Tag Archives: cultural studies

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:

http://hutnyk.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/junglestudies.pdf

http://hutnyk.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/ershybrid280104.pdf

http://hutnyk.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/bataille.pdf

(pic -taken on the train to Kolkata)

Ten Years of the Centre for Cultural Studies

warsaw-varsovia-posterToday I was asked for a summary of things happening in CCS over the past year or so (our tenth year). Here are the highlights as I see them (please add anything I’ve missed, or links I did not have handy):

As part of our tenth year, Goldsmiths CCS:

- bombed Warsaw with poems – see here;

- with funding from the AHRC Beyond Text program we have challenged the routines of border thinking in CCS workshops in Berlin and soon Copenhagen (here);

- held a lively month long CCS internal debate on new directions in cultural studies/what is CCS – called ‘Attack the Headquarters’ (see here);

- welcomed Professor Stiegler’s appointment as visiting professor [and endured Professor Hutnyk's inaugural lecture 'Pantomime Terror'];

- enjoyed visits from scholars such as Professors Gayatri Spivak, Celeste Olalquiaga, Walter Mignolo;

- saw the launch of a new postgraduate run Cultural Studies ‘Nocturnal’ – a magazine a web precence that is fabulous – see “NYX, a Nocturnal” – issue three due soon.

- initiated an annual walk across London visiting sites associated with the German theorist and revolutionary thinker Karl Marx, called ‘The Marx Trot’, reaching from Highgate Cemetery to the bars of Tottenham Court Rd (see here);

- continued research work on economic flows in China (Prof Scott Lash has a major grant for work in China); we welcomed the publication of Jennifer Bajorek’s book ‘Counterfeit Capital: Poetic Labour and Revolutionary Irony’; we continued to be active in a number of social and political issues pertaining to cultural studies (Palestine solidarity, on immigration control and spurious visa restrictions, anti-racism and the G20 police crackdown…);

- ran four MA programs with good enrollments and attracted 13 new PhD students to our doctoral program, and more…. See HERE

CCS STATEMENT OF OPPOSITION TO THE NEW REGULATIONS IMPOSED AS A RESULT OF POINTS-BASED MONITORING

frompda%2B010To:  Goldsmiths, University of London

We are strongly opposed to the implementation of the new attendance monitoring policy and related policies that have been imposed on our university by the Home Office under the new points based immigration system recently introduced in the UK. We invite our colleagues in at Goldsmiths and across the University of London to join us in voicing their opposition to these policies and in fighting their implementation
The new regulations make us do a policing job in our classrooms, turning both academic and administrative staff into agents of the UK Border Agency. We object to this for reasons both political and professional. We are concerned that the regulations represent possible breaches of European human rights conventions and seriously threaten our students’ rights to mobility, privacy and education. Although recent changes to implementation of the law have expanded the scope of student monitoring and reporting–with the result that policies explicitly targeting the monitoring and reporting of information about non-EU students have been expanded to include the monitoring and reporting of information about all students–this does not disguise the fact that these policies are discriminatory in intent and will very likely be discriminatory in practice. International students are an integral and valued part of our community, and we do not accept any measures that will lead to the unequal treatment of non-EU students as a result of their enrollment on our degree programmes.

As will be evident to anyone involved in teaching and learning in a university environment, the new regulations are ill adapted to that environment and out of touch with the lived realities of our work. They detract from academic freedom and will have profoundly negative impacts on the relationship between staff and students, which should be one of trust, not of spying and control. The turnaround time stipulated for the reporting of student absences is unrealistic, and the new regulations will lead to increases in workload for both academic and administrative staff. In the case of our own academic unit, the very premises of attendance monitoring fundamentally misconstrue our mission as a postgrad teaching and research centre. Finally, the regulations raise questions as to the security of staff, placing them in a position where they are probing into and ultimately violating students’ rights. Because staff will be unwilling to inform on students in a way that results in their expulsion from the UK, the regulations may also have the effect of discouraging staff from enquiring after students’ well-being, interfering in our ability to carry out pastoral duties and threatening students’ security as well.

In raising these concerns, we join colleagues at Goldsmiths and at other higher education institutions in the UK, who have publicly stated their opposition on related grounds (Goldsmiths UCU; UCU Black Members’ Standing Committee; UCU Black Members, University of Kent; Manchester Metropolitan University; a coalition of institutions in Liverpool; as well as the Institute of Race Relations and the National Critical Lawyers Group). We also join, significantly to our mind, Goldsmiths Student Union, which in November 2008 passed a motion asking staff not to comply with the new rules.

Finally, the new immigration policies are of urgent concern to all at a time when our university communities are facing unprecedented economic pressure. Due to new (and excessively stringent) financial requirements of students applying for visas to study in the UK, the new policies will have negative impacts on recruitment. These will hit us immediately, at a time when we are under pressure to increase international student enrollments college-wide. The difficulties recently reported by postgraduate research students who have applied for visa renewals in the final months of their degree work are also worrisome and stand as further evidence that the new immigration rules will detract from the quality of teaching and learning and are ill-adapted to our mission as a university.

We sincerely hope that Goldsmiths will insist on being a teaching and research institution, and that it will maintain its commitments to its educational mission by opposing the implementation of the new Home Office regulations both on our campus and in the context of the growing national campaigns.

Scott Lash, Director, Goldsmiths Centre for Cultural Studies

Centre for Cultural Studies Staff
Jennifer Bajorek
Josephine Berry-Slater
Matthew Fuller
Graham Harwood
John Hutnyk
Breda McAleer
Bhaskar Mukhopadhyay
Luciana Parisi
Lisa Rabanal
Adela Santana

Things to do – research council wish list

piratesofthecaribbean2_trailer_41As part of my job, late Wednesday evening, I am filling out a ‘response form’ for an Arts and Humanities Research Council ‘consultation’. I include it here as I expect this draft not to get past the photocopier… The consultation form asks, in somewhat bureaucratic survey format, for me to opine on things that might be good to do if one had the ear of the research councils. Obviously this is a task in delicate expectation hampering, utopia limiting, reality conscious compromise. And surely I am not the best person to be quizzed for viable schemes – heaven forbid. Yet how about we do some things like:

a) a Global Politics Institute. Such an institute could be based on the sort of thing we write in the Goldsmiths MA Postcolonial brochure which addresses: ‘The emergence of China and India as global players; of the Persian Gulf, Africa, Brazil and Russia as hubs in the world resource economy; the crisis of the nation-state, and phenomenon of ‘failed states’, and the development global governance; the rise of global terrorism after 9/11 and geo-political instability in the Middle East; the snowballing of the metropolitan credit-crunch into global financial meltdown’ Such an institute would investigate issues of intellectual property rights, social capital, financialisation, global governance, democracy and secularism. An institute like this would deal with issues ranging from the representation of terrorism and fear to images of poverty and charity (double standards) in Asia and Africa; from questions popular democracy and people’s movements in India and Latin America to the volatile debates over human rights in China and over the environment in South East Asia (Malaysia, Indonesia). It would be an important forum for shaping intelligent debates with intellectual rigour and a rounded – can I say wholesome – approach to life and struggles.

b) An Art and Politics Institute. This would be an exciting move because, as the Goldsmiths MA Art and Politics website suggests, this would recognise ‘the appeal within arts colleges, and among art students, to ‘situate’ practice in terms of current contemporary discourse has increasingly led to the incorporation of political and social theory into art school courses’. It would, as also noted, ‘investigate shifts in the relationship between art and politics – theoretically, historically and operationally. Using a diverse range of discourses, the programme will consider, from a variety of perspectives, changes in the relationship between politics and art’. Good stuff.

c) a Centre for the Study of Alternative Futures would support research around climate issues, anti-capitalism, syndicalism, autonomous Marxism, new communism etc. The success of the recent Birkbeck ‘Idea of Communism’ conference – with 800 delegates on each of the three days – suggests a massive untapped potential for a politically relevant philosophy. AHRC could take the lead on this, to its great credit.

What else:

Foster a critical intelligence, a rampant creativity that is more than just cramming.

Reverse the tendency towards conformity.

Against vocationalization of the curriculum.

The push (obsession) to regulate training by research councils has been a disaster I think. Departments doing flips and twists to appear to provide a comprehensive training that is frankly not suited to purpose. It cannot be – there is no uniform code for research at PhD level. The production of a common bland formulaic (quality assured) set of inanities simply does not produce the kind of curiosity, creativity and inspiration that is required for the research we want our students to achieve. Rather, fund existing researchers to pass on experience by example, not how-to sessions called ‘how to type a bibliography’ or ‘mock celebrity 101: publicizing your research in the press’.

Promote dissemination of ideas by encouraging and funding open source journal access, universal distribution of print and electronic resources (beyond the universities as well) an end to the prohibitive costs for journal subscriptions, support for alternative publishing, weblogs, print on demand and the like. The development of adequate public libraries….

Conduct a serious public forum in each university (Bombard the HQ) – as a regular event on each calendar – exposing core aims and objectives of research and the research councils to critical public evaluation. Invite profs and people from all walks of life to an open-ended, ongoing, policy making (ie., empowered to enact funded policies) long-term, reflexive debate about what a research council or university researchers ought to be doing.

Topics for discussion:

- complications of Govt funding v. autonomy/academic freedom

- how might the centre v margin privilege of research, in all its forms, be undone

- race, class and gender bias in research/academia

- vernacular research and researchers

- concept of a community university, solidarity with universities destroyed or hampered by war, such as in Palestine.

- experimental/inspirational futures

- art and politics

- postcolonial…

Run a campaign for unrestricted transfer of academic personnel between countries. Reverse the damages caused by the new points based immigration system and other restrictions on international travel. A national campaign against the requirement that academics take on the work of the UK Border authorities, turning academic relationships into acts of surveillance and distrust.

Reward internationalism, don’t punish it.

Better meals, more coffee, a decent bookshop…

ahh, this is getting silly – its late, lets go do something useful…

Economy of contribution

deckchairWe’ve had Bernard Stiegler at CCS this year (and next). Radar has kindly posted two video interviews on the Economy of Contribution event held at Goldsmiths a couple of months back.

This one and a half day workshop was hosted by the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College, London on February 10th/11th 2009. It was organized by Scott Lash (CCS), Bernard Stiegler (Centre Pompidou/CCS), Robert Zimmer (Computing), Nina Wakeford (INCITE, Sociology) and Götz Bachmann (CCS). The event was kindly supported by Intel Research.

The Stiegler video is embedded here (there is also an interview with Scott Lash on the radar site):
Interview part 2: Bernard Stiegler from ‘studioincite‘ on Vimeo.

we are not bored, we are amazed

gates-devilArdent watchers of the Goldsmiths CCS website (get a life) will have seen that the student generated images we used to have up have been replaced by some sort of corporate gimmick-cum-hack. Possibly designed to upset us and cause controversy in some sort of twisted viral marketing scam. I’m sorry, I think its crap. I’ve written the ‘webteam’:

For the CCS pages we used to have a set of student generated images appear on our website. These have been replaced by some corporate images that we do not approve. Could we please restore the images we had, and please advise us of how we can update these in due course.

We are quite amazed that anyone at Goldsmiths would think Bill Gates was a suitable representation for any part of the college, but the other images are fairly dire as well (though this last is my personal opinion – not backed up as yet by surveys and a campaign: though one could be arranged).

Your rapid attention to this would be welcome as it is causing us some embarrassment.

It has also been pointed out that Gates is the emblem of proprietary corporate software and there is insufficient support for freeware in the college. We would like to see some discussion of this on the part of IT – what is your position?

Fun huh. Did you ever read Kafka’s bank clerk correspondence – its what I aspire towards with this letter (but do not reach the heights). Yet with regard to this, there are some who do think this is a good opportunity to raise questions about IT support for Linux and other freeware. I agree, but am also concerned that we lost the good images we had before and it clearly emphasizes – despite our many moans against this – that we have no say in our representation. The default strategy is towards centralization and cretinization. I include the offending picture of gates as a cut-out-and-keep dartboard target, but also note some of the other images are appalling. Go have a look and help viral marketing do its job – pah!).

The point is that we used to provide the images – there were several great shots from students from a few years ago. So one of the main problems with this is that the images we had before by CCS students are gone and now once again we have no control over our own site. Today it would make sense to have a series of images from our publications – from the CCS nocturnal journal Nyx and from our books etc.

Its either a hack or there has been a centralized coup which must be reversed immediately. I personally have nothing against Gates, just his god awful charitable do-gooderness, his smarmy philanthropy, his rampant greed, his well-ugly fashion sense, and his vampire-like operating systems (and I do not mean windows, I mean capital).

Someone should start a facebook group to get him off site! That’ll work huh. And we are not even talking about the fine print – some sort of strange cut and paste about Hitler. If you search long enough also a swastika juxtaposed with the logo of IBM circa 1924 (about when William Burroughs dad had sold his shares in the company).

So I should also say: if this is indeed a ‘clever’ hack, or what for Goldsmiths art-types passes for a ‘political’ intervention, well more power to you. But go spend your time hacking the G20 Govt site, or the UK Border Agency Education devolvement plan (where we are to be asked to be the front line of the immigration crackdown). Double pah!

Update 27.3.09: Not a hack but Graham’s intended conversation starter. The criticisms stand though, having swastikas above our heads is offensive in the extreme.

Update 28.3.09: So thanks to Lisa, the webteam’s Tanith McCrindle has taken two of the images down: the Gates/Hitler text one and the IBM/swastika one (I am not contesting the validity of the intended critique of IBM or Gates, just its effectiveness in the context and the unintended juxtapositions it thereby achieved with staff photos smack underneath swastikas etc). I’m pleased these are gone but still pretty pissed I/we have no immediate control over what juxtapositions appear over my/our name/s and that I got calls from family, emails from college staff and questions from prospective students about this. It has only been, I think, a mildly damaging exercise for CCS – but its certainly not our most glorious chapter. That said, I agree the old images needed work, and also think Darren is right to ask, as he does in the comments below, ‘what happened to the new images that he and other students submitted for the CCS site just a few months ago, following a public solicitation from the department?’.

Theatre-Border

bordertoySlowly the form of our meeting in Berlin has been taking shape, via disparate (and desperate?) emails, haphazardly. That will no doubt continue, but I think it good to gather it together here (in dialogic form):

John: I’ve no idea yet as to just what the Berlin workshop should be in April (week of 20th) – I just think we might want something on how the whole performance of Borders, or the Border Crossing, might make possible new thinking around immigration politics, border controls, divisions and divides etc.

What I am keen to do is extend from the discussions we had in the November meeting that raised issues around how people rethink the border when it comes to sound and through musicking, collaborative work, festivals and solidarity. And how the character of sound crosses the border differently perhaps – the metaphor of the sonic which moves us away from a visual and geographic conception of the Border. Is there something in the theatrical that tampers with border protocols that we can develop? Is the ‘live’ of theatre of use for thinking border as event? Is there something about the performance of the guard, the applicant, the visa, the passage. And that the border is performed everywhere, all the time, in the street, in the gaps we act out between each other? In the courthouse? In the detention centre? Or maybe either more esoteric, or more material – is the border a stage, or ‘in the round’? Are there actors, directors, a troupe – is it a puppet show? Is the border equipped with a back stage, house lights, curtains, inner circle and  ‘the gods’ – what is its architecture? Is it opera, Brecht, or vaudeville? Is a rose by any other name a border control? or… Something like this/anyone?

Rustom: Many thanks for your very insightful comments relating to the border.  Flogged to death as it is in a great deal of performance studies and cultural theory, it still continues to provoke and challenge.  Following the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, I guess it is the porosity of borders that is called into question, raising uncomfortable questions relating to surveillance.  India seems to be caught in a double bind:  on the one hand, it’s obvious that our existing mechanisms of surveillance are woefully weak and overly bureacuratized; on the other hand, in strenghening them, what are the implications for minorities and those migrants without papers who can be easily targeted?

Markus: As you know, here in Berlin we have a long tradition of thinking about crossing borders in terms of performativity and the “framing” of cultural and aesthetic borders. There sure are quite a number of theoretical approaches that deal with the problem of border-crossing within the arts and humanities and it seems to me that the
next step would be to reimplement these ideas back into cultural and political theory.

Why not give each day a different topic, held together by the overall theme of body, theatricality and performativity in regards to bordercrossing or the blurring of borders? In this case it could very well focus especially on bodily borders, right? The political, social and phenomenological integrity and dignity of borders (or boundaries) between bodies perhaps? Combined with the old psychoanalytical question if there is such a thing as a coherent body with distinct borders in the first place, there should be many interesting opportunities for thinking about surveillance and counter surveillance for example. Or the notion of “staging violence” in the media. Just my quick two cents.

John: You had asked what the Clandestino people are doing. Their project for Berlin is derived from work on a play they are doing about the Detention Centre. Its due for performance in December 09 but the text will be ready (only in Swedish) in Feb. We will try to have it translated before April. This started because I said I would like to really push the Detention Centre as border idea. I’ve written on barbed wire before – its a border that really cuts into the body. A harsh theatre is required for this: http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/489/detention.html

So Aleksander and Johannes have written a play, “FÖRVARET” (The Detention Center)? It will be performed at Göteborgs Stadsteater with premiere December 2009. They say they ‘think it is very good starting point for a discussion on the complexity of border surveillance seen from an inside the border control perspective, what happens with language of emotions in the context where the “not quite criminals”, those people who have been taken into “custody”, been placed in the “detention centre”, not beeing criminals for something that they have comitted but for a border they have transgressed. This is what me and Johannes have been working out in “Förvaret”.

Aleksander says: ‘I think my other colleagues Michal Azar (philosopher (Fanon, Lacan, Sartre, Camus, postmodern thinkers)/historian of ideas (war of Algeria)/play writer) and/or Edda Manga (philosopher (feminism, postcolonialism, postmodernism)/historian of ideas (the Idea of a Just war from Victoria/bartolome de las Casas, etc)/activist, . . . ) would be great to bring since they are very much of intellectuals that can “reimplement the ideas crossing borders in terms of performativity and the “framing” of cultural and aesthetic borders back into cultural and political theory”. Also Cecilia Parsberg, artist that did many projects in on the Wall in Palestine’.

John: unfortunately we don’t have funds to invite other visitors, but if people could make their way to Berlin…

Things to discuss:
Format – ideally not too much lecture format. Lets experiment with formats. Panel discussion, round table, theatrical metaphor for seminars?

Text – three days, three themes related to Border performance. One on bodily Border. Another on Surveillance (of bodies, borders, nation states). Another one ___ detentions?

Participants: several of the PhDs have suggested good things. I will ask them to write up a paragraph for their presentations. Especially good ideas from Jen, Ray, Cristobal and Nick. So, more to come here, but at least we have a start. Comments welcome.

The main border page, with the back story to this event, is here.

[The picture is from Emile's wish list on Amazon. Check here and read the comments].

Stiegler at Goldsmiths CCS Feb-march 09

isterbs*BERNARD STIEGLER *will give four lectures
Organised by: Centre For Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths
All welcome

4 February, 13.00-15.00
Ben Pimlott Lecture Theatre
THE PROCESS OF EXTERIORIZATION AND THE EPIPYLOGENETIC MEMORY

11 February, 13.00-15.00
Ben Pimlott Lecture Theatre
THE QUESTION OF THE PHARMAKON

25 February, 13.00-15.00
Ben Pimlott Lecture Theatre
MNEMOTECHNICS AND GRAMMATISATION

4 March, 13.00-15.00
Ben Pimlott Lecture Theatre
GRAMMATISATION, PHARMACOLOGY AND THERAPEUTICS AT THE AGE OF INTERACTIVITY

Bernard Stiegler is a Professorial Fellow at the Centre for Cultural
Studies from 2009.

He is also a director of the department of cultural development  at the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris, and a professor at the University of Technology of Compiègne where he teaches philosophy. Before taking up the post at the Pompidou Center, he was program director at the International College of Philosophy, Deputy Director General of the Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, then Director General at the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM). Bernard Stiegler has published widely on philosophy, technology, digitization, capitalism, and consumer culture. Among his writings, his three volumes of /La Technique et Le Temps /(English Translation: /Technics and Time/), two volumes of /De La Misère Symbolique,/ three volumes of /Mécréance et Discrédit/ and two volumes /Constituer l’Europe/ are particularly well known. Professor Stiegler has a long term engagement with the relation between technology and philosophy, not only in a theoretical sense, but also situating them in industry and society as practices. He is one of the founders of the political group Ars Industrialis based in Paris, which calls for an industrial politics of spirit, by exploring the possibilities of the technology of spirit, to bring forth a new “life of the mind”. He published extensively on the problem of individuation in consumer capitalism, and he is  working on the new possibility of an economy of contribution.

Please reply to Dr. Olga Goriunova <o.goriunova[at]gold.ac.uk> for enquiries.


Dr. Olga Goriunova
Lecturer in Interactive Media
Centre for Cultural Studies
Goldsmiths, University of London
New Cross
London
SE14 6NW

[image from Dan Ross and David B's film The Ister].

Nyx, a Noctournal


Launch Party for Nyx, a Noctournal

When: 20 November 2008, 7-11pm
Where: upstairs at the Gourmet Bar, 44 Lewisham Way, New Cross, London.

In honour of the first issue of the journal Nyx, a Noctournal created by current and former students of the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London.


Performances will include readings by Marc Teare, Olga Panades, Tamsyn Adams and Jonathan Brookes, as well as a screening of Olga Panades’ video The City of Fear.

Come and see the issue, buy a copy, have something to drink and enjoy performances by the writers of Nyx, a Noctournal!  And bring all of your friends!


Roshan Seth

Once Upon a Long Ago, Far Away a Time… Roshan Seth <pic 1> was in My Beautiful Laundrette (1985), a Stephen Frears film from a Hanif Kureishi screenplay. Kureshi, a *force* in British theatre and film, once said of The 1001 Nights – a book I will speak more of later – that it was the greatest book of all’ (in My Son the Fanatic [Kureishi 199x:xii]). His own story in Laundrette <pic 2 Laundrette ad> includes a portrait of a vodka-swilling, bed ridden, socialist-journalist father of ‘white-boy kissing’ Omar (see Desai 2004:vii), played by Seth. There are problems with the film, but I was happy to organise the first ever screening in Australia back in 1985. Controversy over its troubling sexual politics – an Asian boy fucking a fascist – possibly overshadowed the economic crisis built into the plot – financial meltdown and social decay mixed with Thatcherite opportunism and rampant greed, a volatile mix that might seem familiar today.

Roshan Seth was in a lot of films – from Monsoon Wedding, London Kills Me and The Buddha of Suburbia, right through to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) <pic 3> , and instead of showing Seth, I have a picture <pic 4> that is the height of exotica-schlock-porn-horror – is the heart-tearout scene where Amrish Puri who played Mola Ram>. Here I’d just point out how this is a classic image of cod-exotica… this is a classic orientalist film …the Temple of Doom houses a Thuggee cult – I’ve written about this in relation to Calcutta and Exotica, thugs would take a rupee, tie it one end of a length of cloth (a dupatta?), and strangle their victims from behind – causing terror on the roads). Anyway, in the film Seth was Chatter Lal, Prime Minister, and I don’t have a photo of him. He (and Puri) had a role the year before in Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982) – the story goes that some protested about Gandhi being represented at all, since he was like a saint and he should be presented simply as a white light crossing the screen. <Gandhi pic #5 – seems from this still that Attenborough tried to achieve that effect with Ben Kingsley>. Seth was Nehru in the film, prime minister again. When I was in Manchester I went to a fundraiser for Akbar Ahmed who was keen to make a rival bio-pick of Pakistan founder Jinnah (eventually released 1998). It was to be equally respectful of the other leader of the anti-colonial struggle. A thousand ponds a head dinner, I was there as ‘anthropologist’ and they were thinking of having none other than Ben Kingsley also play Jinnah. In the end they got Christopher Lee, with disturbing vampire associations, he faced death threats and needed body guards as people in Pakistan were, perhaps rightly, concerned at the quality of the movie. Ahmed himself, a Cambridge University Islamic scholar said his film would be respectful and truthful, not at all going in for scurrilous point scoring, it would report Nehru’s affair with Edwina Mountbatten, but not try to suggest the then soon to be Indian Prime Minister was corrupt or complicit in any way.

Roshan Seth was also Beria in the bio pic of Stalin (1992 – Robert Duvall in the lead role <Stalin Beria pic 6>). So the whole gamut of dress up roles are his – socialist-journalist in bed, thrise times Prime Minister of India, and NKVD executioner.

[more parts of my talk from last night will come when the hangover subsides... Thank-you to everyone who came last night, the students, past and present, who wrote in my little red book (great gift) and for the flowers, wine, books, more wine. thanks to the staff of the college who made it possible - from the media technicians hassled with a last minute panic, through to Geoff who contrived such a marvellous introduction. Thanks to everyone who came, from near and far - hi Cheryl - and Ange, Johhny and Freddy... Thanks Adela for the video record that appparently captures all four mentions of Emile. Thanks everyone who came.]

Release – Graduate Student Conference, 02/09/08

Release!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

10am – 6pm

Ben Pimlott Lecture Theatre

Graduate Student Conference

Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London

Release! is the Centre for Cultural Studies’ annual MA students conference: a moment of friendly and relaxing interactivity. Everyone is invited to attend, participate and discuss about the latest outcomes of cultural research at Goldsmiths.

To release refers in this case to the act of unbinding or undoing – not as a denial of the path followed over the course of the degree, but as a turning point. The momentum of the flow of the activity is no longer inwards, but becomes released outwards; the solitude of reading, researching and writing is replaced by the joy of sharing and questioning.

Being Released! can be a physical activity of liberation from confinement, obligation or even pain. It can also be a device put into place to unfasten a mechanism.

Release! provides the opportunity to celebrate an activity that has reached its end…in order to be replaced by other activity.

We extend a warm invitation to all to join us next Tuesday, 2 September in the Ben Pimmlot Lecture Theatre, 10am – 6pm.

Later, party!

This is the Release! of our papers and our Release! party!


Release.ccsgold@googlemail.com

http://releaseconference.blogspot.com/

AtHQ – Let’s take over the CCS

In the attack the headquarter events there were voices asking for changes. Some were exited, some were frustrated, some were content, some were dissatisfied. What could we make out of that? What comes next after the head quarter was attacked? What if there remains another headquarter with a new dress?

Did we just create something that further justifies our existence and our way of being? We, teaching staff and students, are all fulfilling the request of institutions, since we have been codified by a series of formats, phd seminars, reading groups, exams, panels. The way the programs are planned and carried out already determine our ways of being and codify our identities – both as individuals and as an institution.

We appreciate all the discussions during the 12 hours meeting, we are also impressed by most of the insightful critiques. The wishes for changes, transformations, and twists were, however, not common wishes. They did not have a goal, a direction, or a unified identity. What comes next is still a question?

This is where we can start. Instead of thinking of how to improve teaching and learning, we want to think from the perspective of community. Institution itself brings us into being, but there lies another concern of “being with”, which has more to do with interaction, communication. This does not mean coming behind one cause, under one banner, but it means being together after we have come together. The task is not to define a common goal or to change the institution, because we are the goal and we are the institution.

We are writing to invite your participation to a project, which aims at a more radical way of rethinking the event. We have only one proposition to make: WE HAVE TO TAKE OVER THE CENTRE TOGETHER. The only way to attack the headquarter, is to abolish the headquarter. We, the students and those staff members who are willing to, should take over the planning and the building of the centre (not the money or the jobs) – for one year as an experiment. To “Take over” is not to replace the headquarter, or seize the power, but to conquest the headquarter with a new form of communication – through being together, and starting our thinking as well as our learning all over again each day. There is no power to be seized, there is only power to be or to do.

We look for a communication, which transforms the relations between educator and educatee from a subject-object relation into a process of active sharing of knowledge, experience and intuition. It means deconstructing the hierarchies and identities we have voluntarily taken as students and teachers, as experts and non-experts. We can start it as a project. We can call it minoritarian thinking. We can call it learning with each others, instead of from others.

What are the questions to be asked? Maybe we should not have any predetermined way to do things, we should not do anything if we do not want it. We can ask, who should plan the MA and PhD programs? Do we want a PhD seminar? If we do, who should plan it – the students or the staff, or both? Do we want to read in the seminars, or do we want to start our thinking from somewhere else? How can students take part in the research? How can we make students contribute, give, instead of taking or receiving? How could students run the centre together with the staff, or how can we abolish these identities altogether?

You can say that we have already asked these questions, that we already have more freedom than many others. But our task is to ask, whether this really is the case… Let’s ask ourselves: why do we have readers waiting for us when we enrol; why does the staff know what the students are doing but the students do not know what the staff is doing.
As we all know, the main obstacle for changes in the academia has traditionally been the common reluctance to give up the structures of power and authorities. If we have any trust at all in the CCS, we must believe this cannot be the case here. In other words, this is not supposed to be a student revolt, but creating a coming community for all of us at the CCS.

We, the initiators, call for everyone to take over our thinking, as an opening but not as a ready-made program. We do not have any answers to your questions: the communication should start here: we want to here your responses and meet you next week at Laurie Grove. Meanwhile, all those interested, please, contact us or use the newborn wiki: ccsgold.pbwiki.com

Yuk Hui: huiyuk(a)gmail.com
Hanna Kuusela: hanna.r.kuusela(a)gmail.com

AtHQ – Defending the Headquarters

Does cultural studies have its own territory that is worthy of being defended?

Given that the autonomy of disciplines has been vehemently debated and de facto denied as usefully productive by many, how can cultural studies be the source of any resistance whatsoever without staking out a particularized terrain and theatre of potential operations? (channelling Boris Groys in Art/Power”, 2008)

 What would a practice-based PhD look like in CCS that would of necessity claim its territorial, conceptual, and political stakes here as opposed to Visual Cultures, Media & Communications, or Fine Arts? How might this be a useful and even crucial attachment as opposed to merely a convenient academic anchor?

Surely CCS must argue for some particular autonomy (to bring in a much disputed term).

The greater or at least ancillary challenge however would then be to tamper with/expand the existing definitions and formal requirements of the PhD at the level of the university which has very specific guidelines/understandings of what a thesis project should look like.

Who are we? What do we do? How do we do it?

I’m stating the obvious when I say that it’s important to acknowledge that our concerns (collectively and individually) are not necessarily one and the same (something Jennifer notes on her blog entry). The challenges for students and by extension their needs are not identical to those that face faculty as ongoing members of the Goldsmiths research and academic community.

The questions of “who we are” (institutionally as CCS housed within Goldsmiths, as cultural studies in the UK more generally, as researchers—faculty and students) and “what” and “how” do we do the things that we do, must then be continually re-worked and productively coupled with the more urgent question:

“How is a subject of any kind produced in the world”? To attack the headquarters must, in my opinion, place this question at its core.  

Seminars & Events

I think its important that faculty have agency in terms if bringing readings forward to the student seminars. This doesn’t have to be an overly consultatively process because its impossible to know in advance what it is that might perturb and/or provoke us – something that may be embedded in the readings themselves or be triggered in the resulting discussion.

I’m not overly concerned in having my own particular interests mirrored back to me but rather am much interested in the unexpected – ideas that enter into the orbit of my universe that I had never considered before or even knew existed.

Real interest can only ever reside in the fact that one does not know a priori what history these discussions will ultimately be a question of.

I can’t speak for my fellow students but feel that it is important to go to seminars and be actively involved in the events at the college because this is generally where life-long networks are established – to remain in the contact zone so to speak, so that we might create new categories of assembly that don’t as of yet exist.

These are emergent processes that can happen both organically as  students get together in self-organizing reading groups, arrange screenings, facilitate events etc., but can also be evolved through the structural and formal elements of CCS.

There are PhD programs where one can happily sequester themselves at the British Library for four years but it seems to me that CCS was set up in part to counter this model and provide alternate modes of critical engagement – what these are exactly is what this series of discussions is attempting to figure out.

CCS as a Collective Project

I’m committed to CCS as a collective project but also recognize that it contains within it many heterogeneous subfields of potential. I propose mobilizing small-scale intensive projects under the auspices of CC that can connect faculty, students and ideas to other research/creative clusters (in the UK and abroad). This is not to “go out in the world” as was critiqued last time we gathered because it presupposes that we [CCS] are not of the world but rather to acknowledge our potential to connect with other non-aligned organisations/entities.

For example, the Roundtable in Research Architecture at Goldsmiths has been involved in various conferences, exhibitions, and events under the collective banner of RA. We have even opened up our PhD seminars to the public upon certain occasions. 

Could CCS operate as a larger structural device (a kind of resource galaxy), that would consist of smaller subgroups and organisations (cultural constellations) each of which would participate in public events and research activities as specifically named entities? I know that the urgent issue of our of relevance with respect to the college is linked in part to perceptions of visibility and profile. Although these identifiable subgroups would be anchored within CCS and publicised as such, these smaller categorical assembles would allow different constituencies and ideas to move and in out them as needed.

