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robertogreco : worldliness   4

Acclaimed Toronto author Austin Clarke dead at 81 | Toronto Star
"But he was leery of taking Canadian citizenship, acquiring it only in 1981, explaining later that “I was not keen on becoming a citizen of a society that regarded me as less than a human being.”

Indeed, Clarke’s observations of the splintering of Canadian society in the ’50s and ’60s gave voice to a new version of a country in its earliest stages of becoming.

“Austin wrote our multicultural moment before we even had a language to describe it,” said Rinaldo Walcott, a professor at the University of Toronto and a longtime friend. “He was an astute observer of those social dynamics, and he was a critic of it as well.”

Clarke was bluntly critical of the endemic racism he encountered both here and at home, in Barbados, a colonial British outpost where he attended Anglican schools before coming to Canada. ‘Membering, his lyrical memoir published last year, recalls with vivid detail his daily struggles with discrimination in an uptight city of not-so-long ago.

In it, he writes of living “in the atmosphere of great physical fear, of the expectation that a policeman might shoot me — bang-bang, you’re dead, dead — of being refused the renting of a basement room, or an apartment in a public building, that I would find myself standing noticeably longer than other customers at a counter in Eaton’s store, at the corner of Yonge and College Sts., that I might be thrown out, sometimes physically, from a restaurant, or a nightclub, as Oscar Peterson was, and face the embarrassment of being told by a barber that he does not cut niggers’ hair. This is my Toronto.”

Yet in private, friends speak of a generous, passionate spirit filled with an affection for simple pleasures in life: A love of cooking, of conversation, and of music. But he was also a complicated man, whose fiery passions around issues of inequity seemed at times to chafe with his conservative Anglican beliefs.

“If you were going to have a real relationship with Austin, you had to be prepared to move nimbly,” said the author Barry Callaghan, a decades-long friend and literary colleague who in 1996 published The Austin Clarke Reader through his imprint, Exile Editions. “He was a worldly fellow, a man of elegance, a man of conservative principles, but at the same time, he could be engaged with people that most conservatives wouldn’t let into their house.”"



“When I think of special dinners here, it was also Austin that said grace,” he said. “There was no one like him, because there could be no one like him. There were just too many cross-references in his personality. He was singular.”
ausinclarke  2016  canada  toronto  race  racism  multiculturalism  life  living  conversation  grace  cross-references  worldliness  elegance  conservatism 
june 2016 by robertogreco
On technology, culture, and growing up in a small town
"Rex Sorgatz grew up in a small and isolated town (physically, culturally) in North Dakota named Napoleon.
Out on the prairie, pop culture existed only in the vaguest sense. Not only did I never hear the Talking Heads or Public Enemy or The Cure, I could never have heard of them. With a radio receiver only able to catch a couple FM stations, cranking out classic rock, AC/DC to Aerosmith, the music counterculture of the '80s would have been a different universe to me. (The edgiest band I heard in high school was The Cars. "My Best Friend's Girl" was my avant-garde.)

Is this portrait sufficiently remote? Perhaps one more stat: I didn't meet a black person until I was 16, at a summer basketball camp. I didn't meet a Jewish person until I was 18, in college.

This was the Deep Midwest in the 1980s. I was a pretty clueless kid.

He recently returned there and found that the physical isolation hasn't changed, but thanks to the internet, the kids now have access to the full range of cultural activities and ideas from all over the world.
"Basically, this story is a controlled experiment," I continue. "Napoleon is a place that has remained static for decades. The economics, demographics, politics, and geography are the same as when I lived here. In the past twenty-five years, only one thing has changed: technology."

Rex is a friend and nearly every time we get together, we end up talking about our respective small town upbringings and how we both somehow managed to escape. My experience wasn't quite as isolated as Rex's -- I lived on a farm until I was 9 but then moved to a small town of 2500 people; plus my dad flew all over the place and the Twin Cities were 90 minutes away by car -- but was similar in many ways. The photo from his piece of the rusted-out orange car buried in the snow could have been taken in the backyard of the house I grew up in, where my dad still lives. Kids listened to country, top 40, or heavy metal music. I didn't see Star Wars or Empire in a theater. No cable TV until I was 14 or 15. No AP classes until I was a senior. Aside from a few Hispanics and a family from India, everyone was white and Protestant. The FFA was huge in my school. I had no idea about rap music or modernism or design or philosophy or Andy Warhol or 70s film or atheism. I didn't know what I didn't know and had very little way of finding out.

I didn't even know I should leave. But somehow I got out. I don't know about Rex, but "escape" is how I think of it. I was lucky enough to excel at high school and got interest from schools from all over the place. My dad urged me to go to college...I was thinking about getting a job (probably farming or factory work) or joining the Navy with a friend. That's how clueless I was...I knew so little about the world that I didn't know who I was in relation to it. My adjacent possible just didn't include college even though it was the best place for a kid like me.

In college in an Iowan city of 110,000, I slowly discovered what I'd been missing. Turns out, I was a city kid who just happened to grow up in a small town. I met other people from all over the country and, in time, from all over the world. My roommate sophomore year was black.1 I learned about techno music and programming and photography and art and classical music and LGBT and then the internet showed up and it was game over. I ate it all up and never got full. And like Rex:

Napoleon had no school newspaper, and minimal access to outside media, so I had no conception of "the publishing process." Pitching an idea, assigning a story, editing and rewriting -- all of that would have baffled me. I had only ever seen a couple of newspapers and a handful of magazines, and none offered a window into its production. (If asked, I would have been unsure if writers were even paid, which now seems prescient.) Without training or access, but a vague desire to participate, boredom would prove my only edge. While listlessly paging through the same few magazines over and over, I eventually discovered a semi-concealed backdoor for sneaking words onto the hallowed pages of print publications: user-generated content.

That's the ghastly term we use (or avoid using) today for non-professional writing submitted by readers. What was once a letter to the editor has become a comment; editorials, now posts. The basic unit persists, but the quantity and facility have matured. Unlike that conspicuous "What's on your mind?" input box atop Facebook, newspapers and magazines concealed interaction with readers, reluctant of the opinions of randos. But if you were diligent enough to find the mailing address, often sequestered deep in the back pages, you could submit letters of opinion and other ephemera.
I eventually found the desire to express myself. Using a copy of Aldus PhotoStyler I had gotten from who knows where, I designed party flyers for DJ friends' parties. I published a one-sheet periodical for the residents of my dorm floor, to be read in the bathroom. I made meme-y posters2 which I hung around the physics department. I built a homepage that just lived on my hard drive because our school didn't offer web hosting space and I couldn't figure out how to get an account elsewhere.3 Well, you know how that last bit turned out, eventually.4"
jasonkottke  kottke  rexsorgatz  2016  rural  internet  web  isolation  connectivity  change  subcultures  media  culture  childhood  youth  teens  socialmedia  college  education  universities  highered  highereducation  midwest  cv  music  film  television  tv  cable  cabletv  cosmopolitanism  worldliness  urban  urbanism  interneturbanism  1980s  northdakota  minnesota  homogeneity  diversity  apclasses  aps  religion  ethnicity  race  exposure  facebook 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Has the Internet Really Changed Everything? — Backchannel
[See also: http://kottke.org/16/04/on-technology-culture-and-growing-up-in-a-small-town ]

"How have decades of mass media and technology changed us? A writer returns to his remote hometown — once isolated, now connected. And finds unexpected answers."



"In the Napoleon of the 1980s, where I memorized the alphabet and mangled my first kiss, distractions were few. There were no malls to loiter, no drags to cruise. With no newsstand or bookstore, information was sparse. The only source of outside knowledge was the high school library, a room the size of a modest apartment, which had subscriptions to exactly five magazines: Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, and People. As a teenager, these five magazines were my only connection to the outside world.

Of course, there was no internet yet. Cable television was available to blessed souls in far-off cities, or so we heard, but it did not arrive in Napoleon until my teens, and even then, in a miniaturized grid of 12 UHF channels. (The coax would transmit oddities like WGN and CBN, but not cultural staples like HBO or Nickelodeon. I wanted my MTV in vain.) Before that, only the staticky reception of the big three — ABC, CBS, NBC — arrived via a tangle of rabbit ears. By the time the PBS tower boosted its broadcast reach to Napoleon, I was too old to enjoy Sesame Street.

Out on the prairie, pop culture existed only in the vaguest sense. Not only did I never hear the Talking Heads or Public Enemy or The Cure, I could never have heard of them. With a radio receiver only able to catch a couple FM stations, cranking out classic rock, AC/DC to Aerosmith, the music counterculture of the ’80s would have been a different universe to me. (The edgiest band I heard in high school was The Cars. “My Best Friend’s Girl” was my avant-garde.)

Is this portrait sufficiently remote? Perhaps one more stat: I didn’t meet a black person until I was 16, at a summer basketball camp. I didn’t meet a Jewish person until I was 18, in college.

This was the Deep Midwest in the 1980s. I was a pretty clueless kid."



"“Basically, this story is a controlled experiment,” I continue. “Napoleon is a place that has remained static for decades. The economics, demographics, politics, and geography are the same as when I lived here. In the past twenty-five years, only one thing has changed: technology.”

Photog2 begins to fiddle with an unlit Camel Light, which he clearly wants to go smoke, even if it is 8 degrees below zero outside. But I am finding the rhythm of my pitch.

“All scientific experiments require two conditions: a static environment and a control — a testable variable that changes. Napoleon is the static environment; technology, the control. With all else being equal, this place is the perfect environment to explore societal questions like, What are the effects of mass communications? How has technology transformed the way we form ideas? Does access to information alone make us smarter?”

“How am I supposed to photograph that?” asks Photog2."



"As we discuss other apps on his home screen — YouTube, eBay, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo — I realize that my line of questions are really just attempts to prove or disprove a sentence that I read on the flight to Dakota. The sentence appears on page 20 of Danah Boyd’s book, It’s Complicated, a study of the social lives of networked teens:
What the drive-in was to teens in the 1950s and the mall was in the 1980s, Facebook, texting, Twitter, instant messaging, and other social media are to teens now.

I cannot shake the sentence, which seems to contain between its simple words a secret key, a cipher to crack my inquiries into technology and change. Napoleon didn’t have a drive-in in the 1950s, or a mall in the 1980s, but today it definitely has the same social communications tools used by every kid in the country. By that fact alone, the lives of teenagers in Napoleon must be wildly different than they were 20 years ago. But I lack the social research finesse of Boyd, who could probably interrogate my thesis about technology beyond anecdote. So I change the topic to something I know much better: television."



"Whether with sanguine fondness or sallow regret, all writers remember their first publishing experience — that moment when an unseen audience of undifferentiated proportion absorbs their words from unknown locales.
I remember my first three.

Napoleon had no school newspaper, and minimal access to outside media, so I had no conception of “the publishing process.” Pitching an idea, assigning a story, editing and rewriting — all of that would have baffled me. I had only ever seen a couple of newspapers and a handful of magazines, and none offered a window into its production. (If asked, I would have been unsure if writers were even paid, which now seems prescient.) Without training or access, but a vague desire to participate, boredom would prove my only edge. While listlessly paging through the same few magazines over and over, I eventually discovered a semi-concealed backdoor for sneaking words onto the hallowed pages of print publications: user-generated content.

That’s the ghastly term we use (or avoid using) today for non-professional writing submitted by readers. What was once a letter to the editor has become a comment; editorials, now posts. The basic unit persists, but the quantity and facility have matured. Unlike that conspicuous “What’s on your mind?” input box atop Facebook, newspapers and magazines concealed interaction with readers, reluctant of the opinions of randos. But if you were diligent enough to find the mailing address, often sequestered deep in the back pages, you could submit letters of opinion and other ephemera.

This was publishing to me. My collected works were UGC."



"“What are your favorite apps?”

This time my corny question is fielded by Katelyn, another student who my mother suggests will make a good subject for my harebrained experiment. During her study hall break, we discuss the hectic life of a millennial teenager on the plains. She is already taking college-level courses, lettering in three varsity sports, and the president of the local FFA chapter. (That’s Future Farmers of America, an agricultural youth organization with highly competitive livestock judging and grain grading contests. It’s actually a huge deal in deep rural America, bigger than the Boy and Girl Scouts. Katelyn won the state competition in Farm Business Management category.)

To the app question, she recites the universals of any contemporary young woman: Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest. She mentions The Skimm as a daily news source, which is intriguing, but not as provocative as her next remark: “I don’t have Facebook.”

Whoa, why?

“My parents don’t support social media,” says the 18-year-old. “They didn’t want me to get Facebook when I was younger, so I just never signed up.” This is closer to the isolationist Napoleon that I remember. They might not ban books anymore, but parents can still be very protective.

“How do you survive without Facebook?” I ask. “Do you wish you had it?”

“I go back and forth,” she avers. “It would be easier to connect with people I’ve met through FFA and sports. But I’m also glad I don’t have it, because it’s time-consuming and there’s drama over it.”

She talks like a 35-year-old. So I ask who she will vote for.

“I’m not sure. I like how Bernie Sanders is sounding.”

I tell her a story about a moment in my junior civics class where the teacher asked everyone who was Republican to raise their hand. Twenty-five kids lifted their palms to the sky. The remaining two students called themselves Independents. “My school either had zero Democrats or a few closeted ones,” I conclude.

She is indifferent to my anecdote, so I change the topic to music.

“I listen to older country,” she says. “Garth Brooks, George Strait.” The term “older country” amuses me, but I resist the urge to ask her opinion of Jimmie Rodgers. “I’m not a big fan of hardcore rap or heavy metal,” she continues. “I don’t understand heavy metal. I don’t know why you would want to listen to it.”

So no interest in driving three hours in the snow to see AC/DC at the Fargodome last night?

“No, I just watched a couple Snapchat stories of it.”

Of course she did.

While we talk, a scratchy announcement is broadcast over the school-wide intercom. A raffle drawing ticket is being randomly selected. I hear Jaden’s name announced as the winner of the gigantic teddy bear in my mother’s office.
I ask Katelyn what novel she read as a sophomore, the class year that The Catcher in the Rye was banned from my school. When she says Fahrenheit 451, I feel like the universe has realigned for me in some cosmic perfection.

But my time is running out, and again I begin to wonder whether she is proving or disproving my theories of media and technology. It’s difficult to compare her life to mine at that age. Katelyn is undoubtedly more focused and mature than any teenager I knew in the ’80s, but this is the stereotype of all millennials today. Despite her many accomplishments, she seems to suppress the hallmark characteristic of her ambitious generation: fanatic self-regard. Finally, I ask her what she thinks her life will be like in 25 years.

“I hope I’ll be married, and probably have kids,” she says decisively. “I see myself in a rural area. Maybe a little bit closer to Bismarck or Fargo. But I’m definitely in North Dakota.”

I tell her that Jaden gave essentially the same answer to the question. Why do you think that is?

“The sense of a small community,” she says, using that word again. “Everyone knows each other. It’s a big family.”"
internet  technology  rexsorgatz  2016  isolation  cv  web  online  culture  distraction  media  film  music  quietude  publishing  writing  worldliness  rural  howwelive  thenandnow  change  community  smalltowns  schools  education  journalism  books  censorship  fahrenheit451  raybradbury  thecatcherintherye  jdsalinger  newspapers  communication  socialmedia  snapchat  facebook  instagram  pinterest  theskimm  news  danahboyd  youtube  ebay  yahoo  twitter  videogames  gaming  subcultures  netflix  teens  youth  connectivity  childhood  college  universities  highered  highereducation  midwest  television  tv  cable  cabletv  cosmopolitanism  urban  urbanism  interneturbanism  1980s  northdakota  homogeneity  diversity  apclasses  aps  religion  ethnicity  race  exposure 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Interviews – Meet Antipode’s new Editorial Collective | AntipodeFoundation.org
[via: https://twitter.com/Keguro_/status/652837835440046081 ]

"Andy Kent: Could you tell us about Dear Science, a project you’ve been working on for a number of years now?

Katherine McKittrick: The title of my next research project and monograph, Dear Science, is borrowed from the musicians TV on the Radio (Interscope, 2008). It is an affectionate invitation to engage science and hold dear creative expressions of scientific knowledge. Dear Science suggests that there exists, between and across the arts and the natural sciences, a promise of intellectual collaboration and emancipatory possibility. The project emphasizes the ways in which the creative texts of those marginalized by social structures—in particular black cultural producers—demand from us an understanding of science and knowledge that challenges biological determinism. The research will look at the ways in which three areas of the natural sciences—biology, mathematics, and physics—emerge in the poetry, music, and visual art of black cultural producers.

I have been thinking about these kinds of questions for some time because I have noticed the ways in which blackness and race—while certainly social constructions—continue to be analysed as sites of degradation and unfreedom. So even as we claim that race is socially constructed, the black body is theorized as a social construction that is biologically inferior. So, I have been interested in how our political commitment to undoing the science of race in fact involves repetitively constituting and naming biologically deterministic categories. Underneath Dear Science, then, is an analytical web that addresses the limits of analysing science and studies of science within a framework that underscores and thus reproduces racial and gendered hierarchies and dichotomies.

These dichotomies and hierarchies do ‘work’ beyond the body and biological determinism, too: through the work of Sylvia Wynter and Aime Cesaire (among others), we can also notice the bifurcation of scientific knowledge and creative knowledge—and how particular communities are said to inhabit either side of this bifurcation. This epistemological splitting has led me to think about how black cultural producers utilize locution, imagery and sound to challenge and recast the colonial underpinnings of scientific knowledge as well as the analytical and interdisciplinary provocations that arise through imagining a black creative science. Early drafts have thought about these questions alongside the long poem Zong! by Nourbese Philip, the musical text Harnessed the Storm by Drexicya, Nas’ Untitled cover art, and two visual pieces by artist Joy Gregory, Memory and Skin and Blonde Collection. I hope to draw attention to the ways in which black creative artists provide a context through which science and creativity are enjoined and thus provoke new analytical challenges for cultural studies, science studies and black studies.

AK: One of the most striking things about your work is its ‘undisciplined’ nature; from your home in gender and cultural studies human geography meets black and anti-colonial studies…And that’s not the only border being trespassed: non-academic ways of imagining and knowing the world play an important role in your scholarship, from literature, poetry and music in Demonic Grounds and the book you co-edited with Clyde Woods, Black Geographies and the Politics of Place, to more recent work focusing on the writers Dionne Brand and Sylvia Wynter. I wonder if you might say something about these boundary-crossings and encounters, and the place of interdisciplinarity and different ‘expressive cultures’ in your research?

