Author Archives: kruelle

Never Let Me Go?

I wonder if any of you have read this book / seen this movie (that is, Never Let Me Go)? I have not had a chance to do so yet, but after reading its plot summary it sounds like it would provide very interesting fodder for analysis with respect to our class topics. I’m going to muse some about it beyond the break just based on what I’ve read on Wikipedia/elsewhere, so if you don’t want to be spoiled for the plot of this book/film, don’t read any further.

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Ditmore without Ditmore (substituting Ditmore)

So, there was no Ditmore this week after all, but I tried to look up the chapter anyway. I did not succeed, but I did find some information on what it is about. Ditmore is interested in sex trafficking and according to this source writes about organized groups of sex workers in India who work together to educate and empower other sex workers in their communities, and work internally to identify and help liberate trafficked persons in their brothels. Ditmore contrasts this with an approach from police usually involving raids. I found another report Ditmore wrote on this subject (police raids) in 2009 for the Sex Workers Project. I did not read the actual report (it’s 74 pages long) but the executive summary seems to provide a good overview. One point she makes is extending the conception of “trafficking,” popularly conceived of only in relation to sex work, to a broader range of types of work including domestic labor, agricultural labor, manufacturing, and service industries. This seems to provide an interesting lens to look at migratory labor, as mentioned at the end of the notes on Mazzadra, with respect also to Pugliese and talking about anti-voluntarism of migrants — is it useful to then utilize the lens of “trafficking” when talking about that?

At least in this report, Ditmore describes her proposed course of action as centering “the needs, agency, and self-determination of trafficking survivors.” She doesn’t specifically use language about affect here but I’m sure in the piece in The Affective Turn she puts a more definite affective spin on her particular moves; maybe she is changing the types of discourses she’s utilizing based on her supposed audience for the different pieces? In any case, there is definitely still a lot here about providing affective support for sex workers and migrants in various ways, and fostering community-building.

Looking up what this piece was about made me think about a discussion some of us had earlier today (well, yesterday, now) while doing the readings. We were unconvinced by the moves/arguments being made by several of the authors about the positive biopolitical potential of affective labor, and how that would actually work. Without reading her actual piece, I wonder if maybe that is what Ditmore is trying to give an example of here? She’s talking about using these affective methods of both support and community building in order to increase the power these sex workers have in protecting their own communities, which I suppose could be looked at as a positive biopolitical affective move. Thoughts?

Marxism and Cultural Studies conference

Many accounts of the emergence and development of Cultural Studies
accord a central place to Marxism, both as a body of knowledge and as
an important ideological component of the New Left. The rediscovery of
the writings of Antonio Gramsci, George Luckacs, Walter Benjamin, and
Theodor Adorno, among others, along with the formation of the
Birmingham Centre for Cultural Studies, led to a general renaissance of
Marxist theory and cultural analysis, which in turn resulted in
ground-breaking studies of working class culture, the political role of
new social movements that were not class based, the power of ideology
and mass culture in sustaining existing social relations, and critical
analyses of state-authoritarianism. As Cultural Studies crossed the
Atlantic and gained an institutional foothold in the United States,
some have feared that its engagement with Marxism has been diluted
through an over emphasis on the subversive potentialities of mass media
and consumer capitalism.

The 2011 conference, “Marxism and Cultural Studies,” will explore the
role of Marxism in the field. Some questions that motivate this year’s
conference are: How do we understand the relationship between the base
and superstructure today? Does ideology critique still have an ongoing
usefulness? Do globalization and the world recession require new
objects of study? To what extent does Marxism provide a utopian impulse
for existing social movements? Do iterations of Cultural Studies in
South Asia, Africa, Central and Latin America, the Middle East, and
Eastern Europe retain a commitment to Marxism and how is this work
revitalizing the field more broadly? Does the Marxist imperative to
historicize challenge current paradigms of cultural analysis such as
the “New Formalism”? What exactly does a historical materialist
methodology enable? How do we articulate media analyses with questions
of political economy, geo-politics, and activism? What is the role of
the intellectual and Cultural Studies more generally?

