Blog Archives

Arrogance and Vitriol: Kotsko and the Self-Cannibalism of the Left

The thickness of Adam Kotsko’s vitriol and arrogance in his latest anti-GCAS post is disconcerting, and almost astounding. While there are certainly very real concerns regarding GCAS, and it is definitely a program that will take time to grow and develop, this level of hateful (I don’t think this word is too strong) disrespect is precisely the sort of negative self-cannibalism that has, and continues to render the left (particularly the academic left) completely impotent. It is easier to callously dismiss than to support attempts to think academia differently. As anyone who has actually worked to develop curriculum and to start a school would know (and I have worked with a school upstart) the opening months of operation are tremendously difficult, and a certain amount of “growing pain” is to be expected. How precisely Kotsko understands this sort of arrogant rant to actually positively affect this situation, or the broader world at large, is completely unclear.

I would rather stand behind and offer my voice in support of a school (whatever faults it may possess [and I can agree that it has some]) that is putting its feet to the ground and trying to act into the world differently, than behind the all-to-easy task of arrogantly critiquing from behind the computer screen.

Constructive criticism is a necessary part of any socio-political endeavor. But caustic troll-esque rants help nothing.

How, it might be worth asking Kotsko, is his sort of attack “revolutionary or paradigm-shifting”? How does the consistent attempts by the left to blithely undercut one another offer “a blow against neoliberal hegemony”?

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To Simply Walk into the Room…

There is nothing easier than simply walking into the room, right?

I recently attended a conference at Akron University entitled “Feminist Scholarship and Practice in the 21st Century” and put on by the Committee for Research on Women and Gender. I should begin by commending the conference for putting together an exciting and interesting set of presentations and a fascinating keynote (Patti Lather, Ph.D.). While the other presenters and the staff were kind and inviting, there was nonetheless something disorienting about the experience, a quiet nagging sense that… I did not belong there. Why this feeling of not belonging? Simply put, I was one of two male attendees, and the only male presenter, at at conference run by, principally for, and primarily concerning women. There is a sense to which this feeling subsided over time, as I got more closely acquainted with other presenters, after my presentation was well received, etc. But the sense, particularly the feeling of simply walking into the room for the first time, singing in, making a name tag, awkwardly standing around… never fully subsided.

Perhaps what struck me most strongly, following this experience, was how utterly unfamiliar this experience felt; how unfamiliar it was to me, a male in philosophy. I could not help but reflect upon my past experiences, the theology and philosophy conferences that I had attended. What was the composition of these conferences?

Even? Hardly. A majority male? to say the least. Primarily male? most likely.

Was my experience, of entering a strange land in which I was an unconcealable other, really so unique, or was I merely experiencing what it is like at every other academic conference for women, for racial or sexual  minorities, for anyone who doesn’t fit the philosophical/academic norm?

Philosophers tend to look like this.

Philosophers tend to look like this.

More disconcertingly, even as an “other” at a conference of women, I nonetheless enter with a distinct societal advantage. In the hierarchy of academia, the male has been king (gendered term intended) going on 2500 years. What would be my experience had the roles been truly reversed, had I not only entered as a numerical minority, but at a lower class on the societal scale of value? Would I have even had the courage to sign in and take my place at the front of the room? I don’t know. Nor can I truly even imagine that situation, a situation so radically foreign to my (generally privileged) position.

What “take away” did I bring from this experience? I am unsure. I do not have a remedy.  I do not know what could heal our society, academia, or even our conferences such that the male, the white, the straight, the cissexual, will no longer hold both numerical majority and power control.

What I can recommend though, is that every male in philosophy, theology, or perhaps any discipline, attend a feminism conference.  Feel the weight of being the minority.  As fleeting and partial as this experience was, it nevertheless offered a (at least small) glimpse into an experience that is foreign to the male academic life. Experience, so as to better understand. Perhaps when male philosophy begins to feel this weight, they can better understand the true difficulty of the minority academic experience, perhaps they will understand the strength and courage that it takes to simply walk into the room, and take one’s seat. 

Also, it couldn’t hurt to read these:

More Bad News

“In May 2012, I received my PhD, but I still do not know what to do with it. I struggle with the closed off nature of academic work, which I think should be accessible to everyone, but most of all I struggle with the limited opportunities in academia for Americans like me, people for whom education was once a path out of poverty, and not a way into it.

My father, the first person in his family to go to college, tries to tell me my degree has value. “Our family came here with nothing,” he says of my great-grandparents, who fled Poland a century ago. “Do you know how incredible it is that you did this, how proud they would be?”

And my heart broke a little when he said that, because his illusion is so touching – so revealing of the values of his generation, and so alien to the experience of mine.”

Aljazeera recently published a depressing article entitled The Closing of American Academia.

The End (of academia) is Nigh!

The official MLA standard for citing tweets in academic papers.

Oh. God. no….  Thank the Lord I use Chicago….

Thanks, WeedLord BonerHitler.