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Love (and other aspirations) [Jan. 30th, 2006|01:16 pm]

Freed from the Sword of Damocles signified by my PhD corrections (and concurrent dreams of having to resit A-levels, my viva etc.) I am re-reading Bourdieu 'from scratch'. Sick mind that I clearly possess, this is for me an indulgence and in many ways a great pleasure: especially when something totally unexpected crops up from the text and smacks you in the face with its brazen anti-sentimentalism. I'd even underlined this at an earlier reading, but it's still quite striking. From Rules to Strategies, interview with P. Lamaison, March 1985:

"I showed at some length ... that love too can be described as a kind of amor fati*: to love is always to some extent to love in someone else another way of fulfilling one's own social destiny."

I wonder if - without going to the extreme of examples - personal experience doesn't bear this out rather acutely, even (if not more than ever) in these supposedly fluid, postmodern times. The statement almost collapses under the weight of its own social-determinist intent - although Bourdieu half-heartedly qualifies it - but nevertheless it seems to me to capture something very true, albeit at the expense of the demystification of an understanding I think most people would rather leave tacit.

 * 'Amor fati' is a Nietzschean concept meaning 'the love of one's fate'. A good English equivalent might be 'making a virtue out of necessity' although I know Bourdieu uses this phrase a lot himself so I imagine the phrase is left stet to remove some of the negative connotations (which Nietzsche does not explicitly imply).

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Public Lecture, Feb 27th [Jan. 3rd, 2006|01:58 pm]
[sadly an ad-hoc entry and not the result of a New Year's frequent-update resolution]

Just to let anyone know who's interested in finding out about my work (and lives reasonably central in the UK) that I'm giving a public lecture on my work on the anthropology of Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder on February 27th, 2006 at Nottingham Cafe Scientifique from around 7:30pm until 10 or the audience tires of shredding my tissue-thin arguments. Everyone very welcome.
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That "difficult" passage [Dec. 15th, 2004|12:31 pm]
“But then the digital pole takes command, revealing its ability to envelop the other pole, to absorb it – and, naturally, to exploit it… Digitality is a pure sequence of signs: when its dominion is extended to everything, we know longer know what earth sustains us – or even if there is still an earth. We continue to experience the analogue pole, but we no longer know what to call it: it is mute emotion, which overwhelms and no longer flows into its old estuary. Digitality has given it a new bed made of indestructible silicon. Over it flows a silent stream, awaiting the Bateau Ivre.”

--Roberto Calasso, The Ruin of Kasch

more...Collapse )
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"the living voice" [Dec. 14th, 2004|05:00 pm]
So, success! Or not!

The end result is: success, but with revisions. So I'm not quite a doctor yet, but should be within a few months provided I can turn out the required revisions (which are conceptually pretty minor). To be honest, I don't think the viva could have gone better than that: I was well-informed, erudite and at some stages positively aggressive to some very "waffy" criticisms. Those of you to whom I am myself famed for my "waffiness" would do well never to quiz me on the incompatibility of the Deleuzian monde-oeuf and Bourdieu's champ de bataille as you may see a very different side indeed. No, I can see you're not exactly trembling.

Although the discussion was by no means a "friendly chat" and occasionally quite heated, I was very well prepared and the sort of quasi-presentation I'd assembled by thinking about these questions well in advance gave me ample ammunition and conversational fodder. The only thing that didn't go exactly to plan was that I'd known they were going to ask about Melucci's work, as this was something of a glaring absence, and this was the only point that I had to really concede was just an oversight (damned hindsight).

The interesting and/or frustratingly ironic thing here is that the corrections suggested are, by and large, elements I myself had mooted at the MPhil stage only to be rebuffed by my department on the grounds that they were "too theoretical". When it actually came to the crunch, it was the empirical elements insisted upon by my upgrade panel which were deemed half-baked; probably because they were always going to be. Fortunately, my supervisor was sitting in and is going to raise this disparity with the Head of School to prevent a repeat of my experience. In terms of lessons learned (item number 90127) I can't emphasise enough that you should be highly sceptical of recommendations made by anyone except your immediate supervisors, with whom you should talk through any changes to your original plan thoroughly; and I mean to the point of dismissing the upgrade panel's recommendations.

On the plus side, the actual revisions recommended were going to have to have been made in any case to make this publication-worthy and this was something my examiners - who were in fact very complimentary of most of my work - were very sensitive to.

I don't know whether to feel euphoric - after all, the end is now definitely in sight - or frustrated that I still don't quite have my silly little appelation that means so much to any aspiring academic. But having a job which I am already actively pursuing mellows my reaction enormously, as does the "official stamp" that says so much of my writing is of publishable standard and that my ideas have been vindicated as original and powerful. As it is, I feel relieved (no more nightmares about my thesis being dismissed as "a joke" and summarily defenestrated), relaxed and actually very glad that I will end up submitting the thesis that in many ways I always wanted to write. I hope I'm not too far in denial at the prospect of revisiting the damn thing to think that's a far better outcome all around.
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(no subject) [Nov. 24th, 2004|05:06 pm]
Ho, ho, ho - no posts since 2002? Injunction: too much to say is just as paralyzing as too little. Double bind?

