AtHQ – Concerning ‘Attack the Headquaters.’

As I wasn’t invited to deliver my thoughts to the meeting (of course I wasn’t – who would have invited me? Who would even have thought to?), I have collected some of them here for review at leisure. Please do REVIEW them – dispute them, second them or second-guess them. That much has been said already by others, but it bears repeating.

I am not really extending a singular argument, but rather, trying to say what may yet be unsaid – drawing attention to various of those ‘blind-spots’ which were referred to at the first meeting. I’m also intervening, consciously, because I can.

There is probably more than one single, coherent CCS in effect already. There are multiple agendas here at CCS, and what already is is being called into further doubt by AtHQ. Dear sweet utopians (myself included)

might dream of consensus, here as elsewhere. However, speaking practically, such liberal sentimentality could effectively handicap the (work, etc.) ethics of CCS (such ethics surely being a – if not the – core issue at stake for AtHQ). It is one thing to uphold standards of mutual respect; it is another to imagine that the democratic platform itself is the royal road to success. In all this I wear my politics on my sleeve. What I am getting at is that I already recognise healthy levels of dissent in the department, and discord as to its nature, its mission(s) and their appropriate means of pursuit. I think that Attack the Headquaters has the potential to increase that dissonance, create factions and thereby encourage the evolution of innovative phenomena. Constitutive homogeneity should be allowed for and properly recognized where it occurs, but it should not be actively encouraged. This is a thoroughly ecological concern (a point which I may expand on request).

Let it also be remembered by all that Goldsmiths and the CCS are already real, mundane social, political structures manifest in the world-at-large. It is certainly prudent to draw attention to difficulties of voice, power, access etc. in their effect upon the practical functioning of the Centre (it is even better to suggest realistic solutions). However, let us not obsess! These problems are NOT specific to CCS. They are endemic to ‘our’ society – even to society as such, I suspect. We/you/they may very well want to think about the

apparent reluctance of some people to stand forward at certain times and cast their opinions in class, meetings or wherever. But for pity’s sake don’t imagine that there is something ‘wrong’ with CCS specifically because those problems occur. Politics and personality are and always have been part of the wallpaper, so to speak, and if they concern you, I urge you to throw your attention towards the whole wall rather than the tiny (potentially self-indulgent) little pattern that describes the CCS. Look, certainly, but don’t stare.

To go further, and to risk sounding like even more of a heartless fascist, some of the problems that have been voiced around these discussions, as problems with CCS, are more accurately personal problems which impact CCS because their sufferers are allied to the Centre. This isn’t to denigrate those personal problems, or to suggest that their consideration is out of place here (I’ve had these problems too); I merely think that

the distinction is important, as it may help us understand the situation more clearly. For instance, I hear that many individuals are experiencing a crisis of purpose with regards their academic lives, their thinking and their presence in CCS. This is hardly surprising for MA candidates at the least, given the (probably quite necessary) structure of the course! But this is NOT the same problem as the similar lack of direction of the CCS as a whole.

Some academics are only really comfortable when proffering their own normative values; others instead only feel comfortable discussing what apparently is rather than what they may feel should be. Still others find no ethical problem here! Perhaps a similar set of judgements faces CCS-at-large through the process of AtHQ. In any case, we may relate our personal problems with CCS to the collective problems of CCS as a whole, and we may even seek to tackle them together – but if we do so, let this be a conscious decision, rather than an implicit assumption (particularly where the one might otherwise be assuaged without recourse to the other).

There is certainly a lack of purpose in the CCS. This may be a strength and a weakness; it is the weakness

that concerns me here. I would like to propose an agenda, a programme, in fact a subjective moral stance for the CCS in addition to the foregoing (practical) ethical concerns. I wish to set alarming precedent for our discussions now by proposing a benchmark against which all further discussion may be judged. I am well aware that this move might make some people uncomfortable, and for a plethora of reasons. Let them voice their discomfort.

There are sufficient REAL problems in the REAL world for much of what gets discussed as ‘problematic’ in CCS to be distasteful in the extreme. On the one hand we have climate change, peak oil, food crises and myriad other practical problems gradually making life more difficult for everybody, whilst each one of these REAL problem threatens a phase-shift any day that might suddenly topple us all into dangerous, unexpected territory. On the other hand we have arrived in modernism’s absolute future – not the relative, ongoing future of our own individual lives, but the absolute science-fiction future of the End of History. This is a

fiction, we know, but there is nevertheless an alarming lack of ability to reimagine anything today. I think this is a profound problem for the CCS. We are a microcosm of the global empire that knows that ‘the chips are up,’ that there are too many threats and too much change coming from too many sides at once, but still we are unable to act because we are unable to imagine – or to commit. We know all this, we talk about this at CCS, but we don’t treat these problems with the unique, unparalled respect which they deserve. Any other concerns are secondary. This is my contention. The scholarly reflection on Kierkegaard can wait for a time when the (potential, but very real) collapse of global society, culture, civilization has either been averted or, by conscious preparation, survived. If Kierkegaard is relevant, let him be relevant to these contemporary practical concerns.

I humbly propose that those who can abide by these principles stay with the CCS, and those who cannot, pursue their traditional studies elsewhere. There is the potential here for CCS to do something worthy, unique, and truly historic. CCS is in crisis because the world is in crisis. Every day the media reports the

crises, but the politicians remain out-of-phase. Every day the situation gets worse, and the danger of catastrophic failure grows. Shouldn’t this complex of cultural problems become the explicit focus of CCS? If not, WHY not? And if not us, then who?

People will always have pet projects, and each academic will pursue a different part of the same puzzle. But the benchmark against which a value judgement should be made, for any undertaking in/with/by the CCS, should be as follows: does it contribute to the understanding of, amelioration of, or experimental intervention in, the world-in-crisis as described above? This judgement is often tacitly made already, but it is something new to suggest that it be adopted as the very foundation of a resolved or self-resolving CCS-in-crisis. The ‘critical interventions in creative industries’ alluded to in the centre brochure is already half-way to suggesting a genuine culture of engagement – but I am convinced that formalising the link between CCS and the ‘cultural industries’ is a mistake. That site of intervention is too narrow and although it

offers itself to subversion, it naturally stands on enemy territory. And there IS an enemy.

I have some practical suggestions (partly in response to James and Luciana), and these will follow on later. For now, I’m interested in what people make of my (possibly quite audacious) suggestion of a definitive ‘benchmark’ against which we and the CCS may be judged, in respect to our world-in-crisis. Would people rather stay with unadulterated academia for its own sake? Am I overstating the world’s problems? Where does the people’s glorious revolution fit into all this?

Please respond.
Thank you.
– Darren Flint.

Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

Comments

  • leila  On 26/05/2008 at 7:11 pm

    I was talking to Luke about this last night – this issue of invitation and exclusion or non-exclusion of MA students. I don’t think we should need to – or do need to – wait for invitation. I think it’s up to us to take the initiative and be heard if we feel we need to be. That isn’t to say that a hospitable environment for our engagement doesn’t help. (Which, incidentally, may also go for these discussions around who is expressing what and how to make space for them – the question becoming one of how to assume auto-responsibility for engagement as well as stage an inclusive environment.) At any rate, I fully support Darren’s speaking without invitation.

    I also agree with Darren that dissent is healthy, probably even what will push us to thrive, and that a forced false consensus would be damaging. However, I do worry that an overly wide acceptance of projects (if I may take his discussion of divergent views in this direction) threatens us with a loss of politics all together. Does anything really go? I doubt any one of us would answer ‘yes’ to that question. I’ve been thinking about this (over?) wide description of CCS and what constitutes the political for awhile, particularly around early discussions on this blog about the understanding of academic work as political (or not) – and what is entailed in understanding a project as a political one. If Darren wants to call Utopian belief in consensus ‘liberal’, I would call an anything goes model of politics ‘liberal’ – to the extent that real politics might be totally effaced.

    So what are these real politics that Darren and I are talking about? There is something about Darren’s definition of real poltiics that makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, although I do identify with it. (Is it the normative definition, he quips a ‘fascist’ move, that is unsettling? And yet I am perhaps also calling exactly for a benchmark…) I wonder, if what we really want is to look at the whole wall – or, not to look, but to address and interact with it, then where is our attention – and our work best directed? Is it at peak oil, food crisis, etc. as has been offered? Is it at daily racism, immigration raids, deportation (Nottingham.) And on that subject, what about this general state of surveillance we live under – police raids, cameras, the ubiquity of the State policing our lives and wielding fear amongst and against the civilian population. (Not so different from the situation in Chiapas, where I lived for two years before moving to London, and which is recognized as a state at war.)

    On one thing I am clear on: politics is not happening over there to someone else, but right here and to us.

    I am fully prepared to set aside scholarly analysis of Kierkegaard, should this be our project. But I am also uncomfortable with the idea that the CCS could only ever be an isolated microcosm; that the real is happening somewhere else, and that we are not it; and that scholarly work and politics can ever be disassociated. I’m more inclined to say that the work we engage with and produce is intimately bound up with the political – and it is exactly that which obligates us to take our analysis seriously and to consider the political ends we’re serving at any given moment.

    I also don’t see anything wrong with taking the political problems which emerge in our microcosm seriously. If nothing else, it’s good training for how to engage on a wider level. But it also is not separate from a wider political climate. If MA students are feeling widely excluded from AtHQ discussions and students are feeling generally reticent to speak up before the expertise (another thing to be challenged) of lecturers and professors, then perhaps exactly what we need to do is engage with these imbalances in enactment of power and reconsider the way we’re doing our work. Which is not to say we should be utterly consumed in these small affairs. The whole wall is still there – and we still need to find a way to relate and interact with it. The point being to change it.

    Like

  • john hutnyk  On 27/05/2008 at 12:44 am

    I hope no-one ever uninvited anyone, rather the opposite – people are encouraged by any means. But should we be more explicit, at least for a start in a counter factual way (not this, not this), about just what are the political ends we serve in the teaching factory? For example, the second part of this.

    Like

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,723 other followers

%d bloggers like this: