Month: November 2010

News on the News

Graham Harman writes in about the state of newspapers. Given that Freelance Extraordinaire came up as a newspaper person and could well use a good So. Cal. newspaper, we really grieve the loss of the LA Times. It was once a good newspaper and now it’s a thin rag. They drowned a lot of good journalists sinking that ship….


1. Here’s E. K. Picard’s thesis on Foucault and relational ontology from the University of Nottingham.

2. Since Levi Bryant was recently discussing agency, here’s a link I somehow came across to a 2007 paper on agencement, act-network-theory, and relational ontologies.

3. Brad Delong has been providing great links for those looking for the latest on the quest to punish the poor in Ireland.

4. Stuart Elden has two interesting discussions up: (a) on the use of the referees for journals (and how to write reports) and (b) Elsevier’s decision to publish article by article. For those who have just begun to write referee reports, Stuart’s suggestions (and those in the referenced posts) are really helpful. When I first did one, I spent a few hours crafting my report, to get the tone right; now it’s much quicker. The hardest reports are on rejections and, worse still, the revise and resubmits, since those require suggestions for revisions that, if fixed, you need to be make sure will get through the next peer review. As for Elsevier’s manor of publishing, I don’t really see the need for it, and this comes from someone who thinks almost everything should be online. Journals are not newspapers and thus can wait a bit for a whole journal to be put together. Otherwise, you’re printing articles, not journals… (I think that Symposium runs the easiest model at this point: put up the book reviews when they are available, with the rest to follow when the journal is printed.)



Howard University Petition

Here is the petition in support of the Howard University Philosophy Department, which Anita Silvers, with whom I’ll be serving in the APA’s Committee on Inclusion in the Profession, was kind enough to let me know about. I’ve send a snail mail letter, but there’s also an email address as well. She also writes:

Letters/emails to President Ribeau also may be very helpful.  His addresses (snailmail and cyberspace) are:
Dr. Sidney A. Ribeau, President
Howard University
2400 6th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20059

Letter-writers might do well to stress both the virtues of Howard’s own Philosophy Department (and the importance to Howard of its continued existence) but also the central importance to the profession of having Howard maintain its philosophy department.  Philosophy students at Howard have set up the following website with more information:
“Save Philosophy at Howard”

President Ribeau will announce his decision on December 1, so it’s important to take action writing to President Ribeau and signing the petition now (although as David Schrader points out, such decisions sometimes are rescinded if public pressure is maintained).

Annals of Peer Review

Stuart Elden linked a couple of day ago to this discussion about peer review. Obviously as long time editor of journals, I am going to think it a duty for people to do their part and review articles. I do quite a few each year and I try to turn down only those articles that I clearly should not have been sent. Stuart writes:

I read this with disappointment and a feeling that it was asking the wrong questions. As an editor, the only time I feel ‘guilty’ about asking someone to review for us is if they are retired or a non-academic. As far as I’m concerned, any academic, at whatever stage of their career, should be willing to review for journals. And they should do this without any kind of need for recognition, reward, payment, credentials, etc. It’s a shared system where their work generates the need for reviewers; and they review in turn. It’s not generosity: if the system changes, someone will ‘pay’, and that someone will ultimately be the author. Unless authors and reviewers are separate groups of people, which of course they currently are not, this is self-defeating.

I agree with Stuart on this. Maybe because I’ve also organized conference panels and such where I was asking people not just to write a paper but travel to various places, I feel no guilt whatsoever asking someone for peer review. And at RPR and before that at Philosophia Africana, we were pretty lucky at getting good reviewers for articles, and if certain well known figures can find the time, I think the rest of us can. As for service, I know that most people I know keep a line on their CV naming the journals and/or book publishers they’ve reviewed manuscripts for. I know in reviewing colleagues, this helped me to get a better guess that they were considered experts in their area of philosophy and thus were called upon to review articles. Thus, there is somewhat of an incentive, beyond the golden rule, to doing them.

Lucius Outlaw, “Africana Philosophy”

His entry for the Stanford Encycl of Phil is here.

“Africana philosophy” is the name for an emergent and still developing field of ideas and idea-spaces, intellectual endeavors, discourses, and discursive networks within and beyond academic philosophy that was recognized as such by national and international organizations of professional philosophers, including the American Philosophical Association, starting in the 1980s. Thus, the name does not refer to a particular philosophy, philosophical system, method, or tradition. Rather, Africana philosophy is a third-order, metaphilosophical, umbrella-concept used to bring organizing oversight to various efforts of philosophizing—that is, activities of reflective, critical thinking and articulation and aesthetic expression—engaged in by persons and peoples African and of African descent who were and are indigenous residents of continental Africa and residents of the many African Diasporas worldwide. In all cases the point of much of the philosophizings has been to confer meaningful orderings on individual and shared living and on natural and social worlds while resolving recurrent, emergent, and radically disruptive challenges to existence so as to survive, endure, and flourish across successive generations.

Group Think…

Levi has a post ( up that touches on groups as the very stuff of the political:

There are, in my view, a number of advantages to speaking about groups rather than subjects. First, of course, we can seek the conditions under which groups emerge out of collectives or come into being. Sartre has an exquisite analysis of all of the conditions that led to the storming of the Bastille and the invention of a new unity and the broader conditions that occasioned that invention. However, the concept of group rather than subject brings into relief other valuable questions. With the concept of group we get the question of how praxis is coordinated among diverse individuals. In other words, we get all sorts of practical questions pertaining to how individuals invent a group or themselves or mediate their differences. Likewise, we are afforded with the opportunity to analyze the microfacisms that emerge within groups, how groups ossify and become collectives, and how invention becomes self-defeating and alienating dogma. The question of political theory is not a question of how subjects are possible, but of how groups are possible. The problem with the concept of subject in political theory is that it illicitly unifies that which must be produced or unified, foreclosing these sorts of questions. As a consequence, we should eradicate this term from our vocabulary when doing political theory, instead asking how a group is possible. It is groups, not individual subjects, that are the subject of political theory.

I agree, and I think Levi and I have gone back and forth on this on the blogs some months ago. In fact, I should collect various writings on Sartre I have for a mini-volume arguing for forms of group praxis. On the one hand, of course, someone reading this might think it ridiculous that discussing groups is an advance. What about the polis? What about Mitsein? What all the forms of solidarity that have long been discussed in political theory? But groups as such seem to be a vanishing mediator between the state functions and the subject. On this point, Sartre (as well as Peter Hallward and Nina Power more recently) have much to say, especially about the formation of groups involved in revolutionary praxis. I think Rousseau is also an excellent resource here.

The time has certainly ended when all forms of groups or communities or solidarity as such are labeled as bad faith forms of communalism and forced adhesion to a center. The strange aspect of groups, as Rousseau recognized, is how they have a directedness of their own beyond its parts, not by some mystical incantation, as is often suggested. The example I use in courses is banal: think of a party (easy enough for students). One adheres to a certain dynamic, following an immanent code, while no individual is the party and no one has to rule over the group. Yes, there can be revolutionary terror (as Sartre notes), but a party (in the non-political sense) is not formed by bashing others over the head as Schmittians would suggest (and as poststructuralist critiques would worry over), but has its own dynamic that has its only end the party itself. (This is analogous to Rousseau: the end of the general will is perfectly circular, since it wants nothing other than that which a general will can enact itself.)