KMc: I have found that interdisciplinarity allows one to ask meaningful questions about race and social justice. The possibilities of interdisciplinarity are hopeful and resistant. It is an intellectually rewarding stance, for me—whose undergraduate training was in History and English Literature—to think outside the disciplinary box: this is an exciting analytical space where new ideas can be shared and debated. Methodologically, interdisciplinarity insists that we take a chance on what we do not know while also thinking about how the encounter of various intellectual traditions creates something new. Interdisplinarity and boundary crossing can also be frightening—Dear Science, for example, has brought a lot of new academic challenges to my life—physics, math, science studies—but these areas have pushed me to learn differently. I am not, of course, a physics, math, science studies expert; but engaging deeply with these areas has allowed me to take a chance on what I don’t know in order to think about the poetics of scientific knowledge as a legitimate entry into black and global intellectual history. It seems to me that if black people have been both excluded from and constituted by science—all too often rendered purely biological beings who are unscientific and unintelligent—they definitely have something to say about science that would challenge this worldview.

So how might we, as Edward Said asked, invite worldliness into our intellectual projects and struggles? And thinking with Frantz Fanon, how might we put together different kinds and types of knowledge in order to engender a decolonial perspective? How do we refuse to protect our intellectual property and welcome new ways of thinking? The world, as we know it, insists on encounter (colonialism, transatlantic slavery, and globalization pushed and push us together), and through this encounter something new is made possible. Interdisciplinary thinkers insist that knowledge is relational, multiple and equally valuable to understanding social justice. What I am trying to suggest is that interdisciplinarity, at its best, thinks with and beyond intellectual categories thus forcing us to think about race, gender and sexuality differently. To put it another way, if we breach the barriers between, say, the natural sciences and the humanities, might we also notice a worldview that newly attends to challenging practices of domination? This is, too, about intellectual activism and resistance to normalcy. Interdisciplinarity, at its best, loosens up disciplinary rigor, insists the intellectual histories of nonwhite and other marginalized communities are relevant, and reinvents what it is possible to know and who is a valid intellectual.

AK: Why were you interested in becoming an editor? And how are you finding work as part of an Editorial Collective?

KMc: I have been reading Antipode for a long time; it is a journal that raises important questions about how practices of inequity unfold geographically. The consistency of the journal also appeals to me—while I am an interdisciplinary scholar I like to engage with debates about the production of space precisely because, if I can riff off of Neil Smith, respatialization leads to repoliticization. Antipode has always delivered this kind sustained thinking about space and social justice and the journal is an amazingly comprehensive archive of Left geographic politics. And remember, too, some of the earliest writings on black geographies—I am thinking specifically about the great contributions by scholars such as Bobby Wilson in the 1970s—were published in Antipode. This history, alongside the hard work of the present Editorial Collective—who has maintained the journal’s intellectual integrity while also asking new questions about the place of the production of knowledge—interested me. My work as part of the Editorial Collective has been, to date, very insightful and interesting: each editor’s unique vision and scholarship is coupled with collaborative vision that, as mentioned above, is holding steady Antipode‘s history and positioning the journal as a place where new questions are being asked.

AK: Where, as you see it, is Antipode ‘at’? What do its papers look like? Where do you (want to) see the journal going?

KMc: The papers I have received have been very exciting and, I think, speak to the ‘new questions’ noted above. I have received some excellent papers on race, location and uneven geographies—with themes ranging from hip hop to community farming; all the submissions have focussed on the ways in which nonwhite communities are meaningful spatial actors who are not simply recipients of oppressive practices. This is to say that many of the papers I have engaged with are thinking about racial matters as heterogeneously articulated yet shaped by longstanding and powerful colonial practices. I really like the ways in which the thinking on difference—race, class, sexuality, (dis)ability, and so on—are working through the paradoxes of unfreedom and what is now being called neoliberalism: situating power and knowledge across locations, outside and within the hands of disenfranchised communities (although imagined and articulated differently), and reorienting where social justice and intellectual debate are taking place. For me, I am happy to continue these conversations—to build on intellectual and activist and social justice work that honours different kinds and types of knowledge and engenders new conversations about our collective political futures.""
katherinemckittrick  interdisciplinary  interdisciplinarity  race  geography  interviews  antipode  science  culture  edwardsaid  worldliness  frantzfanon  decolonization  colonialism  globalization  2013 
october 2015 by robertogreco

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