Thursday, September 30, 2010

Butler, animals, mourning

I'm working on this paper (with another academic blogger, more on this as appropriate) about Judith Butler and her anti-anthropocentrism. And it caused me to try and remember when I got interested in thinking Butler's work alongside the question of the animal. Because, her explicit comments about animals seems to have occurred mostly after I started looking toward her work. And I remember it started because of mourning. Butler has long insisted that questions over who gets to mourn whom is at the heart of the political, at the heart of social intelligibility. This makes a lot of sense, historically, because of issues of mourning were very much at the heart of queer identity and the AIDS crisis. I still remember a playwright that I knew in high school, who had a moving one man show about the death of his partner. The show centered around less the death itself, but all the problems of mourning his lover. From institutional problems of not being family and being unrecognized to stay after visiting hours, to a family that refused to recognize his relationship. He therefore was constantly grieving, but denied all the socially recognizable paths and protocols to mourn. And at the funeral, his relationship to his partner was completely whitewashed over, as if it never existed. Mourning is a way of making connections, of establishing kinship, and of recognizing the vulnerability and finitude of the other. The protocols that refuse to recognize our mourning refuse all sorts of tangible, social intelligibility. This brings me to animals.
Sometimes we are allowed to mourn animals. Particularly (perhaps even only) pets. Sometimes we are allowed to mourn species that go extinct. But to mourn particular nameless animals, to mourn the animals who cut flesh is on display, to mourn the lobster with the cracked and bound claws in the tank, to mourn the dead animals on the side of the road. To mourn, in other words, the pain and death we dish out, is something that profoundly refused. It is one thing, controversial enough, to become a vegetarian or vegan for ethical reasons, to fight for animal welfare and rights. People don't like it, but to some degree it is understood. But to be in the grocery store and to suddenly be overcome by the reality that exists behind the animal flesh on display, to be able to see their muscles and fat and bones for what they are: the cut up pieces of a being, and to mourn. To tear up, or have trouble functioning, to feel that moment of utter suffocation of being in a hall of death is completely unintelligible. Most people's response is that you need therapy, or you can't be sincere. And so most of us work hard to not mourn. We do it to function, to get by. But that means for most of us, even those of us who are absolutely committed to fighting for animals, have to also and regularly engage in disavowal. Butler's insistence that mourning is political, and it is bound up in a matrix of norms, subjectivity, and relationships is important. I am glad that her work has moved to an increasingly anti-anthropocentric place, and that she understands that at the heart of grief is also the question of what gets to count as a life, or an intelligible life.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Post of Links

It seems my post of links is having competition, in the form of the same rundown over at Prodigies & Monsters. Check it out (ps, tell them they need to add music to theirs).

Speculations is up with a CFP for their next issue. I think I am going to try to have something for them this time.

Just in case you missed it, Nina Power has an article in Comment Is Free on the 20th anniversary of Carol Adams' The Sexual Politics of Meat. (original h/t Craig, but thanks to everyone who pointed it out to me). The comments there are, predictably, absurd and go fairly far into proving Adams' points. Nina interacts with everyone there for a while, and I almost wish she hadn't so I would have given up reading the comments earlier. Meanwhile, Nina also has some meta-comments on comments.

Antonio Negri's video conference at the Commonalities conference has been posted. I'll have to take the time to watch it later on.

Kwame Anthony Appiah has an op-ed at the Washington Post on what practices we are engaging in now that future generations will be shocked by. After establishing some criteria of how to determine that, he lists four: our prison system, factory farming, the warehousing of the elderly, and our destruction of the environment.

Tim Morton has a link to a video of Karmapa talking about vegetarianism and ecology. (plus, check out his new blog layout, damn).

William Gibson, for whom my love knows no bounds, has a new book out that I need to read. Here is a pretty good interview with him, conducted after this most recent novel.

I've been pretty busy as my lack of real posts attests to. What attests to it even more is I finally watched the last episode of True Blood yesterday. In honor of that, here is The Eels, "Fresh Blood".

Monday, September 27, 2010

On using plagiarism detection services

Recently Dr. J and Joshua Miller had a insightful and vigorous conversation on the use of plagiarism detection services (the most famous being turnitin). Please see the conversations here, here, here, and here (and make sure you read comments).

