Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A couple of important links

First, as I am sure most of you have already heard, Middlesex has decided to cut its entire world renowned philosophy department. More here, plus it has a link to a facebook group organizing against the closure.

Also, on happier news, Peter has a new interview up with Levi. Now again, I have no clue why you'd be reading my blog and not also read Peter's and Levi's. Make sure to go add their RSS feeds. Yes, right now, we'll wait.
You did it? Good. But also, just in case you have missed them, here is a link to all of the interviews that Peter has conducted so far.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Flat Ontologies

Peter Gratton has a funny and interesting post on his hesitation surrounding the concept of flat ontologies. In it Peter explains that the term always reminded him of Thomas Friedman's terrible book The World is Flat. If that had been my association, I don't think I would have ever gotten over it. Luckily for me, I came across the term in its original articulation in Delanda's excellent Intensive Science & Virtual Philosophy. I know Levi has never obscured the roots of this concept, and I want to encourage anyone interested in this concept to make sure they read Delanda's book (likewise, if you like Delanda, make sure you follow Levi's work). Also, while I am here, does anyone (including you, Levi, if you are reading this) know if/where Levi distinguishes his work from Delanda's?

The other point I wanted to make concerned this line of thought from Peter, namely:
[W]hich in turn made me think of how our common ideology uses the idea of equality and flatness to hide grave inequalities[.]

I completely understand what Peter is saying here, but I think this is a case where I find myself closest to the position of Ranciere, namely that there is an important political fact on insisting upon this equality. Inequality is never an ontological fact, and that is a politically powerful and useful idea. No matter how evil Friedman's mustache is (and it is pretty evil).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ecology Without Nature: The Blog

Appropriate discovery on Earth Day, but it seems Tim Morton, author of Ecology Without Nature, has a blog of the same name.

While I have some disagreements with his work, in general I think Morton is one of those essential thinkers producing work that bridges the gap that has emerged between ecologists and animal studies people. So, I'm really quite excited about the discovery of his blog, and I have high hopes for it.

Interview with Jane Bennett

Peter Gratton posts a very interesting interview with Jane Bennett, author of Vibrant Matter. It is part of Gratton's on-going interview series, and I suggest all of them. Bennett is dealing directly with questions of political ecology and non-human agency, and this interview is well worth the read. I haven't gotten around to reading Vibrant Matter yet, mostly because I am poor in both money and time, but after this interview it has now jumped to the top of my must reads for the summer.

If anyone out there in the animal world has already read the book, I'd be eager to know to know your feelings on the subject.

Oh, Atlanta

I finally got back in from upstate NY, but now I am very sick. However, I can't help but be jealous of the ooo conference going on in Atlanta, mostly because Atlanta is home to me (I grew up in GA, and went to undergrad in atl). And while I am sure that Ian Bogost knows of more contemperory fun things to do in a-town (like, is the Atlanta Book Exchange still the best used book store in town?), I had meant to do a post of things you should do while in Atlanta. I'll go ahead and do it anyway.

Despite its being a very southern city, Atlanta has any number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants that are all remarkably good. Veggieland in Buckhead is still the most unique find. The food is all truly yummy, while being absurdly cheap at the same time. I basically lived there when I was in Atlanta, and the phone number is still in my cellphone because I can't bring myself to erase it. Soul V is a vegan soulfood restaurant in Altanta. That's right, vegan soulfood. How could you pass that up in your visit to the capital of the dirty south? There are two of them, they are both amazing. The one in the highlands probably has better service, but still. It is hard to go wrong. Lastly, if you want to go to a vegetarian restaurant, but you want you want it to be more up-scale, check out Cafe Sunflower. It is probably more famous than the other places, and certainly yummy and worth checking out. There are plenty of other, veg-friendly restaurants. Mellow Mushroom, now a rather large chain, originated on spring street near GA Tech. It is one of the best pizza places on earth.

If you like beer, you need to check out Sweetwater. The brewery itself is located in midtown, and taking a tour and drinking the samples is a lot of fun (and I remember fairly cheap). Sweetwater Blue is one of my favorite beers of all time.

As for other things to do, there are plenty. Most of them well known. I am going to plug one of my favorites and less know, is the Center for Puppetry Arts. The best is if you can catch a show, though the museum is pretty fun by itself.

Okay, back to sleeping for me. I hope the conference is amazing for the people there.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mignolo on Bare Life

The PIC Conference went incredibly well, and hopefully I will talk about it in more detail in a future post.

However, I wanted to share an insight that I thought was certainly provocative, and probably correct. Walter Mignolo was the keynote, and during the the Q&A of his talk, he explained that there was a difference between the decolonial conception of disposable life (población chatarra) and the Agamben notion of bare life. Specifically, bare life is a legal concept, and comes particularly from the crisis of the nazi concentration camps, while disposable life is an economic concept that comes from the transatlantic slave trade. If you were an enslaved person in the middle passage, and you got sick, you were simply thrown over board.

I think that is an interesting, and even useful, distinction.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Petition to Save PIC, please sign and distribute widely!