 Some Basics 

  • we need to stop making distinctions between theory & practice and understand them as mutually affected terms and terrains of culture making
  • we need to refrain from picking and choosing between practices – privileging certain practices over others
  • when we approach a non-textual work entirely through the register of language potential tools for thinking are lost 
  • we need to develop alternate forms of critique and evaluation appropriate to different forms of practice (whether this is the crafting of a philosophic concept or the scoring of a musical composition)
  • we need to acknowledge and articulate the ways in which practice retrospectively performs itself as research
  • we need to reinvent components of the thesis requirements = adaptive structures that allow other temporal and spatial elements (non-textual) to move into the thesis project

AtHQ – Containment … Gesture … (negative) … excess(?)

‘Attack the Headquarters’ has left me thinking about certain themes that I feel permeate much of the debates. When approaching the ‘AtHQ’ event I was energized, as I was hoping that this event would allow a space for the creation/deployment of a clearly articulated and mutually constituted base level of consensus amongst the staff and the varying tiers of the student body. Maybe this was an unfair expectation, as much a product of my own lack of experience of these events as much as it is also a product of a certain spirit of hopefulness I find I cannot yet shake from myself. This belief being an a priori belief in the power brought into being by the collective assembling of human beings around the singular moment. I only feel it necessary to outline this above concern in order to situate my understanding of the ‘AtHQ’ meetings so far as being in some senses in conflict with, but also indebted to my a priori privileging of the coming-together of human beings. It should also be noted that I am as of yet not in the position of posting or proclaiming an absolute judgment on any perceived, on my own part at least, eventual outcome of these events.

I feel that in some senses the concerns that have been raised for myself are broadly to be collected, for my own understanding as much as anyone else’s, within the three notions I have used as a naming for my post. The first concern is not in any way predicated on any kind of assumption of priority, but is merely placed first as a way for me to think through my response. The concern I have is to do with the concept of containment. I don’t deploy this term within a strictly disciplinarian way, I’m not, for example deploying the notion of containment that accompanies the handling of viral outbreak or nuclear meltdown, but rather as the way in which containment could be said to delineate or construct the outer most point of a concept or debate. This may be a fluidic or permeable outer most point, but I feel that there is still an method of the deployment of ideas or debates that seeks to define, and in some sense it is this mode of definition that I want to address.

I have been thinking about the way in which there are ‘concerns’ implicit to the making of an event like this, but I feel in some sense it is also these very concerns that generate the problems in and of themselves. The premise of ‘AtHQ’, at least as far as I am aware, or have been made aware, is that this is some formal point of departure, or an active moment of movement, in which there is a certain degree of expectation that some formal ‘gear-change’ will occur. It seems to me that the debates thus far have operated along the lines of defining the quality/qualities of the varying methods or modes of analysis or encounters offered and taken up by the active participants, of the bodies, present within the CCS as an institution in itself. It seems to me that the general tonal quality of the provocations made within the confines of the ‘AtHQ’ event is a continual repositioning of the goal-posts, so to speak. In a sense, it seems as if there is a continual struggle (in the less than epic sense) over not just what, but how to define the terrain within which ‘Cultural Studies’ is deemed or “allowed” to operate. It is this moment of (silent?) confrontation that I feel is also the causal moment from where the originary process of containment emerges. In the process of defining the qualitative concerns within/under which we as ‘critics’(?) operate I also believe we construct the very conditions for the self-annihilation of any attempts made to ‘change-gear’. It is as if the harder we accelerate the deeper our wheels bore into the mud

What I am advocating here is not a nihilistic inversion of this problematic. Just because we are in the mud, does not mean we are wrong to make the journey. I do not see ‘AtHQ’ as unnecessary in light of the issues of (self)containment through definition, in fact in some senses I think ‘AtHQ’ becomes more of a necessity. But the issue of self-containment I feel cannot be understood without relating it to the second term of my title which is gesture

By the term gesture I also wish to invoke the relationship that gesture has to the notions of etiquette, manners and gesticulation. In this context I view the concept of gesture as having a quantitative relationship to the related terms I have outlined. I see gesture as a delineation of a unit of etiquette and manners. Although I will not remove the qualitative relationship between the terms, I will begin by addressing gesture as a unit of behaviour, or more broadly a unit of action

For me, manners and etiquette are a way of constructing an economy of gestures, a system of exchanges and valuations that determine the relation of one unit of gesture to another. The issue of containment is also for myself a matter of the deployment of a unit of gesture. The moment of definition undertaken in the moment of containment is for myself a gestural moment. It is point at which a relationship between the individuated gesture is brought to market and is given a value based upon its relation to the value embodied in gestures, by way of the previous containment of preceding gestures in the economy of manners. For myself, the containment of definition only seems to present itself as an issue for nihilism, or self-redundancy, in that it can at any moment reinforce the asymmetry of the economy of manners. In this economy of manners, of etiquette, I do not see the notions of ‘critique‘, ‘innovation‘, or ‘institutionalization‘ as bringing to bear any form of non-value, or anti-value. These concepts cannot but participate in the difficulty of the moment of gesture and the process of self-containment through definition. It is for myself rather the relation between these notions as units of gesture and between these parts as parts of the economy of etiquette that recreates the problematic of the defining moment.

It is at this point that I feel that the last term in my title needs to be highlighted. As it may be recognised, the term is itself already included as a problematic, it is the notion of (negative) excess(?). The reason for my listing of this idea in this manner is also a product of the idea itself. By (negative) excess(?) I mean a lack, but which is conditioned by the presence of itself. In this sense (negative) excess(?) is akin to a certain understanding of the notion of ‘forgetting’, but whereas I view ‘forgetting’ as an empty space conditioned by the dropping of a ‘thing’, I view a (negative) excess(?) as in some ways the inverse. It is a nothing that is actively present (this statement should not be read as a statement on the interpretation of these terms made by others, but as my own treatise that is not intended as a contention against the use of these concepts elsewhere). From this ‘definition‘ of (negative) excess(?) I take it as an important concept in the relation of gesture to the problematic of self-containment through definition. The process of self-defining containment as a marshaling of the unit of gesture will, in my view at least, always leave a (negative) excess(?). There will, in the process of the exchange of units in this economy of manners, always be a nothingness that is only there by its presence, not it’s forgetting

In some senses, this is almost a blind-spot, which seems to be a useful gesture of definition generated by this series of events. But I would try to avoid the notion of (negative) excess(?) being a space of ‘not’ seeing, but as an actually present part of what is being seen, in some senses the (negative) excess(?) is what is seen. The process of ‘critique‘ or ‘defintion’ I outlined earlier are in my view at least, struggles (again, the non-epic kind) over where the placement of this (negative) excess(?) should be. When there is a struggle over the deployment of units of gesture in the context of the construction of the necessary cartographic definition of the terrain of the what/how for and of Cultural Studies and the CCS, I cannot but feel the need to insist upon the (negative) excess(?), the thing that is not there but in some senses casts itself as an inevitability

For me, the (negative) excess(?) is a fundamentally ethical and political problematic. When the forces of critique are intended to be brought to bear upon some part of the map, in what sense will that attack only alter the view we have of the part of the map the attack takes place in by simply moving this (negative) excess(?), rather than say an attack that rewrites the very borders in which we find our attack confined and defined. If force is placed anywhere, how can there not be a weak point in the defense in any possible moment of counter-attack? The only solution I can view, and this is only my pint of view, is that this (negative) excess(?) is not merely a hindrance, but is also a key tool for strategically coordinating the attacks we make on the headquarters

As all acts of definition are contained or implicated in the economy of manners, I see our (negative) excess(?) as no less a hindrance for ourselves that the (negative) excess(?) that conditions the counter-attack that we may receive from the headquarters. Thusly, we must understand the gestural methodology employed by the headquarters in its moment of defining its maps, and move against it. The headquarters is part of a system of speculation in the economy of etiquette, defining and applying value to not only this economy on the collective scale, but also at the point of the unit. By containing the individuated unit of gesture within a certain terrain, the headquarters creates it’s own (negative) excess(?), it is here that I see as the point of the map where we should be.

We must always be fighting the method of definition employed by the headquarters by not avoiding their sight, but being the one thing that cannot but be avoided. As the headquarters assembles a map, we must make ours faster, whilst they assemble their forces, we must assemble ours faster, and whilst they prepare for a counter-attack we must already be mounting the next offensive.

