Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Colo. Wal-Mart Makes Effort to Unionize

Article Link

In a move that has been unsuccessful elsewhere in the United States, 17 workers at a Wal-Mart Tire & Lube Express have taken the first step to unionize at the world's largest retailer.

The National Labor Relations Board planned a hearing Thursday to consider the workers' request to be represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7.

"Wal-Mart workers don't have to be second-class citizens," said Ernest Duran Jr., president of the union, which also represents more than 17,000 grocery workers at King Soopers, Safeway and Albertsons stores.

Union officials argue the workers in the automotive service department are separate from the store and eligible for independent union representation. Wal-Mart officials disagree.

"With approximately 400 associates in that particular facility, we feel that more than 17 associates should have a say on such an important matter," said Christi Gallagher, a spokeswoman for Bentonville, Ark-based Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart said it treats its workers fairly and has an open door policy that lets each negotiate directly with management.

"Our associates see they don't have to pay hard earned money to do what they can do every day," she said.

The union is in negotiations with the Colorado grocery stores, which have cited competition from nonunion discount chains such as Wal-Mart in offering wage and benefit increases that have been rejected by workers.

Efforts to unionize Wal-Mart stores in the United States have failed, while in Canada, a government agency this year certified workers at a Quebec store as a union and told the two sides to negotiate. Wal-Mart has said it may have to close that store.

In the United States, the closest a U.S. union ever came to representing Wal-Mart workers happened in 2000. Eleven members of the store's meatpacking department at Jacksonville, Texas, store voted to be represented by the UFCW.

In a move it said was unrelated to the union vote, Wal-Mart eliminated the job of meatcutter company-wide, and announced it would only sell pre-cut, pre-wrapped meat.

The workers were offered other jobs at the store.


(Webster's Word of the Day)

palliate \PAL-ee-ayt\ verb

1 : to reduce the violence of (a disease); also : to ease (symptoms) without curing the underlying disease
2 : to cover by excuses and apologies
3 : to moderate the intensity of

Example sentence:
Roberta tried to palliate her actions with explanations and apologies, but Donald refused to accept her excuses.

Did you know?
Long ago, the ancient Romans had a name for the cloak-like garb that was worn by the Greeks (distinguishing it from their own "toga"); the name was "pallium." In the 15th century, English speakers modified the Late Latin word "palliatus," which derives from "pallium," to form "palliate." Our term, used initially as both an adjective and a verb, never had the literal Latin sense referring to the cloak you wear, but it took on the figurative "cloak" of protection. Specifically, the verb "palliate" meant (as it still can mean) "to lessen the intensity of a disease." Nowadays, "palliate" can be used as a synonym of "gloss" or "whitewash" when someone is attempting to disguise something bad.

Tom Franks: What's the Matter With Democrats?

What's the Matter with Democrats?
Thomas Frank interviewed by Lakshmi Chaudhry

So what now? The intractable reality of the culture wars seems all the more daunting thanks to the Democratic Party leadership, which shows no sign of breaking the decades-long habit of responding to defeat with abject submission. Having already moved to the right on economic issues, the party seems ready to don the mask of social conservatism – – as in the appointment of an anti-abortion Tim Reid as the House Minority leader – to hold on to a sliver of power.

That's exactly the wrong strategy to beat the Republicans, says Tom Frank. The solution is not Bible-thumping but economic populism. Liberals need to respond to the faux populism of the GOP – which pits "real" working class Americans against over-educated, snotty liberals – with the real deal. Frank argues it's time for the Democratic Party to return to its roots, to rediscover its lost soul. To become once again the champion of the working class.

Read the Interview

Monday, November 29, 2004

Jaroslav Pelikan and Paul Ricouer Share Kluge Prize

(courtesy of Adam Jones--we worked together to understand Paul Ricouer)

American, Frenchman Share $1M Kluge Prize
By CARL HARTMAN, Associated Press Writer

An 80-year-old American historian, Jaroslav Pelikan, and a 91-year-old French philosopher, Paul Ricoeur, will share the $1 million Kluge prize, created last year to honor achievement in fields not covered by the Nobel prizes.

Pelikan, who lives in New Haven, Conn., has specialized in the story of Christianity from its beginnings to the present. He has written more than 30 books, using sources in nine languages and dealing with literary and musical as well as doctrinal aspects of religion. He is a former president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Pelikan "has moved over time to consider the whole history of church doctrine, both through the western Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.

Ricoeur has taught at Haverford College, Columbia and Yale universities, the University of Chicago and Louvain University in Belgium, as well as at the Sorbonne and other French institutions.

Orphaned in World War I, Ricoeur was drafted in World War II and was captured and spent most of the conflict as a prisoner of war in Germany. He was active in the French Socialist Party afterward.

Billington, announcing the award he will present on Dec. 8, described Ricoeur's work as drawing "on the entire tradition of western philosophy to explore and explain common problems: What is a self? How is memory used and abused? What is the nature of responsibility?"

The prize was established by John W. Kluge, chairman of the private sector advisory body of the Library of Congress (news - web sites). The first year's prize, for 2003, went to Leszek Kolakowski, a Polish anti-communist philosopher.

Interdisciplinary Conference on Parties/Shared Space

(now this sounds like a fun conference1)


University of Southern California
18th Annual AEGS (Association of English Graduate Students) Conference
April 9-10, 2005
Los Angeles, CA

You are invited to . . . submit papers, panels, poetry, fiction, and other written or visual creative work responding to the conference theme of Parties/Shared Space. We invite submissions of creative and critical work from all disciplines. Please contact us for a more specific CFP for academic papers.

Parties are generally thought of as fun places to gather, environments for celebrating or merely as occasions to socialize. Parties also provide a context
in which to question and examine shared space. We hope to do both through this conference: provide a fun gathering where writers/artists can party while engaging in a creative dialogue about parties and shared space.

Come share your work with fellow scholars, writers and artists! We welcome both individual submissions and panel proposals.

Some preliminary panel topics (Please suggest others!):
Poetry/fiction/other creative work that incorporates, thematically or tangentially:
> -- House parties
> -- Masquerade
> -- Subcultures
> -- Rituals
> -- Political Activism/Protests/Grass-roots organizations
> -- Weddings/Wakes/Funerals
> -- Crowds and claustrophobia
> -- Collective vs. Individual Identities (gendered, raced, sexed, and/or ethnically constructed notions of shared space)
> -- Cyberspace/Chat rooms/Internet communities
> -- Collaborative projects
> -- Work inspired by/in response to Literary/Artistic gatherings (i.e. Bloomsbury Group, Beat Poets, Warhol’s Factory, Harlem Renaissance)

Keynote speaker and after party information TBA

Come to our party! Please submit several poems, up to 10 pages of prose, or a sample of other creative work by January 2, 2005 to: Siel Ju at sielsiels@yahoo.com.

Include “Parties Conference” in the subject heading. Proposals should also include name, institutional affiliation, address, phone number, and email address of the presenter. If proposing a panel, please include the above information for all participants.

Metaphors of Discourse

(looking for more discussions/essays/books on the Metaphors/Operations of Discourse)

Metaphors of Discourse

Comparatively little work has been done on metaphors of discourse. See the excellent discussion of argument as war in George Lackoff and Mark Johnson's Metaphors We Live By (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981) and the discussion by Janice Moulton of "A Paradigm for Philosophy: The Adversary Method" and her "Duelism in Philosophy;" Maryann Ayim's "Violence and Domination as Metaphors in Academic Discourse;" and Susan Peterson's "Are You Teaching Philosophy, or Playing the Dozens?" (unpublished essay)in Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science, edited by Sandra Harding and Merrill B. Hintikka (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1983), pp. 149-64.

The importance of dialogue is emphasized by Hans-Georg Gadamer in his Truth and Method (New York: Seabury, 1975); the idea of conversation, and the conditions necessary for genuine conversations, is developed by Jurgen Habermas, especially in his Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990) and in his exchanges with Gadamer. Some helpful essays on this theme are gathered together in Michael Kelly's anthology Hermeneutics and Critical Theory in Ethics and Politics (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990). For a well-argued defense of dialogue that is couched in the language of contemporary Anglo- American philosophy, see Bruce Ackerman, "Why Dialogue?" The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 86, No. 1 (January, 1989), pp. 5-22.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

United Nations Links HIV Fight to Women's Rights

U.N. Links HIV Fight to Women's Rights

The global battle against HIV will ultimately fail unless serious progress is made on women's rights in the developing world, the United Nations says.

The pandemic is increasingly taking on a feminine face as it enters its globalization phase. and the lack of women's equality — from poverty and stunted education to rape and denial of women's inheritance and property rights — is a major obstacle to victory over the virus, according to the latest global HIV status report published Tuesday.

U.N. Links HIV Fight to Women's Rights

Dion Dennis: Priming the Pump of War

(I was reminded of this essay after seeing Tas post All He Needs Now is That Little Skinny Moustache... at the Progressive Blog Alliance)

Priming the Pump of War: Toward a Post-Ethnic, Post-Racial Fascism
Dion Dennis

They first appeared in the summer of 2002. Driving across the major interstate highways (10 and 35) in San Antonio, large white billboards emerged. With a few words, and evocative graphics, they sell simple "prosocial" virtues. For example, one such billboard is composed of two main elements: The visual element is the evocative depiction of a young, blond, white girl of five or six. Her arms, head and eyes are extended upward, as if she is ready to take flight from her father's shoulders. At the top of the photo, extended from her right hand, colorful and vibrant as it ascends above a dark sea of brown heads, is a vivid and bright American flag. The second element, the text, is to the right of the picture. It proclaims: "What Makes Us Great – UNITY – Pass It On." Below all of this, in much smaller type reads: "The Foundation for a Better Life."

Across from the Downtown campus of the University of Texas at San Antonio, another of the Foundation's billboards, in the same format, delivers a message that I found foreboding. On the left, the visual is taken from the ruins of the World Trade Center. Amidst the rubble, two ash-crusted New York firemen hoist up an American flag (again composed so it is at the top of the visual frame) in front of the collapsed vertebrae of one of the towers. The text to the right of the picture reads: "No Setback Will Set Us Back – DETERMINATION – Pass It On." And again, below all of this, in much smaller type is the sponsor of this message: "The Foundation For a Better Life." With visual similitude to both the urban devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the flag raising at Iwo Jima, the terroristic tragedy of the WTC was deployed in imagery well suited to prepare a population for an imminent campaign of total war.