I use to hold almost identically the same views of Dr. J (and I should add I've never used turnitin or any of its variants). However, I found Miller's arguments surprisingly convincing (and generally fit in with my current views of plagiarism). But before I go any further, let me say for the present conversation that I am bracketing the question of honor, and if honor codes exist in tension with services like turnitin (I think Dr. J may be right on this last point). Now, I am not bracketing this conversation because I don't think it is unimportant, but rather that not all of us work at institutions with honor codes or the same honor codes (for example, when I was at Oglethorpe, I had no proactive obligation to turn in other people). So, I think the question of honor codes might require a separate conversation, and one that can be held to the specific nature of those codes.

I have had two basic objections to services like turnitin: (1) The first is that I feel it violates the student's control over her own intellectual work product. In other words, it allows a corporation to extract surplus value from the student's work, without her being able to control that at all. And, (2) that is makes me into a cop, and one of those people who come to view all students with suspicion, etc. On the first point, I am still wary. This is not a fear that my students are legally having their intellectual property taken advantage of, but rather one of extracting surplus value to support a corporation rather they want to or not. On the other hand, there are any number of assignments that I think would be fine that would still force students into these issues. Any assignment that required them to post videos on youtube, or maintain a blog, or any number of other assignments about interacting with websites that use advertising and participation to extract value from the students' work. In other words, I think this is still a problem from turnitin, and I think we need to broadly be more concerned about the ways certain assignments force students to support corporations, but as long as we all agree assignments on youtube are legit, I think there is no reason to uniquely condemn turnitin. This brings us to the second point, which is the major one from Dr. J.

I'm not a cop, and I am never a fan of the way there seems a desire to turn educators into police. For a while I thought I would teach high school, but I have seen increasingly the pressure put on high school teachers to spend more time exercising disciplinary power than educating. Or, indeed, that education seems utterly interchangeable with disciplinary power. Foucault got it right, "Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?"(D&P, p. 228). Now, what is so compelling from Miller's account is that plagiarism disappeared. Not, that plagiarists (whatever that being is) got caught, punished, given their just desserts. Rather, he stopped having to deal with plagiarism. If we agree that plagiarism is a problem, that is makes our jobs harder and hurts the student education. In other words, if we agree that plagiarism is something that we would have to confront if we discovered it (and I think we all agree with this), turnitin means I have to be less of a cop. I have to wield less juridical power. In this sense, turnitin becomes something like spell check, something that fixes a problem and comes to be an aid to students. I think this turns back Dr. J's arguments about universal belief in everyone cheating. I don't think everyone is cheating, but I always believe that there is a chance that a student could accidentally not cite something correctly through error, laziness, or ignorance. I no longer have to figure out if I am dealing with cheating or mistakes. It is a service that helps the students know what they need to cite, and it helps me not to have to punish students.
Now, Dr. J admits in comments of some of the posts that she thinks that the service that allows students to make changes before submitting reports to the professors are not as problematic. But, she feels that this isn't the primary function of turnitin and other services. I can't speak to that. I can say that professors looking to catch students and punish them, are obviously people who enjoy their position of power. I think that is clearly problematic, and pretty anti-educational. However, I don't see how using the plagiarism detection services in the way Miller describes is anything but a net gain (again, except for times with an explicit honor code, where I am less clear on the situation).

Is there some flaw in my thoughts here? As I said, this is a recent change in my outlook. And moreover, I have never used these services so there might be something obvious I am overlooking here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Post of Links

I've been pretty busy trying to get everything together for our first debate tournament of the year. Anyway, here is a (rather long) post of links. Hopefully more original content will start again on the blog next week.

As you might have heard, Jeff McMahan has post up at the NY Times' The Stone about how we should allow (encourage?) predatory species to go extinct to reduce violence in nature. I don't have time to comment, but let me link you to some people who have. Jean Kazez did, EJ at Deconstruction Inc did, and Erik Marcus did (but the idea that philosophers shouldn't talk about philosophy because people are too dumb to follow seems counterproductive to all sorts of things). Jeff McMahan is the author of The Ethics of Killing, which is something I've been meaning to read for a while. Anyone else already did and want to tell me if it should to go to the head of the line for reading?

Here is an interesting article about how we are human because of other animals, which is a bit more interesting and serious than this article about how liking hot peppers make us human. On the second article, we really need to think of a good term for the fallacy of saying something that only belong to certain humans define us as humans.

I'm not sure if you have heard about the French targeting and deporting the Roma, but it is disgusting and obviously racist. Here is Ranciere on these actions. Make sure to read Devin Shaw and Peter Gratton's additions. Of course.

If you are in the Milwaukee area, check out this anarchist critical animal studies reading group. It looks totally awesome. (h/t MLA).