And this can only occur, in my view, in the knowledge of the methods of definition of gesture used by the headquarters through it’s participation in the process of the valuation of these selfsame gestures. The methods of valuation we employ are only effective in light of their relationship to the methods of valuation used by the headquarters, not by the divergence of methods employed by our forces in any one of our attacks. It is not how we define the heterogeneity of attacks we make upon this supposed headquarters, but by the commonalities we share that allow for us all the occupy the point of the headquarters (negative) excess(?).

It is here that I feel I can return full circle to my opening remarks about the a priori expectations I came to this event with. It is not so much the defined qualities of our individuated gestures of critique that define the value of the critique. There is not innate value to any critique outside of it’s placement within an economy of etiquette, which are in a sense already predefined by the valuations made in the very moment of the deployment of any unit of gesture. It is rather the commonality, or ‘brought-togetherness’ of these units of gesture. It is the very process of the creation of the singular moment in which an assumed commonality is possible that will allow for us to best formulate the next line of attack, and allow for us to plot out where the headquarters has placed its (negative) excess(?). Although this process of formulation will not be within the worry of becoming stuck in the mud, once we are all here it becomes less a matter of frantic pedal pushing, and more a matter of us all putting on our wellington boots, exiting the vehicle and collective dragging ourselves out of the dirt.

AtHQ – Concerning ‘Attack the Headquaters.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please respond.
Thank you.
- Darren Flint.

AtHQ Round 2

With the second part of Attack the Headquarters coming up this Tue 27th (2-6pm, RHB 150, as before), would it be worth asking if there is anything in particular that participants would like to see happen differently from the first day – in particular in terms of the collective discussions? The provocateurs lined up will surely set the tone and direction of much of the meeting, but I wondered if there were any practical issues arising from the last session that anyone felt needed addressing?

One comment I heard a couple of times after the last session (in amongst all the encouraging feedback and debate) was that some people almost felt afraid to speak up for fear of antagonising others in the room. Now although AtHQ is not the place for direct personal attacks, nor perhaps for purely negative criticisms (whether of selves or others), at the same time people should not feel they have to keep what they see as burning issues bottled up. If anyone feels that there are topics, questions, issues that ought to be addressed but are somehow getting left out, then it is important that everyone present feels they can point to these omissions. In terms of what I was saying in the last session, the very definition of a blindspot is that you can’t see it: we need each other to point them out.

This, incidentally, is also an issue of relevance to every seminar/workshop/reading group… Any ideas on how we can make people more comfortable in speaking out/up? Or indeed, any other practical suggestions for the form of the discussions on the second day?

AtHQ: Jennifer Bajorek

AtHQ session 14 May

What I tried to say and would say again:

1. On the Centre as a disciplinary entity versus the Centre as inserted in an institution

I was happy to hear from Luciana that we are done talking about interdisciplinarity! I take this to mean that it is no longer helpful to think about what we do in the Centre or in/as Cultural Studies in terms of disciplinarity either. Maybe we’ll still have to say these words from time to time, in contexts void of actual thought, but they won’t have meaning. This would be the place to open a parenthesis on who we are, as many of “us” will not ever be in these contexts (academic job interviews, writing grant and book proposals, etc.), and so a parenthesis on the divide between “the teachers” and “the students,” to which we should try to be as attentive as possible without succumbing to delusional fantasies that we can make it go away. I was grateful to Luciana for making this clear and to all the others who affirmed after she spoke and in the pre-event posts.

Indeed (on the divide again for one second), it became clearer to me as I was going on about the Nigerian delegation that there may be some static or dissonance around what staff and students experience on precisely this question of a happy post-discipline life. I have this vague impression that students are more likely to feel that they “chose” a discipline and a degree programme with a proper name attached to it whereas I as staff have the luxury of feeling, most of the time, that I have been chosen and even rewarded (or punished…depending on the day) for my refusal to cave to disciplinary protocols. This is partly idiosyncratic but it’s an idiosyncracy clearly shared across the Centre staff. What I’m trying to remind us of here is that what is at stake in commitments to a discipline will be, basically for structural reasons, something pretty different depending on whether one is looking at the thing from the perspective of student or staff. This is part of what gets picked up in the conversations I have sometimes overheard about our relationship(s) to “British Cultural Studies.” Our relationship(s) to it apart from being it (which is the reason, or one of them, I take it why John located our discussion “in the UK”). If the 19th century university gave us these disciplines, that is, these little boxes to shut ourselves up in, it was clearly important for British Cultural Studies to undo all that: the compartmentalization of knowledge, particularly of knowledge as specialization and all of the attendant scientific rationalizations of power.

That moment is dead. We inherit from this project and and we reap the benefits, but the forms taken by these rationalizations are changing all the time and so the responses must also change. We do and we don’t inherit this project. I take that to be the point of the Attack in the first place.

I’m new to the UK. This is part of what I meant when I said I don’t actually know what the institution is. I also meant—and this is what I wanted to say about the Nigerians with whom I met for several hours Thursday morning—is that none of us can afford to be too complacent about knowing or understanding what the institution is. You may think you know what the institution is, but whatever it is it’s going to change on you—and fast. There are proposals getting shot around the College in every department and every centre every day that are similar in intention. Not all the proposals are equal, which is why it is worth thinking about how we can be involved at the proverbial decision-making level. I am not proposing we have to accept the analysis handed down to us (for example, that increasing enrollments and particularly enrollments on the MA programmes is the future and the only way to go), but it does mean we need to be thinking a bit about what the consequences of some of these decisions will be and on a more general level about what is going on. (We could also mention those baloney (Bologna?) accords that will radically change the way our MA courses are taught, and not for the better.)

2. Show me the money

Someone said something during the session about the “stultifying power” of institutions. Maybe they stultify in the sense of make us stupid. But even if this is the case, there is no outside of institution(s) (as the “Critique of Violence” session was basically screaming). I would suggest that institutions are not about stasis per se but rather about the vesting and protection of vested interests. Goldsmiths–if we can accept this name for one level of institutional insertion we share, even if it is not the only one–is under pressure to divest and reconfigure its institutional-libidinal-economy in some pretty radical ways. Students experience this pressure, which is obviously financial but which can be expressed, despite this obviousness, via all kinds of weird displacements, and they respond by lamenting (rightfully) the lack of books in the library or the lack of face time with professors. We as staff experience it in all of these ways, and students are very good about reminding us, and more.

One of the things I have been getting told that my students clearly have not (at least not yet)—and I had just been told it three times in one week by higher-ups in College administration before walking into Thursday’s session—is that the college needs to generate a 2.2 million pound surplus by the end of this year. This in order to maintain status quo. Students can complain to me all day about wanting a smaller seminar, more face time, etc., and I can turn around and try to talk to my “line manager” or to the big boss. No matter what I say, I will get told to go make some money.

We need to think collectively about our future as inserted in (an) institution. Our response could take a thousand different forms and ought to take place, it seems to me, on a thousand different levels. It was helpful, by the way, John, to have that clarification of the Centre’s historical position in terms of staying under the radar. This moment is, or should be, behind us also.

3. There is not only the institution and/or where is the decision-making level?

We are also always more than, or in excess of, institution. Luciana’s reminder about Graham and the projects he is working on with the local Congolese community was about this. There are other institutions, and new ones, in play in that work, and when I told my students in the Text and Image lecture (think it was Hegel?) that knowledge always gets produced in connection with institutions, this doesn’t mean that the institution comes first and the knowledge gets made in it, or that knowledge is appropriated by institutions or whatever. This can be a very loose “in connection with,” and it can remain unknown, or up for grabs, or totally labile.

This is why I cast the meeting with the Nigerian delegation as a possible index of change or as a marker of institutional lability. There could be something there, in that particular instance, to seize or be seized. But it was more as a marker of other possibilities, possibilities that might be invented, to think and work more radically on, or through, the forces (the violences) that also produce the horrible things. At the very least, it serves as a reminder that some things can change within the institution at lightning speed. Perhaps only where people are chasing the surplus, or think they are chasing it. Maybe we decide we can work with this, on it and through it, without compromise, for a different agenda. Maybe we decide we can’t, and we take a different position.