As the students and faculty of the Philosophy, Interpretation, and Culture program continues to fight to save itself, we have put together a petition. I urge you all to sign it, and to distribute it widely. I wrote before about the current situation PIC is in, and I thank you all for your support.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

ICAS was great

This is probably the sort of thing that twitter would be good for, if I had a twitter account: but ICAS was an amazing experience, lots of fun and very smart. More to come later

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Fight to Save PIC

As most of you know, I'm a PhD candidate at Binghamton University (SUNY) in the Philosophy, Interpretation, and Culture program (fondly known as PIC). Well, we got some bad news at the beginning of the semester that I have refrained from making public because I am not on the ground (I live in Florida), and I didn't want to step on the toes of the coordinated effort of PIC faculty and graduate students. However, now it seems like we need to make this public.

The administration of Binghamton are in the processing of killing off PIC. We have been informed that future funding lines for graduate students will not be available. We also have been informed that (except for a few particular cases) students already in the program who have funding promised to them will be denied it. I currently don't have access to more details than that, but will be letting you all know as I acquire them. Right now we are trying to spread awareness of what is going on.

I feel the need to highlight two points here. The first is that the administration is cutting off funding that has been promised to current graduate students. This is something that should be that concerns not just the students of PIC, but all graduate students at BU and anyone that is considering going to graduate school at Binghamton. Your funding is not safe even if you have a letter promising funding for so many semesters or years. Unless you have signed a contract for that time period, the administration does not consider those promises worth keeping.

The second point to highlight here is the importance of PIC as a program. We are an interdisciplinary program whose work is rigorous and unique. While our program may not be absolutely unique, there are certainly few like it in the United States. While staying true to our philosophical roots, we break out of the eurocentrism that so often bedevils other programs and refuse the lazy eclecticism that so often tars the image of interdisciplinary programs. The graduate students maintain and strong cross-pollination with each other, and our collective intellectual production is often maintained with faculty both at Binghamton and elsewhere through workshops and research networks housed in our Center. This is a program worth fighting for.

I will keep you all updated as I know more, for anyone who has ideas or experience fighting these sorts of things, don't hesitate to share.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Why I owe the TX school board a note of gratitude

I'm sure most of you have heard about the absurd curriculum 'standards' created by the Texas school board. And I am further sure that most of you heard the absurdity of banning the children's books by Bill Martin Jr because he shares the same name as the author of Ethical Marxism. Well, so I have a shameful secret to admit. I actually had not read Ethical Marxism when this incident occurred. It did, however, get me to look into this book. And I discovered that the book not only deals with, well, ethical marxism, but explicitly deals with questions of vegetarianism and factory farming from such a perspective. I blame Open Court Press' policy for not letting me look inside the book on either amazon or google for my lack of knowledge on this point. Well, my copy came in yesterday. I obviously haven't finished it, but I did skip to the section on vegetarianism and am very, very pleased with it so far.

I also realized that if I hadn't come across this work or gotten around to reading it, other people in the CAS world might be in the same boat. So, my suggestion is go and pick up a copy. If for no other reason than to thank the TX school board.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Why I am excited about the upcoming conferences

As I mentioned below, I am excited about the upcoming critical animal studies conference and the PIC conference. I just wanted to take a minute and explain why I'm excited.

The ICAS conference at SUNY-Cortland will be the first critical animal studies conference I have ever been to. And that really has changed how I wrote the paper for the conference. And for now, at least, it has been remarkably freeing. To give one example, I spend time in each conference paper trying to explain why talking about other animals is a philosophically and politically important subject. This part of the paper isn't there, and (hopefully) isn't necessary. I'm not saying there are not unique constraints for speaking at a CAS conference, but because they are new they are completely productive and useful for me. I have high expectations for this conference, but I am pretty sure most of them will be met.

The weekend after the ICAS conference will be the PIC conference at Binghamton. Now, this will be my fifth time in attendance at the PIC conference, and I have to say that it isn't like any other conference I ever attend. The participants so frequently come from such radically different backgrounds from each other, and yet there are such sincere and real conversations that occur at that conference. It is not common that the conferences I have attended elsewhere have such a pluralism of intellectual backgrounds.

In this sense I'm excited about the conferences for the reasons they are different from each other. In one the epistemological object is the same, and therefore the conversation will have a certain level of agreement that allows the disagreements to take place in different and interesting places. Meanwhile, the other one might make me justify the importance of what I am speaking about, but will also force me to have a rigorous and multiple intellectual traditions to think through. I am expecting to have a good time at both, and to be challenged in productive ways at both.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Don't Tell Them Ybor City Almost Killed Us Again

I spent most of last week in Tampa trying to find a wedding venue. While no money has exchanged hands, it looks like it will be at El Circulo Cubano de Tampa in Ybor City, and I am pretty excited about the whole thing. However, that means I basically didn't follow blog posts for the last week. It looked like the Dundee conference was a big hit. Otherwise, if there is anything I missed, let me know. Self-promotion is always encouraged.

Blogging will remain light for a while. I need to finish up a conference paper, and then am leaving town for a couple of conferences. I will be at the ICAS conference at SUNY-Cortland this Saturday (if anyone is around, let me know), and then I will be at the PIC conference the following weekend. I had originally planned to be at the Cornell Theory Reading Group conference the weekend after that, but they rejected my proposal. No reason was given, so I'll assume they had enough papers that addressed their theme from the theoretical traditions of decolonial philosophy and critical animal studies.

Also, if anyone is interested in having a platform to share their ideas for the next two weeks, let me know. I'd be glad to have a guest blogger while I'm gone. (Basically no one ever takes me up on that offer, but it is sincere).

Oh yeah, just in case you didn't get the reference of the title of the post: