Category Archives: cultural studies

Goldsmiths degree shows etc., 2012


MA Cultural Studies conference is on 25-26 June,

Return to the Streets Conference 27-28 June

MA Interactive Media show is 2-8 July


And all these too:

21 – 25 May Undergraduate Music degree shows, Council Chamber, Deptford Town Hall
31 May – 9 June Undergraduate Popular Music shows, The Albany Theatre, Deptford
1 – 4 June Undergraduate Design degree show, Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane
14 June Undergraduate Media and Communications degree show (Private view), New Academic Building (NAB), New Cross
14 June Undergraduate Art degree show (Private view), Ben Pimlott Building, New Cross
15 – 18 June Undergraduate Art degree show, Ben Pimlott Building, New Cross
15 – 19 June Undergraduate Media and Communications degree show, New Academic Building (NAB), New Cross
21 June MA in Dance Movement Psychotherapy, 6pm, New Cross
21 – 25 June Art Psychotherapy, foyer of the Whitehead Building and the Kingsway Corrider in the Richard Hoggart Building, New Cross
21 June Art Psychotherapy, 6 – 9pm, Ian Gulland Theatre, Whitehead Building, New Cross
22 – 23 June Art Psychotherapy, 10am – 5pm, 140 Richard Hoggart Building, New Cross
24 – 25 June Art Psychotherapy, 10am – 5pm, Ian Gulland Theatre, Whitehead Building, New Cross
27 – 30 June MA in Performance Making degree festival, New Cross
3 – 6 July MA in Writing for Performance, 3.30 – 5.30pm, Soho Theatre & Writers Centre, Soho
5 – 9 July MA Image & Communication, New Academic Building, New Cross
5 July – 9 September ‘Burnt Breakfast and Other Works’ by Su Richardson, Goldsmiths Textile Collection
5 July Postgraduate Media and Communications degree show (Private view), New Academic Building (NAB), New Cross
5 July Postrgraduate Art degree show (Private view), Ben Pimlott Building, New Cross
6 – 9 July Postgraduate Art degree show, Ben Pimlott Building, New Cross
6 – 9 July Postgraduate Media and Communications degree show, New Academic Building (NAB), New Cross
6 – 8 July MA Interactive Media, 1.7 Laurie Grove Baths, Laurie Grove, New Cross
6 September MA in Artist Teachers & Contemporary Practices (Private view), 6-8pm, Ben Pimlott Building, New Cross
7 – 8 September MA in Artist Teachers & Contemporary Practices, Ben Pimlott Building, New Cross
13 – 17 September MA in Computational Arts & MFA in Computational Arts
15 – 22 September Postrgraduate Design degree show, The Rag Factory, 16-18 Heneage Street, E1 5LJ

NyX Launch Issue 7

Friday, 1 June 2012
Nyx, a Noctournal invites you to come and celebrate the launch of a fantastic new literary exploration of the tantalising and horrifying world of Machines. Highlights include Bernard Stiegler, Michael Taussig, Luciana Parisi and Benjamin Noys. ‘Nyx’, the goddess of night, can also offer an evening of sensory explosions – live music, djs and visual arts installations from art collective ‘The Chess Club’. This night, drawing together the technological and the organic, whilst questioning the difference between the two, offers a chance to dance, drink and be merry. For tomorrow we may be machines.

This is your chance to get your copy of Nyx 7 at the special launch price of £5 in the abandoned cells of the Old Police Station in Deptford.

Pre-launch barbecue fun in the courtyard of the Old Police Station (walk north – down hill – from New Cross station) from 4pm. Launch and Exhibition 6pm to 11pm. Live musical performance: The Sonic Manipulator at 10pm is not to be missed!

Entry is free.

Image courtesy of Catharina Cronenberger Golebiowska of ‘The Chess Club’. This artistic collective are curating a series of special exhibitions for the launch:


Cell 1:
Catharina Cronenberger Golebiowska – Space Sound Painting Machine, sculpture
Cell 2:
Judith Spang – Just Whistle, interactive Light-Sound-Installation
Cell 3:
RoboCup – 3D Humanoid Soccer Simulation League
Bold Hearts is a RoboCup team from the University of Hertfordshire (UH), UK. The team was founded in 2002 by Dr. Daniel Polani and consists of computer science students at UH who have a keen interest in pushing the boundaries of AI and Robotics.
3D screen simulation

Cell 4:
Drawing Machines – artist performances

Laura Kuch – drawing machine / installation
The work consists of a lamp hanging above a bucket filled with a special black ink, which is made of several colour pigments. Water is constantly dripping from the ceiling into the bucket making the inkwater spill over the rim onto a sheet of watercolour-paper which is placed under the bucket to create a series of drawings. Installed over a longer period eventually the inkwater in the bucket becomes clear again and reveals a crystal clock which lies hidden at the bottom of the bucket.

Simon Schäfer – printing performance
The webpage “sner” generates drawings out of an experimental font and an ascii randomisation script. It automatically refreshes after a set time, creating a new combination of glyphs with each reload. For the performance, each new iteration of the page will be printed. The printed pages will be hung on the cells’ walls to completely cover them over time.

Liza Cucco – drawing sound performance
Making tick marks on a plastic cutting board, if marking away the minutes. The created beat sound supported with a mic will be heard as a kind of music of monotony.

Linda Antalova – drawing performance
Further investigation of the principles of self-organisation and attempt to realise the possibility for creating a new pattern is proposed in the digital drawings called Divergent (Three Rules and Change). The intention is to open up the space to allow a moment of change.

Orientally yours

A new blog by Karen Tam updates trinketization, but with Chinese characteristics:

An example of her interests would be this scenario below by British photographer Grace Lau, but Karen’s own opium dens and faked antiquities are treasures themselves.


Other Blog: Pumpkin Sauce

Photograph booth, and photo, by Grace Lau


[wrote this in January and it got set aside - I wasn't as angry then I guess]

They have something of which they are proud. What do they call that which makes them proud? Education they call it; it distinguishes them from goatherds’ – Nietzsche.

I do not want a life as a last ditch manager of depressed casualisation, directing coal-face grunt teaching, organising free labour placements for narrow option celebrity-culture-industry hopefuls who were taught x, y and beta-tested open source contrition at the nether end of abstract short-term extortion with sub-cost-of-living remuneration. That ghost of past, present and future does not appeal at all.

And I say this with me settled into a permanent job. True, I was for many years what Emma Jackson has called a ‘peripatetic academic’,[i] moving house for work, with multiple short-term and fractional appointments in 6 different cities in 3 countries over 12 years. In the mid 1990s I did not assume having a PhD would secure me employment, and was not sure I wanted it in place of the political career at which many student activists naively aimed. But I had become adept at survival by stitching teaching appointments together like some serial offender. Plenty of the kind of low-pay grind that Marx compared to a sausage factory, where it does not matter if the worker is making sausages or teaching so long as we enrich the proprietor.[ii] I did more than my share of mass processing of essays, stand-in seminars, back-to-back tutorials and one-year replacements that meant starting to apply for new sausage-line work from the first month in any post. Time passed. I applied for 35 jobs in the year before Goldsmiths hired me, and I’m thankful for the chance and still love the College. I even had some luck with the three key indicators that, as I will discuss later in this text, shape the parameters of academia and also, now, are sites of conflict, reaction and recidivation of conditions – harming higher education and contradicting its raison d’être. Teaching, Research and Governance are my topics here, but I want to think these in a wider context, and acknowledge, as far as I can make it clear to myself, that others also tread a difficult path through the institutions.[iii]


 I agree with Emma that the situation for what the Research Councils call, with no intended irony, ‘early career researchers’ is precarious. Post-doctoral appointments which allow time to research are few and far between. More common is the exhausting high-contact teaching replacement post, which candidates are assured over and over, will be an important step forward, a line on a CV, crucial experience; ‘Learning and Teaching’ as cultural capital. I see up close what sessional-rate work at three separate institutions in the same term does to a neglected PhD project. I am continually amazed at the capacity of such ECR’s to endure. I also see these researchers, and a great many other students, and some colleagues, engaged in debates over conditions in ways that have not been prominent for 20 years: discussions of ‘Really Free Schools’, of teaching ‘free at the point of delivery’, of reconfiguring academia to allow access for all, of occupations which include public lectures, of interventions in teaching formats that involve relocating into public spaces; and more acutely of refusing the imperative to teach as part of the war machine, the immigration restriction, the culture industry, the administered society, the police state. What I see is that something impressive is emerging to confront the Conservatives with another plan for education, another potential, a re-imagination.

There is a cautious optimism that defies circumstances here, and an awareness of the need to deflect any rhetorical compact with austerity too. The ‘Free Schools’ are not simply a progressive twist on the Big Society, nor a realpolitik compromise with career path that prepares ‘apprentices’ for later gainful employ, calibrated with economic requirements and self-serving need. There is enthusiasm in occupations where ‘teach-in’s include ‘teaching-out’ by touring local schools, pickets, other occupations and activist sites and there is a welcome challenge to the hierarchical formats of academic conferences, publishing and writing in the renewed demand of students to have a say in their (paid for) degrees. Yes, there is a sense in which all this still adds to cultural capital for the self-styled ‘activists-academics’ and there is an aspirant careerism in the very idea of going to university or even wanting to run an ‘alternative university’ – perhaps in a tent. There is always some ego investment here. But the conditions do need to be challenged, and apprentice or no, the path towards institutionalisation is a kind of benighted gift. Some of its conditions include:

-       Few scholarships, hard to get

-       trainee academic, on piece rates

-       marking, sessional pay, no preparation fee

-       low union representation, part-timer issues overlooked

-       no holiday pay, no sickness leave,

-       learning and teaching certificates (a paid-for license to perform)

-       PhD, postdoc, initial teaching year, junior faculty, hierarchy

-       probation and discipline, hierarchy entrenched

-       demand to publish early (and often)

-       research Assessment-driven conformism

-       diminution of approved places to publish

-       limit on research funds, travel budget, conference budget

-       less responsibility, less access to committees, promotion

-       no access to the mysteries of management’s grey world

-       cuts, anticipated cuts and more cuts anyway.

This precarity is not lost on me. But I am concerned that this turns into active denial when that elusive ‘secure’ job finally becomes a reality, and the institutionalised scholar finds an ongoing precariousness which enforces complicity with the reaction. This seems most evident when well-meaning established scholars must constantly innovate new projects, albeit under duress. Quite unlike the ‘Free School University’ and Tent-based teach-in’s of #occupy, a massive growth in new programmes, often Masters degrees geared to overseas students from China and East Asia, has been underway for several years. This inevitably now extends to all levels of teaching. Budgeting for fiscal constraint saw a relentless commercial drive to refit education as export earner in overseas markets, with product delivery to short-term visa, high tariff students here, client-seeking degree-fair 5-star accreditation junkets there. No doubt some of these programmes are excellent and of course benefit the students that come, but there are significant problems. On the one hand we can often hear a shallow and largely unsubstantiated lament for the loss of education standards that these international programmes might effect (as if it’s somehow the international students’ fault, or that they have not themselves excellent reasons to come[iv]). On the other hand, the rarely examined and not even guilt-ridden alacrity among those few academics prepared to defend higher education from neo-liberal austerity assaults, to willingly, and more or less efficiently, set up yet more courses for overseas students and hastily renovate undergraduate home offers so as to appeal to market demand and the full-fee terrain. Certainly opening education to wider participation, locally and globally, remains a goal, but these programmes are often referred to as ‘cash cows’ and this opportunist criteria overrides any suggestion that incoming students might have a say in how things are run and why. As it happens the new ‘full-fees’ have not yet hit MA and PhD programmes for home students, but we are several years into charging extortionate level fees for overseas candidates, with detrimental results in terms of debt load and ongoing stress. In these circumstances we must always ask what it is that these programmes do? The aim of course is to preserve the income stream in the face of austerity. Here to enrich the proprietor is the only criteria, though just renovating the buildings seems more than enough for which many hope. On the other hand, these courses have an often under-examined relation to class recomposition, both locally and globally. Globally, where different constituencies see education as a ticket to reconfigure options and constraints via migration and accreditation (as cultural capital), locally as a creeping credentialism and cretinization where a demand for an ever more qualified employee pool is matched with an ever more routinized and uncritical employment sector. Plenty demand for jobs that aren’t there, jobs a-plenty for those who are not too demanding – the stick and carrot of neoliberalism that the Precarious and Carrot Workers Collective so rightly skewers.[v]

Over a period of thirty or forty years, the university student has been reduced in circumstances and privilege so as to now be quite a bit closer to the proletarianised worker, themselves increasingly digitised as precarious labour, data input, call centre workers or shopping-till operators. This foreshortened trajectory of worker-student concurrence occurs while at the upper echelons an administrative demarcation ensures the non-convergence of previously highly-privileged professionals with the non-productive wealthy and rich in business. Indeed, the Professors look set to become little more than petty-bourgeois shopkeepers, and their departments more like merchandise stores, while University management heads, and no doubt in other service sectors the upper managements as well, become robber barons paid six figure sums with benefits. We are not talking social class here, since cultural aspirations in each fraction are shared, but we are talking class formation nonetheless. And a vast gulf in circumstances and understanding or attitude to the coming changes opens up. While it is true the services that universities provide are so much more than this too-easy polarisation into proprietors and sales clerks, it repays consideration to look to the injunctions under which we work. The social battle to retain privilege and hierarchy on the part of the petit-bourgeois professor is belied by actual diminution in economic resource, conditions of work and disarticulation from power and authority. Good riddance to all that. But to add value to another’s labour capacity is one thing, to provide fodder for commerce and profit for the bosses of all the other sectors is quite another.

Theodor Adorno wanted university education to be a constant vigilance that insured against any resurgence of authoritarian thinking in Europe after World War II. He meant a teaching that worked against genocide and related this not just to Auschwitz, but also to the atomic bomb. Research would be undertaken into the authoritarian subject and the ‘tendencies towards disintegration’ that lurk beneath the surface of an ordered and ‘civilized’ life.[vi] Elsewhere, he said to speak of education is also to speak of administration and warned of research that models it’s training on administrative categories,[vii] even though in the difference between reified institutions and the complicity of ‘critique’ there remained a chance to realize something different – a hope.[viii] Ten years after September 11, this seems all the more an implausible lament now: in the context of current cuts, commercialisation of research, privatisation of university services, marketisation of teaching delivery, alignment of pastoral care with UKBA border surveillance and decay of infrastructure, the opportunist retooling of programme content towards vocation runs alongside a reconfiguration of education as a resource utility rather than a promise. Critical thinking has become merely a course option, not an alternative. It is even productively a part of the kind of education encouraged by perceived ‘national’ needs, now focused on the gamble of vocational programmes and contract research for corporate ends. In this context a reified ‘criticality’ offers a limited acclimatisation training that prepares students to wait in line for ever-fewer jobs. This is not education but rather a dormitory holding system, unable able to fend off the cuts and constraints that keep us ducking and diving for survival.


 So let me come to the meat of this rant and try to set out the parameters of this reaction under the three headings that are usually used to evaluate academic appointments and promotion: Teaching, Research and Governance. This survey is of course not exhaustive.

Everybody knows teaching is under threat in the UK, with departmental closures, uncertainty and constant counter-productive time-wasting, rarely instructive ‘quality’ reviews, overworked lecturing staff, underpaid adjunct staff, commercial drive to commodify teaching infrastructure (Google deals to outsource course-packs, library collections digitised). A scramble to place bums on seats and still take teaching seriously sees a tireless quest by a few quixotic souls to face down a phalanx of dedicated entrepreneurial zealots who would sell their own mothers for recognition by the Senior Management prefecture. The proliferation of short courses and team teaching by necessity hastens the routine of instruction, and concedes a ‘sanctioned ignorance’[ix] that no longer rewards the time taken to learn and write. The merits of team-teaching are not the problem, it is rather the imperative to team-teach that ensures that a kind of mass-market stupidity prevails.[x] Survey courses and one-session-one-thinker introductions are the easiest options for mass-market education with diminished resource – longer, slower rhythms of learning are unsuited to a market-profit model. In the face of resource clawback, alongside managerialist ‘quality’ control hardly worth the name, the formularisation of teaching (aims, outcomes, course templates) means we become ever more learnedly dumb ever more quickly (two year degrees from McDonalds for example, BBC 25 November 2010[xi]).

