Attack the Headquarters

Rethinking CCS?? A message for Goldsmiths CCS students:

In summer term at Goldsmiths we in CCS will have a series of workshops (three x 4 hours) at which some of the PhD students and staff of CCS will present 15 minute provocations on research futures for CCS – the idea being that we will think about organizing a new cultural revolution, inside CCS and for the wider reinvention of cultural studies more generally (slogan: attack the headquarters!). The aim is to begin rethinking and redesigning what Cultural Studies in the UK can and could be. So in your spare moments please also start thinking about that – activism, critique, practice, adventure, engagement, philosophy, technologies, transformation… Make notes, plan to speak, talk about what might be needed.

The idea is that we spend some time reconsidering the kind of “New Cultural Studies” (if we can call it that at all) that we practice at Goldsmiths. Practice based work, activism, philosophy, engagement, criticism are put into play as broad topics. How can we both track the ways cultural studies works through attachments to existing forms of disciplinary production and how do we constitute cultural studies as an open cross-disciplinary space?

The format of each afternoon (dates to be confirmed, but most likely Tuesday afternoons, in summer term, (scheduled for 14th May [was 13th] , 27th May, & 3rd June) would involve presentations by past and current PhD students to start off the first 2 hour session, and presentations in the second two hour session will also include contributions from staff of the Centre.

If we support a global, international, practically grounded/activist/theoretically-engaged strain of cultural studies, what kinds of teaching does it require? How should research be developed and managed? We are interested in tackling these questions speculatively and concretely and at all scales, in the way the Centre works, in what Cultural Studies and what it does in the world.

We have already scheduled most of the days, but offers of short punchy questioning reflective provocations are welcome – please get in touch with John or Matt asap. The event is open to CCS staff, CCS students past and present, and I guess anyone who already has an established association with us – do get in touch [its not a general call as we don't have huge amounts of space, and we are not so absurd as to think we are going to change Cultural Studies everywhere... - though that too might be suggested by some, and we could indeed do some events like this publicly when we get to the ten year anniversary of CCS at Goldsmiths next year - stay tuned].

[Also note: The 'Cinema Division' series will continue to screen at 6 on tuesdays (details here)]

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Comments

  • Jeff  On 07/04/2008 at 9:50 am

    I’m still not positive what I want to talk about but a tentative title can be ‘Making Ideas Dangerous Again’. it’s going to be based around the SI text ‘On The Poverty of Student Life’ (1966). This was one of the first SI texts I read and it was one of the main reasons I got interested in them, but it’s a text I haven’t really thought about seriously in a while. Beyond summarizing it and putting in the context of the events that ‘led’ to May 68 (the publication of the text by the Strasbourg Student Union, etc.), what I’m mainly interested in, given the fact that we’re being asked to prepare 15 minute long provocations, is the ability of a text like this to provoke in the present. Debord has a line somewhere about the SI wanting ‘to make ideas dangerous again’. How can we do this without returning to these avant gardist anachronisms? I was also thinking about that Ward Churchill essay ‘Pacifism as Pathology’ where he makes this argument that if you want to see what behaviors are most dangerous to the state, you look to see where they focus their resources of repression. Now of course Churchill’s day-after-9.11 essay ‘On the Justice of Roosting Chickens’ was an obvious provocation, both because it raised the question of the ‘guilt’ of the attacks’ ‘innocent’ victims, but also because it directly historicized the attacks. And according to Churchill’s previous argument, the fact that the state, media, university immediately began the process of firing him suggests that his ideas were indeed dangerous. At the same time however, there is another logic that repression and danger, so to speak, are more inextricably linked. Here I’m thinking of everything from the strategy of tension in 70s Italy to police infiltration/provocation of the black block in Genoa, Göteborg, etc. So basically I’m interested in looking at these two provocations – the SI’s and Churchill’s – in relation to the theme of dangerous ideas. Not sure what my conclusion will be yet or how exactly I’m going to provoke. I know this is a sprawling mess but I’m convinced I can work it into a 15 minute long provocation!

