Thursday, 14 June 2007

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UPDATE: African-American Studies Scholar Responds Early this afternoon, I received a second response concerning the Casper Affair. It's from one of the (many) African-American Studies scholars who received one of Casper's (many) emails. I secured permission to reprint his response sans name, as he wishes to remain anonymous for the time being. Dear Mr. Kaufman, I apologize for not responding sooner, but in one of the umpteen emails describing your racial insensitivitiy you said you wanted us to respond seriously. So I read your Acephalous website and I looked at your picture, and I'll be damned if I can tell whether you're a white, black, Asian or any other kind of supremacist. Son, you have no head. Was the head you don't have a white head? Was it a black one? How am I supposed to decide whether you a white supremacist. For all I know, you could be my nigger. I did search for this Casper person accusing you, and I hate to tell you, but the guy who called you a racist is a dead klansman. Friendly my black ass. I once read all these Southerners were gentlemen, and by all accounts they was plenty polite at their lynchings: "Is that rope tight enough, nigger?" "Are you having problems breathing, nigger?" They was plenty polite, alright. So on account of me not knowing whether you my nigger or not, and on account of the fact that you being accused of being a racist by the ghost of Otis Jebediah Cracker, IV, I have determined that it is only right and prudent that these and all future allegations be laughed out of my inbox, and your life, with a press of the delete key. I would guess my esteemed colleagues have already done the same. P.S. If you my nigger, feel free to respond. If you ain't my nigger, you must append a lengthy contextualization of these words which just I wrote you. Can't just quote all my "niggers" back to me thinking my dumb dark brain will understand my own damn context, and I don't want to spend all next weekend writing myself letters or finding dead klansman to write them for me. Next time someone cracks wise about humorless, oversensitive identitarian thinkers, you know where to link.
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Can a Life be Bipolar? Because mine certainly seems to be of late. From the heights of drafting a publishable paper, to the depths of white supremacy, and now back to the heights, as a paper I proposed has been accepted. The best part? The paper is not about blogging. Someone actually wants to hear me talk about my dissertation. Admittedly, it's from the same recently praised chapter, so there's a chance this is the only decent bit I'll ever write—the highlight of my unspectacular career. So be it. If you find yourself at the American Literature Association's Symposium on Literary Naturalism come October, drop by the panel on Darwinism and Evolution in American Literature, where I'll be saying something about this: Accelerating Evolution: Social Reform and the Baldwin Effect in Jack London’s The Iron Heel and Before Adam Jack London was branded by association the moment Richard Hofstadter’s Social Darwinism in American Thought hit the shelves. One of the earliest reviews recounted a session of the American Sociological Society devoted to Social Darwinism. The reviewer notes that “none of [the participants] went in for any such vociferous and belligerent discipleship as did Jack London.” Readers of London’s youthful exchanges with his friend Cloudesley Johns would consider this association appropriate: a twenty-four year-old London declared himself “An Evolutionist, believing in Natural Selection, half believing Mathus’ ‘Law of Population,’ and a myriad of other factors thrown in, [who] cannot but hail as unavoidable, the Black and the Brown going down before the White.” According to William E. Cain, this sentence—first published Joan London’s Jack London and His Times (1939) and a longtime staple of the London industry—is evidence that “London is quick to express his social Darwinism.” Such assessments overestimate the coherence of evolutionary theory during what Stephen Jay Gould has called the “decade of maximal agnosticism and diversity in evolutionary theories.” Strictly speaking, social Darwinism did not exist. The evolutionary zeitgeist is more accurately called “social Spencerianism,” for it is the teleological thought of Herbert Spencer, not the radical randomness of Darwinian natural selection, which informs the politics and literature of the period. Absent from most accounts is the teleology inherent in Spencer’s dictum that development marches from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous. In “Telic Action and Collective Stupidity” (1902), London describes how “the individual is capable of, and does perform, telic actions—that is, adjusts his acts to remote ends; a thing which society never does.” He laments the stupidity of the crowd, here functioning metonymically for society at large, which despite being composed of individuals capable of telic action, en masse behave as if such feats of foresight are impossible. Although he posits no solution to this problem, he strikes one optimistic note: it is possible for “two or three individuals, or a score, [to] organize a company or corporation and collectively perform telic actions.” Telic actions cannot be performed by acephalous organizations; democracy is hamstrung by “by the arrant idiocy of political organization.” Such actions can only be undertaken by undemocratic organizations whose...

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