Tuesday, 16 October 2007

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Absolutely, Positively the Last Words I'll Write about KC Johnson or Durham in Wonderland KC Johnson's obviously a dogged researcher and responsible scholar ... when he wants to be. When he doesn't—that is, when facts flatter his agenda—he either brandishes his liberal credentials or boldly dissembles. Johnson rebuts those who would associate him with David Horowitz: "Indoctrination" is a concern of some right-wing academic critics, especially David Horowitz. Yet, since Piot claims to have read the blog closely, he knows that I’m an Obama supporter who backs gay marriage and abortion rights. This statement is evidently more meaningful than the fact (as Rich discovered) that Johnson has contributed no less than seven articles to Horowitz's various publications. As Adam noted earlier: KC has to be blind if he doesn't see how his book feeds into the larger right-wing narrative about academia, which for convenience one calls "Horowitzian." Johnson's not blind. He knows what he's doing. He knows the people he must align with to do it. This isn't to claim Johnson's ideas are coterminous with Horowitz's, only that they appeal to the same people for the same reasons. Witness his commentariat. Better yet, since he distances himself from the racism and sexism so prevalent among some of its numbers, witness the meat Johnson tosses to them: This article represents what passes for a scholarly publication in [Charles] Piot’s field [cultural anthropology]. Indeed, it is listed as a "representative publication" on Professor Piot’s CV. Johnson may not agree with Horowitz, but he certainly appropriates his style. Piot's article is dubious. I grant Johnson that. (Just as I've granted him his due from the get-go.) And were Johnson to stop with the facts before him like any responsible scholar we wouldn't be having this conversation. Instead, he makes a leap as grandiose as the one which motivates the second half of Until Proven Innocent. To wit: Charles Piot's article represents what passes for scholarly publication in his field ... ... because Charles Piot lists it as a "representative publication" on his CV. Unless the field in question is "Charles Piot Studies," Johnson's argument is a sloppy attempt to discredit the work of hundreds of scholars through a flip rhetorical gesture. I suspect that when he reads this post, Johnson will correct his "mistake," thereby cementing his readers' belief in his integrity. I'm not buying it. He's too smart to not be this savvy. He makes statements hoping that no one notices them, because it's a win-win proposition. If no one does, his pack feasts upon the meat he's thrown it. If someone does, he plays the role of the judicious pack-leader, and his pack respects him all the more for his honesty ... but only because they've already stuffed a little meat down their gullets. Rhetorically, it's as brilliant as it is dishonest. And it is dishonest. I refuse to believe so thorough a researcher as Johnson wouldn't have performed a cursory examination of the field he dismissed in its entirety and learned that Transforming Anthropology is not among cultural anthropology's flagship journals. I refuse to...
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Grad Student Horror #3,781: All You Functions Are Under Erasure I'd forgotten about this particular Tale of Scholarly Embarrassment until I commented on this post at the interesting new blog Perverse Egalitarianism. Unlike most of the embarrassing material appearing on Acephalous, I didn't write this. I did, however, seek and receive permission to mock its author; but sadly, the actual essay sleeps peacefully on the hard drive of a non-working laptop. You'll have to make do with this vicious parody of it instead: In her "Translator's Preface" to Of Grammatology, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak describes "the structure of writing as the sign under [erasure] because writing has had the negative privilege of being the scapegoat whose exclusion represents the definition of metaphysical enclosure" (lxix). In what follows, I will demonstrate that Spivak evinces a decided lack of commitment to writing-under-erasure: whereas an honest critic would connect writing-under-erasure to Foucault's conception of the author-function, Spivak limits her thought (and therefore the radical possibilities thereof) to a wo(e/w)ful cleverness that can neither contain nor obtain the infinite of the aporia to which it points. She ignores what Foucault calls the "complex operations" subtending and undermining the concept of "the author" in contemporary discourse. I will not make the same mistake; instead, I will facilitate my reading of Spivak's translation of Derrida's reading of Rousseau via the dual/dueling concepts of "the author-function" and "writing-under-erasure" ... Before you say anything, the author made one request (besides demanding anonymity): that you not take him to task for making absolutely no sense. The point is that this person wrote an entire paper in which everything was under erasure. And why wouldn't it be? This student was the sort of "uppity little snot" so many readers wished they had in their classes ... and while I'm sympathetic to arguments like Rufus's, I can't help but think that ... nevermind: I'm sympathetic to arguments like Rufus's. Stupid as the above paragraph is, it must've been a blast to write. Its author was alive with the ideas he abused, and that sort of enthusiasm should be encouraged. No need to grind us down from the get-go, right?

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