Voyou Désœuvré

Snow White and the Huntsman is certainly not a “good” film, although some of the ways in which it isn’t good I find endearing. It’s in the tradition of genre films that don’t have much narrative coherence – events happen, but there’s little sense of why any event follows from any other, or of any lasting significance to any event after it is over. In this, it reminds me of a few films I’ve seen over the past few years of which I’m rather inexplicably fond, particularly Aeon Flux and Dungeons and Dragons (the “sequence of unrelated events” structure is particularly appropriate in this case, as that is the underlying structure of a game of D&D); but the film that’s really in the back of my mind, and which explains my attraction to these incoherent films, is The Neverending Story. Read more↴

White audience members’ consequent “panic,” she notes, is simultaneously posited as an intended effect, a positing that locates and circumscribes [artist Adrian] Piper as a strategizing subject. Rather than remaining cognizant of how their panic is produced in the moment of their own receptive uptake, white interlocutors instead construe Piper as the sovereign and willful originator of their discomfort, disorientation, and shock. (Shannon Jackson, Professing Performance, 186)

(Note that this video contains repeated uses of the n-word.) Read more↴

I was very happy to see this response from the newly-formed coalition at Berkeley to the stupid College Republican bake sale. As College Republican groups have been doing for years, the Berkeley group decided to sell cupcakes at different prices to people of different races to make some kind of facile point about affirmative action.  The thing about the Republican stunt is that it’s stupid, and intentionally so, which makes it difficult to know how to respond. The coalition, as it turned out, had the right strategy – ignore the ten racist wankers with cupcakes, and organize a few hundreds students, mostly of color, in a striking demonstration of their visibility on Sproul Plaza. Don’t engage with the idiots, just show how pathetic and marginal they are.

I was happy to see this successful response, because the response from the University administration had been (predictably) useless, and the response from Student Government (perhaps not quite as predictably), also awful. Read more↴

Towards the end of this interview with Doug Henwood, Adolph Reed criticizes the tendency to describe the effect of race on contemporary politics using analogies drawn from the racism of the past—as a “new slavery” or “new Jim Crow.” I was reminded of Benjamin’s “On the Concept of History”:

One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its opponents treat it as a historical norm. The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are ‘still’ possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge—unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable.

It’s no accident that the description of contemporary racism in terms of past racism appeals to progressives, because the structure of the argument is itself progressive; that is, it suggests that there is a natural tendency for things to get better, and things which are bad are bad because they are outdated. This view presents racism as an atavism, and, in doing so, actually downplays the importance and persistence of racialized inequality; racism, it suggests, should have ceased to exist some time back in the 50s, but mysteriously has failed to do so.

There’s a fine line, when you encounter work close to your own, between the excitement that someone else considers your little area worth working on, and the worry that they might already have written the work that you are struggling to put together. This happened for me most recently when reading Kevin Anderson’s Marx at the Margins. As I’ve been trying to write about ways in which class reductionism misrepresents Marxism, Anderson’s detailed investigation of Marx’s writings on race, nationalism, and non-Western societies looked like it might render my gestures in that direction irrelevant. Luckily for me, Anderson’s book is actually the best sort of work to encounter, as it contains a huge amount of material on which one could build, while leaving enough theoretical space for others to do that building. Indeed, it is this combination of Anderson’s great aggregation of material with his comparatively sparse theorization of it that leads me to some thoughts about methodology for those of us attempting to construct theory through close dialog with particular texts and authors. Read more↴

The problem with MIA’s new video is not, as Anna Pickard claims, that it is “too shocking,” it is that it is not shocking enough. The video’s big “reveal,” that the state’s violence is directed at the redheaded, turns any possible shock into pure silliness. Read more↴