During the on-campus talk about Black Lives Matter and Anthropology, Dawn-Elissa Fischer said that you should be angry – that if you’re not angry, you will forget why you’re fighting. This stuck with me for multiple reasons, but a powerful reason was because it provoked me to think about anger as being not only productive within activism, but necessary. In reading Hope and Hopelessness: A Dialogue, it made me think about the reconciliation of anger and hope and what that means to enact these congruous methods as means of positive production. José Esteban Munoz says that ways of operating in the world that are typically negative embodiments of affect, “like cynicism, opportunism, depression” can work to encourage criticality that has the potential to be useful. As counterintuitive as it is, I find it interesting that these feelings (cynicism, anger, depression) may represent what is most hopeful in the precarity of our political and social atmospheres.
The idea that Lisa Duggan suggests of the counter to ‘hope’ being ‘complacency’ was very interesting to me, because it shifted hope from being a specifically imagined reconstructed utopic future to a space for imagining, a drive and a need for something beyond what we have, a motivation for movement. By defining hope as the need for re-imagining and re-configuring, revolution and revolutionary action becomes formulated as requiring hope and springing from it. Jose Esteban Munoz adds that friendship contains this potential for revolution, in the term Valance, “The concept that describes the capacity for spontaneous and instinctive emotional combination.” (pg. 8). In friendship one not only has the possibility for spontaneous re-imagining through the act of collaboration, but also the space do to so freely, based in trust. Having a space to operate safely gives one/many the ability to dream dangerously, to test and explore. Friendship as the home-base of revolution.
Stevphen: Preparing for the interview I resorted to a typically web 2.0 approach of asking on Facebook what questions I should ask. I sent some of these to you. One question that seemed quite interesting was whether it was possible to be part of the undercommons and not study, or whether the undercommons includes, or could include, university workers and forms of affective labor which are not immediately pedagogical
Fred: A couple people seem to be reticent about the term ‘study,’ but is there a way to be in the undercommons that isn’t intellectual? Is there a way of being intellectual that isn’t social? When I think about the way we were using the term ‘study,’ I think we were committed to the idea that study is what you do with other people. It’s talking and walking around with other people, working, dancing, suffering, some irreducible convergence of all three, held under the name of speculative practice. The notion of a rehearsal – being in a kind of workshop, playing in a band, in a jam session, or old men sitting on a porch, or people working together in a factory – there are these various modes of activity. The point of calling it ‘study’ is to mark that the incessant and irreversible intellectuality of these activities was already there. These activities aren’t ennobled by the fact that we now say, ‘oh, if you did these things in a certain way, you could be said to be have been studying.’ To do these things is to be involved in a kind of common intellectual practice. What’s important is to recognize that that has been the case – because that recognition allows you to access a whole, varied, alternative history of thought.
What I also want to say about that question is that it strikes me as being overly concerned with the rightness and legitimacy of the term. It’s not so much that I want to say, ‘oh, he or she didn’t understand what we meant by study.’ It’s more like, ‘okay, well, if that terms bothers you, you can use another term.’ You can say, ‘my understanding of study doesn’t work for what it is that I think I want to get from what you guys are saying.’ So, that person then has to have some kind of complicated paleonymic relation to that term. They have to situate themselves in some kind of appositional relation to that term; they have to take some of it, take something from it, and make their own way away from it. What I would say would be, insofar as you are now in what might be called a dissident relation, you are precisely involved in what it is that I think of as study.
[…] More: https://classwaru.org/2012/11/12/studying-through-the-undercommons-stefano-harney-fred-moten-interviewed-by-stevphen-shukaitis/
Cideci is an autonomous school in San Cristobal De Las Casas, Chiapas Mexico where the ideas of Freire and of indigenous learning have been synthesized into the powerful education model found within the school. Its foundation was synthesized using ideas from liberation theology, ecology, zapatismo, and indigenous understandings of land and organization.