Adam has a post up on his personal citations system. It is the same as the one I use. Except for I don't have a story about how people associate me with citations. Except I use ibid, but I think that is because I first started thinking about footnotes and citations by reading law journal articles. Well, one law professor in particular, Pierre Schlag. And one of his articles in particular, "Normative and Nowhere To Go" (.pdf) which I read my junior year of high school. Here is the first footnote from that law article, "[Editor's Note: The Stanford Law Review has been unable to confirm the author's assertion here. The evidence we have suggests that in 1979, the author was employed as an associate with a large law firm in Washington, D.C. The author assures us, however, that the taxi driver/associate distinction is vastly overstated, and in some senses, is actually much more tenuous than might first appear. Cf. Elisabeth Hyde, Her Native Colors 20-37 (1986) (depicting the associate as human resource and information dissemination vehicle).] "

Dr. J has an interesting post on why she won't use turnitin. Joshua Miller has a response about why he does use plagiarism detection software. I have to admit, I started off on Dr. J's side, but have found myself greatly convinced by Joshua Miller's post. I'll have to think on this some more. UPDATE: Dr. J responds here.

Ginny Messina has a devastating post on the nutritional information contained in The Vegetarian Myth.

Graham Harman and Peter talk about the higher education's increasing costs here and here. This is the comment I end up making at Peter's place, "It seems that costs growing faster than inflation is not sustainable. I am not entirely sure what the future will bring. You are completely right that currently the system we have seems semi-secure without an alternative. Though I can easily see some sort of top down regulative legislation shifting things a lot. For example, if the entire system is being propped up by government subsidies in the form of loans, that gives the government a lot of incentive and power over the way academia runs itself. If we look at what is going on with the for-profit schools, it is hard not to see that as the possibility of our own future. At that could be in our near future (the President seems down for expanding it, and as much as Republicans hate regulation, they may just hate universities more). Also, on a rather technical note: is it a bubble? Doesn’t a bubble require some level of speculative investment?" None of that should be construed as supporting Taylor, who as far as I can tell, doesn't really deal with these issues in any way that seems helpful.

A new site dedicated to Veterinary Technicians has up a list of articles on transgenic animals. Worth exploring if you want to find out more on that topic.

This post's song is chosen for two reasons. The first is this interesting article about Afghan girls that take on the gender roles of afghan boys. But the other reason is that Dar Williams is my fiance's favorite musician, and I drove down and saw her over the weekend. I've never been particularly good at performing my normative gender roles, and I was apologizing for being bad at being a boy, and she said, "Don't worry, I love bad boys." So, Dar Williams, When I Was a Boy.
Her voice is a little boring, but I loved this song so much for the lyrics for so many years. Seems a bit cheesy now, but I can't help but wonder if that has to do with becoming a better boy.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Top Five Vegan Cookbooks

I'm going to give what I think are the top five sort of essential cookbooks for vegans. If you disagree, please let me know, always looking for another good cookbook.

(1) Moskowitz and Romero's Veganomicon. This is the one, folks. It single-handily rendered half a dozen otherwise wonderful vegan cookbooks obsolete. Basically, all the other books on this list are optional, this one is a requirement. It is the Joy of Cooking or Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but for vegans. It is a teaching tool, you learn how to make things, and from there you can make your own recipes.

Sarah says, "What I am saying is that Moskowitz &Romero are the faces of vegan cookbooks for our current times. They make recipes that are interesting and unique that don't rely heavily on processed goods."

(2) Tucker and Enloe's The Artful Vegan. This is the high class, gourmet, time consuming but it is worth it, vegan cookbook.

Sarah says, "You have to make the ginger cookies. You *have* too."

(3) Dieterly's Sinfully Vegan. This is the best multipurpose dessert cookbook. The cheesecake is particularly good. However, Moskowitz's Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World is a lot like Veganomicon. It teaches you a lot about what it means to cook vegan cupcakes. So, while Sinfully Vegan has a better spread of desserts, Vegan Cupcakes has a better teaching and training.

Sarah says: "Sinfully Vegan, while yummy, is one of the better health conscious vegan dessert books. It doesn't merely tell you to add more sugar to everything."

(4) Stepaniak's The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook. One of the things I missed most as a vegan was cheese. Basically, everything is fairly easily replaceable by non-animal sources. The Uncheese Cookbook really is wonderful for replacing animal cheese, and a lot not just based on nutritional yeast.

Sarah says: "When you are getting a hankering for the meltyness of cheese, and you don't live in a major metropolitan area, this book is the cure."