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  • john hutnyk  On 07/04/2008 at 9:54 am

    Hi Jeff – This sounds great, and I can see it working well. I would think you could do it quite neatly, and effectively in a short provocation.

    One of the things I have been thinking about is the ways storytelling can (or cannot) work as provocation in Cultural Studies – ie my reversioning of Scheherezade in Guantanamo and all that… but there is a wider/[narrower?] context for this that use of ‘On the Poverty of Student Life’ can address, and that is what we do in CCS itself. What exactly is it that we as collective (if at all a unity can be addressed) are trying to do? Are there several things? Are those of us trying to – and is it worth trying to – push the Centre towards more engaged research? Is this plausible? Possible? Pretentious?

    Thanks for the start…

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  • Jeff  On 07/04/2008 at 10:18 am

    I think is both plausible, possible, and maybe pretentious, but if so in a good way. Pretty much without exception, there is no one in the Centre that I can think of that doesn’t think of their work ‘politically’, although of course that term, as well as ‘engagement’, is certainly thought of in different ways. I do think more could be done to get discussions of what we mean when we think of our work as political and hopefully this Attack the Headquarters series will serve as a provocation in this regard, because I think we (or I anyway) do need to be provoked in order to leave the mini-ivory towers we create for ourselves with our dissertations.

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  • James B  On 07/04/2008 at 1:19 pm

    I’m still very excited about this and have a possible provocation along the lines of reconfiguring strategic naivety as a form of fabulation (storytelling if you like, since John mentioned it – but of course for me in a Bergsonian-Dickian mode!) Thinking about Jeff’s last post, I agree that predominantly people working at the Centre see their work within a political horizon, though I think this horizon is where the political meets the ethical and other registers of judgement, and that there may be some who would prefer some other term than political to classify the significance of their project.

    I also have my worries about this being a “cultural revolution”, with its Maoist slogan, but I’ll continue to choose to take that semi-ironically. I think the tension here is key. Both elements – lets say a will to revolution on the one hand, and a concern for solidarity on the other – seem to be necessary and irreducible. The slogan (extracted from its original context) is broad enough to encompass both these aspects, which is quite hard to do, and which is why I’m not railing against it – even if I have to reserve the capacity to distance myself from any relation to the actual events of the cultural revolution. Solidarity depends on the capacity to mutually tolerate and negotiate (rather than flatten and restrict) widely varying viewpoints. Yet political engagement demands not getting stuck in a situation of absolute compromise. I think this relates to other questions we may want to ask – i.e. what is negotiable, and what is not to be compromised with the new cultural studies – where are differences to be supported in order to encourage solidarity, but where is solidarity to be used to prevent fragmentation, absolute heterogeneity? I guess this is another way of putting the problem – on the one hand, we don’t want a cultural studies that is prescriptive, canonised – but on the other hand we don’t want to lose the capacity for political effect through an “anything goes” approach to research – do we? (As Jeff implies, a city of mini ivory towers; can’t help picturing angry elephants stomping all over them.) Are there better ways of stating this problematic?

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  • john  On 07/04/2008 at 1:50 pm

    yep, I always thought of the cultural revolution as semi ironic – at least insofar as it might refer to actual events, whatever debates there may be of those – in any case they are elsewhere (although I think I saw something of the same running away amidst a phalanx of cops near the dome yesterday – Kelly Holmes was caught up in the middle with some sort of candle… other people there had some colourful flags…)…

    On fabulation – I am greatly impressed by Ranciere’s “Film Fables” book. Worth a look. http://hutnyk.wordpress.com/2008/03/08/panto-rancio/

    But I wonder if we are in danger of being too polite if we decide we are all tolerant negotiators as well as ‘all political’ or ‘ethical’ or whatever – such that we don’t actually have anything to debate and so find we have smuggled in ‘anything goes’ once more… Let a hundred little ivory towers contend doesn’t quite get to the schools of thought practicality of what we might possibly do. – J

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  • Will Davies  On 09/04/2008 at 3:14 pm

    I’d like to speak about ‘cultural political economy’, and the question of how to tackle political-economic expertise, which is a core issue in my work. In particular, I have come to the view that ‘neoliberalism’ is a concept that is no longer helpful (if it ever was) and I could offer some defence of this.

    The cultural turn in economic sociology (and Michel Callon’s work in particular) has opened up many very fruitful new lines of empirical enquiry, but it’s also led to a deadening of critical perspective, and occasionally a euphoric wonderment in the face of complex economic phenomena. At times, the urge to understand the epistemic frameworks of experts has lead sociologists and anthropologists into uncritical duplication of these frameworks – as witnessed in the way Actor Network Theory is comfortably accommodated into the work of business schools.

    However, it is surely a positive thing that the traditional targets of critique have become objects of close empirical analysis. The questions are:
    – how to create limits around the cultural turn, and to avoid deconstructing everything?
    – how to investigate the intenal mechanics of the state (for instance), and to do so without becoming excessively credulous?
    – how to understand an expert framework without being seduced by it?

    I have a few anecdotal and theoretical reflections on these sorts of questions, from my fieldwork and reading in this area, that might be worth sharing.

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  • john  On 29/04/2008 at 11:25 am

    The date for the first of these A-t-H meetings has to change to weds the 14th, same time and place though.

    A couple of people have recently asked about my view on theory, or on what sort of theory. Of course I think dogmatically on these topics and trot out (but not Trotsky) the old theory-praxis routines of yore. I cut and paste from a response to Tom and his concern that the theory of the spectacle in the end offers nothing but a theory of the spectacle (it was more complicated than that, but I truncate in a close approximation):

    The problem here is not, I think, that the conceptual categories [like spectacle] are useless, or even that somehow they can be improved with more philosophy [a dash of hegel, a smattering of Malabou]. Theory can no doubt be improved, but perhaps the only or main reason for doing that is insofar as its bound up with efforts to further the theoretical tools of organization, via, for mine, the Party, the organization of class politics/revolutionary politics, to win hegemony, to change the world… without that, theory is still doing something of course, but all it is doing is maintaining the status quo – which is too depressing, and exactly what I would not want. I do fear we can just becomes a centre for cultural ‘studies’ – and not in any way an approach to a new better less exploitative, less war and murder/death/kill kind of world. Yes, we need good theory, but any theory that remains only on the level of theory is suicidal, perhaps the only option for Guy de Bourgeois sitting in front of the conflagration, grinning like a monkey and…

    Attack the headquarters! Our Centre can and must be a part of a radical renewal of thinking and doing. Even if theory is always already doing, it also matters what we are doing. Slow march of theory towards hegemony … well, there are reasons to be dismayed at how badly that is going, but not yet reasons to abandon the effort. Discuss.
    -J

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  • john hutnyk  On 01/05/2008 at 9:06 pm

    Hi All (who have so far initially confirmed keenness to present at Attack the Headquarters). This is an internal CCS discussion. Posted here for ease of access.

    Just wanting to begin to firm up a rough plan for the A-T-H interventions. Its all to happen from 2pm – 6pm on 14 may, 27 May and 3 June.

    We are thinking up to 15 minutes each to start the ball rolling. Each day to be split by a tea/smoke break, so 2 X 1.45 hours

    So, the below is a suggestion only, open to rearrangements – please check the dates are ones you can make, though I am hoping everyone comes to all three as its a rolling discussion. The final session would be around what to do about the ten year anniversary of CCS (publications, conference, egg and spoon races…)

    Wednesday 14th May,

    Session One: James Burton, Jeff Kinkle and Jaron Rowan

    Session two: Matt Fuller and Luciana Parisi

    Tuesday 27th May,

    Session One: Tom Bunyard, Susan Schuppli and Sean Mckeown

    Session two: Jennifer Bajorek and Scott lash [tbc]

    Tuesday 3rd June,

    Session One: Cristobal Bianchi, Gregor Claude and Will Davis

    Session two: John Hutnyk, Jeff Kinkle and Tom Bunyard

    We will have a wide mix of themes & orientations, and sessions won’t have names (its not a conference). It would be good to get confirmation from everyone soon. Of course there is room for more people to freestyle on the days, or be named otherwise (I heard Keyser Soze was coming…)

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  • Jennifer Bajorek  On 02/05/2008 at 9:41 am

    Such a nice new blog that I really can’t help but post.

    Why are we thinking and redesigning what Cultural Studies is or could be **in the UK**? I would ask it already anyway, for a number of different reasons. But then, upon reading this discussion, I was struck by how many of the texts and questions already cited here (the SI/Ward Churchill/Maoisms, Ranciere, to name only the obvious) would suggest a different horizon. Political, ethical, “cultural”…? Are we in the UK? In what sense are we in the UK? What does it mean to be in it but be siting one’s research in certain kinds of markets in China (Scott), the Congolese diaspora and its media (Graham H.), Cristobal and a certain Basque territory that belongs/belonged to a pretty different map of Europe (are we, or are not in Europe?), Jeff and his twin towers (which are where exactly? has it ever been clear?); Guantanamo anyone?

    An open question, and a real one. I am guessing John could probably answer some parts of it based on some of what was or may have been behind his initial formulation. But I raise it for the other parts also.

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  • john hutnyk  On 02/05/2008 at 10:25 am

    Indeed, a version of this question would be something to do with what sort of internationalism is possible from where we are (a sort of secondary or sub- belly of the beast…) and what internationalism might be – ‘in the way the Centre works, in what Cultural Studies and what it does in the world’ . There are internationalisms of several different stripes, and not all of them pretty.

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  • Flora  On 12/05/2008 at 8:45 pm

    Minor provocations from a lowly MA student:

    Any of the complaints that I have about my time here at CCS have to do with the more alienating aspects of the program that are in part structural–i.e., have to do with over-enrollment or not enough instructors–but I do have a few thoughts that tie in with the general directions for the center stated above.
    1. I seem to recall that the first week of term, at a CCS-wide meeting, Scott telling our group that we would be expected to work primarily on our own. I do understand on some level the need (especially for us MAs) to ween ourselves off of the undergrad teet, so to speak, but I also don’t understand how one creates a practically-informed, activist-based cultural studies out of this individual approach. In particular, I thought that Methods would have been a really nice opportunity to organize collaborative work and to engage with greater London in some way–or, alternatively, to house experimentation within the Centre (in other words, to expand this series within the course in an intensive way). Similarly, it would be really interesting to start an ongoing research group that might bring us in closer proximity with our professors who, in my experience, are somewhat difficult to get face time with (not blaming, just sayin’).
    2. Per Will’s comment above, I totally agree. Doing engaged cultural studies, particularly outside of the UK where it is still considered a marginal ‘discipline’, requires continually confronting and trying to come to terms with disciplinary languages that one does not necessarily speak, within particular frameworks that rate information/research/theory/what have you by rules that we aren’t necessarily familiar with. In other words, practicing cultural studies often means engaging with material we don’t find legible, particularly interesting or ‘sexy’–policy, economics, ‘facts and figures’, etc., depending on one’s interests–and where our own research, deconstructions, etc., are generally treated with similar disdain or lack of comprehension (‘activism’, after all, is still a bad word in many circles). So, the question is, how do we strategize for much less comfortable situations such that we can still effect practical outcomes/changes–or can at least expect a real engagement to take place? It seems to me that this really requires experimentation and practice, and this again refers back to a possible direction for a methods course. In terms of what we may or may not be willing to compromise in order to become literate and mobile in ‘enemy’ territory, all I can say is that this may require compromising a bit of philosophy and just throwing oneself into the political fray…it is my firm belief that liberal arts students (myself included) over-think everything and therefore often feel paralyzed. It takes a certain amount of stupidity to have the confidence to act (as current events have so painfully demonstrated). I’m only half joking.
    Finally, cultural studies seems to be the most self-conscious or self-obsessed ‘discipline’ ever created: case in point, Attack the Headquarters. What do we think some of the consequences of this are?

    Okay, it is what it is. See you all Wednesday!

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  • john hutnyk  On 14/05/2008 at 9:46 am

    Reposted from Goetz’s email today from Tokyo. Follow the links…

    “Dear fellow CCS researchers,

    taking up the spirit of the upcoming “Attack the headquarters” events (which I would love to attend), I thought that this is a good time to improve the communication around the ongoing research of the metadata project, which began its work recently.

    Our first case study has started last week: A six week long ethnography-ish enquiry into the Japanese video sharing platform Nico Nico Douga. I am doing this together with fellow-researcher Madoka Takashiro, who some of you might know as well.

    To publish some of our early results, we started a research blog. So in case you are interested, here is the URL:

    http://d.hatena.ne.jp/metagold/

    There are some funky Nico videos on it, which should be fun to watch. The blog is placed on a Japanese blog community called Hatena. It’s partly directed to the Japanese audience that we research, so please forgive the rather upbeat and uncritical tone. And please feel free to comment, either via email, or, even better, directly on the blog.

    To prevent misunderstandings: The blog is of course not the field diary of the research. If anyone is interested in more information, you can also have a look at some of my field diaries. Just drop me an email, and I give you access to parts of it on google documents.

    There is also a very first version of the project website, which gives you an idea of the overall project. The design is not yet exactly what you would call user-friendly, but hey, we are academics! Its URL is:

    http://metagold.org/

    We are still working on it. This should look much nicer soon. Meanwhile the research blog on Hatena is the best place to go.

    With best regards from freezing Tokyo

    Götz.”

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  • Lara  On 23/05/2008 at 7:14 pm

    I respond from afar, as a non-academic, as a one-time but no longer journalist, who is now I suppose a writer who is travelling about Angola, a country I lived in and (mis?)reported on during the war that lasted so long here.
    Very flattered anyway, John, that you would include me in the email round. Are you sure that wasn’t a mistake? The top part of your blog here states that this is really for people attached to Goldsmiths’ Cultural Studies dept. Which I most definitely am not. (Not to say it doesn’t appeal).
    Anyway, for what it’s worth – and as very much a non-theorist (I read theory and philosophy: just started A thousand plateaux, but am no expert) – I might throw this into your debate:

    1. Regarding questions related to internationalism and just how internationalist you can or cannot be “in the UK”, it might be worth pondering a discussion I had with a Zimbabwean friend in Camden shortly before I left London last October for Johannesburg, and now Angola. I was worried about my own authenticity as a writer of /about/interested in Angola today given that I am born of and in heart a Londoner (leaving aside being white and European and all that stuff). He made a point that hit home, which was that the discussions on, in this case, Africa, are now happening very much in London. The colonial world of old is being turned on its head. The colonized peoples of the past are now coming to the metropolis to seek many things but they are coming, and increasingly the debate is here (or there, in my case), in London, in Glasgow, in Paris etc etc. The idea that the UK, today, is not international is absurd. Look around you. The wonderful thing that at least London has is the international, the disapora, the refugee, the exile, the seeker, the escaper etc etc. Some of the most important debates about the part of the world in whcih I am now – southern Africa – are happening in bars and around dinner tables in and around London. It is not a case of whether the debates you seek to have at Goldsmiths ‘can be’ international coming from London – they already are. London is one of the places where it is happening. It might be worth you being in touch with this particular Zimbabwean, a man loathed by the mainstream press, particularly the BBC, but a man well versed in cultural studies. His name is George Shire. He is at St Martins. If you want his contacts, email me separately and I will send them privately.

    2. The only other small area I would want to try to open up to discuss is more complex, and I am not sure I can do it in this short space. But it is perhaps leading on from the first point I made. This cultural revolution is for who? It is strange – so strange – reading this blog (and others which I admire) from Angola. The culture here, no, it is more a way of being, is so totally different, I am left wandering really long and hard about what it is that I am trying to achieve there in Hackney, E5, my home, and here in Luanda, Huambo, Cabinda and so on. The cultural revolution which I think i would be 100% in favour of – at least some sort of revolution needs to begin – risks being led /followed by such a limited number there in the metropolis. We don’t realise how far away (I won’t say ahead) we are. We live in another world of thinking and thinking. Here, there is much more doing and doing. And the revolutions here happen every day. And are quashed every day. Where am I taking this? Perhaps just to say that the praxis, as you suggest John, must be emphasised and re-emphasised. Here, it is almost the only element that exists. Theory is absent. Totally absent. Only mermaids and men. This is the theory of life. And here I go, straying away. That’s what happens when you shift in space.

    Enough.
    Good luck. It sounds excellent. Wish I was there to hear. When I return, will I – as an unintellectual outsider – be allowed to partake of the revolt?
    Please!

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  • john  On 23/05/2008 at 7:41 pm

    Hi Lara,
    yep, mixed your email up with another Lara who was on our program but was one spot further down on my email list. nevertheless, a very welcome post and given how often i’ve read your own blog you are an honourary associate of ccs anyway. welcome.

    we are very much focussed on the issues you raise, especially as thought from centres that are elsewhere – kolkata as centre of empire during the raj, perhaps iraq as centre of empire today, angola as a node in another configuration…

    and, yes, what can we do with this tiny we (who?) reading theory. This question seems to have struck hard.

    -j

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  • unionist  On 23/05/2008 at 10:09 pm

    From:
    Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary
    To:
    john.hutnyk
    Date:
    6:59 pm
    Subj:
    Supporting fellow UCU members
    Dear colleague,
     
    I am writing to seek your help in supporting fellow UCU members in dispute.
     
    We face great challenges over the coming year.
     
    In higher education, our employers are seeking to claw back the extra cost of the current pay settlement and have said that national bargaining is at risk unless UCU agrees to restrictions on its ability to take strike action and on our ability to represent all our academic and related members.
     
    In further education, our English members are currently engaged in a dispute aimed at closing the pay gap between themselves and schoolteachers. Further disputes around pay parity and conditions rumble on in both Wales and Northern Ireland.
     
    In these circumstances it is vital the union has the resources to support members when required. Your national subscriptions already support members in more than 1,000 different workplaces but what I need now is your help to ensure we have the resources to support those in dispute that need our help most.
     
    Our national strike fund needs to be increased substantially in order to meet these challenges and I am seeking your help to make sure that happens.
     
    You can donate to the UCU strike fund either by making a one off payment or by agreeing to make a regular monthly contribution.
     
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    About this email:
    Very occasionally UCU sends important messages such as this

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  • Lara  On 24/05/2008 at 8:15 am

    Thanks John… and since I’m sitting here, just to add this in terms of centres: Angola, little known still, and by some miracle only reported by mainstream media in times of war, or now, in times of major ‘economic’ boom, holds the record – despite what certain sources would have you otherwise believe – as the fastest growing economy in the world. And has now overtaken Nigeria as biggest oil producer in Africa. Almost now hitting 2m barrels a day. And yet, and yet, travel this country and you would never know it. People living in tin shacks, buying cans of Coke for the same price we pay in London, though they earn a cuppla dollars a day. But I drift… The point is that the amount of oil coming out of the sea, and now the land, of this country is phenomenal, and makes it a centre in its own right. Even if the people here – the majority – barely know about the oil, so busy as they are trying to scrape together a living. But anyway…
    Good luck to CCS, and I hope your lucky lucky students realise how lucky they are.

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  • eliasnomad  On 24/05/2008 at 2:40 pm

    Let’s get it percolatin’ in view of the attack take 2

    CCS and its multi-colored coats: critics or poets? deconstructers or visionairies?
    Can it house both?

    If, historically, cultural studies emerged as a discipline to fill a void left by anthropology, sociology and economics’s overlooking of ‘culture’ as a factor to be considered in the study of human societies – somewhere in the interstices, is it still relevant in the context of the social science’s existential crises and reworking of approaches, methodologies, frameworks, etc.?

    Is it a parasitic or symbiotic beast (vis-a-vis the other more canonical disciplines)? Either way, it began as an inter-disciplinary creature and so do we want to endow it with the conventional mission statement, methodology and analytical tools that would entrench it as something more permanent? …against the tide of a type of deconstruction doing away with the very foundations a counter-movement or opposition has always required to define itself against – to build and organise against..

    while philosophy and the social sciences were undoing their politicizable foundations from the inside – since circa ’68 and before – i.e. turning critique inward, economics as a discipline continued to trod on the ‘solid’ path of further organising, building models, analytical tools and frameworks, hierarchies and structures by which to view the world. As a discipline, it hasn’t strayed far from Thomas Khun’s definition of movements in knowledge production through paradigme shifts. Structure of Scientific Revolution. In the meantime, 40 years of autocritique has left the rest of us with little ground to stand on to build ‘political’ resistance against the all too pervasive stance – left and right – that economics has subsumed any idea of politics that would stand outside its sphere.

    If ’68 marks a transition, for the sake of dating, away from a radicalism of the street and toward a radicalism of/in theory, what for if theory only speaks to its own practitioners? Is it still important? Is it simply anachronistic and reactionary to admit deconstruction went too far? Would it be of interest to backtrack and start over, and if yes, can we? Where to start?

    How to keep knowledge ‘living’..
    How to teach when there is no method? Goldsmiths is dotted with courses with titles promising methodologies which never materialise..most are simply organised as a patchwork of theorists – the usual culprits – Deleuze, Derrida, Badiou, Bourdieu, Baudrillard…- we’re still in a ‘cult of the personality’ scenario, which may be one of the reasons why extracting an array of ‘methods’ of research and critique is so slow in coming..as a student i can say that the profs that have inspired thought and imparted the energy to question and create are those that ‘stood for something’ – whose mode of teaching involved very structured courses with comprehensible arches that provoked the student to think outside of them – to question the stance, seek counterarguments and position oneself vis-a-vis the proposed reading. Those who towed a line in the classroom, with a twinkle in the eye suggesting a more radical, complex array of perspectives outside the classroom. This means, accepting teaching as ‘playing’ a part – the part that will provoke students into finding their own critical positionings, not the one that imposes its own neurotic responses to ‘the unfathomable complexity of the world’ and the critical tools or lack thereof that its struggling to contend with..
    if teaching is nourishing the minds of generations to come, i see here more muddling of young minds that haven’t yet developed an intellectual and emotional sense of self needed to position themselves within the present state of questionings and overhauls, than a transmission of tools meant to help students strengthen and fine-tune their capacity to critique and create. We’re back to square one: the problem of teaching is the problem of method..
    when in doubt, revert back to a close reading of the text. If we’re to define the ‘mission’ of CCS, its reason for being, what distinguishes it, etc..then we have to glean it from what is: what are the core courses offered by CCS? What guiding lines do these propose and follow? What is common to them? What is common to CCS PhD students and faculty’s approach to their own material? …what method?
    One – many – that both ‘holds water’ and allows for creative energies to express and mutate it…
    Is tagging a ‘new’ in front of cultural studies enough to provoke a distinction? A new momentum? The power of the name..is it symbolic enough to breed the sought for change since we haven’t yet ‘defined’ it? To use the terms bantered about, how to revolutionize if there is no canon? On what grounds to rebuild?

    Is the space of cultural studies one that can produce theory or simply purloin, distort and apply? If the latter, then that’s where definition begins – renegade, guerilla tactics applied to knowledge production. Who needs to produce guns when you can just steal the enemies? Being political is not pretentious, but purporting to be with no guns to back up the claim is.. it kinda boils down to risking definition/positioning which basically means risking being wrong, sounding naive, archaic, dépassé, rigid, reified..all of the above.

    Let’s not forget what’s positive about the ivory tower either..it’s reason for being, ie providing the safety and the distance from which to think the world outside – the necessary luxury of a room of one’s own.. we are not policy makers and that’s good! For CCS to be a space conducive to experimentation, we have to somehow inhabit it as a miniature, a playground, a safe-haven in which the consequences of one’s actions are far less devastating than in the world-at-large. A place to retreat to and test thoughts that the street has inspired.

    If there is a mission to be found, perhaps its more one of facilitating and keeping open the channels of translation between desk and street, pen and gun rather than positing some kind of ‘political/ethical framework’ to be adhered to by the ‘collectivity’. The danger of the latter is being caught in the trap of ‘schools of thought': again, cult of the personality versus advocating methodologies..

    Maybe a turn back toward the humanities rather than trying so hard to emulate social science frameworks and politickings could prove inspiring? It is the poet that’s the visionary, not the critic..recalling the idea of groups instead of ‘schools’..clusters and constellations, providing a looseness of affiliation but affiliation none the less, breeding creativity and ‘vision’ around a common set of ‘madmen and outlaws that came before’, a set of secret heroes inspiring rebelliousness, but with a shared dedication to thinking and carving out new modes of hearing, seeing, digesting and writing.

    General comments, but to me, necessary flanks of the ‘attack’ if attack there will be..

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  • eliasnomad  On 24/05/2008 at 5:14 pm

    just a quick point to add to Lara’s discussion on London as center for thinking post-colonial spaces, lives, praxis…cult revs…i spent feb-march this year wandering about burundi, rwanda and kenya and what struck me from conversations and immersions was that yes, some are still focused on old hubs of empire – paris, london, berlin, u.s. and canada as places to go to school, make money, make ‘themselves’ and think ‘themselves’..but what was clear as day was the quickly growing preponderance of south spaces as poles of attraction for just that – i.e. dubai, china, india and yes, still russia, though with a clearly different purpose than back in ussr days..if european capitals stand a chance of staying a part of thinking global futures, it will have to be in relation to these southern happening spots with their hodge podge’s of mettisages, exiles, refugees, etc..and the modes of being n thinking already being formulated and enacted and ‘brought home’, sur place.

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  • Lara  On 24/05/2008 at 5:29 pm

    Eliasnomad… I take your point. I suppose all I would add on top is that yes, Dubai, China, India (and yes, still Russia) are increasingly magnets. But they are magnets of trade and business, and not of places to stay and live and raise children. There are lots of Africans who travel through Dubai and China, and a few who live there, but the European cities (plus USA and Canada) remain the target centres. What I think is that the voice of London has changed. It is not simply a case of London as postcolonial but that the voice of those people who come from the south is gaining strength and confidence, and space.

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  • Goetz  On 25/05/2008 at 6:47 am

    John (and all other ATH folks),

    thanks for the ATH documentation. This sounds all very good and alive, and I wish I could be there. I started to think about a post, but I am not sure whether I will manage, fieldwork is at its 16-hours-a-day-stage. I have two possible posts in mind:

    One could reflect rather personally on politics in and out academia. I could, for example, talk a bit about the combination of CS and trade unionism, but also about how the world looks like from a freelancer perspective. It could include some reflections about how the broadband project became, what it became. The general argument: For me to get political means to get yourself in messy situations. This can sometimes end in something more good than bad, sometimes the other way round, especially when messyness becomes an excuse for “do whatever”. But even though the latter is a danger, it would still be a bit of a polemic against the pleasures of pure radicalism. Though neither new, nor incredibly original, this point seems to be missing in the debate, when I look at it from a distance?

    The other one could reflect on the implications of the metadata project and especially the current case study on Nico Nico Douga. This could go in all sorts of directions, but I think I would argue that in this fieldwork, yes, many of the standard critical approaches of left CS have to be put in action, but they go only a certain way. I could also maybe reflect on the chances and limits of a Kracauer-inspired form of critical research in this project. The idea would be here to put the politics of the metadata project up for debate. In a way: Make it accountable to the ATH-public. Which is what should happen. But this one might be too difficult to write in time.

    What do you think? Any one of them good for the debate? Try both?

    Best from Tokyo, Goetz.

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