“The students come from indigenous communities throughout Chiapas, many of these communities caracoles controlled by the Zapatistas and many with first languages other than Spanish. They come here to stay for a few months or several years before going back to their villages and taking the responsibility to teach or practice the learning they experience here and the skills they acquire. Many ex-students have taken the role of teachers on the various courses they offer which range from the various technical skills mentioned above (mechanics, weaving, shoe-making, electronics, carpentry, hairdressing) to courses around health and nutrition, to those around cultivating food (within a milpa) or raising animals. Alongside these subjects there are also regular weekly and monthly seminars which also bring together others from outside CIDECI.”
The lines between student and teacher have been completely blurred, and the education has strong roots in experiential learning. Everyone participates in both how the school is run, and the actual everyday operation of the school (food, housing, teaching, energy generation, etc.).
Theory and ideology operate similarly here. Both serve to turn the fear of the unknown into something more palatable and productive. I’m sitting in Athenian Diner right now and have overheard multiple celebrations of last night’s outcome. “He’s the voice of the people… dedicated to the middle class… revolution… core values…” I’m sad for these people. I’m sad that we’re all sad and confused and always searching for someone or something to fix us. Trump has intentionally catered to poor white Americans who feel overlooked, mistreated, and threatened. He has given them a voice, a doctrine, a solution to their hurt. His established cult of personality has awarded him the leeway to push extremism without consequence. Propaganda is a powerful tool- the normalization of problematic rhetoric is the first step in mass-spreading a problematic ideology. What trips me up is that many Trump supporters don’t actively support Trump’s status as a perpetrator or his history of tax evasion, for example, but instead deny these claims are even real. Trump has played on their fear of the biased leftist media “warping reality” (and in the process is doing just that).
The common thread is fear: all doctrine/theory/ideology is a response to the terror that is living without purpose/organization.
The differences in power and the act of domination seem to be made the central focus of resistance movements through the lens of Foucault and Deleuze. The remedy they offer to domination is localized autonomy, specified through interests, and informed by experiential knowledge. One of the main criticisms that come from Spivak is the unacknowledged role global capitalism and international divisions of labor how that plays into interest, desire, and power. The other is the power that ideology has on constituting the regional landscapes in relation to these three categories. I found these more modern conceptions of how power, desire, and interest via neoliberal ideology play into everyday life in the book The Coming Insurrection: which looks at how lives are lived and peoples relationship to work post-economic failures of the mid 2000’s.
Gramsci introduced the term ‘hegemony’ to refer to the force that ensures power structures are consented to and reproduced. He also wrote that unless intellectuals take up the position of the peasant or are themselves an organic peasant intellectual, they will continue to produce and reproduce hegemony. Although this wasn’t explicitly stated in the conversation between Deleuze and Foucault, maybe the task of the true intellectual is to analyze power itself: “the relationship between desire, power, and interest are more complex than we ordinarily think, and it is not necessarily those who exercise power who have an interest in its execution; nor is it always possible for those with vested interests to exercise power”. How can we successfully challenge power structures if we are clueless to how they operate? Foucault also poses that social movements may not necessarily struggle against injustice, but, rather, struggle against the leveraging of power- to me, this suggests that something about the idea of “power” transcends all rationale in the human mind. We can easily locate those who are powerless- but often, locating those who hold significant power is difficult. While general power structures are clearly visible, the motivations, goals, and tactics in actually exercising power seem more elusive.
During the discussion of Anthropology and #BlackLivesMatter on Wednesday November 1, I was taken by the concept brought up by Professor Bianca Williams of radical honesty. She spoke of the inherent biases of all professors and their undoubtable inclusion of them in their curriculum and classroom. She teaches a class on radical honesty and “Truth-Telling as Pedagogy for Working Through Shame in Academic Spaces”. She introduces her class with a complex description of ways she embodies her identity such as race, gender, and mental health. These act as a explanations of positionality and how and why she teaches and exists the ways that she does.
This notion of radical honesty comes into direct communication with Freire’s ideas of the banking and problem-posing education. Freire describes that banking education requires teachers to be knowledgable and students to be ignorant, for the teacher to teach and the students to be taught, and for the teacher to confuse the authority of knowledge with his or her own professional authority, which she and he set sin opposition to the freedom of the students (73). What Bianca Williams encourages with her monologue is quite the opposite. She disrupts the narrative character prescribed to teacher-student relationships that Freire speaks describes as fundamental to the dehumanization of banking education (71). Williams gives power to the students and advocates for a dialectic approach to learning. Freire writes “Banking education resists dialogue; problem-posing education regards dialogue as indespensable to the act of cognition which unveils reality” (83). This is exactly what Williams seems to be doing with her approach to radical honesty. It serves as an important if not integral part of problem-posing education.