(5) Okay, so I don't have a good answer for five. What you really need to do now is get books that reflect the subset of food you particularly like. Romero's Viva Vegan is great for Latin food (and like the Veganomicon, teaches what it means to cook Latin food). Noyes' American Vegan Kitchen is great for that vegan diner food (though, a lot of the stuff her recipes call for are hard to find in your grocery store). Klein's The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen and Vegan Italino are book solid, with lots and lots of recipes (but doesn't do a lot to teach you how to go about thinking and cooking mediterranean and italian food).

Sarah says: "After a while, what you need is to have several books to get ideas from, and play around with, but not make direct recipes from them all. Get a sense of how you like to make food, and mix and match and change to your own delight."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Post of Links

Out of town, so this will be quick.

The new issue of Foucault Studies is out, and boy is it worthwhile.

Chloë Taylor has an article out on late Foucault and the issues of self vis-a-vis eating animals. Most of you know I've done a lot of work on this area. Here is a link to the essay (.pdf).

Stephen Thierman has an article that is also in an area I've done a lot of work on, using Foucault's notion of apparatuses to think through the slaughterhouse. Here is a link to the essay (.pdf).

Also, friend of the blog Elliot A. Jarbe has a review of Ed Cohen's A Body Worth Defending. I liked Cohen's book more than Elliot did, but worth reading both. Link (.pdf).


JCAS is having a special issue on Animals and Prisons. Here is the cfp. I have a great deal of interest in this topic, but I don't think I will have time to write something up for it.

There are more posts on the DeLanda reading group, I'm linking to Levi because he has a shout out to me in that post. Agriculture is certainly an interesting topic in general. There is often a push to make my work more directly about agricultural, but while highly bound up with what I do, there is a certain level of discreteness between what I am talking about and what Levi is talking about. Nevertheless, I certainly indict the monoculturalism that occurs alongside Chicago's packing industry (and the work of Vandava Shiva is pretty important here). Also, I suggest Ellen Meiksins Wood's The Origins of Capitalism, and Wallerstein's book on agriculture and the world-market.

Well, I drove down to Boca Raton to see my fiance and help her move. So, here is Murder by Death with I'm Comin' Home.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Too much to read

I've been gone without internet access for the last three and a half days. My blog reader (which is just devoted to AR blogs and academic blogs) has over 200 new posts for me to read. No way I will read them all. So, if something important happened, let me know. As always, self-promotion encouraged. Also, let me thank everyone who has commented about programs friendly to CAS, I will get to responding to those threads later today.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Gone for the weekend, but I still need your help

A couple of nights ago I made a post about programs friendly to doing animal studies, particularly 'critical animal studies' (whatever that means). I am trying to compose a list that I can maintain for people. Any information you want to give me would be great.

I'm looking mostly for two things. (1) A place that doesn't seem hostile to doing your MA thesis or PhD thesis on animals. (2) I am particularly looking for places where there is faculty (maybe even other students) working on questions of animals. That is to say, a place where you can do your work without feeling entirely alone.

So, please leave comments or send me an email. And I will be back around early next week.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

On the Akan conception of moral personhood

Relating to my last post on Esposito and the concept of the person: In a fit of beautiful synergy, Peter is up with two posts linking to discussions on the African Akan notion of moral personhood. See here, and here.

I don't really know enough to make much more of a comment, but this certainly ties in well with what I was discussing earlier.

Esposito on the concept of the person

So, as I said in a recent post, part of the dissertation deals with the concept of the person. Well, it seems that much of the argument I was planning to make was done, in more detail, by Roberto Esposito in his Terza persona: Politica della vita e filosofia dell'impersonale Torino: Einaudi, 2007. (Third Person: Politics of Life and Philosophy of the Impersonal, which I believe is forthcoming at some point by Polity). I mean one of the chapter titles is even The Dispositif of the Person, which is a phrase I use as well. It is a smart book, even if it makes a lot of research I did repetitive at this point. Esposito engages in a similar and longer genealogy of the concept of the person. Though his focus is mainly on both the Roman legal conception, and the early Christian trinity conception. I didn't get long to look at the book (I got to figure out cheap ways of buying foreign language books, particularly Italian ones), but let me talk roughly about the book, and highlight some of the disagreements.