Where is the decision-making level? Is it actually on top? Is it ever really there? Isn’t this just swallowing exactly “what they want you to believe”: hook, line, and sinker? The culture of student passivity (the fear of speaking we touched on) makes me utterly despairing here. The fantasied contact between some of the highly compartmentalized spaces I work in—the things that happen in the meeting rooms of the delegations AND the things that happen in the classroom—is about this. I walk into one room and see totally labile structures, everything on fire, and five minutes later I walk out again and into the next room and see total paralysis. Sometimes the second room is the classroom sometimes it is the first.

That’s the truly excellent thing about AHQ. That it is getting these spaces into contact. Thank you all (and my apologies for being late and unprepared in the moment: we did a session swap thanks to pathogens).

basta

Jennifer

AtHQ: transversality – Luciana Parisi

Attack the Headquarters – this is Luciana’s presentation from after the break on the first session of AtHQ.

Luciana Parisi – AtHQ: transversality

When one thinks of attacking the headquarters, one assumes, especially in the context of the geneaological history of Cultural Studies, that a critical point has been reached in the formation of the Cultural Studies entity who thinks of itself as having a core and a periphery. Now one may wish to discuss if this model of core- periphery is actually in place here or whether this model stems from the institutional stratification of cultural studies, whose propositions for practice-based research, uniting theory with the every day as well as make of the every day a political, aesthetic, economical investigation of structures of power, have actually become sites of production for maintaining and renewing structures of power. I am referring for example to the institutional and disciplinary pressure that has smoothened the edges of cultural studies through the simplification of ideas, the ready made application of concepts, the formats of practices organized around the categories and the positions of an empirical structure of knowledge. In a sense the space of thought and for thought in Cultural Studies has become repressed by a common sense appeal to the pro-active machine of cultural and creative capital whose apparatuses of capture have become intrinsic to research and to institutions of knowledge where what rules is a pre-emptive set of initiative, creativity, and innovation prefabricated for specific outputs – conferences, publications, research projects, as well as artistic productions, and all sorts of public and community implementations, translating science into art for instance.

In this context Cultural Studies has created itself as a credible discipline – a sort of minor sister compared to her older sisters, above all sociology, philosophy and economics- sustained by the capacity of becoming capitalised in its theoretical-practices experimentation. Yet what has been left behind in its euphoria to become a dominant – grown up – entity, relying on its original practice-based theory, is precisely the praxis of speculative thought, by which I mean the praxis of devicing techniques for thought concerned with building unrealistic or otherwise called hyperstitional – or also fabulation– conditions, able to insert cuts, gaps, break downs in the smooth operational flow of info-knowledge of cybernetic capitalism. Cultural Studies indeed has a special relation with such smooth info-control to the extent that it has embraced the information revolution with its critical investment in the study of media and communication and most recently its analysis of social software, data mining, info surveillance and info economies, as well as of interactive and responsive media environments. And yet what Cultural Studies has come to ignore are precisely the metaphysical conditions of thought and knowledge, which have become all absorbed by the empirical practices of socio-cultural communication.

Nevertheless by establishing itself as a discipline Cultural Studies could not help by being surrounded by a world of peripheral, marginal or minoritarian praxis of thought where the transversal connection between high and low culture, abstract and concrete practices, speculations and pragmatics have proliferated beneath the cynical façade of a dominant enterprise of cultural analysis sustained by disciplinary categories of political identity. If attack the head quarters can be, amongst other things, a way to explore such transversality then a gesture of attack does not concern Cultural Studies in its UK or International fashions but exactly the contrary. Rather such gesture concerns cultural studies as trans-disciplinary and trans-local, trans-international or even the trans-planetary empiricism. Here an attack will be not a provocation intended as a resistance against the Centre of CS but an invite towards minoritarian praxis of thought, which are neither located outside nor inside the Centre, but are exactly to be acknowledged as lateral or parallel practices of a radical empiricism. This means that such praxis is not strictly speaking a practice, or even an application of thought, but more itself a thought-process equipped with abstract and concrete capacities of intervention, a speculative pragmatics.

From this standpoint, such minoritarian praxis are not there to become simply co-opted by a centre for the capitalization of culture and creative thought, but exactly remain a lateral praxis autonomous from the parameters of the disciplinary and interdiscipinary bifurcation of theory and practice reflected in the structural institutionalization of Cultural Studies. A minoritarian praxis is defined not by a dominant-dominated model. It is not to be confused with the figure/identity of the marginalized. Minoritarian thought is not a question of scale or dimension. It is a matter of concern, of when and how certain unforeseen conditions become relevant to certain occasions, of the extent to which certain events – one could call them revolutions meaning changing the evolutions of things – come to mark the end of a state of affair and the break down or irreversible dis-function of a causal chain of effects.

The autonomy of minoritarian praxis however is not simply given. It needs to be constructed and yet not completely: one will have to acknowledge that the praxis of thought is not equivalent to the intentional mind of the human species. Indeed we know that intentions are also to be found in non-human entities-actors such as animals and machines. This is to say that praxis of thought is infinite. However, from an ethical point of view, the conditions for the autonomy of a minoritarian praxis are constantly to be constructed, but not simply from inside the institution. In other words, for a minoritarian thought of cultural studies to exist it is not sufficient to build a space – a ivory tower, a happy island – inside the institution, inevitably coming to accommodate or innovate the profile of the institution/discipline incorporating such thought by turning it into the marginalised category.

A way of constructing such conditions could be helped by the adoption of a viral logistics, where the institution and the discipline become a host for the invasion of unrealistic techniques of change in the protocol of research activities. For this logistics to acquire duration beyond the temporality of the one off event that can well be accommodated in self-nominated “cutting-edge” institutions and disciplines, it needs to exfoliate the tough skin of institutionalised research inside out spreading the praxis of thought across any research environment, making all spaces, including cities, and planets an opportunity for thought to become speculatively pragmatic, practically unreal. Such spreading can occur by all means of fabulation or fictional reality by devicing techniques of writing, programming, visualising, sounding, architecting, performing, as well as by techniques-agents of community connections, carriers and catalyzers of societies to come. One problem however remains for me: how to discriminate between the infinite praxis of thought, that is how the evaluation of the many praxis of thought can occur across the singular qualities of distinct research environment, which level of speculative praxis becomes a matter of concern and to what extent a praxis needs to declare its finitude, termination when its values have expired.

Thus two questions remain important to me as a speculative researcher in the minoritarian field of cultural studies:

How to invite minoritarian praxis of thought in, which also means out to infiltrate protocols of research activities beyond the protocols set by the alliance between the institution and cultural and creative capital?

How to device techniques of evaluation (of praxis of thought) that endure across fields of aesthetic and cultural expressions which at once maintain a plethora of contrasts and nonetheless together build a parallel and transversal nexus autonomous from the correlational platforms of research activities approved by the institution?

To these questions two suggestions may be here worth considering:

The infiltration of minoritarian praxis can occur through tactics of camouflage or indirect action, which may imply modes of parasiting the disciplinary structure of research and their forms of interdisciplinary modular organization of theory-practice. This implies not simply an instrumentalization of the institution/discipline but a way to expose research to its indeterminate metaphysical conditions. This means not simply translating concepts across fields of study, challenging logic with poetics, as for example occurs in the application of scientific concepts to artistic expression. Rather what I specifically mean by indirect tactics of camouflage is to devise techniques of translogical operations within each and any field of research whereby each discipline becomes a society of praxis with an aesthetic, a philosophy, a politics, a culture, an economics proper to the complex architecture of its speculative activities. This implies turning a discipline into an ecology of practices, as Stengers would put it.

A suggestion as to how to device enduring – or connecting – techniques of evaluation across fields of research, composed of the transversal alliance between worlds of thought which are not simply subsumed to or co-opted by the institutional research and its symbiotic relation with creative and cultural capital, may entail to take seriously the discontinuities in the praxis of thought, the contrasts of its colours, the infinity and complexity of its shades. Evaluation here does not coincide with matching of codes or rules with behaviours and functions. Evaluation rather needs to include the surplus value of each coding research activity as intrinsic to the very nature of code organization. A margin, threshold or minoritarian surplus value of code then can be taken to set the criteria for the endurance or connection of a speculative pragmatics across research societies. This aims not simply at liberating thought from control, but to deflect the direct repressive pressure upon the existence of unrealistic conditions of thought, inflecting such repression towards the construction of impossible logics and towards the destruction of those logics that have accomplished their epochal value. This also means to be ready to declare dead the logic of your political shelter and to learn how to swim again in an open sea of unrealistic conditions.

Luciana Parisi

AtHQ: Dangerous Ideas – Jeff Kinkle

‘A revolutionary career does not lead to banquets and honorary titles, interesting research and professorial wages. It leads to misery, disgrace, ingratitude, prison and a voyage into the unknown, illuminated by only an almost superhuman belief.’ Max Horkheimer

The underlying theme of my provocation today will be the idea of provocation: its relevance, effectiveness, and even possibility. My initial idea was to do something with the Situationist’s text ‘On the Poverty of Student Life’ (1966). I first came across this text – the first text from the Situationist International I ever read, or remember reading – at a point during my BA in Politics at which I was completely disillusioned and bored. It pinpointed many of the frustrations I felt with my program, school, classmates, professors, and myself, and formulated a political way of understanding my disillusionment and boredom, as well as a ‘program’ for reactivating my engagement with the political. As such, however, I associate the text so strongly with a particular feeling of teenage angst and youthful naivety that it is today difficult for me to engage with. Reading it again recently I felt slightly embarrassed. The authors’ attempts to provoke their imagined readers seemed so anachronistic as to be almost cute and endearing. Still, working with the Situationists entails at some point considering whether or not one is utilizing radical politics for careerist ends, devitalizing them in the process. This is something I still haven’t resolved completely and this is part of the reason why I think it’s worth going back to this text, even if I risk getting trapped in a morass of hackneyed discussions about ‘genuine’ radicality, recuperation, and denouncing the so-called radicals funded by the state.

According to its dictionary definition a provocation is: ‘action or speech that makes someone annoyed or angry, especially deliberately.’ ‘On the Poverty of Student Life’ was clearly intended as primarily a provocation (rather than as primarily a nuanced, scholarly essay), and according to the Situationists and their legend it was an enormously successful one, ultimately leading to May ’68. The text was written after a group of pro-Situationists managed to get elected to the presidency at the University of Strasbourg Student Union and contacted the Situationists asking advice as to the best way to destroy the university. Debord gave Mustapha Khayati the task of writing a pamphlet (in discussion with the students) that would ‘provoke an extreme response, possibly even violence, from the university authorities.’ The Student Union spent their entire funds on printing ten thousand copies of the pamphlet in a fancy jacket, its full title being ‘On the Poverty of Student Life, considered in its economic, political, psychological, sexual and especially intellectual aspects, with a modest proposal for its remedy’. This was part of a chain of orchestrated events in which the entire authority of the university was challenged, with revolutionary tracts being put up on walls and distributed and students throwing tomatoes at professors.

The text itself is a denunciation of the figure of the student (the most universally despised in France after the priest and the policeman) and the university. ‘The university has become an institutional organization of ignorance; “high culture” itself is being degraded in the assembly-line production of professors, all of whom are cretins and most of whom would get the bird from any audience of highschoolers.’ Its main purpose is to train white-collar workers, despite whatever delusions the professors and students harbor. ‘Being a student is a form of initiation,’ both in that they are being trained for a future in an office and given the time to groom their identity as a consumer. The situation is not completely hopeless as the Situationists point to a small percentage of students that have understood the system and exploit it accordingly, getting grants while spreading the seeds of sedition, and making ‘no secret of the fact that what they extract so easily from the “academic system” is used for its destruction.’ ‘The student cannot revolt against anything without revolting against his studies,’ they conclude, and a revolt against their studies is the first step towards a total rejection of the society that requires these studies.

The pro-Situationists from the Student Union were ultimately brought before a judge who described them as ‘scarecely more than adolescents, lacking all experience of real life. Their minds confused by ill-digested philosophical, social, political, and economic theories, and bored by the drab monotony of everything life, they make the empty, arrogant and pathetic claim to pass definitive judgments on their fellow students, their teachers, God, religion, the clergy and the governments and political systems of the entire world. Rejecting all morality and constraint these students do not hesitate to commend theft.’

The Situationists write in a later commentary on the events surrounding ‘On the Poverty of Student Life, ‘We want to make ideas dangerous again.’ For me, today, the ideas in ‘On the Poverty of Student Life’ do not feel particularly dangerous however. It may still be relevant enough to inspire (as it did for me nearly ten years ago), but it is difficult to imagine it helping spark a chain of events that would lead to anything the slightest bit similar to the ‘Strasbourg scandal’, let alone something like May 1968.

What ideas are dangerous today? Some police agency found it necessary to have a policeman (or agent of some type) watch Sukant Chandan at the Why Mao? Why Now? conference last year, but I don’t think anyone here was particularly provoked (or inspired for that matter). What could ‘provoke an extreme response, possibility even violence, from the university authorities’ (or from John and Scott)? What could even make the majority of this room angry? In his controversial essay Pacifism as Pathology (1986, republished as a book in 1998), Ward Churchill attacks pacifism, not simply as a well-meaning, perhaps beautiful but ultimately ineffectual, strategy but as a racist pathology. Pacifism, or rather the pacifism adopted by most activists in the US, is racist in that relies on people in the third world, or the most repressed sectors of the ‘home country’, to put their bodies and lives on the line while the Western pacifist activist risks almost nothing. Futhermore, all of the victories it has claimed are actually, at least to a large extent, the result of violent resistance (civil rights movement, Vietnam). He claims that if one wants to gauge the threat a particular movement, group, or technique presents to the status quo, one of the things one can look at is the effort the state puts into the surveillance, infiltration, or repression of the given movement, group, or technique. While this is an oversimplified version of a possibly problematic argument, it is certainly a way in to beginning to think about the Headquarters we think we are Attacking and the manner(s) in which we do so. Just as Churchill writes that is laughable to think that one of the pacifist hallmark’s: the allowing yourself to be arrested in a staged photo-op in cooperation with the police, is revolutionary by any means, one could argue that it is laughable to think one is Attacking the Headquarters in any meaningful sense while being funded by the state.

Churchill is particularly interesting because he was recently fired in June 2007 for ‘research misconduct’ from the University of Colorado after a protracted battle. Churchill was a professor of Ethnic Studies with a particular interest in Native American issues and has done a great deal of research on COINTELPRO and the American Indian Movement, among other things. The day after 9.11, Churchill published an essay that later became a book called ‘Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens’. As the title suggests, Churchill argued that the attacks were not only a consequence of US foreign policy, unintended yet inevitable blowback, but that the US got what it had coming so to speak. ‘On the morning of September 11, 2001, a few more chickens – along with some half-million dead Iraqi children – came home to roost in a very big way at the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center.’ Most provocatively, Churchill claimed the civilians who died in the towers and in the planes were ‘little Eichmanns’. He writes, ‘As to those in the World Trade Center . . . they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire – the “mighty engine of profit” to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved – and they did so both willingly and knowingly.’

Obviously these claims provoked an angry reaction and calls for Churchill’s job, if not his head, came from across the political spectrum, led by Billy O’Reilly and Fox News, the Republican and then Democratic Governors of Colorado, and Marc Cooper at the left-leaning weekly The Nation. Churchill clearly crossed a line in openly questioning the ‘innocence’ of the attacks victims, but in the aftermath of the attacks it should be kept in mind that putting the attacks into any historical context was considered unpatriotic, as saying the terrorists were motivated by anything other than envy, a hatred of freedom, or even repressed homosexual desire (The Looming Towers) would lead inevitably to the claim that the US deserved it. This is quite interesting in that it is not only the radical fringes of the social sciences whose ideas are considered dangerous but basically any social science in general that doesn’t merely regurgitate official claims.


I am not sure what kind of consequences this might have for the type of research we do, or might do, at CCS. Writing friendly grants and then using the money to ‘spread sedition’? Courses in small arms or seminars on learning chokeholds with fisherman’s thread alongside Sun Tzu and Machiavelli? The swarm and the urban guerilla? If concepts are like makeshift weapons that a convict might tuck into his belt while fleeing, it is clear that neither is anything inherently dangerous, nor are they ever safe: both Hamas and the IDF might read Deleuze to help them fight in Gaza (as Eyal Weisman has demonstrated). So it clearly is not only about the ideas the Centre teaches or claims to espouse but the manner in which we deal with each other, our students, and the outside world. It is also obviously facile to say we should be engaged with research the state wants to ban rather than fund, but in the very least it should lead to an open, honest discussion (like the one we are having over the next few weeks) about what we think we are doing, what role we think we are playing, and what risks are involved. The fundamental questions to which I still don’t myself have answers are what is a headquarters, which Headquarters do we want to attack and for what end, and how can we go about doing so?

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