seem to be intentionally resisting interpretation, and who generate followers because of this resistance.  I was trained to care about arguments, clarity, and at least a vague recognition of logical structure… Which is why I tend to be confused when "philosophers" who resist clarity, who can't be bothered to conceptualize their positions according to argument, tend to be celebrated.  Of course this celebration tends to happen outside of the discipline of philosophy, which usually resists these chic theorists, in theory programs, literary studies, or what-ha…

Reflections on Cold War Propagandists: Arthur Koestler

[This was in my incomplete draft post folder of this blog.  I can't remember what motivated me to write about Koestler, but I suspect it had to do with the fact that Darkness At Noonsomehow made it to #8 on the Modern Library's Top 100 Book List.  Although the Modern Library's "Readers' Top 100 List" is worse than the critics (it's dominated by Ayn Rand and L. Ron Hubbard), it is still annoying to see that Koestler's anti-communist novel ended up so high on the critics' list, trumping even Dostoevsky.  In any case, in lieu of any new post, there's no point in letting this completed one lie dormant…]

The anti-communist literary edifice that was developed during the cold war in order to construct a discourse about "totalitarianism" that lingers to this day is based upon the work (excluding Orwell) of two iconic figures: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Arthur Koestler.  In some ways Solzhenitsyn's work eclipses that of Koestler's bec…

What I'm Planning to Read [when I have the time]

Considering that over a month has passed without any posting, I figure that I should write something so as to not lapse into obscurity.  Let's be clear: my job, not to mention my life in general, has temporarily appropriated my energy––I've had very little time to blog.  For example, I really want to continue that Terrorist Assemblages series of reviews, but how can I do that when I'm spending half of the week re-reading 19th century continental philosophy so as to teach it (which means, very slowly with a bazillion reading notes so as to lead class discussion), let alone all of the things I'm doing outside of this job?  Hell, when I have free reading time these days I generally focus on fiction because at least it's a good break from my state of affairs. (A tangent: I just discovered that Ngugi wa Thiong'o has a son who writes hardboiled detective genre fiction with an anti-imperialist twist!  I'm thinking about reviewing the first on my arts-inclined blog

Identity Politics at its Nadir: the Viet Cong Controversy

Although we shouldn't be shocked that the limitations of identity politics has reached its nadir, it has definitely reached its point of self-destructing ignorance in the case of the recent furor over the name of the indie band Viet Cong.  As I've argued before, identity politics is the result of a valid impulse to deal with the problematic of sites of oppression that were not theorized by traditional marxism, and yet ended up becoming a set politics with serious limitations.  In the case of this Viet Cong "controversy" (which is also, to be honest, a hipster tempest in a tea cup, but still revealing), however, we have a case where an identity politics discourse is left in form but right in essence.

To summarize: the band Viet Cong wanted to play a DIY art space in Toronto, "Double Double Land", and was told they couldn't because one of the artists who runs this site, Jon McCurley, found their name offensive.  He described the name as a "joke at [h…

Some things of note…

A general update here, in lieu of posting the next piece of my Terrorist Assemblages review, of things I've found interesting, or that I've been involved with, in recent weeks…


First of all, I've been reading a lot of The Worker's Spatula.  I don't know who is behind this website, but whoever they are they're fucking hilarious: it's kind of like an Onion for the communist left, and thus requires an understanding of communism and the anti-capitalist left in general, to really get––perfect, then, for most of my readers.  I don't find all of their articles super funny, but most of them are.  And to be clear, when I say that "I don't find all of their articles super funny" I don't mean that I find the articles that poke fun at things connected to my set politics unfunny (i.e. like when they parodied Sison), because I actually find those things the most funny: I truly like laughing at myself. More that, not being from Europe, I don't re…

Let's Read "Terrorist Assemblages"! A Phenomenological Review: Chapter Two

In my previous entries inthisseries I worried about Puar's eclecticism.  By this chapter, however, it seems as if she is beginning to centre her theoretical approach around Agamben, particularly his concept of the "state of exception."  While I don't think this enough to allow her to escape completely from the charge of eclecticism (because I think Agamben is also somewhat eclectic), or from the charge of a very narrow idealism (Agamben's focus and over-application of a Schmitt-inspired concept has always revealed an obsession of appearance over substance, an inability to cut down to the material foundation upon which both the state of exception and homo sacer are dependent), it does permit a greater level of coherency.

Earlier I worried that Puar's concept of homonationalism, though perhaps useful for most imperialist countries, was very US-centric.  Unfortunately this chapter confirms my fears about how the theory has been conceived as nationally specific: …

Let's Read "Terrorist Assemblages"! A Phenomenological Review: Chapter One

This is the third part in my series of reflections on Jasbir K. Puar's Terrorist Assemblages.  The first part can be found here and the second here.

The first chapter of Terrorist Assemblages is entitled "the sexuality of terrorism" and this immediately fills me with slight misgiving.  While I agree that, especially in light of this book's subject matter, it makes sense to examine "discourses of sexuality (and their attendant anxieties)––heterosexuality, homosexuality, queerness, metrosexuality, alternative and insurgent sexuality," I am not at all convinced that without these discourses, as Puar claims, "the twin mechanisms of normalization and banishment that distinguish the terrorist from the patriot would cease to properly behave." (37) To my mind an imperialist project accumulates particular and secondary ideologies and discursive frameworks that are always contingent upon its social-historical context––that is, contingent upon the way imperi…