The book is, in many ways, very Agamben-esque. In both the good and bad senses of that term. Everything is empty metaphysical machines separating and rearranging bodies into killable and protected in zones of indetermination. And of course the teleology of all of this is the Nazis. The solution is, of course, to render the machine inoperative by exiting from the metaphysics associated with the machine. A lot of sillyness is pushed against supporters of human rights and bio-ethicists (I'm sorry, I find it hard to believe that what this world needs is less attention paid to practical ethics, or that was really drove the logics of the Third Reich was bio-ethics and human rights). It is very learned and nuanced, with fascinating arguments and insights.

The concept of the person is one of the most important ethical and legal concepts of the present day. As Esposito notes, it is something that is considered of critical importance both by secularists and Catholic ethicists and legal scholars. I invite any of you take a dip into current discussions of bio-ethics, medical ethics, animal ethics, etc. and of course one of the major themes is trying to figure out exactly what counts as a person. Meanwhile, the question of the person is still very much a central concern in our legal debates, not only in discussions around abortion and other bio-ethical concerns, but also recently in things like the Supreme Court's Citizen United ruling. As a matter of fact, that ruling prompted me to make a quick overview of the history of the concept of the person. Which I suggest reading. Esposito engages in a similar and longer genealogy of the concept of the person. Though his focus is mainly on both the Roman legal conception, and the early Christian trinity conception.
What Esposito draws out of those two traditions are two different ways that the person, rather than being an obvious unity and essence, is actually split both internally and externally. Internally, the split is revealed in the trinity, in which we see that the person does not lie in the body, but rather in the soul or an external essence. The economy of the trinity introduces the idea that the person is somehow an escape or an other of the animal body (both our own animal body, and obviously other animals' bodies). If the trinity provides a certain economy of an internal split (we are both persons and not persons), the Roman legal system provides a more external split. In the Roman system persona was given only to those who were full legal citizens. Obviously slaves were not persons, but also were not women or children. Moreover, stripping someone of their personhood was a penality for certain crimes. So, there was no automatic overlap between the person and the human, and there existed all of the obvious problems with not being a person (slavery, the possibility of being put to death, etc).
Then, in a move totally reminiscent of Agamben, we jump from the Roman legal system and the patristics to Nazism, human rights, and contemporary bioethics. This is, by the way, one of the differences I have with Esposito is that his genealogy seems to downplay the relationship of the person with property. Thus, while slaves, women, and children were not persons under Roman law, corporations or any entity that held property was a person. This is why the development of the concept of person in early modern philosophy under thinkers like Locke and Antoine Destutt de Tracy is absolutely crucial to understanding something like neoliberalism today. As I have said before, personhood seems to be the property to have property. I guess this also a good place to mention that Esposito repeats the common philological mistake (for example, Aquinas makes this same mistake) of saying that the Latin persona comes from the Greek prósopon, when it really comes from the Etruscan phersu. I don't think it is that bad of a mistake because the Latin translation of the Greek prosopon is persona, and therefore there is no doubt that the Greek influenced the Latin/Roman notion of persona. I think it is a mistake to see etymologies through a strictly generative lens than through a certain dialogical lens. Okay, back to the Nazis, human rights, and bioethicists (and if I was Esposito, I could make the joke, "Sorry, I repeat myself").
For anyone who has read Esposito, particularly his preceding book Bios, these arguments are fairly predictable. Nazis are the ones who achieved the complete biologization of personhood, while still maintaining the ability to create a split within the notion of the human from the notion of personhood. Human rights, with their emphasis on the personal expression and personal growth and protection are absolute failures. And they are failures because the notion of human rights repeats the same mistake as the Nazis (no, seriously, stop laughing). Bio-ethicists are also Nazis (especially Peter Singer) because they deal with complex questions of what gets to count as a person. Because they are involved with figuring out things like cloning, abortion, animal rights, ending life support, etc, they are Nazis. Well, to be rather more fair to Esposito, he mostly focuses on Singer's support for certain kinds of infanticide, which is without a doubt one of his most controversial claims. I'm not sure I agree with Singer, but I still find it hard to believe that any serious consideration of his argument would make it seem as a slippery slope to the Lager. I mean, I share very much Esposito's critique of personhood, and I am doubtful of that personhood is a system that can truly bring about liberation (animal or otherwise), but all of that said, I just don't think many of those people working in ethics and promoting human rights are secretly (so secret they don't even know it themselves) allied with the greatest forms of evil. And moreover, I am left doubtful that Esposito push against personhood is useful for us addressing issues of limited medical resources, abortion, end of life counseling and concerns, cloning and stem cell research, the birth of children with painful and fatal medical conditions. When I read Agamben, or Esposito in this case, it almost seems to me that even dealing with concrete ethical issues makes you a Nazi.
So, Esposito's solution or response to personhood is not depersonalization (which he sees as also a bad thing, and indeed a major part of personhood is that is always carries the risk of depersonalization), but rather the impersonal. He traces the impersonal out in basically the work of four thinkers: Simone Weil, Maurice Blanchot, Michel Foucault, and Gilles Deleuze (with and without Guattari). The impersonal, also the third person, or perhaps clearest for me is a life, life as situated on a plane of immanence. This is also the other shocking moment of convergence, where the solution to the problem of personhood is to be found in Deleuze and Guattari's notion of becoming-animal. Though I would say that Esposito's move here is a rather conservative. Whereas I am interested in pushing D&G's notion into a even more anti-anthropocentric register than it currently is in, Esposito seems to read it as an almost fully anthropocentric register. Thus, becoming-animal means stopping the separation of the human from its animal basis (which for Esposito means its thing-ness basis), and instead discovering the human as human. To put it another way, becoming-animal here is to end the division between bios and zoe, but only for humans. So, in a real way, to never end that distinction. I don't see much hope in Esposito's reading of moving us towards some sort of ethical and political relationship with other animals. Which shouldn't surprise anyone who has read Esposito before. You cannot fully deconstruct personhood without also deconstructing humanness, which is why D&G didn't speak of a becoming-human (well, they did quickly in their book on Kafka), but instead speak of a becoming-animal.
I found Terza Persona like I found the other books by Esposito I have read: well written, absolutely smart, insightful, and problematic. The problems tend to always be the same problems, as well. His downplaying or ignoring the issues of capital, and his complete and uncritical anthropocentrism. Still, I highly recommend the book.

Graduate Programs Friendly to Critical Animal Studies

So, I recently got an email inquiring into graduate programs (particularly at the PhD level) that are friendly to critical animal studies. I gave some of the programs that I knew people were doing interesting work, but I realized it might be nice to put together a list. So, a lot of you are students or professors or former students that might have some idea of graduate programs for people looking into the question of the animal. Please suggest programs you have some familiarity with in comments or email me (also, email me if you know some program is particularly hostile that one might otherwise suspect as being friendly).

I think this could become a good resource for people out there.

Update: I have tried to restart this project over here. Please go there to find more up to date information, and also other links as I build it from there.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Some thoughts on Polemics

Levi has linked to an old review of DeLanda by Shaviro, and both of them agree that DeLanda's hostility toward Marx and Marxism seems rather odd. And I agree with that, but it opens up a moment to talk about polemics.

I think that polemics can be very important. In particular, I think that thinkers, in order to try and think something new, has to clear the way for those thoughts. They have to manage to create some fresh air for themselves, and that breathing room usually comes from taking on one of the master's, one of the great thinkers that help define an intellectual milieu. For DeLanda, that is obviously Marx. For Levi, it is Derrida. For Deleuze, it was Hegel. I could go on (for me, it's Heidegger). Now, these thinkers are obviously to an extent conceptual personae, that is, they refer less to exactly just these thinkers texts, but to an entire relationship, an entire assemblage that goes by the proper name Marx, Derrida, Hegel, Heidegger, etc. All of us think in a field saturated by proper names, even those that refer the most specifically to actual people still refer to an entire assemblage, to an entire conceptual machinery. Their texts, their lectures, their actual students and virtual students, their enemies and teachers, all of these things go into the making of a thinker. The more famous the thinker, the bigger (more powerful, more vital) the assemblage. Sometimes we have to push hard against one of these assemblages, to think or speak something that exists in tension with a localized part of the assemblage. So, I we talk against Heidegger, Derrida, Hegel, Marx, etc. The polemic is necessary for breathing and thinking. That doesn't always mean the polemic is true, at least true against the texts and ideas of a certain thinker whose proper name also names a certain assemblage. I don't agree with DeLanda about Marx, and I don't agree with Levi about Derrida. But I also have little doubt that if they didn't feel the way they did about these conceptual personae, then their work would be very different. And maybe it should be, those are always fine criticisms (fine as in useful or productive). But there is a reason I don't spend a lot of time trying to convince someone they have misread such and such a thinker, unless I think that misreading has come at a cost of thinking something interesting or useful (ultimately this was what Matt was on about in his disagreement with Levi during the so-called Derrida wars. It wasn't primarily about Derrida, but instead about issues of humanism and anthropocentrism).
In the case of DeLanda and Marx, it makes a lot of sense to me even though I find Marx incredibly useful for my work. First, it is clear that many Marxists are far more interested in centralization than DeLanda feels is healthy and useful (think here of Zizek for just a major current example). And I also can't help but share impatience at many Marxists hatred of markets.
While there is no singular entity called The Market, much less The Free Market, markets exist. And markets are powerful tools for decentralized organization. Many on the left oppose cap and trade because it creates a market, and many on the left opposed health care exchanges because it again functioned as a market. I'm not sure how much Marx is to blame for the anti-markets bias, but for DeLanda (following Braudel), markets are powerful and useful tools, and at their heart are opposed to centralization and totalization.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Thinking about Animals: 10th Institute for Critical Animal Studies conference at Brock University

CALL FOR PAPERS: THINKING ABOUT ANIMALS, 2011, BROCK UNIVERSITY
The Department of Sociology at Brock University is issuing a Call for Papers for a conference on *Thinking About Animals* to be held March 31 and April 1, 2011 at Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.
This two-day conference will explore a variety of issues concerning the current and historical situation of nonhuman animals and interactions with humans.

The Department is organizing this conference with the assistance of the Office of the Dean of Social Sciences, the Departments of English, Political Science, History and Visual Arts, the MA Programme in Critical Sociology, and the MA Programme in Social Justice and Equity Studies.

We are especially pleased to be hosting this conference in association with the Institute of Critical Animal Studies as the 10th annual ICAS conference. As with past conferences, we welcome participation from both activists and academics. The conference will be completely vegan.

Please send a short proposal (2-3 paragraphs or enough details to describe your idea) to:
ac2011@BrockU.CA
Deadline for submissions: January 15, 2011

We will consider proposals on any relevant topics but some suggestions include:
Animal exploitation industries (economic, environmental, ethical aspects)
Analyzing Industry Propaganda
Undercover investigations
Anarchy and animals
Animals in War
Current campaigns and issues in animal rights activism
Sanctuaries
Humane education
Horse Slaughter in Canada: Cashing in on US Legislation
Captivity: Animals in zoos and ?marine parks?
Vivisection and animals in scientific research
Biotechnology and animals
Historical understandings of animals
Animal rights history
Animal rights and social justice
Wildlife conservation and animal protection
Companion animals
Veganism and Vegetarianism
Meat and gender identities
Animals, labour and the working class
Compassion, empathy, solidarity
Animals and human identities
Wildlife trade
Social construction of animals
What animals think
Images of animals and animal activists
Developing animal rights activism and creating cultures of compassion

A Post of Links

First off, Clare has moved her discussion of Foucault news over to a new blog, Foucault News. Time to update your rss feeds, and to thank her for this wonderful service.

EJ has a remarkable (if a little long) paper/post on Derrida and Animals. Go and read it despite the length.

The DeLanda reading group continues to pump out interesting posts. Here is Reid on Genres as Assemblages, here is Levi on Reid's post.

Eileen Joy has a response up to Jeffrey's "Queering the In/Organic" which I linked to before. Joy takes a more pro-humanist stance. I think I currently inhabit a third position between the humanist Joy stance, and the stance of Jeffrey and Bennett. Basically, I am worried that this generalized vitalism opens the backdoor for human exceptionalism in ethics and politics. This is something I talked about in the reading group of Vibrant Matter. This isn't an objection against Jeffrey or Bennett's work, but something that I worry about and hope their work can actually answer and push back against. In other words, I hope to be worrying about nothing.

Speaking of Bennett, she is engaged in a discussion with Akeel Bilgrami. See here, and here.

Ta-Nehisi Coates has recently decided to go vegetarian. His incredibly mild statements and stance elicited the usual chorus of militant opposition, which caused Lee to ponder some of these terrible arguments against vegetarianism.

Vegan cupcakes are yummy. Sad that surprises so many people, but hopefully this will start changing.

Adam has an interesting post up on job applications and the utopian job. Worth reading.

Speaking of jobs, here is an interesting essay on tenure and other higher education reforms. It is a bit more fair than many of the other articles I have read on the subject. I think we should also pair this with this article on the lives of adjuncts and grad student teachers (I can't remember who linked to this on their blog, post here and I will add the hat tip to you). Nothing new there, but all of this underlines the point: while most of the suggestions for education reform has been pretty much bunk, it is obvious that reform is needed.

