Sunday, 02 October 2005

BAVO! BAVO! BAVO! but Hold the Encore! Will someone please inform BAVO that the concept of BAVO--a two-man academic thinktank, a.k.a. "friendship," calling themselves what looks like (but from what I can tell isn't) an acronym--sounds terribly silly? While you're at it, let BAVO in on the secret that ending the title of every other article BAVO publishes with an exclamation point may lead people to believe BAVO really Really REALLY! enthusiastic or hysterical! Really! Unironic exclamation points destroy your credibility! Below the fold you can find the CFP which brought BAVO to my attention. Upon googling BAVO, some of the practical difficulties of being BAVO forced themselves upon me: when BAVO introduces a panel, which BAVO of BAVO does the speaking? Does BAVO alternate every other word with BAVO? Or does BAVO chant in unison? Does BAVO harmonize? Could BAVO harmonize? Because that would be the introductions to end all introductions. [I reserve the right to remove this post at my discretion. Currently, BAVO reminds me too much of BARJO or DEVO or some post-communist pro-socialist collective. If it turns out to be a reputable European thinktank which only seems forebodingly monolithic in translation, I'll admit to my mistake. Now, back to NERDT's Empire.] PSYCHOANALYSIS, URBAN THEORY AND THE CITY OF LATE CAPITALISM A three day international workshop Organized by BAVO & Lorenzo Chiesa Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht, The Netherlands November 18th - 20th, 2005 Today, the long-held belief that urban culture is the engine par excellence for democratization and emancipation processes, has been dealt some lethal blows. If Marx and his avatars still dreamt of ‘the urban’ as the incubator and accelerator of universal solidarity and radical social change, today metropolitan areas are more often than not labelled as social time-bombs that threaten to draw its hinterland into a downward spiral of disintegration, segregation and mute violence. Similarly, if for Freud the metropolitan way of life provided the ‘humus’ for the modern hysterical subjectivity – endlessly questioning and ‘working through’ the traditional mores – today, in an environment in which individuals and communities redraw into technologically nurtured capsular environments, subjectivity seems to evaporate again into a generalized autism. In this conference we invite experts from the field of Marxist urban theory, radical political philosophy and Lacanian psychoanalysis to give presentations on topics relevant to understand the current post-metropolitan condition as well as ways to intervene or resist it. Day 1: Identifying the Urban Unconscious This day aims at the identification of the construct of the city of late capitalism. What are its basic procedures? How do they secure the city’s normal functioning? Or inversely, how is the city kept in a permanent "state of emergency." Of special interest here are studies of Marxist-oriented urban theorists and Lacanian inspired psychoanalysts that lay bare how the city of late capitalism depends more and more on psychosocial processes to generate the necessary increase in ‘return value’ or to secure control over its subjects. Think of the production of geographies of fear, the stimulation of a phantasmatic economy...
"I Got a Good Mind to Join a Club and Beat You over the Head with It" More positive press for the Valve (and, I assume, its contributors) from Henry Farrell in this week's Chronicle of Higher Education: The recent debate on the Theory's Empire anthology, organized by the Valve, demonstrates how blogospheric argument can work. Theory's Empire is an ambitious volume, which seeks to provide a dissident's version of the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism and to argue against the perceived pre-eminence of "theory" in literary criticism. The book is now beginning to attract attention from the mainstream media and will probably be the subject of symposia and debates over the next couple of years. A semi-organized symposium on the Valve, the blog of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics, allowed a wide-ranging and active debate on the book within several weeks of its publication. The debate included responses from authors of pieces in Theory's Empire, as well as from prominent academics like John McGowan (an editor of the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism) and Michael Bérubé, both of whom have successful blogs. But it also included, on an equal footing, responses from nonspecialists, like the Berkeley economics professor Brad DeLong, and from nonacademic bloggers with an interest in the topic, like Kevin Drum of The Washington Monthly. The result: an unusually high level of intelligent discussion around a topic more usually associated with stale pro- and anti-theory polemics. As McGowan describes it, "This is not yet another round in the culture and theory wars. ... Is it possible that academics interested in such questions have won their way through to a place where they can be discussed and examined calmly? As someone whose most usual stance has been a plague on both your houses, I am hopeful." Yes, I realize Farrell and Holbo both post on Crooked Timber; and yes, I realize that Farrell's commented here recently as well; so yes, I realize that we're all patting each other on the back in some respects, and that there's something uncouth about it all, but positive play is positive play. If I hadn't written this entry, people would've read that article thinking the praise unvarnished and entirely deserved ... which it is, despite recent evidence to the contrary. (In the aforelinked conversation, everyone reserves the right to talk past everyone else and demands the right to be offended when anyone talks past them. In other words: not with a ten foot pole.)

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