These are just a miniscule sample of an ongoing and prominent multi-media campaign. Almost entirely ignored as an object deserving of media scrutiny, ten thousand of these billboards, bus placards and signs, all evocatively depicting "simple" virtues such as courage and perseverance, have been planted across the major highways and thoroughfares of the US in 2002. The reach of the Foundation's televised ads is equally impressive. On their home page is the following claim about how frequently and widely they propagate their message into the mundane choreography of our lives, via their video spots:

(pass it on) The Values We Live By ARE WORTH MORE When We Pass Them On:
These award winning Public Service Announcements produced for television are being seen on average over 2 million times per day on seven networks and over 900 TV stations. They are also being shown in all United Artists, Regal and Edwards movie theaters totaling over 6,000 screens.

The Foundation's video spots, billboards and web site are all clearly aimed, in the words of one famous propagandist, to "develop [a] crisp, clear idea into a system of thought that includes all human drives, wishes and actions [into a coherent] worldview." The Foundation's website is clearly the repository, library and showcase for the varied messages, media and strategies employed in propagating a uniquely 21st Century, post-racial, post-ethnic Fascism. As such an artifact, it deserves a closer look.

Read the Rest of the Essay

$20 Million For a Coup in Iran?

(courtesy of Esmail)

$20 million for a coup in Iran?
Overthrow Tehran? Hey, Not So Fast
Houston Chronicle

The Ledeen initiative shows the contradiction of the neoconservative worldview: While seeking to liberate and empower the peoples of the Middle East it also makes them pawns in a historical drama in which they have little voice. The execution of this sort of radical foreign policy vision has often run roughshod over the details, as the aftermath in Iraq has shown.

Read the Entire Article

Kerry/Edwards Join Ohio Recount Effort!

Yeah, that's right, they are still counting the votes. Ron, over at Why Are We Back has the scoop on this newest turn of events. I thought we should have taken to the streets and demanded that every vote be counted, but then I'm not the most reasonable person:

Kerry/Edwards Join Ohio Recount Effort!

Noble Lies and Perpetual War: Leo Strauss, The Neo-Cons, and Iraq

Danny Postel interviews Shadia Drury
Open Democracy

A martial elite lies to its people about the need for war - and is justified in doing so. Are the ideas of the conservative political philosopher Leo Strauss a shaping influence on the Bush administration’s world outlook? Danny Postel interviews Shadia Drury – a leading scholarly critic of Strauss – and asks her about the connection between Plato’s dialogues, secrets and lies, and the United States-led war in Iraq.

Read the Interview

Monday, November 22, 2004

Devil Sauce

Some tasty looking recipes at this site. I love food, oh yeah ;)

Devil Sauce

California: Dear President Bush

(courtesy of my mom in San Diego, CA--lifelong independent)

Dear President Bush:

Congratulations on your victory over all us non-evangelicals. Actually, we're a bit ticked off here in California, so we're leaving you. California will now be its own country. And we're taking all the Blue States with us. In case you are not aware, that includes Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, all of the North East States, and the urban half of Ohio.

We spoke to God, and she agrees that this split will be beneficial to almost everybody, and especially to us in the new country of California. In fact, God is so excited about it, she's going to shift the whole country at 4:30 pm EST this Friday. Therefore, please let everyone know they need to be back in their states by then. God is going to give us the Pacific Ocean and Hollywood. In addition, we're getting San Diego. (Sorry, that's just how it goes.) But God is letting you have the KKK and country music (except the Dixie Chicks).

Just so we're clear, the country of California will be pro-choice, pro-gay, and anti-war. Speaking of war, we're going to need all Blue States citizens back from Iraq. If you need people to fight in Falujah, just ask your evangelical voters. They have tons of kids they're willing to send to their deaths for absolutely no purpose. And they don't care if you don't show pictures of their kids' caskets coming home. So, you get Texas and all the former slave states, and we get the Governator and stem cell research. (We would love you to take Britney Spears off our hands, though. She IS from the south, right?). Since we get New York, you'll have to come up with your own late night TV shows because we get MTV, Letterman, the Daily Show, and Conan O'Brien. You get... well, why don't you ask your people at Fox News to come up with something entertaining? (Maybe you should just watch Crossfire. That's a really funny show.)

We wish you all the best in the next four years, and we hope, really hope, you find those missing weapons of mass destruction. Seriously. Soon.



Zarko Paic: Overcoming the West (The Errors of Occidentalism)

Edward Said's theory of Orientalism was a powerful critique of the West's ideology of an Eastern "Other"... less theorized has been the East's similar production of an Occidental "Other":


Only when history is viewed from the perspective of apocalypse does ideology reach its climax. Ideology is always only a means to other ends. This is why its resemblance to religion, as a surrogate mode of finding one's way in a world lacking sure strongholds, is only fitting. All the powerful ideologies of the 20th century, from communism and fascism and all forms fundamentalism or nationalism, are deeply permeated with religious or millennial fever, elaborates Zarko Paic.

Overcoming the West

The Experiment

Any experiment begins with the notion that there is something missing from the big picture. Some area unexperienced, shapes out of focus, realms yet to be nudged out of the periphery and into common view. From this basic inkling, where we acknowledge our ignorance (as well as subject what we "know" to scrutiny) stems a methodology whereby we examine ourselves, our institutions, our preconceptions, and our very existence. Experimentation can be as spiritual as it is scientific, driven by an intense desire to know and sense the universe around us in novel ways.

TheExperiment Network believes that we must constantly be asking ourselves new questions about ourselves and our realities such as who we are, what we do and why we do. While the answers may vary, it is this process of questioning that shapes new ideas and sharpens our view of existing states. As a network we want to push boundaries of where ideas, world views and our consciousness lie.

The Experiment

Sunday, November 21, 2004

20 People Arrested at School of Americas Protest

20 People Arrested at School of Americas Protest

Chris Hedges and the Mythology of War

(reposted this after reading Matt's post Further PSYOPS Watch and Michael's Returning Amputees to the Battlefield)

Chris Hedges is a veteran war correspondent who wrote a very important book called War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2003). It is a passionate call for us to reconsider the roots of the human addiction to war through a careful consideration of the realities of warfare and our necrophiliac relationship with the symbols, rituals and displays of military culture.

Chris Hedges later gave a commencement speech at Rockford college that was disrupted and caused a nationwide controversy. Hedges showed great courage in sticking to his beliefs and not backing down. He is no simple-minded pundit attempting to manipulate the masses for profit and power, but a considerate, thoughtful, former divinity student, shocked by the violence he has seen in the world, but hopeful that we may still change.

Chris Hedges' controversial May graduation speech at Rockford college:

Audio Version of the Speech

Transcript of the Speech

Rockford Register Report on the Campus Debate That Followed

AlterNet now has an interview with Hedges online: The Silencing of Dissent on Graduation Day.


Democracy Now interview:


Excerpts from “War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning”:


More writings by Chris Hedges:

Hedges' Writings

1 Hour audio lecture on “The Mythology of War”:

Audio Lecture

TomPaine.com interview:


Chris Hedges and “Enforced Conformity”:

Enforced Conformity

Interview a month before the speech on “Dangerous Citizen”:

Dangerous Citizen

PBS interview about “War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning”, includes streaming video of the interview:

PBS Interview

Further sources:

Barbara Ehrenreich's Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passion of War (1998)
Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism (1973)
Erich Fromm's The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1992)
Carolyn Marvin's and David Ingle's Blood Sacrifice and the Nation: Totem Rituals and the American Flag (1999)
Alexander Laban Hinton's edited collection Annhilating Difference: The Anthropology of Genocide (2002)

Alain Badiou: On Evil

On Evil: An Interview with Alain Badiou,
by Christopher Cox and Molly Whalen,
Cabinet Magazine Online, Issue 5, Winter 2001/02

An excerpt:

The idea of the self-evidence of Evil is not, in our society, very old. It dates, in my opinion, from the end of the 1960s, when the big political movement of the 60s was finished. We then entered into a reactive period, a period that I call the Restoration. You know that, in France, "Restoration" refers to the period of the return of the King, in 1815, after the Revolution and Napoleon. We are in such a period. Today we see liberal capitalism and its political system, parlimentarianism, as the only natural and acceptable solutions. Every revolutionary idea is considered utopian and ultimately criminal. We are made to believe that the global spread of capitalism and what gets called "democracy" is the dream of all humanity. And also that the whole world wants the authority of the American Empire, and its military police, NATO.

In truth, our leaders and propagandists know very well that liberal capitalism is an inegalitarian regime, unjust, and unacceptable for the vast majority of humanity. And they know too that our "democracy" is an illusion: Where is the power of the people? Where is the political power for third world peasants, the European working class, the poor everywhere? We live in a contradiction: a brutal state of affairs, profoundly inegalitarian—where all existence is evaluated in terms of money alone—is presented to us as ideal. To justify their conservatism, the partisans of the established order cannot really call it ideal or wonderful. So instead, they have decided to say that all the rest is horrible. Sure, they say, we may not live in a condition of perfect Goodness. But we're lucky that we don't live in a condition of Evil. Our democracy is not perfect. But it's better than the bloody dictatorships. Capitalism is unjust. But it's not criminal like Stalinism. We let millions of Africans die of AIDS, but we don't make racist nationalist declarations like Milosevic. We kill Iraqis with our airplanes, but we don't cut their throats with machetes like they do in Rwanda, etc.

That's why the idea of Evil has become essential. No intellectual will actually defend the brutal power of money and the accompanying political disdain for the disenfranchised, or for manual laborers, but many agree to say that real Evil is elsewhere. Who indeed today would defend the Stalinist terror, the African genocides, the Latin American torturers? Nobody. It's there that the consensus concerning Evil is decisive. Under the pretext of not accepting Evil, we end up making believe that we have, if not the Good, at least the best possible state of affairs—even if this best is not so great. The refrain of "human rights" is nothing other than the ideology of modern liberal capitalism: We won't massacre you, we won't torture you in caves, so keep quiet and worship the golden calf. As for those who don't want to worship it, or who don't believe in our superiority, there's always the American army and its European minions to make them be quiet.

Note that even Churchill said that democracy (that is to say the regime of liberal capitalism) was not at all the best of political regimes, but rather the least bad. Philosophy has always been critical of commonly held opinions and of what seems obvious. Accept what you've got because all the rest belongs to Evil is an obvious idea, which should therefore be immediately examined and critiqued. My personal position is the following: It is necessary to examine, in a detailed way, the contemporary theory of Evil, the ideology of human rights, the concept of democracy. It is necessary to show that nothing there leads in the direction of the real emancipation of humanity. It is necessary to reconstruct rights, in everyday life as in politics, of Truth and of the Good. Our ability to once again have real ideas and real projects depends on it.

Read the Entire Interview

The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic

(one of my reviews at Politics and Culture ... I've been revisiting this book again and again lately ...)

Peter Linebaugh and Mark Rediker, The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Boston: Beacon P, 2000)

Like many important things in our lives these days I have had to repeatedly revisit and reconsider Linebaugh's and Rediker's history of the beginnings of the British Transatlantic empire and the resistances that arose in response to the ordering processes of early global capitalism. The first time I read Many-Headed Hydra I was researching the origins of global capitalism and the various resistances to its rise. The second visit to this history was in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks upon the WTC towers in New York City. I used their history as a background to wrestle with the uses and abuses of the term "terror" in the media and politics. The third reading was completed in order to judge the suitability of the book for use in my undergraduate course "Terror in Contemporary Culture." It is through these three different readings that Many-Headed Hydra's importance to contemporary issues will be examined. (In this review I will be examining some of the broader issues surrounding the authors' history and its usefulness to scholars and teachers. For those looking for a more general summary of the chapters and content please visit Graham Russell Hodges' review of Many-Headed Hydra listed in the bibliography).

One of the current obsessions of contemporary academia is the debate about the conception of globalization as a new process that has no alternatives-in other words, you either jump on board or get left behind. Manfred Steger states that this is the rhetoric of neoliberal globalists "who believe in the creation of a single, global market in goods, services, and capital. They suggest that all peoples and states are equally subject to the logic of globalization, which is in the long run beneficial and inevitable, and that societies have no choice but to adapt to this world-shaping force" (12). Among the advocates of a purely beneficial global capitalism this "irresistible" process "is frequently expressed in quasi-religious language that bestows almost divine wisdom upon the market." This can be seen in the economic concerns surrounding the current political rhetoric of The War on Terror, or, in the pages of new age technology worshippers, such as, Wired, and in the market propaganda of pundits like Thomas Friedman.

In opposition to this contemporary narrative of an ahistorical conception of globalization as a totally new phenomenon, Many-Headed Hydra provides a framework for reconsidering globalization, or better yet, global capitalism, as an ongoing, historical process. Linebaugh and Rediker provide a historical mapping of the various ordering processes used to consolidate and control the economic flows of the burgeoning British Transatlantic Empire. In this history from below they reconstruct the stories of those who were impressed, enslaved, and conquered in order to provide this new empire with a continuous flow of fresh bodies to serve as the "hewers of wood and drawers of water." A key part of this book is its examination of early modern labor history and the methods used to enforce compliance. The authors' achievement in this regard has been recognized through the awarding of "The International Labor History Award" for The Many-Headed Hydra.

The colonizing of vast geographical areas and the enclosed taming of once wild common areas relied upon the forced labor of indentured servants, conscripted sailors and increasingly on the brutal slave trade. It is here that the ordering processes of global capitalism are given birth to while paradoxically these same ordering processes create the resistances that will plague the rise of the Atlantic Empire(s). In order to accurately map these various resistances, Linebaugh and Rediker move past the "severity of history that has long been the captive of the nation-state" as an "unquestioned framework of analysis" (6-7). This is carried-out through two interweaving historical narratives. The first narrative is that of the Atlantic ruling classes as they seek to consolidate their control of this new Empire and create legitimizing myths to justify their acts of "terror" used to pacify resistant populations-both at home and abroad. The second narrative, which is more important to the authors, is the alliances formed amongst multi-ethnic workers in response to the brutal conditions of this new empire.

These resistances are the main theme of Many-Headed Hydra. Linebaugh and Rediker explore the various resistances to these global colonizing forces through the metaphors of "terror" that the dominant society used to demonize alternative lifestyles. Prominent amongst these was the image of the multi-headed Hydra that the mythic Hercules had to destroy as one of his heroic labors. The mythical Hydra would sprout two heads in the place of every head that was lopped off by Hercules. In a final desperate move Hercules used a torch to sear the severed necks in order to prevent new heads from sprouting. It was the legitimizing myths of political theorists, like Francis Bacon, that supported the representation of marginalized peoples as monstrous forces that threatened the ordered progression of society. In Bacon's 1622 book An Advertisement Touching An Holy War he outlines a social theory that viewed the new unruly combinations of workers, sailors, commoners, and slaves as "monstrous and used the myth of the many-headed hydra to develop his theory of monstrosity, a subtly, thinly veiled policy of terror and genocide" (40). Social ordering movements such as these sought to eradicate the resistive hydra-like uprisings wherever they appeared, but like the mythical monster the repressive efforts only resulted in the multiplication of revolts.