This is reasonably massive so it's under one of these thingsCollapse )
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post-hibernation sickness [Jan. 1st, 2003|08:21 pm]
Okay, 2002 is finally behind me - a great year from the point of view of having a blast and putting my estate in order, not a great year for free time or the PhD, which has crawled along at a snail's pace despite a few major conceptual advancements (which remain emphatically NOT on paper as yet).

Anyone who's remotely interested in why last year was a scream and why I've done so little constructive work can obtain a copy of the fruits of my labour in the shape of Illuminatus' "Suburban Symmetry" demo EP - just send me a line on mark at dangermedia dot org with your address and I'll pop one in the post for you. Reception so far as been superb, we've got a review coming out in this week's Kerrang! magazine (a stately publication by all accounts), but I'm buggered if I'm going to tell you whether it's any good or not, simply because I haven't the foggiest: all I know is that it was utterly bastard fun to make and sounds a bit like Pink Floyd being chased around by Old Nick.

No more news for now, that'll have to come later, right now I'm off for a 'proper' holiday away from computers, phones and the like until January 10th, by which time I might actually have finished Roberto Calasso's The Ruin of Kasch which I've been battling for two years now. Not that it's bad - quite the opposite - it just makes me daydream like crazy about ancien regime French politics and fictional Persian civilisations. And if that's your kind of thing, I say... buy it.
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"you dress like a grad student, mark" [Jun. 26th, 2002|01:18 pm]
F has fallen. He is pulling out of his PhD after two years. This stresses me on several levels.

Firstly, F has been at this insane task of thesis-writing for exactly the same time as me. He's faced the same problems over supervisors disappearing or manifesting extreme apathy/ignorance towards his project. He and I are similarly irritated by the pathetically narrow-minded, means-end, money-making rationality of the University which places expansion of student numbers and income over teaching quality and support. Academics here are tired, overworked, underpaid and hardly the vibrant, inventive intellectuals I need so badly to bounce ideas off. The THES recently reported that levels of "bullying" in certain departments in Nottingham was viewed as the worst in the country and demanded immediate investigation. A wonderful atmosphere.

Secondly, F plays the role of best friend and rock of stability in the times of doubt or loneliness which are all too frequent in this job. We disagree on a vast array of things, from politics to theories to religion, but this never stops our conversations going on for hours and - especially when fuelled by mind-altering substances - occasionally throwing out "lines of flight" which I have been known to incorporate into my work. Now, I don't want to overplay our relationship here: we're not soul-mates and can even get on each other's nerves (however rarely), but where are the other people around me who are willing to talk and argue this sort of thing? The other English students are all so closed to this sort of extra-curricular discussion - some of them are just too fucking pig ignorant - and tend to view their theses as "work"; something to be mutually exclusive from "play".

And thirdly, I empathise with his decision. Truly. I can feel the malaise all around me, the disenchantment and lack of motivation: it permeates everything, leaves me tight-chested and anxious. Only some kind of bizarre zealous thirst for knowledge and volonté du savoir which can be incited by sparks of genius (see my post in the_separatist, and no, I'm not tallking about my genius) drives me to actually get any work done at all. And at the same time, this very drive makes me appear outwardly too intense - and has cost me at least one relationship - and it becomes difficult to make new friends who are interested in the areas I want to discuss. Perhaps this is the reason that my friends list on this electronic journal looks far more like the kind of "intellectual grouping" I crave - but apparently cannot have - in reality?

This journal was not supposed to be a medium for introspection - rather the sharing of my own ideas - but motivation to write these days never comes without long periods of reflection. More to follow.
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anti anti-postmodernism [May. 13th, 2002|06:20 pm]
Recent lengthy conversation with new-found (I found? you found?) friend woodydespair has again gotten me thinking about where it is exactly I claim to speak from. What is my "position"? How do I fit into that huge, overblown hot air balloon of directionless particles labelled "academic thought"? I say again, although this particular epistemological question gets asked inside my head several times a day.

You see, this is a particular problem for an academic (or even worse for an aspiring one); partly because people outside these "ivory towers" - and therefore immune to their divine tendency towards bullshit obfuscation - are always asking for explanations in clear, direct language (is this really such a chore?) for what it is I "do". What do I think about? What do I think, about X? What are my solutions? What did Foucault really mean by "we are all ruled"? Answering these kind of questions in slippery, "professorial" language is not only irritating, it's also dishonest: giving someone an answer they cannot understand is to not give them an answer at all.