Research is now driven by a commercial imperative and the prospects of innovation are barely disguised as impact. Research is ruled by evaluation and quantity of publication in ‘quality’ first-rate journals. These are largely owned and managed by private publishing houses taking large profits for work done without fee by college scholars. Manuscript review, proposal evaluation, cover citations and procurement all done without remuneration is free labour; a tax-payer funded subsidy for commercial press (there are still some progressive publishers, but a way forward via small-scale and independent seems only a bulwark that will soon be acquired by the larger houses). Alongside this, not unrelated, the Research Councils continually flip their funding calls into the language of Security and Intervention: community cohesion as a code for profiling; care for the future and heritage as gentrification; value performance as a deployment to work on the geo-political outcomes of crisis, credit and debt; translating cultures and global responsibility as cipher for neo-colonial interference and intrigue (see the RCUK ‘delivery plan’ 2011[xii]). There is some opposition, for example from anthropologists concerned that a £2million Engineering and Physical Science Research Council-led programme for research on ‘counter terrorism in public spaces’ by studying ‘radicalisation’ in faith groups amounted to a compromise with civil liberties,[xiii] or from Arts and Humanities researchers when the Conservative Government’s ‘Big Society’ was touted as a priority.[xiv] But the RCUK strategy still looks shaky and its language perpetrates a systemic social delusion along the same lines as the false coin of quantitative easing so quickly adopted to manipulate both money markets and cultural-national propaganda during the ‘crisis’.

Governance. The quality assurance and blue-skies, white paper, options taskforce world of weirdness mints obscure new terminologies. Renaming collegial forums and replacing accountability and transparency with an opaque ‘Corporate Governance and Information Management’ miasma as cover for the ongoing putsch to refashion all university decision-making into a proliferating middle management. At the same time, the individualising-isolation of those who might critique this – ‘it’s all bad, but if I keep my head down and get on with my research I’ll be ok’ – is both a futile aggrandisement of self, and a failure of co-operative responsibility. There is a contradiction here which sees a radical ‘new times’ sensation seeking managerialism prospect about for a guarantee of future placement at the table reserved for the select ‘old-school’ few. An arid landscape throws up super-power mandarins, but with no support base, or at best an exhausted one. We are doomed if the few small examples of collective action (mostly led by students) are not generalised. The defence of pensions or critique of fees is a tip-of-the-iceberg strategy that cedes too much to Trades Union consciousness and head office directive. No-one in the demonstrations of 2010 said it was only about the tariff-hike; it was also about betrayal, by Clegg, by Labour, limited opportunities, perceived and real decline, privatisation, vocationalisation. A mobilisation of hundreds of thousands of workers is impressive, and there are signs that more is to come as the financial forecasters back-track and prevaricate in confusion (a promised ten years of austerity, with super profits!), but a one-day strike and a walk from A-to-B does not yet a revolution make.

The fancy that there can still be something like an education that would be separate from a system of objects, a vast network of gadgets, devices, protocols, items and orders of communication is a dream. Product placement is not the be all and end all of instrumentalism, but its sway extends deep into the heart of the school. Bringing all this together in the new media, high profile, digital humanities, rapid response, surveillance and security agenda should come as no surprise at a time of commodity glut and innovation slump. A stagflation of ideas, an immobilisation of creativity. By which I mean that the rhetoric of innovation is high, but the outcomes and – yes – impact of thinking is constrained such that the coming together of people through the facilitation of gadgets remains only a latent co-operation. This is a general intellect in abstraction, and education is displaced by untapped potential because caught in a trap, students are led into a servitude of gifting thought for rent or mortgage, ready and willing to work, but for inconsequential gain.

Underlying all this, as Marx pointed out in Capital, there is the expectation by Capital that it has the right to tap a resource of already trained-up labour power without charge to itself. Indeed, user pays, except where the key words of university – teaching, research, administration – condition inmates of the sheltered workshop to the imbrication of knowledge with a more or less stratified corporate need. Infrastructure costs, preparatory materials, regulatory oversight, and reproduction of the workforce have never been more readily conscripted so cheaply for the employers. We even arrange unpaid internships so as to proffer up our graduates for free to the market. Voluntarily gifted labour where there once was a wage, and of course that wage did not adequately calculate the necessary costs of reproducing labour: the home, domestic support, snotty noses wiped, basic skills learned, language, community, general health, compliance, national allegiance.

Is this resource that we call education a social good? If it reproduces the class relation, returns no gain to those it cracks on the wheel of capital, if it subjects all to a cretinisation and a lowest-common denominator extortion, then there is little reason to still call this education. Rather, it is not hard to see, it is training, and control. The reduction of education to training, skills, vocation and business – the sausage/teaching factory – is readily denounced. But if the institution remains a place for a rampant intelligence[xv] as a place where a critical consciousness still chances to contradict the system, there could be a reason to side with Marx, Adorno et al., and imagine another education. One that tries to transmute value extraction into some collective and collaborative sharing of knowledge, with a utopian ideal of the future fulsome development of each and all, even if we are not there yet, if at all. In this there might be something worth fighting for, as the University.

Critique, rebellion, a rampant intelligence, mass participation, everyone must write, poetry, aesthetics – the refuge of romantic ideals can be extended, even while on the run. The family resemblance between education and training does not make the latter illegitimate, only a danger if it holds sway and cedes ground to elitism, and the alpha-class specialists that receive a ‘good’ teaching, as opposed to the beta-through-delta models that prevail for the rest. Rote-learning, historical amnesia, political myopia and a State-sponsored apathy are simply not suited to the circumstances that led us to teaching. The calls to reassert teaching as critical thinking are an indication that a merely corporate-feeder education will no longer be tolerated. Who will hear these calls? There is a groundswell resurgence and disaffection, yet with no significant recognition from the senior staffers or the management. Not one administrator seems ready to acknowledge the coming change. The self-protection of unexamined complicity cannot secure the monastic scholar forever, there must and needs be a time when the isolated walks out into the open to join with others: I nominate that we all become peripatetic, even, and especially (while) in secure jobs.

How do we convince our comrades to look up from their desks and step out and turn up, marching towards a new university compact, with optimism? My college, Goldsmiths, with half a glint in its opportunist eye, and half a lack of nerve, rebrands itself as ‘radical’ (there are badges) and critical; despite an advertising campaign that traduces ideas into cheap slogans there is little sense that management ‘gets’ that they are out of step. There is a massive allegiance on the part of teaching staff to the college, even while a relentless attack on conditions and process erodes possibilities. Escalating corporatisation sees decision making side-tracked into specialist finance-led commissions; Academic Board is reduced to a toothless talking shop; the Senior Management Team an ensemble unable to respond to fast-changing circumstances, and a process barely fit-for-purpose. Yet at a time when there seems to be ever more cogent student and ECR recognition of the weighty cultural capital that exists at Goldsmiths, and indeed across the sector, the possibility of building a platform for revolutionary transformation is beleaguered. The support of the students for UCU strike actions has been impressive, but it sometimes appears to be the ambition of management to undermine and contain any enthusiasm for something outside of the market – the antiphrasic suggestion that student occupiers be offered a designated space for ‘occupations’ is only the most absurd of the developments.

On campuses across the world, the proliferation of activist groups, small zines, alternative publications, blogs, discussion groups, collaborations on research, cross-departmental alliances, drinking games and general conviviality suggests that the fight is not lost to the mandarins just yet. Over the last year the University for Strategic Optimism, to name just one local example, has run a series of samizdat lectures in banks, supermarkets, inside the police kettle and outside the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (responsible for ‘universities’, go figure). The UfSO[xvi] is another form of precarious peripatetic academy, and it is not without its problems, and its tactics are hotly contested within the collective. The classroom of course is also not something to be abandoned to the vocational-privatised alpha-beta and drone streaming system. In the occupation at Goldsmiths in November/December teaching continued in the occupied space, adjacent to the finance offices, with the quite reasonable proviso that any lecture be open to the public and a brief statement to this effect be made at the start of each hour. Sadly, some colleagues could not abide by this small condition – as if they were not already operating under many others. Still, many classes went ahead as scheduled, and only the finance office was forced to relocate, with some scabbing management figures getting overly excited and trying to barge their way through picket lines on the strike day.

Sure, the movement to re-imagine education remains embryonic, slandered as obstreperous by some, hysterical by others. The slow work of building a radical critical alternative is of course hindered and delayed by those with much to lose. But no-one doubts that a battle for space and ideas is underway, nor that an alternative to business-as-usual is at least on the table for discussion. This text itself was written in close contact with the #occupy movements’ Bank of Ideas in central London and the Goldsmiths occupiers. Asking there, alongside enthusiastic ECR readers of Capital, how long it takes to sweep aside the blockages to a new kind of university seems like a live question. I continue to seek signs of life and find them in class, never in committee. Walk around and take a look at the peripatetic academy as it generalises struggles globally: there is something to learn here if you look up from the paperwork.

- John Hutnyk (1/2012)

[i] Emma Jackson announced her departure from London to take up an appointment to a post in Glasgow in a recent article in the Huffington post: – accessed 31.12.2011

[ii]  ‘A schoolmaster is a productive labourer, when, in addition to belabouring the heads of his scholars, he works like a horse to enrich the school proprietor. That the latter has laid out his capital in a teaching factory, instead of a sausage factory, does not alter the relation’ – Marx, Capital Vol 1,Ch 16

[iii] for example, in Australia: – accessed 3.1.2012

[iv] see Liz Thompson and Ben Rosenzweig, 2012 ‘Guest Consumer, Multicultural Patriotism and International Economy in Australia’ in John Hutnyk (ed) Beyond Borders, London: Pavement Books (forthcoming).

[vi] Theodor Adorno, 1969/1998 Critical Models, Interventions and Catchwords, New York: Columbia University Press. P.192-3.

[vii] Theodor Adorno 1991 The Culture Industry Reconsidered: Selected Essays on Mass Culture. London: Routledge. p105.

[viii] Ibid. p113.

[ix] Gayatri Chakravory Spivak, 1999 Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Towards a History of the Vanishing Present. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

[x] Avital Ronell, 2002 Stupidity. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

[xiii] – last accessed 2.1.2012

[xv] Peter Sloterdijk, 1988 Critique of Cynical Reason. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

New Cross Review of Books

About NXRB

Book Reviews from the Big Crabapple that is NX, London.

This is a haphazard collection of reviews old and new. Of course we are not competing with any of the other fine book review rags out there from other towns like New York or London, it’s just that…

We will accept contributions where they are by our friends and comrades, where they are really good and so long as they are approved by the unbiased (non parliamentary, ultra-leftist, no touching faith in reformism or the State) editors. We reserve the right to reject (and hunt down, huff and puff, and burn your house etc.) any sexist, racist or pro-capitalist comments or contributions. You know the drill.

We are for reading, for reading in context, for making reading a part of the struggle to transform lives and life – looking for ways to transmute the nasty slime of Capital into something else, something better, whatever it takes. If it takes book reviews too, then here we go. Culture Industry Reconsidered! Film reviews too people – high-brow elitist theory-heavy auto-reflexive hyper-critique inclusive.

Email the editor-ish (you will see, editorial here is a self-organising collective process) John.Hutnyk [at]

La Haine and Injustice double bill 6pm Goldsmiths 13.2.2012

La Haine and Injustice double bill

6pm-10pm Goldsmiths RHB 137a

all welcome

La Haine: dir. Mathieu Kassovitz, France, 1995, 97 mins

Injustice: dir Ken Fero & Tarig Mehmood 2001, 98 mins

these two screenings on police and deaths in custody in conjunction with the Centre for Cultural Studies, Capital course, Text and Image course and the No Borders Convergence. All welcome.

Three events for CCS – Write Now – Deleuze – No Borders.

Three near overlapping events in thee next 10 days for Centre for Cultural Studies people at Goldsmiths:


Write Now! BER-CPH-LON PhD Symposium (Feb 9-11 2012)

You have to, you want to, you need to Write Now!

But how do you publish? 

In an atmosphere of loneliness, alienation, rejection, competition, anxiety, hierarchy, nepotism and jealousy, how does the “early career scholar” (re)negotiate the imperative to produce? Given the increases demands of the academic publishing industry, how can we avoid labouring under illusions, false promises and unrealistic expectations?  

And yet the pleasures of the text, new platforms and opportunities for publishing and sharing, are there before us. 

Open to Goldsmiths PhD candidates of all departments. 

Practical aspects of working towards a book publication will be a core part of the symposium.

Bring your ideas, texts, criticism. 

no charge (supported by the Goldsmiths Annual Fund).




Deleuze, Philosophy, Transdisciplinarity 

Goldsmiths, 10th-12th February
Plenary Speakers: Jean-Claude Dumoncel, Eric Alliez, John Mullarkey, Laura Cull, Anne Sauvagnargues

Invited Speakers: Giuseppe Bianco, Andrew Goffey, Marjorie Gracieuse, Tatsuya Higaki, Christian Kerslake, Iain MacKenzie, Stamatia Portanova, Nathan Widder

Organised by the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths University of London (Masa Kosugi) and the Faculty of Humanities and School of European culture and Languages, the University of Kent (Guillaume Collett)

We are now entering a new phase of Deleuze studies which seeks to understand the specificity of Deleuze’s mode of philosophising. This is necessary, firstly in order to establish an account of his work’s developments and ruptures which is neither reductive nor partisan and secondly, to be able to better situate Deleuze within the context of contemporary thought. While the concept of immanence has recently been seized upon as the way of measuring Deleuze’s philosophical development (Kerslake, 2009; Beistegui, 2010), this conference would like to shift the focus to another yet closely interrelated problematic, which is the concept of philosophy and its essential relation to transdisciplinarity.
What precisely does Deleuze understand by the term ‘philosophy’? In The Logic of Sense, Deleuze states that ‘Philosophy merges with ontology, but ontology merges with the univocity of Being’ (p. 205, Continuum, 2004). Does philosophy have privileged access to a univocal Being that is itself non-philosophical, and which subsumes not only philosophy but also philosophy’s preconditions – what The Logic of Sense refers to as the ‘sciences’ of logic, phenomenology, and psychoanalysis, as well as art? Does Deleuze and Guattari’s re-formulation of this problematic in What is Philosophy? contradict the earlier Deleuze when it appears to posit a more extrinsic relation – or interference – between philosophy, science, and art, all three of which open up to Chaos, which they claim is equally distinct from the preconditions of philosophy, science and art (nonphilosophy, nonscience, nonart)? Are we to understand Deleuze’s concept of philosophy as essentially and inherently transdisciplinary, and if so, how? What is at stake here is the possibility of establishing a ‘common ethico-aesthetic discipline’ (Guattari, Continuum, 2000) and the role of philosophy in such a project.

We aim to have a wide range of papers converging on the concept of philosophy found in Deleuze’s work and dialoguing with the problems we have alluded to. Suggested paper topics include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Deleuze and the history of philosophy: his methodology, his conception of the history of philosophy, his readings of specific philosophers and thinkers
- The place of science and logic in Deleuze’s philosophy
- The place of art in Deleuze’s philosophy
- Deleuze and non-philosophy, and the role of the pre/post-philosophical in his philosophy
- Shifts in Deleuze’s readings of particular philosophers, and more generally in Deleuze’s own concept of philosophy, throughout his career
- The critical assessment of Guattari’s influence on Deleuze’s philosophy

Registration is free but please contact us (, early if you would like to attend the conference.
**The event is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the School of European Culture and Languages and Faculty of Humanities, the University of Kent, the Centre for Cultural Studies Goldsmiths, and the Graduate School, Goldsmiths, University of London **

and the No Borders Convergence – click on the poster or seek out:

Born Free – MIA’s Poetry After Guantanamo

A piece written before this week’s release of Bad Girls, coming out soon in Social Identities.

Abstract: The recent work of the Sri-Lankan-British musician and sonic ‘curator’ known as M.I.A. (real name: Mathangi Arulpragasam) is considered as a commentary on atrocity and read alongside the well known essay ‘The Storyteller’ by Walter Benjamin and comments on Auschwitz by Theodor Adorno. The storytelling here is updated for a contemporary context where global war impacts us all, more or less visibly, more, or less, acknowledged. It is argued that the controversy over M.I.A.’s Romain Gavras video Born Free is exemplary of the predicament of art in the face of violence, crisis and terror – with this track, and video, M.I.A.’s work faced a storm of criticism which I want to critique in turn, in an attempt, at least, to learn to make or discern more analytic distinctions amongst concurrent determinations of art A careful reading of Adorno can in the end teach us to see Born Free anew.


Keywords: Benjamin, Adorno, Gavras, M.I.A, music, terror, racism, orientalism.

PDF Here Poetry After GuantanamoFinalDraftSocialIdentities.

Marxism 7.0

A quick response to a question (asked for a radio item):  ‘Does the Internet open up new ways of introducing Marxist ideas and concepts in the real world? – Marxism 2.0′
I have not seen anything great on this theme (meme). I am not convinced by Negri and Hardt and the hype about 2.0. But there was the book ‘CyberMarxism’ by Dyer-Witherford a few years back – largely autonomia influenced. And for sure the Marx-Engels Internet Archive has been phenomenally influential, but not all the MEGA is online yet.
I’m not convinced reading online opens up new ways of reading Marx as such. Well, several new ways of reading anything of course are there – as its on screen not a book, and searchable. But Marxism isn’t something that is just reading. And Marxism 2.0 sounds dangerously like an excuse for a simplifying article (which I am sure you will not do – a critique is needed).
Anyway, wasn’t Engels Marxism 2.0. Then Lenin, then Mao, then… We are surely up to 7.0 at least!
You must already know this would be my response – since in my lectures on Capital volume 1 at Goldsmiths, they are open to the public precisely because I am keen not to be too fast and loose with scholarship as to reduce the world of Marxism, or the politics of fighting for revolutionary change, to David Harvey’s online lectures, or some other version of googleMarx™. I feel that we need time to read, Marx and others – including Harvey, but also Marx’s sources, Hegel, Smith, Ricardo, Shakespeare, Leonard Horner – and not to do so would be to ignore the convoluted processes of learning to read Marx and the world in dialectical terms, necessary for making sense and making change – the point, etc…

Train Research Group

This Wednesday 1st Feb, 4pm G3 Laurie Grove Baths is the second Goldsmiths meeting of the Train & TubE Research Section (ahem, I am not really suggesting we call the group ‘tatters’! Its just that the abbreviation TRG also does not scan).
all welcome.
The following few things sent in may also be of interest:
The Olympics Premium (aka buying off the workers with Uncle Tory’s fast cash bribes):
Russian art group Voina have done the ‘lunch on the metro’ stunt too (you need to scroll down to the third image):
Also, in Belgium they are making the point somewhat more directly.  This is the latest and most dramatic action on the Brussles Metro following an unpopular fare rise:

And a few things circulated from the UFSO:

 - here’s some inspiration – AD Block Sweden:

Here is a link to a documentary about the struggle of tube cleaners from a few years back,
if you haven’t seen it:

And here is a great Hungarian Metro thriller ;)

Perspective Society : Marx, Ford, Jobs.

An outline for a block course as part of “Theories of Modern Society” at Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen in Feb-March 2012:
Perspective Society : Marx, Ford, Jobs.
This 3-part discussion takes Theories of Modern Society as a research problem in the tradition of workplace Inquiries. In part one, by examining the Blue Books and Factory Inspector reports that Marx used for the Working Day chapter of Capital Volume one, we will look at the Industrial Revolution in the mid 18th Century. In part two we will consider Fordist Production systems and the global advent of assembly work, then in part three the co-research tradition of Autonomist Marxism and Kolinko permits us to look at processed work and the alienations and precarity of net-life.  Each of the sections coheres around ideas of workplace or social inquiry and co-research. Each section will also include some topical film analysis and discussion (eg: Germinal and Hard Times for mid 1800s, Tucker and Modern Times for 1920s, and Clerks and The Social Network for processed work for late 20th early 21st Century). Assessment will be your own inquiry into your own conditions of work, broadly defined.
Feb 24-25 Read ‘The Working Day’ chapter of Marx’s Das Kapital (chapter 8) or in English as Capital (chapter 10). This is about 90 pages. (you may of course read the earlier chapters if yu wish, but these are not compulsory, though they will be referred to in class, alongside illustrative films for discussion).
March 23-24 Read Part 4 of Marx’s Capital (chapters 10-13 in the German or 12-15 in the English). Again there will be films, discussion and additional reading in class.
April 20-21 Read ‘Hotlines’. Available online in English and German:
The class will be in English, but reading can be German or English. Additional resources on the blog
All welcome.
Professor John Hutnyk
Goldsmiths College,University of London

Leonard Horner Hall

Since one of the first (positive) mentions of a really existing individual in Marx’s Capital is Leonard Horner, we should find out a little about this fellow who will not be forgotten…: ‘Leonard Horner was one of the Factory Inquiry Commissioners in 1833, and Inspector, or rather Censor of Factories till 1859. He rendered undying service to the English working class. He carried on a life-long contest, not only with the embittered manufacturers, but also with the Cabinet’ (Marx)

Patrick Corbett (Heriot-Watt University) recently took part in the Society’s Chartership programme as a scrutineer. Interestingly, the Society had chosen to host the meeting in the Leonard Horner Hall at Heriot-Watt University ….

Geoscientist 20.4 April 2010

Leonard Horner entered Edinburgh in 1799 at the age of 14 and learned, among other subjects, mineralogy – which stimulated a lifetime interest in geology. After leaving university he spent a quarter of a century as a linen merchant, travelling extensively and keeping up his intellectual interests. During this time became a fellow of the Geological Society (in the second year of its existence, 1808), was Secretary (1810-14) and twice President (1845-46, 1860-61). His first paper to the society was “On the mineralogy of the Malvern Hills”. In 1835 he helped initiate the Geological Survey of Great Britain. In his obituary W.J Hamilton, then President, recorded that Horner possessed a “cautious manner in which he avoids a too hasty generalisation” and concluded that he had laid the foundation of the principles that Murchison and Sedgwick subsequently applied to understanding the Palaeozoic rocks. Charles Lyell was obviously influenced by Horner, as the former married the latter’s daughter, Mary. He did much to promote a wider public interest in geology. After he retired as “the Inspector General of Factories” at age 74 in 1859, in the five years before his death, he spent time rearranging and cataloguing the Society’s museum collection.

In 1821, Horner founded the Edinburgh School of Arts (the first ever Mechanics’ Institute – for training skilled artisans) to promote high academic standards for the élite while extending useful knowledge to the labouring classes. Its prospectus stated the objectives “for the purpose of enabling industrious Tradesman to become acquainted with such principles of mechanics, chemistry and other branches of science as are of practical application in several trades”. Classes were held in the evening and included mineralogy for tradesmen working in the textiles industry for use in dye-making.

Karl Marx admired the work of Horner as a reforming factory inspector and eulogised that “his services to the English working classes will never be forgotten. He carried on a life-long contest, not only with the embittered manufacturers, but also with the cabinet”. In 1827, Horner was also invited to be the warden of the new University of London. He was effectively both Vice-chancellor (Principal) and Secretary of the new University. From this position of patronage, he was able to invite Charles Lyell to the chair of mineralogy at King’s College London in 1828.

The Edinburgh College of Arts was the progenitor institution from which Heriot-Watt University was created in 1966. Today the University retains the ethos of teaching practical subjects in a way that people in industry can participate, through international distance learning programmes – very much in the style of Leonard Horner – one of the founding fathers. I suspect Leonard Horner would have approved of the idea of professionalism (which is now embedded in Chartership and rather more evidence-based than in his day!) and the need for Continuing Professional Development .

Further reading

O’Farrell, P.N., 2004 Heriot-Watt University, An Illustrated History, Pearson Education, 511pp. Watch out for Patrick’s next book, a biography of Leonard Horner, the research for which has involved him in many happy hours in the Burlington House Library.;jsessionid=3990B0009259ABF0F9F646D2EB19AC74
If the past is the key to your present interests, why not join the History of Geology Group (HOGG)? For more information and to read the latest HOGG newsletter, visit the HOGG website at:]

Horeners letters -

MA Postcolonial Culture and Global Policy at Goldsmiths Centre for Cultural Studies

Re-read Spivak’s Ghostwriting for this week’s lecture on Capital.

Spivak uses the occasion of Derrida saying ‘hello to Marx’ (Spivak 1995:78) to make some key points about women in the contemporary condition of financialised capitalism, and offer a reading of Assia Djebar’s Far From Medina and the ghosts of many women that must be retrieved from this text on Islam. I am not able to engage with Fatima, like Spivak I am no Islamic scholar, and anyway you must read both Spivak and Djebar. I also consider Spivak more interesting on fianacialisation and women than anyone else writing on this. It is curious that few Marxists take this up, as class conscious ‘future socialists’ we cannot ignore the need to work through such questions, as we shall. Spivak insists:

‘According, then, to the strictest Marxian sense, the reproductive body of woman has now been “socialized” – computed into average abstract labor and thus released into what I call the spectrality of reason – a specter that haunts the merely empirical, dislocating it from itself. According to Marx, this is the specter that must haunt the daily life of the class-conscious worker, the future socialist, so that she can dislocate him herself into the counterintuitive average part-subject (agent) of labor, recognize that, in the everyday, es spukt. It is only then that the fetish character of labor-power as commodity can be grasped and can become the pivot that wrenches capitalism into socialism’ (Spivak 1995:67-8)

In Capital, the tale of Robinson is used to show that the operations of use-value are not somehow prior or isolated from exchange as relations of production. Even alone, Robinson calculates. It is not an innate nature, but a social condition (that can be changed).

‘The first example is Robinson Crusoe, to demonstrate that the relations of production can be known even in a situation of “pure” use-value’ (Spivak 1995:76)

Immediately before this, in search of Ghosts, Derrida finds that the translation occludes the literal ghost in referring to the ‘magic and necromancy that surrounds the products of labour so long as they take the form of commodities’ (Marx 1867/1970:76 L&W Pen-169, Derrida 1993/1994:164). Necromancy substitutes for spuk and Derrida wants to stress the apparition, that the ghost is something like Marx’s familiar, that he wants to exorcise and retain.

But Spivak notes that Derrida ‘goofs a bit’ here:

‘the passage quoted on page 164 [by Derrida] does not directly refer to the socialist future, as Derrida seems to think. Marx’s point is that simply to see the relations of production clearly is no big deal’ (Spivak 1995:76)

The discussion of Robinson on his Island, keeping books, being a proper Englishman, is Marx having his fun. The next moment we are to ‘transport ourselves from Robinson’s island, bathed in light to the European middle ages shrouded in Darkness’ where the hierarchy of serf and lord, compulsory labour, services, payments in kind, entails a society where the social relations are personal, and ‘not disguised under the social relations between the products of labour’ (Marx 1867/1970:77L&W). We need not go back to examine the different forms of common property, though Marx shows he has the scholarship to do this, but we can see the distribution of the work and consumption of produce in the peasant family is not one organized by commodities, but subject to arrangements of age, sex, the seasons, a spontaneously developed division of labour, etc.

Then, suggesting something different, but not yet the only possible difference, Marx asks us to ‘picture to ourselves, for a change, a community of free individuals, carrying on their work with the means of production in common’ (Marx, 1867/1970:78 L&W), social labour-power and social product, planned distribution, surplus consumed according to – in this, again not the only possible assumption – and distributed according to input of labour-time.

 ‘The social relations of the individual producers, with regard to both their labour and their products, are in this case perfectly simple and intelligible, and with regard not only to production but also to distribution’ (Marx 1867/1970:79 L&W)

There may be different forms in which this distribution is organized, according to the level of development of the productive forces, and a future communism would not assume distribution according to labour time but rather to each according to need, yet this scenario where production has stripped off its ‘mystical veil’ [this veil stuff is from Schiller’s The Bell, as Prawler shows, 1976:322) and is ‘consciously regulated’ in ‘accordance with a settled plan’ comes only at the expense of ‘a long and painful process’ (Marx 1867/1970:80 L&W). Marx’s point in the next pages is to show that the commodity as bourgeois form has everything reversed – like Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing who things ‘reading and writing come by nature’ (Marx 1867/1970:83 L&W Pen.177, D.98).

Spivak, 1995 Ghostwriting, Diacritics, Vol. 25, No. 2. (Summer), pp. 64-84

Some Like it Hot

Screening monday 23 Jan 2012 7:15pm Laurie Grove Council Room Goldsmith Centre for Cultural Studies.


Other monday films here.

The piece-rate Worker

Turning our lives into sausage factory grunt work and mere value extraction. This is all too common. Before electronic rights became a standard in publishing contracts I used to scratch out that part (eg for my Calcutta book, and for ‘Dis-Orienting Rhythms’ – only the latter is online for free – see sidebar to download – since scanning the typeset pages of ‘Rumour of Calcutta’ is so far beyond me. Later books other people have made available, and I point to them where I can – also sidebar). Increasingly the clumsy copyright assignment thing seems an issue to fight since there is something truly obscene about making people who work for free for large journals, where those journals are owned and run as sausage factory style conglomerates. Having to sign away ‘rights’ – as if that really was the key concern (not all journals are like this and open access is a real boon) is something tenured profs can take or leave, but anyone else in need of a publication for validation and employment prospects, ever diminishing, has to swallow it whole. Or do they? Sometimes I’ve just forgotten on purpose to send in the rights form – but then some poorly paid staffer, or even unpaid intern, has to chase it up. So I am watching this little episode, described by Steve Shaviro below, since it is a further fold on the sorry tale. Follow the post to the original at the Pinocchio Theory site and watch the comments to see if there is a resolution. Good luck Steve.

Work for Hire?

Here we go again. I was asked to sign a contract for an essay I have written, which is scheduled to appear in an edited collection. Let’s leave aside the fact that I wrote the essay — it was solicited for this collection — in summer 2010, and yet it will not appear in print until 2013. I think that the glacial pace of academic publishing is a real problem. But that is not what is bothering me at the moment. The contract that I was asked to sign, so that my essay could appear in an edited volume published by Oxford University Press, contained the following clause:

WORK-FOR-HIRE. The Contributor acknowledges that the Publisher has commissioned the Contribution as a work-for-hire, that the Publisher will be deemed the author of the Contributior as employer-for-hire, and that the copyright in the Contribution will belong to the Publisher during the initial and any renewal or extended period(s) of copyright. To the extent, for any reason, that the Contribution or any portion thereof does not qualify or otherwise fails to be a work-for-hire, theContributor hereby assigns to the Publisher whatever right, title and interest the Contributor would otherwise have in the Contribution throughout the world.

I found this entirely unbelievable, and unacceptable. Since when has original academic writing been classified as “work-for-hire”? It is possible, I suppose, that things like writing encyclopedia essays might be so categorized; but I have never, in my 30 years in academa, encountered a case in which primary scholarship or criticism was so classified. Is this something widespread, but which I simply haven’t heard about? I’d welcome information on this score from people who know more about the academic publishing situation than I do. But it seems to me, at first glance, that the Press is upping the ante in terms of trying to monopolize “intellectual property,” by setting up an arrangement that both cuts off the public from access and denies any rights to the henceforth-proletarianized “knowledge worker” or producer. I am unwilling to countenance such an abridgement of my ability to make the words that I have written more freely available.
In any case, I wrote back to the Press as follows:

I am unwilling to sign the Contributor’s Agreement for my submission to the Oxford Handbook of New Audiovisual Aesthetics as it is currently worded. In particular, I find section 2, defining my contribution as work-for-hire, completely objectionable. I entirely reject the notion that original academic work of this sort can be defined as work-for-hire. I think that this is demeaning to academic scholarship and disrespectful of intellectual labor.

Section 2 of the contract further stipulates that even if “the Contribution or any portion thereof does not qualify or otherwise fails to be a work-for-hire, the Contributor hereby assigns to the Publisher whatever right, title and interest the Contributor would otherwise have in the Contribution throughout the world.” I find this objectionable as well. Even if my contribution to the volume is exempted from being considered work-for-hire, I am unwilling to sign over my own rights to the publisher in this unlimited way. In particular, I insist upon retaining, among other rights, the right to make my contribution available for download on my own website and the right to include this contribution at some later date as part of a self-authored publication.

I guess we will see what happens. I hope the Press backs down and offers more reasonable terms. If that doesn’t happen, I will simply have to withdraw my contribution from the edited volume. At some point, the essay will appear on my website for free download — whether because the publisher backs down and permits me to do this, or whether I give up on print publication.
Not getting the essay into print will mean that I won’t get the credit (or a line in my Vita) for the publication of an article that I am, in fact, rather proud of. This kind of credit matters in academia — salaries, among other things, are based on it. But as a full Professor with tenure I am in a rather privileged position: I can afford to lose the credit. The same is not the case for academics in more precarious positions — who might well be forced to sign away their rights in cases like this, because their jobs heavily depend upon their publication record, and one additional line on their Vita might make a major difference.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 11th, 2012 at 11:37 am and is filed underPersonalPolitics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Critique of Everything

The fine folk at the Finnish Anthropology Society asked me to respond to Jason Toynbee’s piece ‘The Critical Accomplice’  (issue 3/2011) where he started out by saying: ‘In this piece I focus upon anthropology’s close ally in the contemporary social sciences, cultural studies. I argue that its core concepts and drives – some increasingly shared by anthropologists  are in need of serious critique’ (p60). Jason’s text is well worth a read, but I suspect it would be a copyright violation to repost it here. I will write him to see. In the meantime, you can read my response, which is an oblique one – a re-versioning of a piece written for Tarcisco and previously only available in Portuguese.

Critique of Everthing


Centre for Cultural Studies Goldsmiths MAs and PhD


cfp Return to the Street


return to the street – cfp

27-28 June 2012

Goldsmiths, University of London

A two day conference exploring the shifting role of the street as discourse and real physical space in the context of contemporary culture and politics.

Identity formation and public debate do not simply occur online or through new media technologies. As the recent excessive imprisonment of those involved in the UK riots this summer demonstrated, the control and regulation of real bodies within real spaces is still very much at stake. Within the context of riots, protests and occupations in the UK and worldwide – the street appears to have become once more the space where people gather to be heard and counted. Considering this ‘return’ (although it is questionable whether we every really left the street) how might a line be drawn between the type of discourse which pays lip service to banal, neoliberal fetishised notions of street as site and object of subversive cool – incorporating graffiti, fashion, skateboarding, hiphop – and a more critical and engaged examination of processes of exclusion, confrontation and violence which constitute the everyday reality of life on and in the street. The street is and should not simply be flagged up as a site where power relations are toyed with as part of an ongoing Damien Hirst-meets-Banksyesque flirtation between public and private space. Such fetishisation ignores or glosses over notions of territory, surveillance and fear.

Yet at every moment attempts to challenge existing power structures from within the space of the street are at risk of being recuperated in the service of bourgeois, neoliberal modes of consumption. The return to pedestrianised zones in major European cities is frequently part of gentrification processes and occurs within privately owned spaces with the aim of encouraging consumerism rather than increased social interaction precluded by motorised city spaces. The festival atmosphere at protests and occupations might also be considered not simply as a means of creating greater solidarity amongst participants but as embodying a Bakhtinian form of carnival in which the political impetus of the event or movement exhausts itself in a media circus of spectacle and rhetoric staged between protestors and law-enforcement. Similarly, how does the crowd or the collective end up reproducing existing forms of exclusion in claiming to speak for the masses as a homogeneous whole? Those whose access to the street is already restricted due to race, gender or disability must frequently concede their voices to those for whom the street is taken for granted as usable, occupiable and negotiable space. At the same time, a more critical stance is needed towards both the romanticisation and demonization of the crowd in public space. It is, for example, naive to think that issues such as the systemic street harassment of women in Cairo disappeared completely during the occupation of Tahrir Square yet this was the rhetoric widely presented. Conversely, how might the pervasive politics of fear which posits the crowd as unruly mob or herd, keeping people off the streets, through the imposition of curfews and devices like the mosquito be redressed? What needs to be done to encourage greater mobilisation on the street from different groups and individuals?

The aim of this conference is to rethink the street both in terms of its radical potential as site where dissent, critique and change can all be achieved whilst remaining critical as to the limits of such radicality. Where does the street lead us and what happens off the street? How might we avoid the dead ends and turf wars involved both in conceptualising and using the street? How might we set about building a new politics of the street? We welcome proposals for papers, discussions, short films, mini-workshops and other interventions engaging with the above issues and questions.

Topics might include but are not limited to:

- street as fetish object

- societies of discipline and control

- inclusion/exclusion/exchange

- street as site of resistance/containment

- subversive potential/impotential of street art

and fashion

- hiphop struggles and activism

- surveillance – cctv and self-mapping apps

- politics of the crowd

- negotiating the street – strategies and tactics

- territory/circulation

- politics of fear

- living and working on the street

- off the street


Abstracts/proposals of 300-500 words should be sent to: by 3 February 2012.

Programme will be confirmed in early March 2012.

Organised by the Centre for Cultural Studies with the generous support of the Department of Media and Communications and the Graduate School, Goldsmiths.

Rough justifications [Marx Course reading]

 Rough justifications for including these texts in my prelim reading for the Capital course (see here).

Theodor W. Adorno, The Culture Industry

Adorno is famous for his dictum, “No Art after Auschwitz”, but it’s not necessarily something that he said in his own voice, it’s really important to see that he was putting this forward as a two part dialectic in the voice of those who at the level of satisfied contemplation, at the level of critics, did not break with the bourgeois categories, it was the idle chatter of that class that both said “you cannot make art after Auschwitz” and were incapable of understanding why it was barbaric to make art after Auschwitz. Now, everyone says Adorno was elitist, he was anti-art, but no. In that dialectic he actually has a more important place for the real rebellious possibility of art as something that we all could do. It could still be co-opted and recuperated… and of course he’s still anxious about that. And thinks under capitalism it’s hopeless. Well… We don’t need people to only be artists.

Aijaz Ahmad, In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures

Aijaz Ahmad had denounced as imperialist the ‘three worlds theory’ in a debate with Frederic Jameson, where Jameson had called third world literature always an allegory of nation – clearly far too much a generalization on Fred’s part. ‘In Theory’ was like a brick thrown in a stagnant pool for us as postgraduate students, the first widely read book of theory in a long while that did not scrimp on the organizational politics. And with the added bonus of actual text-consulting detailed argument that corrects Edward Said’s too-quick dismissal of Marx on India.

Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share

Georges Bataille, especially in his early work, exhibits a refusal to be crushed by the brutality of events, war, oppression, morality. ‘The Accursed Share’ is the culmination of his economic and political writings, though I prefer the harder to access 1930s work (discussed here).

Jonathan.Beller, The Cinematic Mode of Production

In Jonathan Beller’s book ‘The Cinematic Mode of Production’, attention to the gaze and the market of the spectacle advances both film theory and situationist ideas to offer a platform for understanding new media as a terrain of struggle in market, ideology and practice. Just as we willingly go and sit in the dark before the cinema, we also comply with the protocols of the digital. Virtual selves abroad in the world while backache and repetitive strain compensate for touch type immediacy. The world shrunk to a venture start-up as if the assembly of work-station and media-console wasn’t also co-ordinated with wiring configurations, electricity grids and mining industries that make the corralling of workers in all kinds of underpaid labour also part of an integrated geo-circuit.

Sylvere Lotringer (ed), Hatred of Capitalism: A Reader

This book just has the best title, and a great selection of essays from William Burroughs to Marx to Kathy Acker – and the circuit is intended.

Karl Marx, Capital: Volume One

Only volume one! Get them all. Start a reading group. Do not miss the footnotes and all the fun jokes about Money bags. Also there are vampires, werewolves, bibles exchanged for brandy, and trips to Australia, India – Lord Jagganath – and tributes to Leonard Horner, factory inspector and hero of the working classes. It is important to read more than the first chapter. And to read it anew every decade or so, since the context changes Marx, just as Marx tried to change the context (the point!).

Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto

The Manifesto was written over the winter of 47-48 for the International Workingmen’s Association. First drafted on the train from Manchester to London, then finished in a frenzy of work by Marx in Brussels in January 48. It influence astonishing, global, relevant still, etc. Everyone can quote from it: from its first words: ‘Ein Gespenst geht um in Europa’ (1848/1970:41) – ‘A spectre is haunting Europe’, to its last words ‘Mögen die herrschendenKlassen vor iner kommunistischen Revolution zittern. Die Proletarier haben nichts in ihr zu verlieren als ihr Ketten. Sie haben eine Welt zu gewinnen. Proletarier aller Länder, vereinigt euch’ (1848/1970:82-3) – ‘Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of all countries, unite’. The Manifesto was written just as Europe launch into a period of revolutionary turmoil. Marx was himself an activist, expelled from Germany for political reasons, exiled in Paris then London. He was, apparently, a rebel rousing type, turning up to demos and meetings a little pissed, but able, in repartee, to make mince meat of any other ideologues – yet the revolutionary period of 1848 did not deliver freedom, and Marx’s hope for the situation was disappointed. He turned to the library – although never gave up activism – to provide an explanation.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason

In this bumper book of critique Spivak shows she knows ‘the’ debates around a particular author or field with a quick sketch, then she shows she knows the critical angles on these debates and that these could be fruitful, but are often not without problems, and then, rather than detailing or extending the problems, she takes some moment or oblique angle on the text and levers it open to teach us something crucial. Repays reading over and over – wonderfully written, learned, and an education in itself. (more)

Michael Taussig My Cocaine Museum

The myriad examples in ‘My Cocaine Museum’ are assembled to order and disorder Colombia, where Mick has done 30+ years’ fieldwork, such that each of the curios selected for an impossible museum of gold, weapons and profit have to make sense in a history, and in syncopation with other examples for an archive of the imaginary institution, providing a model for eloquence… that I give students as an example of what might be possible if scholarship could be re-imagined.


Slavoj Žižek, Revolution at the Gates: Selected Writings of Lenin from 1917

It has often been said that Zizek never has a thought that has not been published…. twice. Good thing too. We’d have to invent him if he did not invent himself.
The course starts Jan 10. All welcome.

Pantomime Terror Lecture 30.9.2008

This, here, for the gnawing criticism of the mice, is my inaugural Professorial lecture at Goldsmiths September 30 2008. Details: presented by Professor John Hutnyk of the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths. Title: ‘Pantomime Terror: the paranoid commuter and the danger of music’. Introduced by Professor Geoffrey Crossick. Please note there is a missing part at 48;38 where there was a tape changeover. At this point its important to know I discussed the Fun^da^mental video DIY Cookbook, available here:
and there is a bit of the discussion is missing, but covered in this blog post: - sorry its complicated, but if you like the first 48 mins, then why not watch the short 3 min FDM vid, read the short blog, then return for the eccentric finale!
Thanks heaps to Adela for filming this.

Read Marx’s “Capital” at Goldsmiths: everybody is welcome (unless your name is David Willetts)

Capitalism and Cultural Studies – Prof John Hutnyk:

tuesday evenings from january 10, 2012 – 5pm-7pm Goldsmiths RHB 309 Free – all welcome.

No fee (unless, sorry, you are doing this for award - and that, friends, is Willetts’ fault – though the Labour Party have a share of the blame too).

This course involves a close reading of Karl Marx’s Capital (Volume One).
The connections between cultural studies and critiques of capitalism are considered in an interdisciplinary context (cinema studies, anthropology, musicology, international relations, and philosophy) which reaches from Marx through to Film Studies, from ethnographic approaches to Heidegger, from anarchism and surrealism to German critical theory and poststructuralism/post-colonialism/post-early-for-christmas. Topics covered include: alienation, commodification, production, technology, education, subsumption, anti-imperialism, anti-war movement and complicity. Using a series of illustrative films (documentary and fiction) and key theoretical texts (read alongside the text of Capital), we examine contemporary capitalism as it shifts, changes, lurches through its very late 20th and early 21st century manifestations – we will look at how cultural studies copes with (or does not cope with) class struggle, anti-colonialism, new subjectivities, cultural politics, media, virtual and corporate worlds.

Email me to get the reading Guide. And please watch Citizen Kane before the first lecture, and read the prefaces if you can.

The lectures/seminars begin on Tuesday 10th January 2011 between 5 and 7pm and will run for 10 weeks (with a week off in the middle) in the Richard Hoggart Building (RHB 309), Goldsmiths College. Students are required to bring their own copy of the Penguin, International Publishers or Progress Press editions of Karl Marx Capital Vol I. Reading about 100 pages a week. (Please don’t get tricked into buying the abridged English edition/nonsense!)

Note: The Centre for Cultual Studies at Goldsmiths took a decision to make as many as possible of its lecture series open to the public without fee. Seminars, essays, library access etc remain for sale. Still, here is a chance to explore cultural studies without getting into debt. The classes are MA level, mostly in the day – though in spring the Capital course is early tuesday evening. We usually run 10 week courses. Reading required will be announced in class, but preliminary reading suggestions can also be found by following the links. RHB means main building of Goldsmiths – Richard Hoggart Building. More info on other free events from CCS here:


Update: Please ise this form to send a course evaluation to Sonia.Ali [at] Here.

Course Gen. evaluation form

Return to the Street 27-28 June 2012 CCS Goldsmiths.


Why Cultural Studies in South London

(Note to self for Centre research blurb draft): Stitching between the local and the global in a way that is more than rhetorical, our projects find a geopolitical significance in a South London sensibility. This part of the world has always been global, since the Romans at least. We understand issues – colonial and Maritime history (Greenwich), militarism (Imperial War Museum), race and migration (Stephen Lawrence Centre), commercial and art industry led regeneration/gentrification (Deptford, Tate Modern etc) as examples of a local instanciation of globally significant patterns and events. As modes of production shift, they often shift first in South London. But this does not mean we think this is the centre of the world – our research interests reach out to the global and find patterns of interest in Kolkata, Canton, Niger, Lusaka, Vanuatu, Gabon. More quietly, perhaps, we are also, and maybe even more interested in a planetary ethic than you get in the usual priorities of global (global finance, global trade, global arms sales). Here, we are acutely aware of the planetary or globe girdling movements of protest, creativity, sensibility, meaning. Yet, we see how the planet will eventually make a mockery of all ‘culture’, when we are dust, and a perspective that recalls this terrifying and humbling reality might put our little theatricals into perspective.

Reading groups online as Para-sites

I like the idea of a virtual meeting for the reading group (since I can’t make the meetings for the group I really want to participate in) and if talking about the form it would take is still open, can I suggest that the model of ‘occupying’ some public chat forum like Comment is Free, as the #Occupy people did recently, is a great idea. For a reading group on Ranciere it need not be something as Troll-filled as CiF – maybe a bulletin board or other space linked to Goldsmiths, linked to a philosophy, theory or other discussion site, or even on some prominent person’s blog (I am not saying mine! but maybe there are other staff blogs that could tolerate the hits). It also leaves a public trace of our discussion. Even if its a bit like invading.
Are there any Goldsmiths sites that host comments that might be relevant?
I’ve recently been posting on MarketProject. Good people, and responsive.
There was the Long Sunday site, but I think that’s dormant. There’s Generation Online, Nettime, etc. Hundreds more. Though it occurs to me this may be somewhat parasitical, so more relevant to a Serres reading group! I guess there is also the Goldsmiths CCS page on FB, but its a walled enclosure and maybe too pushy (and its set to push-mail to some people).
While doing something like this has a disadvantage in that its wholly in public view, which may be off putting, it still could be just some obscure corner of the internet which maybe would be improved by having a decent discussion…
Just sayin’

Too Many artists event in a few less lines that say quite a bit more than was said on the night and that was a lot :)

Drawings of the Too Many Artists event at firstsite, Colchester.

Estudos culturais | Uma abordagem prática

Estudos culturais

  • Sumário

    Nota do editor, 7
    Apresentação, 9
    Passagens, paragens, veredas: semiótica da cultura e estudos culturais, 13
    Mônica Rebecca Ferrari Nunes
    Práticas corporais ou mercadorias corporais, 39
    Mario Nunes
    Fotografia como arte e arte como fotografia: o caso Weegee, 61
    Marcos Fabris
    Entre mundos: estudos culturais e o terceiro cinema contemporâneo, 77
    Angela Prysthon
    Perspectivas do pessoal: o feminino e o cotidiano no
    Big Brother Brasil, 91
    Bruno Campanella
    Seis temporadas pelas ilhas de Lost: a questão da identidade ¬
    pós¬ moderna em uma das séries de maior sucesso da televisão
    mundial, 113
    Tatiana Amendola Sanches
    Tecnologias a serviço da multidão: novas fronteiras de um Estado
    em crise, 133
    Tarcisio Torres Silva
    As mídias sociais na democratização e transformação social da América Latina, 153
    Marco Antonio Bin
    Te vejo na lan house!, 169
    Fábio Mariano Borges
    Entrevista com Maria Elisa Cevasco, 189
    Tatiana Amendola Sanches
    Crítica de tudo, 199
    John Hutnyk
    Sobre os autores, 211

The Student Handjob – now in bespoke perfect bound edition.


From THIS site you can purchase the slightly more glossified covered (and somewhat renamed [original version here]) Student Handjob. I am hoping to negotiate a discount. Original version here.

Nyx, a Noctournal


A horrifically good and brand new issue of the CCS postgrad noctournal publication Nyx was launched tonight in New Cross/Deptford, and a very fine thing it is too. You will soon be able to purchase the new issue from the website. Do be quick! NOW HERE.

three events of note: Goldsmiths Centre for Cultural Studies 19-20-21 Oct 2011

Haneen Maikey wednesday 19th October 2011 Queer Politics & the Palestinian Struggle: Ten Years of Activism.

A Centre for Cultural Studies and GUCU LGBTQ Society event: – Haneen Maikey, queer Palestinian activist and director of alQaws – wednesday 19th October ROOM 137A 3pm all welcome – see here.


Fictional Character and Digital Avatar – A talk by Prof John Frow, on 20 Oct 2011 Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, all welcome, see here


Death of The Champion and Savage Messiah at Goldsmiths 21.Oct.2011

Special Double Bill event: – Laura Oldfield Ford – author of Savage Messiah -

and – Ken Fero/Tariq Mehmood’s new film – Defeat of the Champion (25 mins)

- plus discussion. 21 Oct 2011 RHB Cinema see here:

Pantomime Terror Lecture (last 5 mins)

Here, for obscure in-joke reasons, is the last part of my inaugural lecture in 2008, where I had been discussing pantomime terror, paranoid suspicions on the tube, and the ur-story of the 1001 nights updated to Guantanamo … this is meant not only as a wind up – and I will post the entire lecture eventually. Geoff Crossick says some things at the end…


International Symposium: “HUMANITIES AFTER FUKUSHIMA: Dialogues between Cultural Studies and Philosophy in the Post-Nuclear Age of Critical Junctures” (click here to register)

Friday, 28 October 2011 – Sunday, 30 October 2011

Venue: School of Arts, Birkbeck College, University of London, 43 Gordon Square, London; 

Birkbeck Collage, Main Building, Malet Street, London

Financial Help from the Japan Foundation International Exchange Fund


Organized by Ted Motohashi (Visiting Professor at Media and Cultural Studies Department, Birkbeck College, University of London) and LAPCSF (London Asia-Pacific Cultural Studies Forum) in partnership with Centre for Media, Culture and Creative Practices

Discussion Themes and Focuses

Inspired by Nishiyama Yuji’s documentary film “The Right to Philosophy”, comprised of his interviews with those associated with “International College of Philosophy” founded in Paris by Jaques Derrida and Francois Chatelet in 1983, this small-scale international symposium, will try to address issues surrounding the past, present and future of Humanities education and research in the age of crisis. This “crisis” particularly resonates with the natural disasters on March 11, 2011 in Japan, and the following calamitous events centered on the nuclear power-plant’s meltdown at Fukushima.

What could be the roles and responsibilities of Humanities scholars facing this crisis? Can University education stand up to the multiple challenges posed by the now increasingly technologically sophisticated neoliberal/capitalist politics? What could be the viable relationship between Cultural Studies and Philosophy education? And is it too vulgar to talk about Art and Literature after “Fukushima”?

This gathering will tackle these questions from various and broad perspectives in a kind of intellectual exchange particularly among those who are concerned with the relevant issues in the present geopolitical contexts in Japan and Britain. Although the Symposium is based on the traditional format consisting of several panels with keynote speeches and commentaries, its atmosphere will be definitely friendly, non-hierarchical and improvisational, and we hope that the participants will enjoy the intellectual exchanges at their very best forms during the three days. 

Schedule and Guest Speakers

*Keynote speech is 30~45 minutes, Commentary 15~20 minutes approximately, please.

*Participation in the symposium is free of charge, but please pay £20 for food and drinks if you would like to attend the Reception on Friday 28th and the Farewell Party on Sunday 30th  (£10 for attending only one of the two; the Keynote speakers and Commentators are free).

Friday 28th October

16:00~ Registration for the Participants

17:00~20:00 Panel 1: “Cultural Studies and Philosophy Education in Asia” (Room 421, Malet st)

Keynote 1: Koichi Iwabuchi (Waseda University)

Keynote 2: Fabian Schäfer (Leipzig University)

Comment 1: David Morley (tbc) (Goldsmiths College, University of London)

Comment 2: Angus Lockyer (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London)


19:00~21:00 Reception (Room 421, Malet St)

Saturday 29th October

11:00~14:00 Film showing: “The Right to Philosophy” (Birkbeck Cinema, Gordon Sq)

Keynote:Yuji Nishiyama (Tokyo Metropolitan University)

Comment:Yusuke Miyazaki(University of Niigata)


15:00~18:00 Panel 2: “Roles and Responsibilities of Intellectuals in the Age of Neoliberal Politics” (Room B35, Malet St)

Keynote 1: Sabu Kohso (New York, Artist/Activist)

Keynote 2: Jun Hirose (Ryukoku University)

Comment 1: Angela McRobbie (Goldsmiths College, University of London)

Comment 2: Jeremy Gilbert (University of East London)


Sunday 30th October

10:00~13:00  Panel 3:  “Humanities After Crisis” (Room B04, Gordon Sq)

Keynote 1: Ryuta Imafuku (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies)

Keynote 2: Chih-Ming Wang  (Institute of European and American Studies,

Academia Sinica, Taiwan)

Comment 1: Esther Leslie (Birkbeck College, University of London)

Comment 2: Michael Gardiner (University of Warwick)


14:00~17:00  Panel 4: “The Present Conditions and Future Prospects of Humanities Education in Universities” (Room B04, Gordon Sq)

Keynote 1: Naoki Sakai (Cornell University)

Keynote 2: Gauri Viswanathan (Columbia University)

Comment 1: Costas Douzinas ( Birkbeck College, University of London)

Comment 2: John Hutnyk (Goldsmiths College, University of London)


17:00~18:30 Summary Panel (Room B04, Gordon Sq)

All the Keynote Speakers’ and Commentators’ final remarks (5 minutes each)

19:00~21:00 Farewell Party (Room B04, Gordon Sq) 


Apart from the invited speakers above (Keynote speakers and Commentators),

around 50 participants are expected mainly from Britain.

Free Education

The Centre for Cultual Studies at Goldsmiths University of London took a decision to make as many as possible of its lecture series open to the public without fee. Seminars, essays, library access etc remain for sale. Still, here is a chance to explore cultural studies without getting into debt. The classes are MA level, mostly in the day – though in spring the Capital course is early tuesday evening We usually run 10 week courses (though Stiegler and Berry-Slater run for 5 weeks in the Spring) . Reading required will be announced in class, but preliminary reading suggestions can also be found by following the links. RHB means main building of Goldsmiths – Richard Hoggart Building.

Autumn Term – starting October 3rd.

Mondays 11am – 1pm
Cultural Theory – Lecture
Prof Scott Lash
RHB 137A

Tuesdays 11am – 1pm
Postcolonial Theory ­ Lecture/Seminar
Dr Bhaskar Mukhopadhyay
RHB 342a

Wednesdays 10am – 12 noon
Critical Theory – Lecture
Dr Luciana Parisi
RHB 308

There will be additional open lecture series in the Spring (venues tbc)

Spring Term

Sound, Text and Image – Dr Sophie Fuggle (mondays)

Capitalism and Cultural Studies – Prof John Hutnyk (tuesday evenings)

Biopolitics and Aesthetics – Dr Josie Berry-Slater (thursdays)

Media Philosophy – Prof Bernard Stiegler (thursdays)

all welcome.

Neil tours us round Deptford.

Why thanks Neil:

Transpontine: South East London blogzine – things that are happening, things that happened, things that should never have happened. New Cross, Brockley, Deptford and other beauty spots. EMAIL US: Transpontine: ‘on the other (i.e. the south) side of the bridges over the Thames; pertaining to or like the lurid melodrama played in theatres there in the 19th century’.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Convoys Wharf Latest

The future of Convoys Wharf, site of the former Royal Dockyard on the Deptford riverfront, has been discussed here before. A revised planning application for the site has recently been submitted by News International (former owners of the site) and Chinese property developer Cheung Kong (current owners).There is a lot of local concern about the plans – not just about the impact of what is proposed, but in relation to the loss of the potential once in a hundred years opportunity to do something special here that makes a positive difference to people in Deptford. Challenging these plans, put forward by two of the world’s most powerful conglomerates in the world, is a daunting prospect.Enter Deptford is…, ‘a group of local residents who want to ensure that the redeveloped Convoy’s Wharf offers the best for Deptford and its future. We are NOT affiliated to any political party, commercial interest or quango’. This Saturday 24th September, 10 am to 12 noon, they are organising a ‘planning objections workshop’ in the Blue room at the Albany, Douglas Way.They say ‘Many local residents are worried about the impact of the redevelopment, and are keen to ensure that their concerns are heard by the council. But the planning documents are numerous and complex, and many people who want to respond to the application simply don’t have the time to read them fully. Even those who do have time to read the documents may not know enough about the planning system to be able to write an effective response. So we are holding an URGENT planning objections workshop THIS SATURDAY MORNING at the Albany theatre in Deptford, to provide help and advice to people wanting to comment on this planning application’.

Is that all there is?

A couple of weeks ago I took a group of visitors to Goldsmiths on a guided walk around New Cross and Deptford, focusing on the history of the area and some of its buildings. It was an interesting group, mainly from USA and India, including among others critical architects, a photographer, a film maker and a singer/theatre writer.

The theme of their meeting was globalisation and preservation and this seemed very apposite to Deptford. After all it is arguably one of the birthplaces of a kind of globalisation, the East India Company having been based here, and various colonial and slaver expeditions starting out from the Deptford shipyards. And ‘preservation’ is part of what the argument about Convoys Wharf is all about – how can or should any development reflect the site’s history and preserve the memory of shipbuilding and migration (as for instance Shipwright’s Palace argue)? And what about the site of the historic Sayes Court garden?

One thing that is very striking about the area, looking at it through the eyes of visitors, is just how much it is a zone in transition. I kept finding myself saying on the one hand, ‘until recently this was here’ and on the other ‘soon there will be a new tower block here’. Another feature for an area so tied up with its riverine history is how cut off much of Deptford is from the river itself, not least by the walls around Convoys Wharf. The current planning application promises to restore public access to the river, and that is essential. But does that mean we should just accept any scheme that offers a view of the water?

Another theme that emerged from chatting to the visitors was how similar the experiences of urban development, and specifically riverside development, are across the world. Unimaginative identikit schemes, often by the same architects and developers in different countries, with ‘luxury flat’ tower blocks and sterile semi-public spaces. Is that all there is?

‘Candida Camera’ – MA Cultural Studies Unfinished Business flick

“Candida Camera” asks what is cultural studies, and where does it happen? Locals, students, academics and various rogues interviewed. A rambling paranoiac documentary around New Cross, made for the “Unfinished Business: Undoing Cultural Studies” conference on 4th-5th July 2011.

Shopping Žižek – a commentary on a commentary (an addendum to ✪ 11 more notes 12&3 on #LondonRiots etc)

Slavoj Žižek’s commentary on the #LondonRiots indented, with my intemperate interjections interspersed in smaller italics (not indented). i – i – i – i. What I have done is copied the entire text from his LRB article (available free) and entered that here, in original order, nothing excised, so I could then add my own commentary, in italics, between the lines, So to speak. If you want to read the unadulterated version go direct to theLRB link here. Why do this sort of interruption – especially of someone from whom we learn a lot? Maybe I thought the joke title was only a little bit funny…

Shoplifters of the World Unite

Slavoj Žižek on the meaning of the riots

You are invited to read this free essay from the London Review of BooksSubscribe now to access every article from every fortnightly issue of the London Review of Books, including the entire archive of over 12,500 essays and reviews.

Repetition, according to Hegel, plays a crucial role in history: when something happens just once, it may be dismissed as an accident, something that might have been avoided if the situation had been handled differently; but when the same event repeats itself, it is a sign that a deeper historical process is unfolding. When Napoleon lost at Leipzig in 1813, it looked like bad luck; when he lost again at Waterloo, it was clear that his time was over. The same holds for the continuing financial crisis. In September 2008, it was presented by some as an anomaly that could be corrected through better regulations etc; now that signs of a repeated financial meltdown are gathering it is clear that we are dealing with a structural phenomenon.

So this is a familiar and yet slightly weird start. SZ has this bit about the much beloved Hegel, but he well knows the Marx routine from the Eighteenth Brumaire, which glosses the repetition of events and adds ‘but Hegel forgot to say that they happen the second time as farce’. SZ used this quip as a book title: ‘First as Tragedy, Then as Farce’ in 2009, and explained the gloss on Marx as an IQ test for those who might think a discussion of a return to communism after a century of totalitarianism was bad comedy – of course anyone who reacted like that should be forcibly dealt with, and he suggests confiscating the book from them. It turns out the book was a thoughtful commentary upon Sept 11 2011 and the 2008 financial crash… along the way providing some choice critiques of Hardt and Negri, democracy, liberals and so on, teaching us that: ‘we live in apocalyptic times … each of the three proceses of proletarianization refer to an apocalyptic end point: ecological breakdown, the biogenetic reduction of humans to manipulable machines, total digital control over our lives … at all these levels, thinGs are approaching a zero-point: “the end of times is near”‘ (p92-93)

We are told again and again that we are living through a debt crisis, and that we all have to share the burden and tighten our belts. All, that is, except the (very) rich. The idea of taxing them more is taboo: if we did, the argument runs, the rich would have no incentive to invest, fewer jobs would be created and we would all suffer. The only way to save ourselves from hard times is for the poor to get poorer and the rich to get richer. What should the poor do? What can they do?

Yes, nice words, nice questions. In an earlier commentary, on the French youth uprising in 2005, SZ mocked the ‘‘search for deeper meaning or messages hidden in these outbursts’ as an ‘hermeneutic temptation’ that ‘needs to be resisted’(Žižek 2008:65). Well and good. Do not offer us the meaning of the riots then – something like Mao’s advice to the Vietcong when they asked for assistance, Mao said ‘tighten your belts’. Ho Chi Minh replied ‘please send us belts’. Some advice misses the mark, but of course we are on the way to Paris…

Although the riots in the UK were triggered by the suspicious shooting of Mark Duggan, everyone agrees that they express a deeper unease – but of what kind? As with the car burnings in the Paris banlieues in 2005, the UK rioters had no message to deliver. (There is a clear contrast with the massive student demonstrations in November 2010, which also turned to violence. The students were making clear that they rejected the proposed reforms to higher education.) This is why it is difficult to conceive of the UK rioters in Marxist terms, as an instance of the emergence of the revolutionary subject; they fit much better the Hegelian notion of the ‘rabble’, those outside organised social space, who can express their discontent only through ‘irrational’ outbursts of destructive violence – what Hegel called ‘abstract negativity’.

This rabble comment – intentional cheap provocation – is pretty unwelcome alongside the reference to Paris, which is surely there to remind us that after the death of Bouna Toure and Zyed Benna, Sarkozy had called the rioters a rabble – or racaille. And why is it so hard to grasp the uprising in ‘Marxist terms’ – as if these were some fixed codec, always the same, never to be worked out anew in each contingency. Here we have people – well, so-called ‘rabble’ – breaking the bond between exchange value and commodity and its hard to see a Marxist angle? I find that pretty strange. Best look more closely for what is really going on. Let us how we don’t get some smuggled in parable about perception and the jedi mind-trick parallax wheelbarrow syndrome… oh no, its roll out number 346 of the barrow gag:

There is an old [old and worn - ed] story about a worker suspected of stealing [spurious accusation against the worker here] : every evening, as he leaves the factory, the wheelbarrow he pushes in front of him is carefully inspected. The guards find nothing; it is always empty. Finally, the penny drops: what the worker is stealing are the wheelbarrows themselves [the worker makes the wheelbarrows, the theft is by the factory owner who employs guards to ensure that the worker offers labour for free]. The guards were missing the obvious truth [truth, or 'hermeneutic temptation at play here], just as the commentators on the riots have done [yes, we can agree perhaps that the commentators are the guards... stupid guards] . We are told that the disintegration of the Communist regimes in the early 1990s signalled the end of ideology[votextual shift of analytical level - I like it] : the time of large-scale ideological projects culminating in totalitarian catastrophe was over; we had entered a new era of rational, pragmatic politics. If the commonplace that we live in a post-ideological era is true in any sense, it can be seen in this recent outburst of violence. [here comes the zero-degree point again] This was zero-degree protest, a violent action demanding nothing.[nothing?] In their desperate attempt to find meaning in the riots, the sociologists and editorial-writers obfuscated the enigma the riots presented.

At one level, anything becomes enigmatic if you squint at it long enough. But I have been looking at this Zero degree point a long time and SZ has said some enigmatic things that keep on repeating. We should ask how the riots are a ‘violent action demanding nothing’? We can go back a bit to and earlier ‘event’ horizon and hear SZ say something that is now becoming very familiar. In his book ‘Welcome to the Desert of the real’, again citing Hegel, he had discussed New York on Sept 11 2011, suggesting ‘‘the ultimate aim of the attacks was not some hidden or obvious ideological agenda but – precisely in the Hegelian sense of the term – to (re)introduce the dimension of absolute negativity into our daily lives’ (Žižek 2002:142). Basically, the attackers had no message, and no list of demands:  “The spectacular explosion of the WTC towers was not simply a symbolic act (in the sense of an act whose aim is to ‘deliver a message’): it was primarily an explosion of lethal jouissance, a perverse act of making oneself the instrument of the big Other’s jouissance” (Žižek 2002:141). Later, in the book ‘Violence’, SZ calls terrorist attacks and suicide bombings a ‘counter violence’ that is a ‘blind passage a l’acte’ and an ‘implicit admission of impotence’ (Žižek 2008:69). We might pass over the curiosity that Žižek chooses the infirmities of blindness and impotence to characterise the terrorist suicide bomber, as if the twin towers indicated a doubled scene of masturbation (too much and you lose your sight) and castration (impotence, symbolic castration of the towers, mummy daddy, invocation of old psychoanalytic staples). But the task of a critical commentary is not just to stop and stare at the primal scene of nothing.

The protesters, though underprivileged and de facto socially excluded, weren’t living on the edge of starvation. People in much worse material straits, let alone conditions of physical and ideological oppression, have been able to organise themselves into political forces with clear agendas. The fact that the rioters have no programme is therefore itself a fact to be interpreted: it tells us a great deal about our ideological-political predicament and about the kind of society we inhabit, a society which celebrates choice but in which the only available alternative to enforced democratic consensus is a blind acting out. Opposition to the system can no longer articulate itself in the form of a realistic alternative, or even as a utopian project, but can only take the shape of a meaningless outburst. What is the point of our celebrated freedom of choice when the only choice is between playing by the rules and (self-)destructive violence?

No organization? And ‘the rioters have no programme’? ‘Opposition to the system can no longer articulate itself”. This blind acting out, deployed to the WTC in New York or to London, and similar to SZ’s view of the slums, where people are  ’in dire need of minimal forms of self-organization’ Parallax View (Žižek 2006:268),  is deeply problematic – why would we not diagnose this as a distortion of a kind of vanguardism, as an ego-driven projection on the part of the commentator who wants to critique the commentators, in a sub negative dialectic?

Alain Badiou has argued that we live in a social space which is increasingly experienced as ‘worldless’: in such a space, the only form protest can take is meaningless violence. Perhaps this is one of the main dangers of capitalism: although by virtue of being global it encompasses the whole world, it sustains a ‘worldless’ ideological constellation in which people are deprived of their ways of locating meaning. The fundamental lesson of globalisation is that capitalism can accommodate itself to all civilisations, from Christian to Hindu or Buddhist, from West to East: there is no global ‘capitalist worldview’, no ‘capitalist civilisation’ proper. The global dimension of capitalism represents truth without meaning.

Badiou? He too thinks there is no message: Badiou writing of September 11, 2001, starts his essay on ‘Philosophy and the War on Terror’ by saying ‘It was an enormous murder, lengthily premeditated, and yet silent. No one claimed responsibility’ (‘Polemics’ 2006:15). The fundamental lesson is not to see any of this as programmatic, until I tell you too. The main contradiction is here – no to the mute terrorists, rabble, rioters, commentators, yes to wordless world ‘events’ as interpreted by the blind jouissance of those who would still, despite all this, draw fundamental ‘lessons’ from globalization. Indeed, lessons, but not truth without meaning – rather, an analysis of contemporary capital that cuts.

The first conclusion to be drawn from the riots, therefore, is that both conservative and liberal reactions to the unrest are inadequate. [Yes, agreed]. The conservative reaction was predictable: there is no justification for such vandalism; one should use all necessary means to restore order; to prevent further explosions of this kind we need not more tolerance and social help but more discipline, hard work and a sense of responsibility. What’s wrong with this account is not only that it ignores the desperate social situation pushing young people towards violent outbursts but, perhaps more important, that it ignores the way these outbursts echo the hidden premises of conservative ideology itself. [yes,and with reactionary ultra-punitive 'fightback retribution when the ideological goes wrong].When, in the 1990s, the Conservatives launched their ‘back to basics’ campaign, its obscene complement was revealed by Norman Tebbitt: ‘Man is not just a social but also a territorial animal; it must be part of our agenda to satisfy those basic instincts of tribalism and territoriality.’ This is what ‘back to basics’ [is this a cimena reference to the Christina Aguilera video?] was really about: the unleashing of the barbarian [Conan!] who lurked beneath our apparently civilised, bourgeois society, through the satisfying of the barbarian’s ‘basic instincts’ [more film refs!] . In the 1960s, Herbert Marcuse introduced the concept of ‘repressive desublimation’ to explain the ‘sexual revolution’: human drives could be desublimated, allowed free rein, and still be subject to capitalist control – viz, the porn industry [see, its was always heading to video]. On British streets during the unrest, what we saw was not men reduced to ‘beasts’, but the stripped-down form of the ‘beast’ produced by capitalist ideology [and some sort of 'Wild in the Streets' scary Zombie movie]

What SZ surely means is not what ‘we’ saw, but what the press and the commentators and the conservatives saw. What we saw was a lot different. From looting and violence to laughter and excitement, from community solidarity and euphoria to reactionary not in my back yard nimbyism. Maybe SZ means ‘what we were made to see’ when he refers to the stripped-down beast here. Surely he is not saying this was the ontological status of the streets at the time. This so-called beast was laughing, chanting, organized…

Meanwhile leftist liberals, no less predictably, stuck to their mantra about social programmes and integration initiatives, the neglect of which has deprived second and third-generation immigrants of their economic and social prospects: violent outbursts are the only means they have to articulate their dissatisfaction. Instead of indulging ourselves in revenge fantasies, we should make the effort to understand the deeper causes of the outbursts. Can we even imagine what it means to be a young man in a poor, racially mixed area, a priori suspected and harassed by the police, not only unemployed but often unemployable, with no hope of a future? The implication is that the conditions these people find themselves in make it inevitable that they will take to the streets. The problem with this account, though, is that it lists only the objective conditions for the riots. To riot is to make a subjective statement, implicitly to declare how one relates to one’s objective conditions.

Who is this ‘we’ you talking about white man? David Starkey and the stench of bourgeois race supremacy lines up alongside this kind of comment – what we can imagine about them others, them beasts, them out on the streets. Time to take a walk outside SZ. Am I too ‘cynical’ [its coming] in thinking that the madness of actually hearing from the youth is possible, necessary even. A grime track listing anyone? For starters. Who ‘we’?

We live in cynical times, and it’s easy to imagine a protester who, caught looting and burning a store and pressed for his reasons, would answer in the language used by social workers and sociologists, citing diminished social mobility, rising insecurity, the disintegration of paternal authority, the lack of maternal love in his early childhood. He knows what he is doing, then, but is doing it nonetheless.

Imagine a protester.. you may say I am a dreamer, but I’m not the only one who thinks it might be possible to do more than offer an easy mind game that does ventriloquy for social work – the catch here is the last clause of the above paragraph – the fetishists dilemma – knowing what’s going on and doing it nevertheless.

It is meaningless to ponder which of these two reactions, conservative or liberal, is the worse: as Stalin would have put it, they are both worse, and that includes the warning given by both sides that the real danger of these outbursts resides in the predictable racist reaction of the ‘silent majority’. One of the forms this reaction took was the ‘tribal’ activity of the local (Turkish, Caribbean, Sikh) communities which quickly organised their own vigilante units to protect their property. Are the shopkeepers a small bourgeoisie defending their property against a genuine, if violent, protest against the system; or are they representatives of the working class, fighting the forces of social disintegration? Here too one should reject the demand to take sides. The truth is that the conflict was between two poles of the underprivileged: those who have succeeded in functioning within the system versus those who are too frustrated to go on trying. The rioters’ violence was almost exclusively directed against their own. The cars burned and the shops looted were not in rich neighbourhoods, but in the rioters’ own. The conflict is not between different parts of society; it is, at its most radical, the conflict between society and society, between those with everything, and those with nothing, to lose; between those with no stake in their community and those whose stakes are the highest.

They are ‘both worse’ is Lenin, not Stalin – ‘both are worse’  from ‘What is to Be Done’ part 1, where Lenin is talking about two competing resolutions of the Jewish Workers Union in 1901. Surely a good Leninist should not mischievously be laying traps like this – checking to see if we are paying attention, misattributing classic quotes from the Vlad to Jo. SZ had already attributed this to Stalin in ‘Welcome to the Desert of the Real’ so I suspect its a moment of digital apocalypse cut and paste. The demand to deliver text in a rush. And I am doing it here – cut and say, paste and pay. But this is in the LRB, for which we are encouraged to subscribe. 

Zygmunt Bauman characterised the riots as acts of ‘defective and disqualified consumers’: more than anything else, they were a manifestation of a consumerist desire violently enacted when unable to realise itself in the ‘proper’ way – by shopping. As such, they also contain a moment of genuine protest, in the form of an ironic response to consumerist ideology: ‘You call on us to consume while simultaneously depriving us of the means to do it properly – so here we are doing it the only way we can!’ The riots are a demonstration of the material force of ideology – so much, perhaps, for the ‘post-ideological society’. From a revolutionary point of view, the problem with the riots is not the violence as such, but the fact that the violence is not truly self-assertive. It is impotent rage and despair masked as a display of force; it is envy masked as triumphant carnival.

Perhaps the problem with the commentaries are that they are not riotous enough, not triumphant, not able to see a revolution in carnival, in a moment, in assertion, even if not the ‘true self’ of the ideology carrying (where did you get that lovely outfit) demonstration of ‘irony’ is lagging behind.

The riots should be situated in relation to another type of violence that the liberal majority today perceives as a threat to our way of life: terrorist attacks and suicide bombings. In both instances, violence and counter-violence are caught up in a vicious circle, each generating the forces it tries to combat. In both cases, we are dealing with blind passages à l’acte, in which violence is an implicit admission of impotence. The difference is that, in contrast to the riots in the UK or in Paris, terrorist attacks are carried out in service of the absolute Meaning provided by religion.

This is a cut and past of the exact words from SZ’s book ’Violence’ that I discuss as note 20 in the second of 11 Notes (here). I could cut and paste to here, but then, nah. I repeat often enough as well. Its also not a crime, nor blind act, and certainly not religion.

But weren’t the Arab uprisings a collective act of resistance that avoided the false alternative of self-destructive violence and religious fundamentalism? Unfortunately, the Egyptian summer of 2011 will be remembered as marking the end of revolution, a time when its emancipatory potential was suffocated. Its gravediggers are the army and the Islamists. The contours of the pact between the army (which is Mubarak’s army) and the Islamists (who were marginalised in the early months of the upheaval but are now gaining ground) are increasingly clear: the Islamists will tolerate the army’s material privileges and in exchange will secure ideological hegemony. The losers will be the pro-Western liberals, too weak – in spite of the CIA funding they are getting – to ‘promote democracy’, as well as the true agents of the spring events, the emerging secular left that has been trying to set up a network of civil society organisations, from trade unions to feminists. The rapidly worsening economic situation will sooner or later bring the poor, who were largely absent from the spring protests, onto the streets. There is likely to be a new explosion, and the difficult question for Egypt’s political subjects is who will succeed in directing the rage of the poor? Who will translate it into a political programme: the new secular left or the Islamists?

This, though it might seem so to some, is not off message. The link to Egypt is not over cooked, the implications are important, there is something to learn. The pity might be that we do not also get a commentary on Libya, where another part of this struggle is being played out, not between Islamists and army in cahoots, but NATO imperialism and an opposition, a cruel twist on the colonial project, very useful for those keen to not, especially not, allow any links between the spirit of Tahrir Square, and Tunisia, Yemen, Syria, … Athens… Madrid… Malaysia… Do you remember how very very keen the British police were to not permit a Trafalgar Square occupation? However rife with contradictory forces these events were, they have meaning, and meanings struggled over, and changing, on the streets and in the commentariat, but also, perhaps, too early to tell.

The predominant reaction of Western public opinion to the pact between Islamists and the army will no doubt be a triumphant display of cynical wisdom: we will be told that, as the case of (non-Arab) Iran made clear, popular upheavals in Arab countries always end in militant Islamism. Mubarak will appear as having been a much lesser evil – better to stick with the devil you know than to play around with emancipation. Against such cynicism, one should remain unconditionally faithful to the radical-emancipatory core of the Egypt uprising.

Yes. Zindabad! But also the radical emancipatory core of the London uprisings. Even if this is still to come (yes, reference to Derrida intended – we are not abandoning reading theory, of course we are not – we will read it in the afternoons, between the square and the shops, in the breaks between the meetings.

But one should also avoid the temptation of the narcissism of the lost cause: it’s too easy to admire the sublime beauty of uprisings doomed to fail. [special pleading]. Today’s left faces the problem of ‘determinate negation’: what new order should replace the old one after the uprising, when the sublime enthusiasm of the first moment is over? [change of tone?]. In this context, the manifesto of the Spanish indignados, issued after their demonstrations in May, is revealing. The first thing that meets the eye is the pointedly apolitical tone: ‘Some of us consider ourselves progressive, others conservative. Some of us are believers, some not. Some of us have clearly defined ideologies, others are apolitical, but we are all concerned and angry about the political, economic and social outlook that we see around us: corruption among politicians, businessmen, bankers, leaving us helpless, without a voice.’ [How is this apolitical? THe 'square' is doomed when it become a paragde ground for the trooping of uniform ideas. The square is a debate, and struggle, a contest of interpretations. SZ has a role here]. They make their protest on behalf of the ‘inalienable truths that we should abide by in our society: the right to housing, employment, culture, health, education, political participation, free personal development and consumer rights for a healthy and happy life.’ Rejecting violence, they call for an ‘ethical revolution. Instead of placing money above human beings, we shall put it back to our service. We are people, not products. I am not a product of what I buy, why I buy and who I buy from.’ [Who calls this? A Manifesto? There are many - were there not many different calls? What is the emancipatory core here?]  Who will be the agents of this revolution?[Indeed]. The indignados dismiss the entire political class, right and left, as corrupt and controlled by a lust for power, yet the manifesto nevertheless consists of a series of demands addressed at – whom? Not the people themselves: theindignados do not (yet) claim that no one else will do it for them, that they themselves have to be the change they want to see. And this is the fatal weakness of recent protests: they express an authentic rage which is not able to transform itself into a positive programme of sociopolitical change. They express a spirit of revolt without revolution.

Yes, this gets towards the core problem of the square. The need for a vanguard party. But what sort of party? A party of the celebrity academics interested in parading the ‘idea’ of communism? Or a communist party made in the square (the square, you hippy dip, is a metaphor, gettit?]. I’ll be for the political party, though perhaps I won’t join, and I’ll not want to join the sectarian slagging match of fraction and faction, or rather, waferism – ever smaller slices of who has got the quotes on the Krondstadt (or on what Lenin said when) just so. But still, a party of the new type, I’ll support. Also of the old type. Get out your Mao. Read it in the square, fellow travellers.

The situation in Greece looks more promising, probably owing to the recent tradition of progressive self-organisation (which disappeared in Spain after the fall of the Franco regime). But even in Greece, the protest movement displays the limits of self-organisation: protesters sustain a space of egalitarian freedom with no central authority to regulate it, a public space where all are allotted the same amount of time to speak and so on. When the protesters started to debate what to do next, how to move beyond mere protest, the majority consensus was that what was needed was not a new party or a direct attempt to take state power, but a movement whose aim is to exert pressure on political parties. This is clearly not enough to impose a reorganisation of social life. To do that, one needs a strong body able to reach quick decisions and to implement them with all necessary harshness.

I’m sorry. Are there not also contradictions in Greece? Is there not also a racist, rightist, nationalist element in Syntagma Square? This ending is weird, not because of the call for a Party and the denunciation of ‘putting pressure’ on other parties – yes, yes, of course, of course – but that this scene of self-organising is more promising than Spain or Egypt or London. Why? Is it because there are no Islamists as there are in Cairo? (I am sure there are some). Is it because there are no overly inclusive manifestos as in Spain? Ha. Is it because the Greeks are not shopping as in London? bargain! No, I think there are deeper reasons as to why the commentators are concerned with their distance from meaning. I have learnt a lot from reading these laments, but I think the special pleading to be allowed to say – the ego investment in having a sponsored paywall ad say – is to be studied as well. This too is a question of the kind of organization and kind of leadership there must be in the party to come. Yes, take a ticket and wait your turn. I took mine, in italics. Thanks.

Current Issues in Cultural Studies Sweden June 2011

Current Issues in European Cultural Studies:
ACSIS Conference 2011

Norrköping15-17 June 2011 at Louis de Geer in Norrköping, Sweden
Organised by the Advanced Cultural Studies Institute of Sweden (ACSIS)
in collaboration with the Association for Cultural Studies (ACS)

In June 2011 ACSIS arranges its fourth biannual conference on cultural research, this time on the subject “Current Issues in European Cultural Studies”. The conference will provide an updated inventory of main issues in European cultural studies today, covering cross-European topics and trends as well as regional developments in East, West, South, North and Central Europe. It thus presents European Cultural Studies but also gives a view of Europe through the spectrum of Cultural Studies.

The program has three main levels. First, a series of plenary sessions will deal with selected key current issues for cultural studies that partly connect to European perspectives and partly reach beyond this geographic scope. Second, a set of spotlight sessions open up for presentations and debates on the state of cultural studies in different regions of Europe, leading up to a final plenary discussing whether EU’s motto “united in diversity” is also applicable to European cultural studies. Third, cultural studies scholars from all over the world are welcome to propose and organise group sessions that run in parallel throughout the conference, and may deal with any empirical, methodological or theoretical subject within a wide definition of the cultural studies field. In this manner, the aim is to offer a rich expression of where the cultural studies field is going today, and what is the role of Europe in these developments.


Registration for the conference is now open, and the form can be found here.

The conference is supported by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, Wenner-Gren Foundations, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Linköping University and the City of Norrköping.

Spotlight session 5 – “British Cultural Studies”
Panellists: John Hutnyk, Goldsmiths College, Roshini Kempadoo, University of East London, David Morley, Goldsmiths College, Mica Nava, University of East London
Moderator: Jeremy Gilbert, University of East London

Flowers bloom in (Daisy’s) CCS “vegie” patch!

Ruthless: Written for TT (draft)

Critique of Everything.

Cultural Studies, as the generic name for a range of challenges to thinking that operate through innovative practices of inquiry, analysis and investigation, in a wide range of materials, styles and forms, is under threat in the UK, along with much else. I write and wonder how this extends, and in some ways follows from, forced transformations in other places. As I set down this brief and exploratory meditation, I intentionally choose the format of a provocation so as to underscore what I think and feel is most important. The challenge to thinking that seeks to think differently than we do now. A built-in opposition to complacency. I also write as the Conservative-Liberal Democratic alliance that governs these Islands is introducing an unprecedented raft of cuts, marketization and operationalization of higher education, alongside swingeing cuts in most other sectors of society, and wages war on, now, at least three fronts – Afghanistan and Iraq, of course, and also in Libya. There has not been a more relevant, nor disquieting time, to be a practitioner of critical theory.

We are of a discipline, or are advocates of an inter-disciplinarity, that promised much. How does it fare in interesting times? (‘Everything under heaven is in chaos. The situation is promising’). In all fields of relevance for the practices of cultural studies, the dual context of austerity and war economy demands attention. The No-Fly zone that includes arming recently adopted, and largely unknown, rebels offers a metaphor for the disciplinary regulation of scholarship and the constraints of funding for research. The directives for research funding bodies to adopt themes of interest to government, with an eye to national economic priority, commercial and vocational application, and issues of national security, amount to knowledge twisted to the service of Empire. Disquiet amongst colleagues and protests in the streets, occupations on the campuses, refusals of regulation, threats, strikes, despair, all suggest a volatility that needs to be cut with a knife, or a pen. A double and somehow dialectical impasse that, we should be reassured, the critical and inquisitive, creative spirit of cultural studies is dedicated to undo.

Concurrently, new work on identity and subjectivity suspended within institutional structures and border regimes address bodies and affect with a political sensibility. We write in a war zone, with a siege mentality. The containment of movement in volatile times opens up fissures of feeling and meaning, passionate encounters as well at intractable blockages. One astonishing example of recent work that illustrates a challenging venue for cultural studies is the architectural practice of the group ‘Mes-Architectures’ in France. A body-conforming flight container for deportation, designed for in-hold air cargo, viciously critiques the exclusion, deportation and repatriation regimes of Fortress Europe. The troubling shape of this container, that is so familiar from the catering boxes roughly loaded from the tarmac beneath the plane, recalls the body shape of the Stateless in stasis, prone, trussed, beaten, and soon to be dumped in who knows what no-man’s land from which again and again economic refugees start out endlessly and too often fruitlessly for the apparent richer promise across the border. That every step of the way is subject to costing, charging, extortion and loss is only part of the tragedy. That hostile reception awaits, and that cold-hearted calculation has replaced policies of compassion, are the affective indicators of a moribund culture. Many years ago the discipline of the body was made a theme for Cultural Studies by Michel Foucault. Fruitful work since then has adapted the comportment and affective co-ordinates of contemporary life to be staples of analytic investment. Inquiry troops the colours of social science up the flagpole of anticipation, but then nationalizes the curriculum. Restrictions on visa application, closure of so-called ‘fake’ colleges, privileged export education market for some, declining recruits for others – the UK Border Authority demanding University staff report attendance records for all foreign students. The fall-out here is immense, teaching as surveillance, the border in the classroom. Keeping with the architectural, I have long been inspired by Eyal Weizman’s book Hollow Land (Verso) which is one of several new appraisals of border-politics that embraces theoretical and political engagement. But it also reconfigures – like all good books should – the very possibility of thinking about this topic. We must want destabilizations such as this – Weizman’s book I mean, not the tensions at eh check-point. That the geography of Palestine and the politics of the Israeli military can be rendered three-dimensional shows both the enormity and the stakes of the border as contest. A propositional art work or a pre-propositional theory can cut through the barriers to make space for thinking and to welcome other ways of intervening.

It is the cross-imbrication of interests, politics and practices that invigorates Cultural Studies and offers the possibility of relevance. New media and on-line activisms inspired by philosophical commentary and activist mischief creatively re-tool the cultural industries and challenge marketization. Open source in the political field opens up new vistas for the sociology of struggles and trades union herstories. Multimedia and direct-to-camera journalism, albeit co-ordinated on corporate platforms adopted uncritically (Web 2.0 FB, YouTube) alongside global news outlets seeking untested, and so fresh, talking heads, offers geography reconfigured as a time slot schedule as much as geopolitical mapping. In Jonathan Beller’s book The Cinematic Mode of Production, attention to the gaze an the market of the spectacle advances both film theory and situationist ideas to offer a platform for understanding new media as a terrain of struggle in market, ideology and practice. Just as we willingly go and sit in the dark before the cinema, we also comply with the protocols of the digital. Virtual selves abroad in the world while backache and repetitive strain compensate for touch type immediacy. The world shrunk to a venture start-up as if the assembly of work-station and media-console wasn’t also co-ordinated with wiring configurations, electricity grids and mining industries that make the corralling of workers in all kinds of underpaid labour also part of an integrated geo-circuit.

Libya this week, Bahrain last week, Cairo and Tunisia the week before. We have seen amazing scenes unfold on the global news channels that beam images from elsewhere into our palms, laps, desk-tops and living rooms. The whole world is televised, sometimes from our own street view, as distraction and investment. This scene-setting is often then filtered into a streaming and screamingly traumatic tension, for example the Japanese quake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, as well as the hypocritical grotesque – the  farcical rerun of tragedy in David Cameron’s citation of George Bush seniors’ ‘line in the sand’ comment to justify the full-frontal launch into yet another military imbroglio (Bush Snr in February 1991 re Kuwait, Cameron March 2011 referring to Libya). It may seem that each world leader now needs to access their own brand development option of a legacy war, but of course analysis also shows that arms sales, commercial imperatives, political positioning, and playing to camera for domestic concern are also shaping factors. Even in London the so-called anarchist so-called rioters who broke one or two windows and threw a few missiles during otherwise ‘peaceful’ demonstrations are playing out largely media-tested tropes. That these events are unconnected both near and far is a position held by perhaps only by the fabled nobody of narrative myth. The distraction machine as a weapon of war is our topic.

Television and screens in the context of the short circuit of attention and the long circuit of sociality are pertinent and deserving of close inspection. Our often too quick assumptions that alienation and disaffection are the consequence of corporate media capture of youth can be challenged and debated. A range of possible, creative, apparent misuses of media become interesting. The social in media sounds out a sonic probe for the long-distant and non-locative, non-proximate conviviality of electronic company. We can be together over space, indeed we always have been, even as we value the immediate in a knowing staginess. The pastoral nostalgia for the community is challenged by the specificities and distribution of cosmopolitan competence in so many places. Empathy across airwaves can be as constitutive as close physical contact – and as violent, destructive or mundane. As half a million people marched in London against the cuts on March 26th (this was the Government’s own estimate so we might expand the number) the attempt to distract focus from a large working class refusal of Government policy is set to backfire where the demonization of rioters and rebels is carefully examined. In my experience, the street mobilizations have brought with them an increased analytical engagement – an attention to politics and to meaning that had perhaps been dormant, or buried in a kind of lethargy. The irruption of struggles into the public is itself an opportunity for Cultural Studies, though only in a reworked, re-imagined way. We are all in this together, as the slogan goes.

We can call this being together ‘culture’, but that word is looking decidedly worn – The Expediency of Culture is a very fine work by George Yúdice, critical of the way sponsored and strategic cultural deployments have had commercial and calculating imperatives. The work has released a number of subsequent studies that take on the bureaucratic deployment of culture for gain. In London this means the hype and boosterism of the Olympics, with local initiatives promising much but delivering little – early targets for social improvement quietly abandoned. There is a peculiar and hollow aspect in the sound of State endorsed cultural capital – the tragic and useless life of a salesman already at death’s door, peddling old wares without enthusiasm, not even able to pass for crack whore at the annual accounting meeting. As I write, perhaps unknown beyond the shores of this overworked Island, the current conservative Minister for Universities is featured in the press as having said that he thinks one of the problems for social mobility for men is a consequence of women working. It must be noted that he did say this on April Fool’s day, but perhaps I can be forgiven for not getting the joke. The conservative defence of the family takes on an absurd form, picking a sure to be incendiary fight with the gains of feminism and ignoring the Conservative destruction of the manufacturing sector in the first place. A resurgent feminism – for example the popular text of Nina Power, One Dimensional Woman, from Zero Books, offers a healthy riposte to such tomfoolery.

The point is to take all this together – the cuts, the war, the economy, the struggles. And to then use this resurgent multi-disciplinary enthusiasm for critical work that breaks with the mould of convention. I am reading Amitava Kumar’s new book A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, examines the new literatures that have emerged in the wake of the war on terror post September 11, 2001. By new literatures Kumar means ‘War Lit’ reporting, and ‘Terror Lit’ to which, consistent with his ever-creative drive, he adds to a genre that might be called ‘detainee lit’ – seeing out and interviewing a number of those unjustly or disproportionately incarcerated or persecuted in America and elsewhere by the legal and covert war administration. Among the heart-wrenching cases he reports is a range of photographic interventions curated in galleries that document the lives of detainees, and, in one striking example that deserves more attention, the deployment of photography as a research tool. Photography here is implicated in multiple ways in the production of terror, but some of these documentary practices turn that around. For example, Trever Paglin’s book Torture Taxi seeks out and exposes, thorough a range of media and the investigative techniques of nerdy Plane-spotters and private eye investigators, the ‘dark sites; of special rendition and the kidnapping of citizens of sovereign countries for transport to off-shore torture and disappearance. To turn to photography as a tool challenges it too-easy earlier ascription as fact. The mug shot, the exposé, the front page scoop – photography as evidence has been though the truth test of exploding indexicality. The picture must lie, the editing, cropping and perspectival conditions of partial view are almost so commonplace now they are again obscured. Documentary evidence turns out to be a question of ratings, as Endomol’s Big Brother franchise so successfully had shown, imaging celebrity and everyone in the same blank canvas persona. The most natural performance before the camera is now staged as self-knowing – and didn’t the paparazzi at Abu Ghraib know that, as did the military who hung the hapless Lynndie England out to dry but left the detention system intact.

To have mentioned the torture photos of Abu Ghraib does raise the question of specific responsibility on the part of Cultural Studies. Responsibility to the situation and the circumstances which we can work to know and redress. There remains a felt, but only sometimes explicitly articulated, need to attend to the counter stories of the war on terror without making them a publishing curiosity. I am not keen on conspiracy tales, but I am interested in the efforts of those who would caution and err on the side of proportion by insisting that the excesses of the war are a political strategy on the part of a paranoid capitalism. No need to overplay this drama, the numbers of the dead in the equation have their own tragic eloquence. We do have to look at the photographs and count the dead. There is possibly nothing more important that the injunction to have a look for yourself that is the heart of the investigative impulse behind all study of culture. Interpretation and analysis require working with those who practice, and although of course research can be practice, and indeed no one without the other, the imperative to look to the local meanings and articulate the detailed significance of always complicated predicaments is the beginning of informed and collective participation. I have in mind the careful work of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, the patient effort to rearrange desire and inculcate a lexicon-consulting responsibility in those who would choose, as if any other choice was viable, to fight and write against injustice – her essay ‘Righting Wrongs’ is most salutary in this regard (in her book Other Asias). The narrative the attends to the displacements of desire is a wake-up call. If we are to take seriously the way Cultural Studies sometimes proffers proposals for a renewed democratic culture it means something more than a once every four years celebrity-popularity context that abdicates responsibility for governance to a bunch of barely accountable apparatchiks. The participatory democracy on the cards now, the only one that would challenge the war machine, the bureaucracy machine, the celebrity machine and the television screen, must be a truly militant and informed cultural studies for all. Everything must be studied, occupied, and debated. From all perspectives, and unrelenting. For this we need a critical questioning of everything, a ruthless criticism of all that exists, as Old Beardo once said (Marx’s letter to Ruge). Without a rampant intellectual embrace, Governance is ordering, disorder is control, thought is a box and life is dead. The bombs that are falling and the cuts that are cutting are no way to live, and the collective project of exploring how else to organise things is the only, multiple, extravagant, voracious and viable option.

I imagine these writers, artists, authors and theorists trudging the world as a new shock troop against complacency, never marching in formation but driving thinking and theory with a force towards the responsible and the rampant. Creative outrageous, extravagant and thorough – the stories told here are the ones we must live by. This is a performative Cultural Studies in many ways – a critical theory that has to use the stage to draw all into the possibility of engagement. I imagine a diaspora of the discipline, all secretly ready to adopt the orange jump suit as curatorial uniform, reminding us that detaining possible jihadists (many falsely accused) and depriving them of legal redress (let alone dignity) does not make anyone safer, though it does outrage and help politicise millions. To say this is not a reporting on the militant people’s of the world as some sort of fit-for-purpose surveillance, but it recognizes the hybrid here and there co-constitution of subject and consumption that produces and travels to draw metaphor and meta-theory together as practice. For the dialectic of a critical Cultural Studies, that would look back on the way forward and make the world different to now. Cultural Studies on the march, singing. Zindabad!

John Hutnyk

Nyx – A Nocturnal – issue 4.


a noctournal

Copies of Issue 4 are available – email and you can pay via Paypal, £4 plus postage. Otherwise you can view Issue 4 online on our new Issuu page: Remember – be generous!


Electronic Marx Circuit, and Gas.

Writing about multiple circuits in Marx, I have just discovered (shame for not knowing this) an entire new set – indeed, billed as ‘the’ Marx Generator. There are, of course, also diagrams, and a useful quote:

‘The main advantage of the Marx circuit configuration over a more direct approach to charging is that it overcomes the need for (expensive and bulky) very high voltage capacitors (2.5+ MV), while at the same time building in the function of a pulse forming network.’

From here.

CCS PhD Seminar 2010-2011 (CCS only)

Centre for Cultural Studies PhD seminar 2010-2011

4 Oct - John Hutnyk – introductory and organizational discussion (no pre-reading)

11 Oct - John Hutnyk –

Mussell: Three pages from “Social and Political Thought”

Adorno: ‘What National Socialism Has Done to the Arts’ from “Essays on Music”

Adorno ‘Critique’ – a 1969 radio address, From “Critical Models”

18 Oct – John Hutnyk

Ronell: ‘The Question of Stupidity: Why We Remain in the Provinces’ from “Stupidity”

Ronell: ‘On Television: the feminization of the World’ from “Fighting Theory”

25 Oct – Scott Lash

Sloterdijk: From “Terror From the Air”

1 Nov – Scott Lash

Badiou: ‘Mathematics and Philosophy/Philosophy and Mathematics’

15 Nov – Matt Fuller

Agre: ‘Towards a Critical Technical Practice’

22 Nov – Matt Fuller

Guattari ‘The New Aesthetic Paradigm’

29 Nov – Alison Hulme

Lefebvre: from “Critique of Everyday Life” vol 1.

6 Dec – Richard Iveson

Derrida: from ‘The Beast and the Sovereign’ and

A.Benjamin: ‘Particularity and Exceptions: On jews and Animals’

24 Jan – Bhaskar Mukhopadhyay

Tarde/Durkheim: ‘The Debate’ from “The Social After Gabriel Tarde”

31 Jan – Bhaskar Mukhopadhyay

Joyce: ‘The Social in Question’

7 Feb – Luciana Parisi

James: ‘The Stream of Thought’ from “Principles of Psychology”

Whitehead: ‘Expression’  from ‘Modes of Thought’

14 Feb – Luciana Parisi

Clarke: ‘Meat machines’ from ‘Mindware’

Bateson: ‘Criteria of Mental Processes’ from “Mind and Nature”

Churchland: ‘Introduction’ to “The Engine of Reason”

28 Feb - Bernard Stiegler

7 March – Bernard Stiegler

14 – March – from this date on - PhD student presentations each monday including into summer term….

Working notes for a sci-fi novella (after accelerationism):

Working notes for a sci-fi novella (after accelerationism):

Theme: The romanticism of those who would escape to a world without Skynet is Skynet’s greatest weapon. A boys-own fantasy for which foot-soldier anarcho-neo-cons are fully trained and computer literate, knowing the blue pill will bring on an Armageddon for which they have prepared all their lives, in which they will be heroes, have warrior wives and send loyal lieutenants to certain death. Of course what they really want instead is the red pill of an endless deferral, in which they have all the time in the world – indeed, more than all time through the recombinant feedback loop of time-travel-altered futures, with Eloi-friendly-replicants sent to protect and serve, displacing inevitable Borg dominance one episode at a time… The John Conner god complex requires a transcendental observer using the force to manage the time shifts – Guild Navigators or the Weyland-Yutani Corp itself perhaps – happily ventriloquizing conspiracy theory with theological Jedi-speak and Deleuzo neo-liberal buzz words.

At best this is concrete poetry with a phraseology that signals its own black humour. At worst, the new horizon has three levels of myopia: first, an unapologetic ethnocentric and Eurocentric metropolitan class privilege in which the non-west is always an undifferentiated dystopian slum gridded over with vectoral finance flows and gap-year flexi-workers on the make. A second affliction is the abstract esoteric framework disconnected from agency and any semblance of political organization – the untermenschen believe and know the movement will be there for them, and will creatively transform and terraform all, but they can do nothing to make this happen but wait upon the coming of Lensman Thead. And thirdly, the clerical crypto fascism of the god complex, grinning at the coming conflagration with no idea how to oppose a Capital with tanks that will only ever change when compelled by struggle.

And in the time before Skynet, which is always yet to come, there will be 8ft pixies and a forest enhanced with fairy lights. Perhaps a point-of-view android to sucker in the kids. Hey Boxey.

Recently, at the Centre for Cultural Studies

In June we hosted a hugely successful kind of double event, taking place in two locations London and Gothenberg, Sweden. The first part was a discussion of race and politics with keynote speakers Professors Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Fred Moten in conversation. Over 300 attended, and the highlight was Gayatri Spivak’s three hour examination of the 7 pages of Franz Fanon’s work where he discusses the philosopher George F. Hegel – what was stunning about this was a group of scholars consulting texts in three languages: the Hegel in German, the French translation Fanon used, Fanon’s own French text, and the English translations of both Fanon and Hegel. A seminar those there will not forget, or recover from, in a hurry (we are currently transcribing it for a book). The meeting then continued on the theme of Borders at a week long conference as part of the Clandestino Music Festival in Sweden, attended by over a dozen of the Centre’s PhDs, where Professor Spivak was again the keynote, but alongside other attractions such as DJ Watts Riot from Fun-da-mental and the immortal Caribbean sonic dub master Lee Scratch Perry.

This musical turn in the Centre for Cultural Studies may have hinted at new directions, since the Centre’s end of term party – always a hot ticket at Goldsmiths – also featured two bands – the local eccentric pop outfit ‘Diaphragm Failure’ and the Boston based Pakistani Punk band ‘The Kominas’ (famous for tracks like ‘Jihad in Amerikka’ and ‘Suicide Bomb the Gap’). A conference on Piracy and Pirate Radio is just one of the things in the making for the next year.

Two Docs: Jeff Kinkle and Chin Fang Chang

All smiles at CCS as two more find their way to the bar.

Super congratulations.

Who is next??









And the line up for both the September and January ceremonies (depending on corrects/paperwork times) just gets bigger and better.

Will pre course massive expansion be funded?

I haven’t been involved in this venture to offer year long fee paying access courses to potential international students. But still I am concerned as to how we can do this at Goldsmiths, how anyone could afford it, and when we would make our ‘expected’ contribution (course offerings and the like). CCS already works at optimum capacity plus some. Who could possibly consider spending any time on this?

The admin says this is largely an undergrad thing: “We are looking towards a suite of one-year International Foundation Certificates leading potentially to any of our undergraduate degree programmes”

Though the outline document does mention there will be a future postgrad component: “An important further consideration here is the role of (four-year) Extension Degrees and Integrated Degrees. There seems no imperative to change something that is working well, but we might want to review nomenclature and should certainly bring all the international routes under one heading for marketing and recruitment. We propose a similar suite of one-year Diplomas for pre-Masters students, but the extent to which we might want to customise these is up for discussion.”

No doubt quality will be assured by some quality review committee, but I have my doubts about its long term viability. Smells like a quick money grab to me.

Taking into account the imperative that a university provide for the greater uplift of all through education(!), do we even want to do this? I work in a research centre. I do not want to malign the job the LSC people do, or anyone else at Goldsmiths, but I wonder how long we can maintain standards with the potentially massive expansion this might bring – it would be so dodgy if we ended up with low quality hastily organised slapped together bits of courses, taught mostly by VTs I bet, with random samples of other courses haphazardly arranged, and no-one in the departments charged with (or paid for) oversight of quality, so no doubt leading eventually to constraints and stress, and in the end ripening us up for privatisation (all this eventually co-ordinated and taught by some unaccredited private company as was mooted but defeated two years back)?

Am I the only one who thinks this is a hostage to fortune scenario? at the very least, it does not seem to me to be something a research centre would want to do? We are hard pressed to get our own research done as it is. We need more time not less, we need space and staff. We are already over capacity, despite our successful ‘quality’ review.

Congratulations Dr Theresa Mikuriya

Passed into PhD-ness on this day. Examiners Peg Rawes and Scott McQuire. Heading to the Amersham now!

Black Skin White Marx – 4 June 2010 Goldsmiths

*Black Skin White Marx?*

Goldsmiths Centre for Cultural Studies present a special intervention:

Professor Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (University Professor and Director of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University, USA) and Professor Fred Moten (Professor of English, Duke University, USA) will be speaking in dialogue with Karl Marx on issues of race, critique and the possibilities for a radical politics to come.

4th June 2010, 1pm-4pm
Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre
Goldsmiths, New Cross, London
SE14 6NW
All Welcome

Goldsmiths Centre for Cultural Studies in association with the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Goldsmiths Graduate School, Centre for Postcolonial Studies, Department of Anthropology and Department of Media and Communications

CU71012A “Cultural Studies and Capitalism”

Hi – If you are coming to my course on Marx’s Capital in 2010 (starts Jan 14th), for the first lecture it would be helpful if you have seen, or again seen, Orson Welles’ film ‘Citizen Kane’. And if you know someone who is going to do this course and wanted to do some Xmas period (or Mao’s birthday – 26 Dec) shopping and get them a present, it would not hurt to get them a box set of “Battlestar Galactica”. – J

Lecture course Spring 2010 – Centre for Cultural Studies.

CU71012A “Cultural Studies and Capitalism”

Lecturer: Professor John Hutnyk (thursdays 11am-1pm [Tom's seminars 3-5]).

This course involves a close reading of Karl Marx’s Capital (Volume One). The connections between cultural studies and critiques of capitalism are considered in an interdisciplinary context (cinema studies, anthropology, musicology, international relations, and philosophy) which reaches from Marx through to Film Studies, from ethnographic approaches to Heidegger, from anarchism and surrealism to German critical theory and poststructuralism/post-colonialism/post-early-for-christmas. Topics covered include: alienation, commodification, production, technology, education, subsumption, anti-imperialism, anti-war movement and complicity. Using a series of illustrative films (documentary and fiction) and key theoretical texts (read alongside the text of Capital), we examine contemporary capitalism as it shifts, changes, lurches through its very late 20th and early 21st century manifestations – we will look at how cultural studies copes with (or does not cope with) class struggle, anti-colonialism, new subjectivities, cultural politics, media, virtual and corporate worlds.

Indicative reading:

T Adorno, The Culture Industry

A Ahmad, In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures

M. Taussig My Cocaine Museum

G Bataille, The Accursed Share

K Marx, Capital: Volume One

Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto

G Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason

S Zizek, Revolution at the Gates: Selected Writings of Lenin from 1917

S Lotringer (ed), Hatred of Capitalism: A Reader

Many of the lectures will include visual material. Very occasionally this may be part of a feature film or a longer documentary and on such occasion the rest of the film should be viewed in the Library. Usually a short screening will occur in the second hour of the scheduled lecture.

The main reading will be the relevant chapter or chapters of Capital each week. Do also read the footnotes, they are sometimes quite entertaining (attacks on ‘moneybags’, comments on Shakespeare, notes on bamboo ‘thrashings’, and celebrations of the work of Leonard Horner, factory inspector). The key secondary text will be in a reader pack available from the CCS office

Mode of Assessment: This course is assessed by a 5,000 word essay to be submitted to the Centre for Cultural Studies office early in April 2010.

December 2009 in Kolkata

113_1387I am lucky enough to have been invited to go to Kolkata in December for a symposium on the “Cultural Politics of Preservation”, organised by Gayatri Spivak. Was asked today what I would present on. Gulp. I have no idea yet. How about this:

To work among the masses – co-research, institutionalization or vanguard intervention?

I am interested in the ways intellectual work, debates around method, and the ethical position of both the academic researcher and the vanguard political intersect with questions of preservation and globality.

Inspired by, and critical of, several examples in relation to this, I have three themes: a) I want to talk about the Co-Research or Class Recomposition Studies approach that emerges from Autonomist Marxism in Italy in the 1970s and which has been discussed a great deal by European activists in recent years (eg Kolinko group); b) my second ‘case study’ is the traditional project of ‘Anthropology’ as an institutionalized way of both ‘going to have a look for yourself’ and of inscribing ‘peoples’ inside a global knowledge apparatus (libraries, textbooks and the like); and c) my third example is the problem of the vanguard party and what, and how, it knows about the ‘masses’ (from Mao’s report on Hunan to the critique of Leninism today).

In this way, a perspective on the critique of cultural preservation might be developed drawing on my previous work on cultural exotica, rumour, writing and activism.

[I am not sure if this will work out, but I think its where I am just now]

There was also a request for some relevant representative work (let’s debate that term, ‘representation’). I sent this lot:

(pic -taken on the train to Kolkata)


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