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robertogreco : christinasharpe   3

Stefano Harney (part 1) | Full Stop
"He is perhaps best known for The Undercommons, an absolutely essential work on the contemporary university (and much, much more) co-written with Fred Moten. But an Internet search will show interests pushing in all kinds of exciting directions — from study to infrastructure, from cultures of finance to leisure, from public administration to the metroversity."



"There is as little point in demanding something of this president as of the last. Not only because we will not get it, but because it is probably not what we want. We get sucked into policy. But the university, the NEA and the NEH, these institutions are just the enervating compromise, the residue of a past battle. Preserving them has the perverse effect of weakening us. These are just settlements we have to reject in our ongoing war against democratic despotism, which is of course the ongoing war against us.

W.E.B. Du Bois wrote about democratic despotism in ‘The African Roots of War,’ published in 1915. The current US regime could be said to be the realization of this trajectory of democratic despotism. Du Bois was very specific about democratic despotism. He observed capitalists in the United States and Europe offering a compact with their white working classes, offering a share, however meager, in the nation’s wealth. This share would be extracted from black and brown peoples living in the nation, but excluded from this pact, and through imperialism, shares would be extracted from what Du Bois called the black, brown, and yellow peoples throughout the globe. Democratic despotism was a cross-class alliance based on the color line. Through this agreement, governments could function as ‘democracies.’ Indeed participation in a white democracy was part of what being offered as part of the stabilization package. The modern university is a phenomenon of this agreement sealed along the color line. Thus I would say the undercommons remains the moving violation of that agreement.

I have a friend called Jonathan Pincus. He’s a very smart Marxist development economist, and recently he turned his attention to the development and future of universities around the world. He points out that the deal between the capitalist classes and the nation-state is fraying. One effect of this is that the capitalist classes do not want to pay for universities that serve a national purpose anymore, whether that purpose is producing research, training labour, or preserving national culture and identity. They only want to pay for universities to educate their children — that is, teach them the etiquette of the capitalist classes — and their children go to Princeton or Oxford, or wherever. But their children certainly do not go to Rutgers-Newark nor UC-Riverside, never mind state colleges, small private colleges, and numerous other regional universities. As Jonathan notes universities like Princeton already cater to a global, not national, capitalist class. They are flourishing. The question this raises for me is not whether the vast number of colleges and universities outside the attention of the global capitalist classes will continue to be funded. They won’t, except where vestiges of the white middle class can effectively threaten legislatures to give their kids and not Latino, Black, Asian, and Indigenous kids, the remaining bits of this system. But what can we do, together with the rest of these kids, with these abandoned factories of knowledge? That’s what interests me. How can we occupy them once they are discarded?"



" Fred and I work under the influence of Denise Ferreira Da Silva here, as elsewhere. She speaks about difference without separability and about entanglement in a way that becomes most available through this nautical event, through blackness. She adds that without separability, our ideas and practices of determinacy and sequentiality, which I’ve reduced to time and space here, also get called into question. Her work is rich and deep and I am still finding my way through this entangled world with her help. Shipping and the Shipped, the show at the Bergen triennial, owes much to her thought."



"And so, to shift registers slightly from our thing to theirs, if you think about recent political battles coming out of the United States and its imperial decline, they could all be seen as logistical. So, I agree with you Michael that logistics can be a capacious category for understanding what they are doing, as well as what we are trying to do. The Black Snake winding through Dakota lands, the wall along the current border with Mexico, the ban directed at the seven Islamic countries the US has strategised to destroy and dominate, these are all about the movement of energy, goods, and labour, about ensuring control of the flows. So too the South China Sea ‘stand-off’ is a reaction to China’s ‘belt and road’ strategy — the Silk Road Belt and the Maritime Silk Road — China’s plan for connectivity, shipping, logistics across vast territory. The Maritime Silk Road is to run from Papua New Guinea to East Africa and the Silk Road Belt from the ports of Southern Italy and Greece through Turkey to Siberia. China is building this infrastructure as we write, all along these routes, in massive undertakings. Infrastructure is however only one aspect of logistics, or one dimension might be a better way to put it.

Another dimension of logistics is its unconscious. The dream of logistics, and you can find this in the academic journals, is the elimination of human time, the elimination of the slowness and error of human decision-making, actions, and indeed mere bodily presence. Now you might think this means replacing truck drivers with self-driving trucks running automated routes where algorithms recalculate constantly and link to fuel prices and inventory signals, all without people having to intervene, and you would be right. But interestingly the jobs that have already been replaced by the most important machine in logistics — the algorithm — are management jobs."