Panelists will address some of these issues during three sessions:
“Marxism and Cultural Analysis,” “Marxism and Social Movements,” and
“Marxism and History.” Invited speakers include: Dianne Feeley (UAW
and Against the Current) Laura E. Lyons (University of Hawai’i), Ursula
McTaggart (Wilmington College), and Janet Sorensen (University of
California, Berkeley). S. Charusheela (University of Nevada) will
deliver the keynote address which will consider the “return” to Marx
and the political limitations of a too-easy embrace of economic
determinism for cultural analyses.
FRIDAY, April 1 (Ernie Pyle Auditorium, Room 220)
4:00-6:00 pm; Opening Keynote:
Delivered by S. Charusheela “Rethinking Marxism in Times of Turmoil”

SATURDAY, April 2 in the Faculty Club on the Second Floor of IMU
10:00 am-12:00pm; Panel I: Marxism and Cultural Analysis
1. Laura E. Lyons “‘I’d Like My Life Back’: BP, Corporate Personhood
and the Intimate Public Sphere”
2. Patrick Dove “Muddying the Waters: The Politics of Populism in
Peronist Argentina”
3. Lessie Frazier:”(Counter)Revolutionary Cultures”
Moderator: Nick Williams

1:00 pm-3:00 pm; Panel II: Marxism and Social Movements
(Faculty Club on the Second Floor of IMU)
1. Gardner Bovington “What’s class struggle got to do with it? Social
mobilization and framing”
2. Dianne Feeley “Building Feminist Consciousness in a Male Workplace.”
3. Jeff Gould “Marxism and Christian Base Communities: Notes from
Morazan, El Salvador”
Moderator: Micol Siegel

3:15 pm–5:15 pm; Panel III: Marxism and History
(Faculty Club on the Second Floor of IMU)
1. Janet Sorenson TBA
2. Ursula McTaggart “Change as Code for Black Radicalism: Barack Obama
and Right-Wing Charges of Socialism”
3. Matt Guterl “Class Passing and Cosmopolitanism in the Age of Globalization”
Moderator: Patrick Brantlinger

Minnesota proposed welfare legislation

Hi all, I mentioned I was going to post these in class on Monday, but then sorry, things have been really hectic and I didn’t get the chance to post them until today. The articles I was referring to are here and here.

And I brought it up in class already that what reminded me of this in our readings were a few parts in the Wanning Sun article. First on p.277 is the discussion of the “stratified politics of consumer desire”; of who gets to yearn and whose longings are legitimate. A lot of the attempts to police spending of people who are on welfare so they don’t “waste their money” on things they are defined as not needed seems to spring from that place. The later comment on p.284, that “the refashioning of the migrant body is more beneficial to employers than to the migrants themselves” also kind of made me think of some similarities, although as we discussed in class, these situations have significant differences. I think in the Sun article when it articulates that these employers might view their preference for “country bumpkins” as “doing their part” to advance a modernizing nation-building project, and that is part of why it’s more beneficial to themselves to exert their parental authority in that way, there seem to be some differences/similarities. This discussion of this potential law in Minnesota has some of the same air of parental authority in directing behavior, but not as much about advancing modernizing project. Also, there is more there perhaps under the surface about specifically promoting certain businesses maybe owned by congressmen, that people are welfare are restricted to through the debit card.

As an important difference, of course, the Sun piece concentrates on the feminization of labor migration, a central point in a lot of these pieces, which is something that is not directly present in this Minnesota situation (neither migration, nor specific feminization of labor, though in the larger situation of this story there may be a feminization of people on welfare? I’m not sure, myself).