The reality though was that the ruling classes were using "terror" to create social "boundaries" to create division amongst the workers. An example of this was when after the St. Patrick's Day Rebellion (1741) in New York the authorities sought to eliminate the threat of workers' solidarity through an attack on the "prevailing multiracial practices and bonds of proletarian life in Atlantic New York. First they went after the taverns and other settings where "cabals" of poor whites and blacks could be formed and subversive plans disseminated. Next they self-consciously recomposed the proletariat of New York to make it more difficult for workers along the waterfront to find among themselves source of unity. And finally, they endeavored to teach racial lessons to New York's people of European descent, promoting a white identity ... " (207). This organized "terror" was the "mechanism of the labor market" that was used to control those who labored as indentured servants and captured slaves (35, 60).

Through their mapping of the dominant ordering forces and the resistive revolts Linebaugh and Rediker provide a historical background of the marginalized voices of those who resisted this consolidating process of the transatlantic Empire. In these stories we begin to recognize how these marginalized peoples-African slaves, English convicts, the conquered Irish, poor women used as prostitutes and breeders, the dispossessed natives of the Americas, and commoners' children kidnapped as fresh labor replacements-were viewed as disposable commodities and natural resources to be exploited in order to build this Empire. The "ruling classes" of this era used metaphors of "terror" to justify their "endless mutilations and executions" as well as the "killing labors" forced upon "European, African, and American workers in building Atlantic capitalism" (Rediker and Linebaugh, 2001: 1).

Linebaugh and Rediker present a strong and coherent narrative that is all the more surprising when we consider that "Earlier versions of some of the chapters of Hydra appeared first as separate essays and have been passed around for years in photocopy, achieving near-cult status" (Wilson, 17). It is clear why these chapters would prove so useful to established scholars as well as beginning students. The authors move past what the anthropologist Jane Margold criticizes as the contemporary trend of presenting a "culture of terror" or "culture of fear" in which personal or group agency is absent. Margold further states that the problem in presenting "cultures of terror and fear" is that it provides "scant insight into when and under what conditions reactions to fear-provoking circumstances include strategizing and political mobilization-rather than paralysis, silence, nightmares or displacements of rage" (83).

The Many-Headed Hydra instead explains how the ruling elites used legitimizing myths based upon metaphors of societal "terror" to manipulate cultural understandings in order to justify repressive violence against culturally defined "punishable categories of people" (64, 66). As Jim Sidanius and Felicia Pratto, in their book Social Dominance (2001), remind us: "Systems of group-based social hierarchy and oppression do not just fall from the sky, nor do they merely result from the accidents and vicissitudes of human history" (61). Neither do the resistances to social dominance and Linebaugh and Rediker give us a picture of a history from "below" in which we can see the agency of laborers as they crossed boundaries of race, class, and nation to resist the colonizing processes of the Atlantic empire(s). The epitome of the breeding grounds for these alliances was the factory-like ships that roamed the Atlantic and the various waterfronts workers that serviced these ships. The various backgrounds of these workers can be seen in the St Patrick's Day New York rebellion of 1741 that "combined the experiences of the deep-sea ship (hydrarchy), the military regiment, the plantation slave, the waterfront gang, the religious conventicle, and the ethnic tribe or clan to make something new, unprecedented, and powerful" (179). This image of an interracial, subversive, motley crew arose in the pre-revolutionary American colonies as a result of the resistance of sailors to English pressgangs seeking labor for their ships and later in the outright rebellions against the 1765 Stamp Act and other revolutionary riots. It was these proletarian rebels that inspired many of the founding thinkers of the American Revolution, unfortunately, as in the earlier chapters on the English Revolution, these proletarian revolutionary forces were seen as a threat to the owners of private property and eventually they were excluded from the country they had helped to inspire. Although defeated and dispersed the American motley crew would eventually serve as the inspiration for the later French and Haitian revolutions. The lesson learned here, in this history, is that no matter how terrible or complete the suppression of the various rebellions they always re-appeared following the currents of economic expansion and trade. Perhaps this is also the lesson that must be learned as we continue to struggle over the processes of globalization-that global capitalism is an ongoing historical process and that it is never a sure thing. There have always been alternatives to global capitalism its just that in a Darwinistic capitalist system that benefits the dominant society these alternative lifestyles have often been brutally suppressed or eliminated.

This book is a treasure trove of resources and, while presenting a complicated historical picture, should be accessible to all levels of students. Having said that I do have a few complaints. The usefulness of the many sources would have been improved by the inclusion of a bibliography. Also, it seems that any broad regional history should include a least a few maps of the geographical areas discussed, maybe along the lines of the simple, inexpensive, yet very effective map that accompanies Benedict Anderson's recent collection of essays The Spectres of Comparisons: Nationalism, Southeast Asia and the World (NY: Verso, 2000: vi-vii). Lastly, I was disturbed by the presentation of a quote from B. Traven's novel The Death Ship (1962) without any reference to it as a work of fiction (153-4). This novel is not widely known, and, thus, it can easily be assumed to be a historical source when used to illustrate how sailors overcame the obstacles of mixed nationalities, beliefs, and ethnicities in order to develop communicational alliances that would foster resistive hydrarchy. These minor complaints aside this is a remarkable contribution to the growing collection of New Atlanticist histories and labor histories viewed from "below."

Michael Benton, Illinois State University

Works Cited

Hodges, Graham Russell. "Lumpen-Proletarians of the Atlantic World, Unite!" Common-Place 1.3 (April 2001): 1-3. Online at

Margold, Jane A. "From 'Cultures of Fear and Terror' to the Normalization of Violence." Critique of Anthropology 19.1 (1999): 63-88.

Rediker, Marcus and Peter Linebaugh. "'The Many-Headed Hydra': An Exchange" New York Review of Books (September 20, 2001): 1-3. Article online at www.nybooks.com/articles/14534

Sidanius, Jim and Felicia Pratto. Social Dominance. NY: Cambridge U P, 2001.

Steger, Manfred. Globalism: The New Market Ideology. NY: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001.

Wilson, Peter Lamborn. "The Revolutionary Atlantic." 1st of the Month 7.1 (2000): 16-17.

Review Link

Communication Theory: The Basics

Here is a good site to learn the basics of communication theory (used in media, language, journalism, rhetoric, political science, etc... studies):
Communication Theory

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Giorgio Agamben: Homo Sacer

Two PDF's of the Introduction and Chapter 4, Form of Law available here

Learning From "El Mexterminator" and "Cyber Vato": Social Anxiety as a Performative Pedagogy

(A guest post of an ongoing essay from my colleague Michael Benton--he's revising it for dissertation work so feel free to comment on it)

I've been thinking about the continuing civil rights struggle over the right for homosexuals to marry and the new marriage amendment in my current state of residence, Kentucky. We've come a long way, but we have so far to go and much to learn about the human experience... still I am amazed that people actually believe that a God has legitimated discriminating against people based upon the expression of their sexuality. What does it take for people to understand the difficulties faced by those who are different from them? Probably one of my my most formative learning experiences was when I left California and moved to Southern Illinois and later Northern Ohio. During this time I was also learning how to teach and struggling with my own fears/needs/anxieties ... a performative experience taught me about my own prejudices and became a foundation for my understanding of pedagogy.

"Learning From "El Mexterminator" and "Cyber Vato": Social Anxiety as a Performative Pedagogy" by Michael Benton
{originally published in Reconstruction 2.4 (Fall 2002)} and {Also presented at "Something for Nothing." 8th Annual Qualitative Methods Conference, Pretoria, South Africa, September 4-6, 2002 (Conference Proceedings online at http://www.criticalmethods.org/ ) and in an earlier form as “Crossing Cultural, Technological, and Artistic Borders: Guillermo Gomez-Pena’s and Roberto Sifuentes’ Temple of Confessions and Mexterminator Performances.” Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference, New Orleans, 2000. }

do you hear the police sirens? beautiful, eh?
Ammmeeeeeeerica, what a beautiful scary place to be
but then living in fear is normal for us
we are all scared shitless of the immediate future
by the way, are you scared of me?
of my accent, my strange intelligence,
my obnoxious capability to articulate your fears?
an articulate Mexican can be scarier than a gang member
que no?
are you scared of my moustache?
my unpredictable behavior?
my poetic tarantula,
my acid politics,
my criminal tendencies,
my tropical diseases,
my alleged ancient wisdom?
my shamanic ability to exorcise the evil out of white people,
yes or no? que si que no; que tu que yo
'cause I'm scared of you,
of your silence pinche mustio
your silence makes you really scary
& the distance between you and I makes it even worse

-----Guillermo Gomez-Peña
"On Fear of the Other" [1]

While attending Bowling Green State University in 1997 I had an experience that changed my worldview. I was a teaching assistant in the Popular Culture department and part of my responsibilities included teaching "Introduction to Popular Culture" (POPC 100) and "Introduction to Mass Media" (POPC 165). I had been struggling to engage my students in examining the way in which social reality is represented to them through popular entertainments [2]. The majority of my students were white, middle class students from the surrounding Northern regions of Ohio. My students were well-versed in the ongoing controversy over whether or not universities were attempting to indoctrinate them into a radical form of political correctness and many stated that their parents voiced concerns about attempts to alter their religious and political upbringing. To complicate matters my upbringing in urban Southern California marked me as a "permissive liberal agitator" who didn't understand "how things were in the more sensible parts of the nation" [3].

During the middle of the semester Dr. Lisa Wolford, a performance scholar, hosted an interactive performance piece "El Mexterminator", featuring Guillermo Gomez-Peña and Roberto Sifuentes, as part of an ongoing series on campus. I heard that the performance was going to address stereotyped and racist representations of Chicano/as and Latino/as. Sensing that this would provide a good opportunity to introduce my students to a different cultural sensibility and to open up the spatial environment of the sealed classroom I decided to bring my entire class to the performance. My class spent a week preparing for the experience of the performance by entering the website that was operating in conjunction with the performance tour [4]. This was the "Temple of Confessions" which included a series of "anthropological forms" designed to allow the user to explore their "cultural fears and desires" and a section in which one could confess their own cultural sins or desires. This site, "Graffiti Wall," also includes the confessions of previous visitors both to the website and the performances. The power of these public confessions recorded on the Internet and during the performances is that they foreground our society's inherent racist and misogynistic structures (Causey, 389).