"Finally, one might object that logistics does not have much to say about something like police brutality, or as my friend Dylan Rodriguez would correct me, police, since police brutality is, as he says, redundant. But what Fred and I tried to suggest in our piece ‘Leave Our Mikes Alone’ is that the demand for access — intensified by logistical capitalism — also identifies the inaccessible as sabotage. Anyone who does not immediately open oneself fully to the police upon demand for access is a saboteur. But anti-black racism means it is impossible for black people to comply with this order for access since black people are by definition opaque to the police and to white supremacist society. Access kills, but not indiscriminately."



"I think students who study business are in a sense very logistical. Whereas a student studying music or history must say how can I fit what I like to do into this economy, a business student says how can I fit the economy into me. The business student is immediately ready for interoperability, for being accessed, plugged in, traversed by flows, modulated, wherever necessary. These students are unmediated by an interest, such as anthropology, that has to be converted into the economic in an extra step of logistical effort. Now, the curious other side to this is that the business student is also often ‘the last Fordist.’ Even when Fordism ‘never was’ for that particular student or her family. By this I mean because it is impossible to be interested, really, in Human Organisation and Development (the way it is inevitably taught as an extension of logistical capitalism), students place their interests elsewhere, in a non-work sphere. Now this is not true for those upper middle class business students who are convinced business can deliver meaning for them (including through green business, social entrepreneurship and all the rest of the more sophisticated delusions). But amongst the average student taking business courses, I have found little illusion about why they are doing it, or what it is going to be like, even if they have hopes. I say all this to say the student taking philosophy in your class is probably there to take philosophy, as if in an old-fashioned division between work and leisure. I am personally happy to make my classes into places of leisure under these circumstances (or any). The real question I want to ask with you both is this: outside of the places Jonathan is talking about — the global universities responding to a global capitalist class — students are struggling. They are over-worked, over-taught, piled with requirements and internships, plagued by debt and psychological distress, and they are often the new welfare state for grandparents, kids, and disabled relatives. In other words, leisure is being made impossible for them and I think this means it is hard to ask them to take our classes with a kind of leisure. How can we organize with the students for leisure as a first step toward study?"



"But I wanted to ask an unrelated, slightly inarticulate question. I mentioned at one point in our initial email conversation that I’m genuinely curious about the co-author phenomenon (Adorno & Horkheimer, Mouffe & Laclau, Hardt & Negri, etc.). I’m still curious about this, like the phenomenology of it versus any crude craft or process question, but I’m not quite sure how to ask it.

Actually, Michael, I also like to ask the question of how people write together. I always ask it when I find people writing together. In our case, we hung out together for fifteen years before we wrote anything down! But for us the transition to writing things down had two impulses. On the one hand, we were trying to understand our workplace, and we wrote a couple of early pieces about conditions of academic labour, one called the Academic Speed-Up, and another called Doing Academic Work. There was not much to them, but they did make us realize we could not consume … [more]
stefanoharney  fredmoten  2017  education  highered  undercommons  highereducation  colleges  universities  labor  work  capitalism  webdubois  jonathanpincus  denisederreiradasilva  frankwilderson  omise'eketinsley  nourbesephillip  christinasharpe  refusal  resistance  blackness  whiteness  michaelbron  bodies  neoliberalism  study  jessemontgomery  michalschapira  ayreenanastas  renegabri  valntinadesideri  stevphenshukaitis  norasternfeld  edouardglissant  consent  blackstudies  academia  body 
december 2017 by robertogreco
'The Wire' and the Realism Canard - The Awl
"Q: So I wonder what you think of Pam Newton's argument that one of the ways that The Wire is not true to life is that it downplays police corruption?

A: Truth is always from some subjective point of view. If you read David Simon's Homicide, which is one of the two books of non-fiction which feeds into the lore and the data of The Wire—Simon just loves those cops. He was like a twenty-four-year-old reporter who got to follow the cops around and go drinking with them, and I think that there are ways in which he is blind to things that were wrong with the police. But he knows a lot about the cops and their ways, and he knows a lot about the drug dealers and their ways. Because he did a year long study of both that was ethnography. And then he loves them—more than he loves the politicians, for example.

Q: You referred to David Simon's methods as ethnography, and I was thinking about Christina Sharpe's piece in The New Inquiry, where she talks about Alice Goffman's On the Run and the ethical issues raised by urban ethnography. Sharpe suggests for example that studying black people and policing black people are often part of a single continuum of control. Is The Wire a way of rationalizing and controlling and consuming the lives of certain black communities, in the interest of letting white people say, "I understand them now"?