Lastly, many of you have heard of the disgusting comments made by Morrissey. Unfortunate, offensive, absurd, and racist. However, I have generally liked his music. So, let's watch the better part of Morrissey, but remember that this sort of attitude and language is completely and utterly unacceptable.

More on Intro to Philosophy

After talking to several people and thinking about it, here are the texts I believe I am going to teach (ordered here by alpha, if you want to suggest the order feel free). There will probably still be some changes, and so anyone who wants to get their 0.02 in still have time. I also want to give a special thanks to Peter Gratton, Jason Wirth, and the people who posted suggestions in the last post (namely Izak, Simon, Captain Furious, and Craig). Feel free to argue for a text you already suggested if you think it is important and silly I left it off.

Aristotle, De Anima
Deleuze, "Letter to a Harsh Critic"
Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (film)
Holder (editor/translator), Early Buddhist Discourses
Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals
Lugones, selected essays (aka, not entirely selected yet. Almost certainly "Playfulness, World-Traveling, and Loving Perception").
Oruka, Sage Philosophy: Indigenous Thinkers and Modern Debate on African Philosophy
Plato, The Apology
Plato, The Symposium
Shankara, Crest-Jewel of Discrimination

Monday, September 6, 2010

Informal Logic

Any suggestions on excellent and very affordable books on informal logic to teach to undergrads? I have knowledge of a few, but again am hoping for some crowdsourcing, and seeing if there are any that people would particularly suggest.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

DeLanda reading group started up

This happened yesterday, right after I finished my post of links, which means I couldn't add it to that. Anyway, the DeLanda group is up and running. Go take a look.

I've been working on a long post about Esposito's Third Person for a while now, I had expected to be done with it by now, but I'm not. And I am starting my labor day weekend now-ish, so I don't think I will post for the weekend. If that's the case, see everyone Tuesday.

A Thank You

Peter Gratton is remarkably generous with his time and insight. He knows what he did.

I guess what I am trying to say is those of you who email me questions, go pester him instead!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Post of Links

In really good news, Claire O'Farrell has taken over Foucault news blogging now that Jeremy has given it up. If for some insane reason you don't already read Claire's Refracted Input, now would be a good time to start.

Adam argues that online journals have a real chance to shake up the way we consume academic information by keeping the rigor of print journals but embracing rolling content made possible from blogging. Peter seems to disagree. For what it is worth, I basically agree with Adam on this point. Longer articles that are peer-reviewed could be posted on journals with RSS feeders. I don't see why this change would format would make articles less likely to be from a longer period of thought and reflection than a magazine or a blog. One could even see the articles coming out as they are made available, but keeping the vol/issue citation based on which issue the articles are suppose to blog to. This also means that we could see a change in book reviews. While we could keep the standard short review of a single or two books, we could also occasionally have longer articles that are mostly book reviews. Of the sort you sometimes see done over at places like Diacritics.

Stuart Elden has a new article entitled "Land, Terrain, Territory" which is, as usual, both scholarly in-depth and also a wonderful read. Peter takes this as a time to engage in some more teasing blogging about his forthcoming book.

The Marc Hauser controversy has made me realize that many of you may not know that Psychology Today plays host to several blogs on animal psychology, several of which have taken up the controversy. Here is a link to where all the animal behavior blogs are. But there are blogs there by people like Marc Bekoff and Jonathan Balcombe.

Last time I did this I linked to Jeremy about Philip K. Dick and Philosophy. Almost as if on cue, there is a wonderful post over at Dorf on Law from Sherry Colb about Do Androids Dreams of Electric Sheep. She's right that many people don't seem to want to talk about the obvious issues of animals that the book raises (I talk about it briefly in my dissertation, along with the phrase More Human Than the Human which comes from Blade Runner and which I think basically sums up the operative logic of biopolitics). I think in general that people often shy away from animal discussions within books that are clearly about animals (like HG Wells' Time Machine and The Island of Dr. Moreau, or any number of works by Dick).

J J Cohen has an interesting post up entitled Queering the In/Organic. Cohen tries to push the ethical, political, and ontological moves that you see in Queering the Non/Human into a more generalized vitalism (by which I mean something like Bennett's more generalized vitalism). I have the same excitement and trepidation with this post that I have with Bennett. Definitely worth reading.

David Harvey has a copy of his talk entitled The Enigma of Capital and the Crisis of Time. While not really surprising for anyone that has kept up with Harvey's work, still an interesting essay and a great read for those of you who haven't kept up with his work.

I'm going to be here at the office working well into the night. So, here is Cage the Elephant, Ain't No Rest for the Wicked.