Out of curiosity, I wanted to read an argument in vehement opposition to Freire’s Marxist-inspired teachings. I found this : http://www.city-journal.org/html/pedagogy-oppressor-13168.html (tbh I wish I hadn’t because it pissed me off).
Sol Stern essentially argues that pushing leftist Freireian ideas actually oppresses minority students because it prevents them from considering the other side: conservatism.
“Of course, the popularity of Pedagogy of the Oppressed wasn’t due to its educational theory alone. During the seventies, veterans of the student-protest and antiwar movements put down their placards and began their “long march through the institutions,” earning Ph.D.s and joining humanities departments. Once in the academy, the leftists couldn’t resist incorporating their radical politics (whether Marxist, feminist, or racialist) into their teaching. Celebrating Freire as a major thinker gave them a powerful way to do so. His declaration in Pedagogy of the Oppressed that there was “no such thing as a neutral education” became a mantra for leftist professors, who could use it to justify proselytizing for America-hating causes in the college classroom.”
- Arguing with frat boys always ends with the “You just hate America!!” patriotic morality bs. In response, I turn their patriotism on its head: Critiquing America and wanting to improve her conditions is the highest form of patriotism- if you believe in something, you believe in its ability to improve.
Stern also supports Graff’s argument that “Making it the main object of teaching to open “students’ minds to left, feminist, anti-racist, and queer ideas” and “stimulate” them (nice euphemism that) “to work for egalitarian change” has been the fatal mistake of the liberatory pedagogy movement from Freire in the 1960s to today.”
- I really can’t understand how someone could argue that teaching anti-racist ideas is a “fatal mistake” and still say they’re not racist…
“Freire’s ideas are harmful not just to students but to the teachers entrusted with their education. A broad consensus is emerging among education reformers that the best chance of lifting the academic achievement of children in the nation’s inner-city schools is to raise dramatically the effectiveness of the teachers assigned to those schools. Improving teacher quality as a means of narrowing racial achievement gaps is a major focus of President Obama’s education agenda. But if the quality of teachers is now the name of the game, it defies rationality that Pedagogy of the Oppressed still occupies an exalted place in training courses for those teachers, who will surely learn nothing about becoming better instructors from its discredited Marxist platitudes.”
- This is the biggest myth in the education reform movement. The teachers are not the problem- fundamental inequality is responsible for racial achievement gaps. How can someone who has to worry about getting shot while walking to a friend’s house perform at the same level as someone whose parents are investment bankers and can provide all the books, music lessons, and club sports practices a kid could ever want? @Sol Stern: you’re a racist.
“In the age of Obama, finally, it seems all the more unacceptable to encourage inner-city teachers to take the Freirian political agenda seriously. If there is any political message that those teachers ought to be bringing to their students, it’s one best articulated by our greatest African-American writer, Ralph Ellison, who affirmed that he sought in his writing “to see America with an awareness of its rich diversity and its almost magical fluidity and freedom. . . . confronting the inequalities and brutalities of our society forthrightly, yet thrusting forth its images of hope, human fraternity, and individual self-realization.”
- Way to co-opt a black activist’s language to support your own racist beliefs. I’m done.
I bet you can guess what Mr. Stern looks like.
A good question, in short, is an honest question, one that, like good theory, dances on the edge of what is knowable, what it is possible to speculate on, what is available to our immediate grasp of what we are reading, or what it is possible to say. A good question, that is, like good theory, might be quite unlovely to read, particularly in its earliest iterations. And sometimes it fails or has to be abandoned. But we don’t come together to perform what we already know how to do. We come together to be unlovely and take ourselves apart, in order to mutually construct even more difficult ideas. It’s not supposed to be easy. The labor is what makes it beautiful.