A: I understand that criticism. And I certainly understand the criticism of the anthropologist, the journalist, the ethnographer, who goes to the foreign culture and tries to understand it, and then gets praised for their own marvelous understanding of that which would be beyond the pale if we didn't have that mediating white voice to present things. That's precisely what I think is less good about David Simon's journalism, and great about The Wire: The journalism is full of this kind of white interpretive voice that really does see an us and a them. The thing I quote from his early journalism, where he says, "The ants are here. The picnic is us," in that piece called "The Metal Men,” there it is: The ants are the people he's studying, the drug addicts, and "the picnic is us"—our houses in Baltimore, we propertied middle-class white people.

I think you're suggesting that there are ways in which The Wire has not totally divested itself of that voice, and you may be right. But it's done it better precisely because we lose David Simon's voice, and we get Bubbles, Colvin, everybody else. I would say that The Wire is more exempt from that criticism than most other works of the imagination that try to get into a culture of the other. There is a criticism of melodrama there that is well-founded, though; melodrama is what we're stuck with here."

"Q: We're stuck with melodrama because that's what The Wire is doing?

A: No. We're stuck with melodrama because it's what the culture does. It is our lingua franca of popular entertaining culture. These are the stories that we tell ourselves, in the broadest sense. Melodrama is limited; all it can do is point out these discrepancies in justice. There is a little democratic impasse that is inherent to melodrama. And yes, you can get ironic in melodrama—there are ways to handle it, but it is a limit. We want to identify and identify with the people to whom injustice is done. The only problem with that is that can end up being the white people in Birth of a Nation. Melodrama does not have a progressive ideology necessarily.

Q: In Birth of a Nation you identify with the Klan as the victims of injustice?

A: Yes, it's the former slaveowners who are oppressed by the former slaves. So that's the limit of melodrama. But I think it's important to identify the works that move us, and that grab us so well, as melodrama, and then study the way it operates. Rather than to always say, it's not melodrama, it's real, it's true. Or, Simon's way of doing it, which is to say it's tragedy.

Q: So would you identify ethnography as a kind of melodrama?

A: That's a good question. I think in many cases it is. Why do you become an ethnographer? It's because you want to understand disappearing cultures. I know that's a simplification. But you want to go travel to the Amazon and learn the language of the people who are disappearing because their culture cannot operate in this world. That kind of salvage ethnography is a kind of melodrama—“I'm going to do something to save them”—and that saving comes through a kind of understanding of the meaning and the logic of that culture."
thewire  davidsimon  2014  noahberlatsky  ethnography  alicegoffman  ethics  christinasharpe  lindawilliams  film  television  melodrama  pamnewton 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Black Life, Annotated – The New Inquiry
[See also this list of further reading: http://thenewinquiry.tumblr.com/post/94356357959/further-reading
'To Supplement Dr. Christina Sharpe’s essay, Black Life, Annotated, TNI asked Sharpe to create a syllabus for further reading on the subject and she graciously obliged, with help from Mariame Kaba and Dr. Tamara Nopper." ]

"When Goffman starts her PhD program at Princeton she confesses to experiencing culture shock. She has been living in another world and so she no longer gets the cultural cues and references of her Princeton peers — hipsters, music, current events, witty email banter, Facebook, and iPods. She has, during her six years living on 6th Street, confined herself to the media and entertainments of the young men at the center of the study. I take Goffman’s accounts of alienation both in and after her immersion in life on 6th Street at face value, though she presumably had access (or the license to refuse access) to current events, email, witty banter, and iPods in the time she spends away from 6th Street with her family.

In light of the ways that she is disoriented by her temporary foray, we ought to reassess the relationship between Goffman and her primary subjects — only one of whom has a high school diploma and most of whom have rarely, if ever, ventured far from 6th Street. Goffman can make jumps that are ontologically impossible for subjects of her book. Even Josh, the one young man who leaves to attend college, ends up back on 6th Street and unemployed for two years after graduation because of his deep connections to people in the community. For Goffman, though, “the prospect of graduate school became [her] lifeline.” The structural division widens: In the interview with Jennifer Schuessler, Goffman recalls wondering if she could afford to be arrested: “They said that with a felony record, I couldn’t teach at a public university. For a second I thought, ‘Should I take this job?’” But, as the interviewer tells us, Goffman chose the job over jail. No other 6th Street resident who appears in the book has such a choice. (And this is not a matter of class. Recall the studies that show that white men who are high school dropouts or who have a record are more likely to be hired than black men with no record and a college degree.)

In her “Appendix: A Methodological Note,” Goffman addresses questions of method, consent, and how she “negotiated her privilege while conducting fieldwork.” Never fear: Goffman owns that “white privilege” and informs us that she had “more privilege than whiteness and wealth: my father was a prominent sociologist and fieldworker [Erving Goffman]“ and her mother and adopted father are also “professors and devoted fieldworkers.” She writes that wealth, education, the family business of ethnography “perhaps” “may have” given her “the confidence and the resources to embark on this research as an undergraduate.” And “perhaps my background, and the extra knowledge and confidence it gave me, also contributed to professors encouraging the work and devoting their time so freely to my education.”