Also week 9 discussion

I also felt I got the most out of the two Waldby and Cooper pieces this week.These two obviously tied together really closely and addressed a lot of the same topics. The Fortunati also tied to these with analyses of reproductive labor. I had a harder time figuring out how the Parisi fit with the other three as it seemed grounded in a lot of different specific ideas.

The Waldby & Cooper seemed to tie in a with a lot of other things we have read about this stratification of bodies with certain bodies being designated as resources for others in a global labor flow. In the first piece, “The Biopolitics of Reproduction,” I thought the end suggestion of recognizing these forms of labor and agency in order to link them with labor organization and activism was interesting.

One thing I kept wondering about as I was reading, particularly in the Fortunati, was about how this lens can be applied (or what other lenses could be applied?) in situations where you don’t have this kind of heteronormative family structure going on. If you’re talking about people of whatever gender who support themselves and aren’t part of a two-person pairing, so they’re performing their own productive and reproductive labor, how do they fit into this scheme? To apply this model must everyone performing reproductive labor always be conceived of as occupying this female position, whatever their sex/gender? It seems like a useful model for many situations, but with definite limits. (Also, not having read a ton of Marxist theory, I wonder how lines are always drawn between productive / not-productive labor. Does productive labor necessarily need some kind of physical product? Is intellectual labor still productive? Does management count as labor or is that considered part of the capitalist structure?)

Cooper Ch.3 “Preempting Emergence: The Biological Turn in the War on Terror”

Most of this was way outside my knowledge zone, but there were¬† a few bits I found particularly intriguing. Overall this idea of the cross-fertilization between biomedicine and militarism was interesting. I liked the details about language use from one influencing the other (such as mentioned on p.76), leading to this argument that public health must “mobilize” against “emergence itself” (80). Also was struck by the concept nearer the end of “transforming war into a process of permanent neoliberal counterrevolution” framed in terms of permanent preemption of emergence (88-9).

I was most interested in this idea of catastrophe risk bonds. I wonder why they’re abbreviated “cat bond”; is it just because it’s shorter, or does it remove the perhaps lurid/gauche way something called a “catastrophe bond” might come across? As the article mentions, these transform “uncertainty into a tradable event” (85). After looking some things up on Wikipedia and a few other websites,I found out a bit more about cat bonds. They were “created & first used in the mid-1990s,” following Hurricane Andrew (in 1992) and other natural disaster which caused many insurance companies to go bust paying out claims. Insurance companies issue “bonds through an investment bank, which are then sold to investors” in multiyear deals. If there’s no catastrophe, investors earn a nice interest rate, but if there is a catastrophe, they could lose some/all the money, which the insurance company would use to pay out claims. The cat bond market was $1-2 billion / year in the 1998-2001 period, rose to over $2 billion following 9/11, and is now over $4 billion following Hurricane Katrina. Particularly, following Katrina, the odds on these bonds were rapidly readjusted because scientific modelers changed their models of the likelihood of such a natural disaster occurring; thus the whole “industry” “live[s] at the mercy of these modelers,” as one article said. One website of a leading company in cat bonds, Swis Re, has on its website that it does “risk financing that makes societies more resilient” — it’s very interesting, this kind of language use, because who is it really making things more resilient for? The insurance companies, definitely, and a little bit for people with claims because they’re more likely to get their claims out, but it’s not like people impacted by catastrophes no longer are impacted by their material/financial consequences. The discourse of this industry seems set to take catastrophe and turn it into something “boringly normal,” this commodity that can be traded/used for profit, masking the experiences of the people impacted by such catastrophes in the process.

Deleuze – Postscript on the Societies of Control (1992)

Starting in an odd way from the end, I’ll say that after reading through this twice, I wondered when it was published, and when checking the date, also saw that it was published by The MIT Press. I thought that was interesting given the content of the piece re: technology and all, and hadn’t heard of the journal, October, so I looked it up, and its description says, “focuses critical attention on the contemporary arts and their various contexts of interpretation: film, painting, music, media, photography, performance, sculpture, and literature.” Continue reading