Even amongst your peers, from within "the machine", it seems that your success as an academic - rather like your success as a pop star - seems to depend heavily on your ability to come up with thoughts, ideas and narratives which can easily be classified; neatly parcelled and labelled as belonging to one of the pseudo-scientific "-ism's". Like some horrendous, clanking 1950's supercomputer, stamping and branding everyone with a nice, neat little moniker on a crisp piece of bleached paper:

Deleuze? Derrida? Post-structuralist. Ka-Ching!
Badiou? Eagleton? Marxist Phenomenologist. Ka-Ching!
Rorty? Harvey? Lyotard? Postmodernist. Ka-Ching!
Mawk? Mawk? Come in, mawk, your number is up...

[I'm just waiting for my stamp. It's coming. Wait 'til I publish something. I'll let you know what I get.]

So what am I going to be today? Which hat shall I wear? People want to know! And, believe me, the temptation to just throw in the towel, sign up on the dotted line, is ludicrously tempting. "Fuck it. I'm a post-structuralist. Was all along. Look, I wrote a piece on intangible sexual consciousnesses when I was 20. Which way to Foucault's grave?" Once you "come out" as a Marxist, a neo-liberal, a Blairite, a postmodernist, an eco-warrior, your identity is chosen; your "centre of thought" is fixed, and you don't have to chug along writing quasi-angst-ridden pieces about your abject confusion in your online journal (and believe you me, "abjectly confused" I most certainly am). Suddenly, all the other young Althusserian post-structural realists - or what have you - in the world are your best mates; you can talk for hours about the coming of the informational economy fulfilling Marx's prophecy that "all is solid melts into air" over bottles of Chardonnay and a fat spliff.

And oh, how I ache to be able to do this. To put my guard down when people start talking philosophy or politics... to be able to shout "YES! I agree with you!" rather than immediately getting people's backs up by raising a counter-argument I most likely have even less sympathy with. To have a vibrant young Marxist professor take me under her wing and teach me the mysteries of M' = C + C'. To go to parties full of anti-globalisation demonstrators and not get all huffy and irritated when they decry the evils of all multi-national institutions. Yes, that would all please me greatly; I reckon that just about all my problems in life would instantly be solved.

[how I wish that sentence was really as flippant as it sounds]

But I will not do it. I am so deeply suspicious of any body of thought, any single person's project, which inspires slavish, even occasionally farcical adoration and imitation that it has even started to drive me away from Bourdieu, despite the astonishing, fundamental honesty of the man's own work. His death seems to have incited an explosion of rabid, fatuous, arse-kissing interpretations by academics across the world, desperate to sell books by either speciously faulting or obsequiously praising his entire oeuvre. [Wankers! Give me back my integrity!] Now, we're being told that Marx's work has been unfairly dismissed, that socialism really has a future if we just read it differently: properly , this time. Little information-age Marxists spring up h e r e, there and everywhere with their clever, well-researched theses telling us that, really, nothing's changed since 1845 and we're still waiting for the glorious revolution. I respect Marx deeply: he truly is the greatest intellectual drug dealer that ever lived, to have mixed a brew of journalese, politics, pseudo-economics and cod psychology that academics just can't stop knocking back like it's going out of fashion. And I will not partake, if only because I'm a contrary fucker.

And so, I will continue to stay awake at night poring over volumes of statistical data about the acceleration of the world, thinking about how to simultaneously embody diversity and monism in a single paradigm (one which people can actually understand, you crazy Deleuzians), how to right the wrongs of ignorance, fight the good fight, overstep the boundaries of pretension and precociousness already well stepped-over by self-righteous young academics and activists across the world, etc., etc.

But if you still really, really want to read my barcode, my McParadigm, then you can. I'm going to steal an idea from a very clever man and tell you straight - no bullshit - that I am an anti anti-postmodernist.

Thanks for your time.
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old english music journos never die, they just [answers on a postcard] [May. 2nd, 2002|10:23 pm]
Well, lookee here, it's Mick Mercer, author of the impossibly dry-humoured guide(s) to all things English and goth. This man was truly a bastion of my post-childhood search for identity: "I... I've become... a teenager..."

Now, if I were to say that last month, I got an email from one Mr Neil Perry, that wouldn't mean anything to you, would it?

But then, mind you, I bet you never had an adolescent craving to read an unexpurgated biography of "The Mission"...
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eh [May. 2nd, 2002|10:15 pm]
Does anyone want to put me out of my misery and explain this ?

Why is it always me who gets this stuff? There are so many more beautiful / freakish / talented / intelligent / freak-out-able people in such close proximity, and yet I'm always the one who takes the fall. Oh, the humanity. Oh, the barely-concealed narcissism...

[Is this going to usher in a new era of mawxysm postings? I doubt you're going to fall for that old chestnut again...]
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