Nevertheless, Goffman concludes that, “none of these advantages seemed to translate into … situational dominance, or at least not very often.” And most alarmingly and myopically, “In many situations, my lack of knowledge put me at the bottom of the social hierarchy. I hung out on 6th Street at the pleasure of Mike and Chuck along with their friends and neighbors and family. They knew exactly what I was doing and what I had on the line; whether I got to stay or go was entirely up to them.” Obscured here are not only what we might concede to be Goffman’s pleasures but the pleasures to be had by the reader of this text in, what Joy James elsewhere identifies as, such work’s “appeal to the ‘moral conscience’ of the dominant culture.” And rather than “white privilege” and “situational dominance,” we should be talking about ontology, captivity, white supremacy, and antiblackness.

On the Run raises no alarms for most readers precisely because it is sociology as usual as it is done in “urban” communities. The New York Times interview tells us that her thesis “advised by the noted ethnographer Elijah Anderson, won her a book contract from the University of Chicago probably the first based on undergraduate research the publisher has ever signed.” (A book contract for an undergraduate thesis!) Alex Kotlowitz in an otherwise admiring review does raise important questions about Goffman’s “über-version of immersion journalism.” Among them he writes: “Goffman at times makes rather sweeping statements or offers up the occasional anecdote, mostly relating to law enforcement, without an indication of the source.” This work raises profound ethical questions. And by ethical questions, I mean questions of power. “I am interested in ethics,” says Frank Wilderson, “which is to say that I am interested in explaining relations of power.”"



"While Newburn bemoans the dampening effect of Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) and the increasing regulation of academic research, those protocols were put in place to try to decrease the possibility that certain populations would be made vulnerable to “imaginative and risky work.” Let me be very clear. I do not think that following proper protocols is the answer or even an answer; the IRB process itself is already completely structured by these ways of framing and seeing. Nevertheless, I am concerned about the risks Goffman’s presence posed to her subjects — increased attention by the police, undue stress on personal lives etc. I am concerned that there is no IRB protocol on file for her undergraduate thesis at the University of Pennsylvania. And while the Princeton IRB protocol on file may be backdated to include the research Goffman did as an undergraduate, that’s an exceptional procedure. I am concerned, but not surprised, that critics have overwhelmingly embraced this book as it abets fantasies of black pathology.

Indeed, Goffman displays a certain sympathy for and with the police:
This justifiable anger [toward the police] does not mean that we should view the police as bad people or their actions as driven by racist or otherwise malevolent motives. The police are in an impossible position: they are essentially the only governmental body tasked with addressing the significant social problems of able-bodied young men in the jobless ghetto, and with only the powers of intimidation and arrest to do so. Many in law enforcement recognize that poverty, unemployment, and the drugs and violence that accompany them are social problems that cannot be solved by arresting people. But the police and the courts are not equipped with social solutions. They are equipped with handcuffs and jail time.

That this is a cynical conclusion or a craven one becomes even clearer alongside Betts’s critique of her unsubstantiated and “unsettling claims about Philadelphia police practices” and Frank Wilderson’s argument that, “violence … precedes and exceeds blacks.” Put another way, what Goffman describes as the bind of police having “only” the “powers of intimidation” and “arrest” accounts neither for the entirety of the apparatus aimed at corralling black life nor for the violence that she witnesses as foundational and not mere examples of conflicts in civil society between the police and the black subjects whom “they are charged to protect.” Rather, what this book fails to grasp and what much of sociology cannot account for even as it reproduces its logic is that the violence everywhere and everyday enacted by the state on black people is the grammar that articulates the “carceral continuum of black life.” All black life, on the street and on the page.

So, the black communities of 4th and 6th Street continue to be laboratories in which Goffman and other student and faculty researchers at the University of Pennsylvania do field work. With its frisson of “authenticity,” On the Run may have a long and varied life ahead ( mini-series? feature film?) shaping misperception and abetting black narrative and material subjection. I already know that this book will be chosen for First Year common reading programs and that all over the US, historically white colleges and universities with small black undergraduate and faculty populations will read and then reproduce as truth On the Run’s ethics and methods; which is to say its relations and practices of power. In the neoliberal “engaged” university, On the Run is sure to be a primer for how to do immersive “urban” ethnography. And so continues, into the next generation, within and outside of the university, what Sylvia Wynter has called our black narratively condemned status."
christinasharpe  alicegoffman  2014  ethics  ethnography  blacklife  power  sociology  privilege  academia  research  neoliberalismmariamekaba  tamaranopper 
august 2014 by robertogreco

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