Wednesday, March 02, 2005

a not very intersting rant about academic life
just came back from a postgraduate seminar about 'postmodern hyperspaces'. Pretty early on it became obvious that the speaker (a Manchester professor) was there mainly for vendetta, targeting Frederic Jameson, Jean Baudriallard, and other "anxious white male academics" who wrote about her beloved L.A. and didn't have a clue. You know what's it like, when you hear a fierce academic polemic and you realize it's mainly about personal allergies... On came the Spivak quotes, the "totalising", the "objectifiying" and the "unwillingness to acknowledge their perspective", while her own position was critically acknowledged by showing a slide of her and the LA skyline! Postmodern disorientating urban experience? that's just male anxiety. She was referring to Jameson's now-classic bit about the Bonaventure hotel (in his 'Postmodernism: the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism') accusing him of not seeing the "others" - Chicano, blacks - who worked in that hotel (a valid point in itself) and claiming that for them "it surely wasn't disorientating"; well I guess she's not done much temping in her life in maze-like workplaces. But the worst bit: as proof that such species exist, she showed pictures of the service workers of that hotel taken "surreptitiously, with my digital camera, hoping they don't mind" at which point I nearly walked out. How disgusting, taking pictures of people without their knwoledge and consent, use them for your work and then pretend to be championing their cause. Sorry, I'm doing here the same thing, basically ranting on someone that pissed me off. But (a) Jameson was engaging critically with something that was created by late capital to serve its ends; a fight that people who simply celebrate postmodern (crudest terms) - are not interested in? gave up on? I'm not sure; (b) seriously: this is Western academia, right? This is what's it's like? a bunch of impotent middle-class wankers lamenting their whiteness and celebrating the "loss of hegemonic coherence"? aghghg. What's the point exactly?
I guess i'm reacting like this because i don't get exposed to it enough. i rarely go to seminars etc.

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