There’s a lot of good posts up this morning from different places and I’ll try to get to them. One though catching up to is responses to Michael Bérubé’s recent Chronicle of Higher Education article on the state of cultural studies. In some sense this has become the big academic debate akin to the Krugman and Chicago school free-for-all over the state of rational choice economics. Bérubé basically and tenaciously argues against the self-supposition of cultural studies that it’s Doing Something Very Important. All due respect to my cultural studies friends, but on this he’s right: you’re not bringing down the Man with your critiques of comic book depictions of women. On the other hand, he’s not criticizing the way in which cultural studies takes various objects usually thought to be of little intellectual import to unearth wider cultural tropes.
So far, so good. Bérubé’s genuine concern over the fate of cultural studies—that is, it’s sad place as a running joke for generally conservative idiots in other departments—was taken as a “concern troll” maneuver, with UC Davis’s cultural studies department writing in to say as much, among other things. I think this is wrong. I think Bérubé is right about when and where cultural studies has had an influence (the work of Paul Gilroy comes to mind), but I think it is genuine concern when cultural studies takes up such disparate areas (cyborgs to army military manuals…) that the moniker “cultural studies” doesn’t say much. The problem is as much to be understood in terms of theoretical positions: is it be understood that in doing “cultural studies,” you are working under a common theoretical approach? If not, then what can be done to circumscribe what is done under cultural studies in order not to make it a jack of all trades, master of none? I won’t take sides in this for right now—not least since I have to leave for class—but I would say that Bérubé is not attacking cultural studies and isn’t a concern troll and should be treated as such: he is as well read in this area as anyone, but more importantly performs excellent cultural studies in numerous essays and books. Anyway, to get a feel for the debate, see Bérubé’s response to his responses, which also has all the links for this you’ll need.
For those who like a prettier version of their RSS feed, here it is. Very useful.
I think it might be the Ukrainian acoustic version of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters,” but there’s quite a few tears in the audience for what is really worth eight minutes of your time, sand animation telling a moving story of loss.
Academic Spends Days Researching what will Becomes Knockout Footnote…
OOP’s observation about the A list and lower is generally about true, namely that the bigger the name, the nicer they are. But I’m not sure if it’s simply that they know that they don’t have to bother. Sometimes I get the feeling with certain people that they don’t even know how big they are. I can think of a couple who genuinely seem surprised any fuss made over them, and I imagine that those I can think of are or were not good enough actors to pretend that well. I think part of it simply has to do with the fact that they often don’t hear good, genuine responses to their work or that the splitting up of disciplines means that they spend most of their time walking around campus and such where no one knows them. Of course, people like Rorty, Derrida, and Badiou would have to know, so that points against this thesis. And I must say this for Graham, he does have a better eye for these petty games than I do. Generally, I would think, using the example he gave about people making you wait, that they are really just busy. I write a lot about power but generally I’m quite naive about it.
As for his funeral hopping, it reminds me of when I was in Vienna and I had a friend pick me up who was going to show me the city. He took me for a really grim tour of some graveyards—no celebrities and such, just anonymous graveyards of prostitutes and others buried without names. I remember he specifically said it was one of my last days in Vienna and I should make sure I see some interesting stuff. I guess we might have had different things in mind.