Monday, April 07, 2008


i am rebooting the blog--first created in 2005 with only two posts, one of which i deleted because it felt a bit more like a diary entry than public writing--because i have become morbidly enthralled with blogs lately. beneath are some thoughts i shared with a friend who also has a blog devoted primarily to academic-y stuff. it is very cursory and a filled with grammatical errors, but grammar is classist so whatever:

Been reading your blog, I hope you keep adding to it, it’s very interesting. Plus it will probably be an invaluable asset for you as an aspiring academic: it seems every hip left wing professor has a blog these days (,,, among many many others, and, hippest and most crassly self-promotional of them all, Academics are increasingly turning themselves into talking heads and freelance intellectuals as universities have taken up the Stanely Fish style of academic administration, trading star academics around for bigger and bigger salaries like baseball players (what kind of steroid does an academic use? We can only hope they’re all as hip as Benjamin when it comes to drugs…). If academics are MLB player, then I guess their blogs are like academic trading cards, then, publicity gimmicks that are rapidly accruing a value of their own. Is it a pity to see academics turning their activity into Spectacle, including even the craggiest old Maoists and Eastern Bloc-er’s, or is it just a recognition that the Left needs to try to get a stake in what little of the internet hasn’t already been territorialized by corporate capital?

It is interesting that Zizek has defending his involvement in “popular” media as a way to avoid the shit show of the American academy. When the Boston globe asked Zizek whether there was anything “unseemly” about his writing for the Abercrombie and Fitch Quarterly catalogue in 2003, he said ''If I were asked to choose between doing things like this to earn money and becoming fully employed as an American academic, kissing ass to get a tenured post, I would with pleasure choose writing for such journals!'' Perhaps rather than react with overt hostility to Zizek’s pop-star methods—his shilling for A&F, appearance on the Children of Men DVD, the 3 documentaries that have been made about him, his appearance on a few American infotainment—we should read Zizek as the fulfillment of the marketization of the academy: now the “academy” as an intellectual-market enterprise no longer needs the academy as the institution. But what the hell, the French have been doing it ever since existentialism, right? The real test is whether market strategies will compromise the integrity of academic work any more than the ostensibly anti-market tenure system already has…

And what is this marketization of the academy itself a symptom of? Against the right-wing assertion that the academy is overly politicized, we should assert that it is in fact utterly depoliticized: what matters most in the academy right now is making your buck from the highest bidder, not the collective formulation of rigorous political and intellectual movements. It is no wonder then that it is inter-disciplinary “identity” departments like Africana Studies and Latin American Studies departments that have become the last bastions of more dedicated political thinking in the academy. Of course, nothing protects such departments form marketization either: but what has made them hold together marginally better than philosophy, comp lit, English, and culture studies departments is the ideological heritage that created these departments as the results of broader political struggles for rights and power for various ‘minority’ groups (two parenthetical thoughts: (1) lets never use this word ‘minority’ again because it sucks all the history out of the terms “black” “woman” “queer”, etc., the history that constitutes the very identity of these groups and is the substance of all their political claims for power, and turns politics into an a-historical task of apportionment (2) True there was a certain political fight behind the creation of culture studies departments, but I think that that political fight—what do we do with all these old Marxists and people who read French philosophy?—is one largely internal to the academy rather than one effective in society at large).

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