A Justice Site
Mirror Sites: CSUDH - Habermas - UWP
Sticks and Stones in the Academy - ASA 2000
Caliifornia State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest Update: August 21, 2001
The American Sociology Association
2001 Meetings in Anaheim
Collaborative Journal Entry by the Dear Habermas Research Team
Review and Teaching Essay by Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata
Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors: August 2001. "Fair use" encouraged.
- Marlene Boykin finds Gordon Fellman at the ASA Convention!
- jeanne bombs at Marxist Section Party!
- But the Happy Birthday part was fun! Journal entry by Gale Horton.
- Rough Draft of Susan's and Gales ASA Meeting Notes
- Reinterpreting Marx in a Postcolonial World in which the Subject
Keeps Disappearing into the Void? Jeanne's Pre-Conference Notes on Marxist Theory.
- Frantz Fanon and the Postmodern World Journal entry by jeanne.
Conference Information Online:
- ASA Online Program
- Planning for the Meetings
- Presentation Schedule
Marlene Boykin meets Gordon Fellman!
Journal entry by jeanne
You'll soon hear this story from Marlene and Pat and Gale and Susan, and maybe even Elise. But until then, what a great way to start off the Fall semester. We met Gordon Fellman! We even shared a banana split with him, albeit none of us was much hungry by then. He likes chocolate, just like Arnold. Watch for our story! jeanne, August 21, 2001.
The Marxist Section Party
Monday Evening at Anaheim
Initial Entry by jeanne
Just after Gordon Fellman and Steve Rosenthal left, Gale from UWP arrived to her dismay. Ours, too. We wish she had had a chance to meet them both. By then Arnold and Jeanne had finished off the banana split, and Pat had downed a rather small piece of her roasted chicken and a chocolate Sundae, bestowing her huge doggie bag of roast chicken on Marlene. Marlene had delivered a birthday cake to Gale's just-turned-twenty-one son, Eric, and Pat and jeanne and Arnold who had been eating first quesedilla's, then bread, then banana splits with the whole group as it came and went had turned slightly green at the gills. That may be the last banana split I ever order at a convention.
We had so looked forward to the party to meet all the people in the Marxist section. This was my second great attempt to mingle with Marxists, and it failed just as dismally as my first effort at Queens College way back in 1990. Everyone there seemed already to know each other, and our attempts at conversation seemed as out of place as they might at a capitalist cocktail party. We all stood hopefully at a round table for a while, and Marlene and Gale teased me mercilessly as my gills greened at every sight of cheese and/or "punch" or wine. There was a lady there I'd never met, but she seemed to be waiting for Susan Takata to arrive, and once Susan left to take Elise to dinner, the lady left, too.
Marlene and I decided that we had to make a positive effort at least to find Lauren Langman and Eric Boria. Checking out name tags just wasn't cutting it. Besides, the name tags were all talking to small groups and we were clearly interrupting. And I was too green at the gills to just plain announce to the near-empty ballroom that I darned well wanted to know where Lauren and Eric were. Marlene, who had refrained from the banana split, and was therefore not as miserable as I, just plain asked a couple of men she interrrupted where Lauren was. He was in a far corner of the room, engrossed in conversation around a table, where there were no spare seats. Undaunted, Marlene and I headed in a beeline for the table, interrupted them, and introduced ourselves. That didn't work either. It seems he's already married???
Having clearly bombed on that approach, I asked him where Eric Boria was. Lauren said he had e-mailed asking where the party was and that he had sent Eric an answering e-mail. Hey, I didn't know anybody could be more uncoordinated than the Dear Habermas team on home ground. I knew precisely where every member of our team was, and had known all day. And we were drifting in one by one from L.A. Sometimes we were en route between hotels, like Gale and Susan when Marlene waylaid Gordon Fellman, so we couldn't tell each other to hurry up and get there. But we knew where we all were, and we commiserated together when someone missed some fun.
Marlene and I, finding no easy entry into the Marxist group of unknowns, drifted back to a table on the outskirts where we'd left Gale and Arnold and Pat. What is it with people at parties or lunches, that they never notice the extent to which they are excluding newcomers who don't know anyone? And are we complicit when we then retire to our own table and console each other in our isolation? Mustn't there be something here about the hierarchy of acquaintanceship that is exclusive and harmful to the Other. Or do we only worry about the Other in postcolonialism, in which case, I really disagree with Spivak that colonialism is "different from" racism or any other oppressive, exclusionary, elite "ism." I guess we'll pose this question to Gordon Fellman and Steve Rosenthal. Hey, they both talked to us! Steve Rosenthal was at the Marxist Section Party, but he was surrounded by people intently interested in whatever was going on.
