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September 22nd, 1985 - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
cbertsch
cbertsch
September 22nd, 1985
Reading Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography in high school had a profound effect on me. As a native Pennsylvanian who was an impressionable youngster during the Bicentennial celebration and took elementary-school field trips to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, I found it easy to elevate him to the status of a teacher I'd actually be willing to heed. Sadly, nobody told me to look for the irony in his self-presentation. For a time, I dutifully sought to copy what I took to be his methods for self-improvement. I was especially impressed with his lists:

To be fair to myself, this particular period in my youth was one in which my list-keeping bore edible fruit. I got more done during the first trimester of my senior year than in the previous five years combined. Of course, I was also popping far too many No-Doz and engaging in self-marginalizing behavior such as letting one sleeve of my jacket hang limp. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

Tags: ,
Muse: Vengeance Is Sleeping - Neko Case - Middle Cyclone

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Comments
From: babyiwasshot Date: March 16th, 2009 10:18 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
In our Bad Subjects manifesto (Issue #7, September 1993) we offered a critique of a kind of multiculturalism that 'encourages people to embrace and celebrate the very identities which they have received from their historical and present oppression,' doing 'little more than allow people to see negative stereotypes in a positive light.'

Doesn't Irigary refer to this as "strategic essentialism?"

Also, your Bad Subjects piece could easily pertain to myself.....**sigh** emerging from the shell of isolation becomes increasingly difficult as time spent in exile is protracted; I'm actually struggling to formulate an "emergence" at present...
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: March 16th, 2009 11:20 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I find that piece painful to reread, much less to remember the period it documents, even or perhaps because it is so damned truthful.

Yes, it's "strategic essentialism" we were thinking about. I remember my friend and Bad Subjects co-founder Annalee Newitz declaring in Judith Butler's seminar in the fall of 1993 that it was high time for a notion of "strategic totalization" on the Left, a move I applauded to the precise degree that it made other graduate students in the room gasp in horror.

From: babyiwasshot Date: March 17th, 2009 12:00 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
It's strange how the Scandinavian dramatists manage to capture all of those themes so well (Ibsen, Strindberg, Bergman....); then again, I'm falling prey to my penchant for categorizing by turning it into a geographical thing....

it was high time for a notion of "strategic totalization" on the Left, a move I applauded to the precise degree that it made other graduate students in the room gasp in horror.

It's an admirable aim, but hard to attain, particularly in the wake of bad blood between quarrelling groups. Everybody want's their cultural "territory." It's vaguely redolent of the tribal conflicts--caused in part by imperial "divide-and-conquer" policies--that plague Africa.....
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: March 17th, 2009 03:21 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
You're right about the "tribalism." What we wanted was a less theoryish version of the argument that Toni Negri has been making for a long while, which incorporates the anarchist critique of statist political thinking and at least walks a few steps in the direction of American-style multiculturalism, but still insists retaining basic premises of Marxism as the underlying foundation for radicalism on the Left.
From: babyiwasshot Date: March 17th, 2009 04:56 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Where can I read Negri's ideas? What book/paper is this in, because it sounds rather appealing.
elizabeg From: elizabeg Date: March 16th, 2009 11:05 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Awesome. I was struck by the Autobiography, too, the first time I read it. But I think that was in college rather than high school. Or at least I don't remember it from high school? But I do remember his insane tables with little dots and wondering if he felt any of the irony I could feel so palpably in his insistence all behavior could be modified if documented.

Also: That is the new Neko Case album, yes? I knew it was coming out this month. And then I forgot to head to the record store. Must rectify that situation immediately...!
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: March 16th, 2009 11:22 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
If you felt that irony in high school, you were more advanced than I was. Hell, I know you were more advanced than I was. Still, I'm thinking you might have encountered it in college, if a dimly remembered conversation is any guide.

I have the album. It's pretty excellent, even more than I had expected.
elizabeg From: elizabeg Date: March 16th, 2009 11:34 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Don't worry--I'm fairly sure it wasn't high school :)

I just listened to the "Vengeance" track on lastfm and now I want the record even more...
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: March 17th, 2009 03:17 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
It's a great record. I always like her. But I am surprised how much better this record is than I had thought it would be.
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