Month: March 2014

For those around MUN–Petition Time

SNtDdtoAgHLgTSa-556x313-noPadPlease consider signing this petition, as described below. For some reason the Senate pushed through, without all the usual debate up and down to the colleges, an allowance for those in the police program to carry guns to all of their classes (they do not just take police-related courses).  There is simply no reason for allowing definitionally un- or under-trained students to carry guns to class, and there’s no doubt the effect it would have on other students attending courses. (This is not to say I want armed police officers on campus either. Recall St. John’s police only in recent times began carrying firearms on a normal basis.)  Here is the message from Steve Crocker (Sociology):

Dear Colleagues,

I have started a petition at to ask the Senate to prohibit ALL students, including on-duty student police officers from bringing weapons to class. The petition is available at the following address:

If you paste the address provided above into your browser, it will take you to the petition. You will find there an explanation of the reasons for the petition which is a slightly revised version of the letter I circulated to you all on Monday.

The petition itself reads:

“I am opposed to the decision made at your November 12, 2013 meeting to revise calendar regulation 8.4 in order to allow student police officers to bring loaded weapons to class. Please reverse the decision to insure that ALL students, including on-duty student police officers are prohibited from bringing weapons to class.”
You will be asked to sign the petition by providing a name and an email address. A copy of the petition with your name and email address will then be sent to Shelia Singleton, Secretary of Senate.
This will only take a minute of your time and will send a powerful message to Senate.

Please circulate the petition as widely as possible to other faculty, students, staff, and anyone with an interest in Memorial. If any of you are on Facebook, Twitter or other social media I encourage you to circulate it there as well.

Thank you for giving this important matter your attention.

New Open Access Journal in Postcolonial Literary Theory

The Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry. Here’s the rationale from the introduction by Ato Quayson, Debjani Ganguly and Neil ten Kortenaar:

Thus the primary rationale for launching the Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Inquiry (PLI) at this conjuncture is to restore literature, aesthetics, and close textual engagement—rhetorical, narratological and tropological—to the center of postcolonial critical inquiry, not as ancillary concerns. This is no mere exercise in inversion (i.e., from text to context and now back to text), but a serious calibration of the erstwhile hermeneutic strengths of the field and a conscious attempt to bring them to the fore. To read literature as nonancillary is not, however, to read it autonomously of other things: quite the opposite. It is rather to attend to the granularity of texts as well as their historicity in the manner that the best postcolonial literary critics have shown us. What constitutes a thorough postcolonial hermeneutics of reading will be central to the concerns of this journal and contributions will be actively encouraged to engage such questions.

A few translated excerpts from the discussion following Foucault’s ‘Truth and Juridical Forms’ lectures in Rio

Stuart Elden, as part of his Foucault’s last decade project, picks up on interesting notes in his May ’73 Rio lectures.

Progressive Geographies

20130507-112649 Between 21-25 May 1973, Foucault gave five lectures in Rio de Janeiro. These were under the collective title of ‘Truth and Juridical Forms’. They were published in Portuguese in 1974 as “A verdade e as formas jurídicas” (easily available online), in French in 1994 in Dits et écrits (text no 139 – a retranslation from the Portuguese); and in English in the ‘Power’ volume of Essential Works in 2000.

I say a bit more about the lectures in a previous post on Foucault in Rio. There is also a forty-years on discussion in Portuguese here (from which I borrowed the picture).

The English translation does not include the 23 page discussion that followed the fifth lecture. The discussion covers Deleuze and Guattari, Oedipus, the relation of strategy and discourse, the Sophists, Dumézil and Lévi-Strauss, Jean-Pierre Vernant, Robert Castel and his archaeological work. The whole thing would be good to translate…

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Doug Henwood reviews Capital in the 21st Century

In Bookforum. The book is gaining wide reviews and Paul Krugman has called it the most important book on economics of the year, if not the  decade. Published last August in French, the book was gaining such a buzz that its original publication date was moved up a month to March. Having read most of it, Henwood is right: it is clear about the contradictions of capitalism that will lead inexorably to great inequality beyond what we are already seeing. But as Henwood notes–and I think this is generally true of a lot of political economy writing of the center-left–Picketty paints the grimmest picture, but his political answer (and his view is that the inequality is a result of politics, which is well known) is timid; the reason he gives is that he grew up during the collapse of communism. In this way, the book stands as a monument of our time: we can describe the collapse, but visions for anything else–beyond blithe talk of democratic deliberation made impossible by the vast inequalities described–are to blocked out due to the moral blackmail of visions of anything else returning us to the Soviet era. Henwood writes:

But the major frustration of the book is political. Piketty clearly shows that short of depression and war, the only possible way to tame the beast of endless concentration is concerted political action. The high upper-bracket tax rates of the immediate postwar decades couldn’t have happened without serious fears among elites—fresh memories of the Depression, threats from strong domestic unions, competition on a global scale with the USSR, which, for all its problems, was living proof that an alternative economic system was possible. As those things waned, upper-bracket taxes were lowered, wages and benefits were cut, and capital’s increased mobility led to increased competition among jurisdictions to offer a “favorable investment climate”—meaning weak regulations, low wages, and minimal taxes. All these trends have contributed to the concentration of capital over the last thirty years, as wealth and power have shifted upward on an enormous scale. None of these features will be reversed spontaneously. Nor will they be altered through “democratic deliberation”—several times Piketty notes the hefty political power of the owning class—or improved educational access, as Piketty actually urges at one unfortunate point. … Several times, Piketty disavows Marx—just a few lines later he credits “economic growth and the diffusion of knowledge” for allowing us to avoid “the Marxist apocalypse”—but he also concedes that those prophylactics have not changed capitalism’s deep structures and the tendency for wealth to concentrate. It seems, in other words, that Piketty’s own research shows that the old nineteenth-century gloomster had a point.

Unlike most modern economists, Piketty at least credits Marx’s ambition and profundity. But for Piketty, the main problem with Marx is his unequivocal call for political confrontation. Having described a process of inexorable material polarization—and with it, increasing plutocratic power over the state—Piketty remains distressingly moderate as he sounds out some of the political implications of his analysis. A major reason for his posture of socialist skepticism, he declares, is that he came of age as Soviet-style Communism was falling apart, which left him “vaccinated for life against the conventional but lazy rhetoric of anticapitalism.”

Launch for Jess Whyte’s Agamben Book

if you happen to be in NSW, this is an excellent work on Agamben, one on which I was a reader for SUNY, clearly written and critical when needed. Here’s the announcement:

Catastrophe and Redemption: The Political Thought of Giorgio Agamben will be launched on Friday April 4th at Gleebooks, by A/Prof Alison Ross (Monash University.) 
49 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe, NSW. 6 for 6:30pm
All welcome! The link for rsvps is here.