Morris was thinking of the chemical events in indigo discharge printing as analogous to the actions of human history. […] The material processes of getting the dye into the fabric are correlated by him to the politics of the world’s struggles and the prospects for a future society.
In this essay I want to recover not only the academic controversy surrounding the balance between real and ideal, the beau idéal and the beau réel, but also the significance of an empiricist recasting of the role of perception in cognition and its justifiability as the necessary grounds for invention.
Complexity enchants ANT, new materialism, posthumanism, media studies, affect theory, and the literary undertakings of postcritique, new descriptivism, and “weak theory.” Its prophets claim as virtue that reality is immanent to itself, that no individual element of a complex web can be said to activate “a more fundamental reality” than any other. There is therefore a propulsive purpose accorded to critics: count up the everything, trace out the complexities, caress nuance, feel the vibe, what is connected to what. When everything is complicated and criticism calls itself to the tasks of phenomenological witnessing and empiricist tabulating, the vocation of criticism to make a cut in the swath of experience, to shift registers to a different order of knowing, is abandoned.
As the struggle against the authoritarian neoliberal regime continues to unfold, the actions of the organized labor-left in general, and the PT in particular, will be pivotal for constructing an opposition capable of defeating right-wing neoliberal authoritarianism. The heightened quality of the political conflict ahead will also challenge the way in which left and progressive forces perceive and develop political action, demanding a left capable of organizing and mobilizing resistance in multiple (institutional and non-institutional) spheres of politics simultaneously.
Ben Lerner’s second Adam Gordon novel, The Topeka School, offers both a genealogy of right-wing political speech and, presumably, an alternative. But insofar as the novel’s politics culminate in political theater, that alternative is reduced to the politics of the status quo. The Topeka School, and those critics for whom its success rises or falls on its ability to provoke aesthetic experience, conflate political experience and political action. While no work of art is likely to do the work of dismantling structures of inequality for us, the work of art that asserts its irreducibility to the “inflexible laws” of the political status quo, and our experiences of it, might provide a new way of seeing or imagining it together—something that the attention to aesthetic and political experience alone cannot do.
It hardly needs saying that the term “decolonize” once meant something wholly different than it does now. To put it not a little too bluntly, in the heyday of the anticolonial movement it was the colonies and the colonized that needed decolonizing, not the colonizers, but now even that need, as we like to say, has been “colonized.” Of course we understand that the “decolonize” in the slogan “decolonize your syllabus” is metaphorical, that it means diversify or “decenter” (as we also like to say), but that does little to allay the fact that, formally, rhetorically, it collapses the distinction between colonizer and colonized. Sometimes, decentering oneself and one’s syllabi means little more than absolving oneself of accountability for the colonial past. Just to give it a name, we might call this phenomenon “colonial narcissism.”
The Vanishing Frame began as an attempt to understand the origins and consequences of a postdictatorial reality that was emerging in Latin America during the 1980s and 1990s, one that centered on the commitment to human rights as the primary position through which the Left articulated the concept of injustice and how to confront it. This political reality was as much a consequence of the state that inflicted abuses on its citizens as it was the upshot of international solidarity movements that sought to address and bear witness to these abuses.
Many of us are familiar with the ending of Jorge Luis Borges’s “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” in which the world is being taken over by a man-made universe turned real, in a now too clear reference to Nazism: “Then English and French and mere Spanish will disappear from the globe. The world will be Tlön.” The story, however, contains one more line, not as well-known, but perhaps more significant to the real meaning behind the narration: “I pay no attention to all this and go on revising, in the still days at the Adrogue hotel, an uncertain Quevedian translation (which I do not intend to publish) of Browne’s Urn Burial.”
With the Super Bowl set to kick off on Sunday and media-fueled football fanfare ramping up accordingly, it is worth revisiting the NFL’s preseason scandal that wasn’t—its apparent use of biological racism in denying the compensatory claims of black former players for traumatic brain injuries sustained while playing in the league. Here we interrogate this case, the impotence of disparitarian antiracism to confront it, and its implications for egalitarian politics.