Back at our "safe table" way at the back of the huge ballroom, we agreed in our greenness that none of us was in any shape to go sing happy birthday to Eric in his hotel room. We decided to sing to him over the phone. Which we did. Gee, I'm glad I gave him the dung paper from Africa, earlier when we were on chicken quesedillas in the Hilton lobby. Dung paper notes and envelopes seemed such an appropriate gift for a 21st Birthday! Of course, Gale will have to introduce him to Ofili and the Virgin Mary when they get back to Wisconsin. Thank goodness it's on the site.
Even then, having made a spectacle of ourselves screeching happy birthday into Pat's cell phone, we laughed uproariously and had a good time. Maybe we were complicit, in the sense that when we weren't invited to explore any other sandboxes, we sat right down and played in our own. But we were socially unacceptable. I knew that. I'm not even sure anyone noticed us singing Happy birthday, loud and hodge podge as it was. Because when people are socially unacceptable we tend to deny their behavior by simply not even seeing it. My mother had that perfected. If I shouted at her in anger, she simply did not hear me. Damn, I hated that. That woman never really knew me, her denial mechanism was so healthy it was stronger than I ever was. She never knew either that my daddy was so drunk he couldn't breathe and the paramedics were trying to revive him. In her world he had a heart attack. Denial sucks. And it hurts, even at 65 and retired, to be excluded by people you would have liked to meet. Maybe, if they'd heard us in good faith, they would even have liked us. How safe a world must feel, if you are so important in it you can afford not to let Others in.
You know, I'm still surprised that Marxists behave this way. I think I have to try to know more about Marx as a person. Maybe TR Young can help. Let's ask him. And let's ask Gordon Fellman and Steve Rosenthal. I really would like a world with open sandboxes. jeanne, August 21, 2001.
But the Happy Birthday part was fun!
On Tuesday, August 28, 2001, Gale Horton, UWP wrote:Jeanne, Pat, Marlene & Arnold-
I just want to say thank you again for making Eric's birthday extra special!! You all really went out of your way, and I can't tell you how much it meant not only to me, but to Eric. Nowadays - people just don't do that sort of thing, and it meant so much to me. I think it was one of the highlights of Eric's trip. He will always remember his 21st. You all made it special - God Bless.
Frantz Fanon and the Postmodern World
Journal entry by jeanne
Now how on earth did I manage to mix up elephant dung and Frantz Fanon and postmodernism and postcolonial? Well, that's why this is a journal entry, so that we can explore the text together.
Pat was put off by the juxtaposition of Disneyland and Cities of the Future. That makes sense. Pat is taking a radical position of challenging the constraints of the dominant culture, and Disney is about as dominant culture as you get, short of plastic. But Pat also added "we've done "cities of the future" until we're blue in the face; we need to confront the real issues." And in the name of peace, I immediately sought to find the good and useful in our theme and to soothe Pat's ruffled feathers.
But then we went to really poorly attended roundtable sessions, and Arnold finally got me officially registered, and we went to the Marxist section party, and I was getting pretty grumpy myself. Why, I wondered. We were busy and having fun with each other, and we had even met Gordon Fellman. This was better than Universal Studios, oops, Disneyland. I'd rather meet Gordon Fellman any day than Goofy, even though I had fun at Disney World with Goofy.
Where from our malaise? Why wasn't it enough just to be there? I thumbed through the official program, and thought about it. In one of the roundtable sessions, poorly attended, there was one very active group, and we had sort of combined two tables, because of the poor attendance. We had been talking across the tables, and a gentleman from the active group came over and hemmed and hawed until Pat said "You want us to be quiet," and he nodded gratefully. Acoustics are not great in these huge ballrooms. We later moved to a far corner because their noise was interfering with our discussion. Once we disbanded at the end of the session, I went over to the active group to find out how they advertised their group and attracted such a group when the rest of us hadn't. Pat was still a little miffed at their wanting to silence us, but she let me go off in peace.
I just point-blank asked them how they managed to find each other. It was a theory session, as was ours. They called a journal they had just started the journal of mundane behavior, and they were delighted to hear our theories on theory construction and the inclusion of community and undergraduates in actual theory construction. We exchanged site information and journals and cards, and in a matter of minutes, had come to discover that we had much in common. So how, I wondered, had we almost missed each other? Both of our groups are seeking positive alternatives to the academy's exclusion. Both of us saw those positive alternatives in broad dissemination of theory in community and non-elite groups. But we had blown what could have been useful time together asking each other to be quiet. Wow!
I had to think on this one. Gordon Fellman provides us with one plausible answer. We are so used to adversarialism as a mode of operation that we are compulsively adversarial. So Pat and I were grumpy, especially after a traffic jam made me five or ten minutes late for the session. We had stayed in touch by phone, but the poor attendance had depressed Pat. That, and being asked to be quiet as we tried to remedy the attendance in a positive way, was enough to trigger us into our own exclusivity.
Hmm, Pepinsky, in his Peacemaking Primer, says that real discourse can't take place until the buried anger is expressed. I suspect we may be able to begin real discourse without the anger, but only by recontextualizing the situation. My curiosity as to how the other group had found one another was strong enough to overcome my grumpiness. Besides, all our CSUDH students had shown up as planned, and were having good experiences, and I was pleased as punch over that.
This whole experience colors my memories of the meetings. I realized that anger was natural, even among cohorts and colleagues, in the context of stress and exhaustion that often goes with our meetings. And that led me into thoughts of Frantz Fanon, and his recognition that genuine anger, real anger, is a fairly natural response to exploitation and/or exclusion. Merton recognized that when the means to the ends are unavailable deviance occurs. And Cris Ofili paints the Virgin Mary, but places bits of elephant dung on the canvas, so enraging the mayor of New York that he tried to disenfranchise the Brooklyn Museum over the Saatchi Collection Exhibit a year ago.
Fanon stopped denying that the colonized islanders wanted anything more than their "fair share" in return for their labor. He spoke of the anger of the exploitation and the seizure of land. And he spoke of the desire that anger invoked, not to take a "just" portion, but to take back the land that was theirs. They didn't want just fair wages. They wanted to take the colonist's place as the owner of the ranch, and to enjoy its profits. Even though they may not take the ranch, I think I agree with Pepinsky that an important component of coming to peaceful solutions in the aftermath of empire and imperialism, is to stop denying the anger, to express it, and to permit awareness to soften it, over time. Fanon said that he wrote not to the white man, but to the black man. He didn't much care what the colonizers thought. He expressed the anger of the oppressed and exploited, the colonized.
Postcolonialism seeks to give voice back to the colonized, to the voiceless, to those who provided the cultural and structural context in which the texts, the intellectual foundations of the civilization, were situated. This is Edward Said's position with postcolonialism. And the plasticity and superficiality of the Disney Kingdom have a great deal to do with the texts we share today on cities, now and in the future. We wonder at racism and other isms which continue to plague us so many years, as Pat recalled, after we made them our priorities. But if we deny the elephant dung, and try to close down museums that show Ofili's work, and if we deny the anger of the colonized, to which Fanon speaks, we are denying the depth of character of the Other, whose exploited labor and creativity are the foundation of our amusements.
That's how Ofili's Shithead popped up in my mind, and I just happened to have a painting of it. The head is a ball of elephant dung, crowned with real human teeth and with Ofili's own hair. And it was shown at the Museum of Contmporary Art in Los Angeles, and no mayors tried to close the exhibit down in 2001. Real hair, not plastic. Real teeth, if I remember correctly, not plastic. And elephant dung which Ofili had learned to incorporate into his paintings during a year he spent in Zimbabwe. And Disneyland. And postcolonialism.
love and peace, jeanne August 22, 2001.
It's been a hectic summer, folks. But the site is redesigned for the umpteenth time, and we think it's pretty much intuitive now. All that, plus my trip to South Africa, means that we're running faster than the Red Queen again.
I've still got some site material to put up, but the preliminary program will give you an idea until tomorrow or Sunday of how we'll fit your part together with the whole megillah. The themes we want you to be sure you tie in for discussion are, of course, a paradigm shift away from structural violence towards peace and social justice. Don't forget to define structural violence for your listeners.
Theory: late capitalism and the commodification of culture that entails, and what we need to know about marxism and capitalism to achieve a paradigm shift away from structural violence toward peace and social justice. I'm trying to get the online references on all this up ready for you right now. Academic references we'll rely on: Farganis, Fellman, TR Young, Henry and Milovanovic, Habermas, and all the sources on balancing left/right critical reasoning.
Praxis: what you have that is special for these meetings is the practical experience of using our site and the faceto-face time we have to explore issues of peace and social justice in the context of a university setting. If awareness and public discourse can guide us towards being able to survive together on this globe, as Habermas believes, then the skills we are developing in our classroom discussions and over the Internet are essential to the self-education of the communities in which we live. Susan and Pat and I have the theories at our fingertips. Don't try to go off and do fancy theory construction all by yourself. Share with us. We'll be glad to help. What we want you to focus on is the stories that tell of your experiences with this model.
I've put up already a resource page on Aging, with Marlene in mind as I selected material for it. I'd like Marlene to focus on how this model works for her and in ways that might be of use to those who will be working in gerontology. Mac has taken off with Susan on a general discussion of racism. I'll be putting some of that up for you soon. Mac isn't planning to come to the meetings, so some of you should be prepared to offer her threads along with your own. Donna and Tina and Michael are off somewhere, sending me no more than electronic cards and forwarded stories. C'mon, guys! You're graduate students now!
Pat's covering liberation theology and the link between spirituality and social justice, while Susan's concerned with the social justice issues of medical research. More on that, too, soon. Lisa, I should think you might want to focus on forgiveness, since you and Bridget had some very poignant experience with that issue in theory last Spring. And Michael Briggs, I'd like you to share how the model helped you adapt to external pressures that could otherwise have delayed you education. Tyron, critical race theory, please. How does the model put us inside the issues?
Bobbie's checked in with Pat, but neither of them has told me what Bobbie's focus is. I know she was working on developing some structure, procedure, and history for Dear Habermas, to ease the confusion that results from the constraints of academic scheduling faced by any student-run operation.
I've been keeping all this in my head. Time to get it down here for all of us to look at. More soon . . .
love and peace, jeanne
- Section 209.09:9 - Sunday, August 19, 2001. 10:30 a.m.
Anaheim Convention Center in Ballroom A
Reinterpreting Marx in a Postcolonial World in Which the Subject Keeps Disappearing into the Void?
jeanne and Susan and Pat and Gale and Bobbie will address the issue of "The Role of Art in Social Theory" and "Critical Criminology Perspective of Violence"
We had a great session! Field report up soon! jeanne
- Section 385 - Monday, August 20, 2001. 2:30 p.m.
The Hilton Anaheim in Pacific Ballroom D.
Transforming Theory Building: A Proposed Strategy for Reshaping Our Approach.
We have a conflict on this one, since Marlene and Lisa and Bobbie and Pat and Susan and jeanne are scheduled in two sessions and ASA was unable to change it, we'll have to plan on splitting theres two sessions.
- Section 386 - Monday, August 20, 2001. 2:30 p.m.
The Anaheim Marriott in Orange Salon 1.
Transforming Educational Discourse for Inclusion
Marlene will address the inclusion of community and the older adult in educational discourse and the extent to which Dear Habermas has made that possible.
Lisa will address the inclusion of students in the educational discourse, and the extent to which Dear Habermas has made that possible.
Gale will address the inclusion of students cross-country through the use of the Internet. , and the extent to which Dear Habermas has made that possible.
jeanne and Pat and Susan will contribute as they can manage with the conflict.
- The Marxist Section Party - Monday, August 20, 2001. 6:30 p.m.
The Hilton Anaheim in Pacific Ballroom C
Reinterpreting Marx in a Postcolonial World in which the Subject Keeps Disappearing into the Void?
David Kolb, in answering questions about Socrates in the Labyrinth, gives a sense of the "disappearing subject" as the philosopher author who is no longer in control of the text as it is open to interpretation by others:
"I could have made more in the text of the ways in which the author cannot possess the work. Not just in the sense that the work once public is open to foreign hermeneutical strategies, though that is important.
What I was trying to say was that the author cannot possess the background, the facticity, the foundation, if you want, of the work. There is no graspable foundation. We cannot encompass our own birth, the world, language, sending or gift, or the meaning(s) of being we find ourselves within, to use Heideggerian turns of phrase. The author cannot possess the work even before it is exposed to the hermeneutical action of the other. For the work was never private, just as the author was never a single individual."
See Possession (of a text) for further explication.
The disappearing subject to whom we refer in our reinterpretation of Marx is not the philosopher author, however, but the teacher author. And postcolonialism comes into the mix when an indigenous people are colonized and exploited, losing therein their identity and voice. The teacher in our present educational system seeks to control and own the information to be accepted by the student. The student has no voice, no identity as co-author in this arrangement. The reinterpretation of Marx to which we allude is the recognition that where once it was hierarchy in the mode of production that was controlled, today it is the hierarchy in the production of knowledge that is being controlled. Our concern is to give genuine voice to the student in the building of knowledge, and the technology of the Internet offers a broad enough access to make this a realizable goal.
Dear Habermas is an example of praxis based on this reinterpretation.
Albrecht Wellmer, "Adorno's Aesthetic Redemption of Modernity," in Anthony Elliott'sContemporary Social Theory. Blackwell. 1999.
"[Benjamin argued that] it is only in the new political forms of action, and in the alternativ eand resistance movements, that artistic 'actions' and 'happenings' have found the context in which they can develop their aestetic explosive force. . . .
But the specific utopian aspect contributed by art is also present in every single authentic artistic production, whether in the overcoming of speechlessness, or in the sensual crystallization of a meaning that is dispersed in in empirical evidence."
"Transforming theory building: a propposed strategy for reshaping our approach.
Susan R. Takata and Jeanne Curran, discussing the inclusion of students in the building of theory as a structural component on which to base a lifelong pursuit of theoretical exploration of community praxis.
We have treated theory building as though it were the exclusive province of professionals in the academy.