By the date of the performance my students were very excited. I was anxious about what the experience would entail and whether my students would be able to engage with the performance. I was determined to remain a disinterested, objective observer in order to respond to student questions or problems. Looking back in hindsight I was incredibly naïve and truly did not understand my own repressed cultural sins. I was adopting a position of enlightened intellectual who was going to teach my Midwestern students about the realities and inequalities of their nation. I felt superior because of my multicultural background, my urban upbringing, and my extreme life experiences. I thought that I was the proverbial Shepard who would guide this flock to Enlightenment.

All that changed once we entered the doors of the theater … The first thing we were presented with was a sign that stated [5]:

"The ex-US of A has fragmented into myriad micro-republics loosely controlled by a multiracial junta, and governed by a Chicano prime minister named Gran Vato. The Tortilla Curtain no longer exists. Spanglish is now the official language. Panicked by the New Borders, Anglo militias are desperately trying to recapture the Old Order. Our border heroes, El Mexterminator, CyberVato, and La Cultural Transvestite have deserted from the newly formed government to join a strange hybrid militia opposing the reverse authoritarianism and radical essentialism of the ruling party. The new government of Aztlan Liberado sponsors interactive ethnographic exhibits to teach the perplexed citizenry how things were before and during the 2nd US/Mexico war. This performance/installation is one example of these official projects."

Upon entering we were herded into small groups that were then lead into the traditional seating area of the theater and we spread out in the seats before a large screen that was showing clips from various movies. There was one similarity between all of these clips in that they all involved stereotypical representations of Latin Americans-the whole spectrum from fearful to exotic, from the "Chiquita Girl" to the bandits who claim "we don't need no stink'n badges". We sat in our seats watching the visual images playing out across the screen in almost a state of suspension wondering if this was the performance or when 'something' else would happen. The images on the screen produced an extreme state of social anxiety in the audience as they squirmed uncomfortably while being confronted with the racist cultural products of their society. This initial stage of the performance demonstrates how "The ideology of capitalism operates … looking to obscure understanding [of] 'how things work' while encouraging acquiescence to 'things as they are.' The television requests that we please stand by, and some do" (Causey, 387). Eventually a few bold members of the audience approached the curtains on either side of the movie screen where noises signaled activities beyond the screen.
Going through the traditional movie theater curtains was like crossing a threshold into another state of reality. The room was smoky with people moving about and hanging from the ceiling were dead chickens with nooses around their necks. There were three main stations: one occupied by the performer Roberto Sifuentes dressed in a bloody, bullet holed, shirt and the styles of a stereotypical gang-banger, another stage directly across presented the figure of the performer Guillermo Gomez-Peña dressed in a pastiche of traditional Mexican musician clothing and Aztec regalia creating a contrasting image of clichéd kitsch and ancient mysticism, the third station was a revolving set of spaces where various performers dressed as transformed nuns/exotics interacted with the audience. These performers would address audience members and encourage them to interact with "Cyber-Vato" (Sifuentes) and "El Mexterminator" (Gomez-Peña) or to approach the "Temple of Confessions" to confess their cultural desires or fears. Before explaining some of the events that I witnessed and participated in while in this performance space I would like to return and examine the temporal states of this initiatory experience.

Upon entering I was still operating at normal physical and emotional intensity. While seating myself I began to slip into the public/communal sociability of movie theaters, trading quips with my neighboring audience members. This quick period evoked my "cinematic imagination" and initiated the familiar cinematic process of the "voyeur's gaze" (Denzin). My consciousness though was brought back to the forefront as I began to be disturbed by the visual representations of stereotypical images on the huge movie screen. Some were exotic, some pitiful, and some designed to induce fear of the ethnic "Other". All were from actual films and advertisements. Many of these clips were from an earlier period, but many of them were recognizable as from films that I had watched in other theaters, at other times in my life, this juxtaposition of the older and newer images brought to mind how easily I had consumed these images without any recognition of the pain that they might cause [6].

Adding to the emotional charge of this initial experience was the sense of anxiety initiated by wondering what was going to happen and being unsure of what I should do next. This initiated a liminal state, this is a temporal state which is described by the anthropologist Victor Turner as a period initiated through ritual in which the initiated is in a state of stasis between two borders. Turner further states that:

"During the liminal period, neophytes are alternately encouraged to think about their society, their cosmos, and the powers that generate and sustain them. Liminality may be partly described as a stage of reflection. (1967, 105)"

At the time I was not familiar with Turner but I clearly recognized that I was at an experiential threshold while crossing through the theater curtains, essentially entering behind the world of the cinematic stereotypes upon the movie screen. When we enter into a liminal period as a group a sense of community is initiated in which hierarchy for the moment is erased through the collective ritual experience. The combination of the state of temporal liminality, spatial uncertainity, and social anxiety produced a situation that allowed for a triadic, or third space, experience [7]. When we came through the curtains we were immediately absorbed into the ritualistic actions of the performers and for many in the interacting audience it induced a feeling that these were "Liminal entities [that] are neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention, and ceremonial" (1969, 95).

On one of the center stages "Cyber Vato" was engaging in various actions, such as, cleaning an automatic weapon with an American flag, shooting up with a science fictional instrument, and writing on the Internet. On an opposing stage "El Mexterminator" was surrounded with ancient appearing ritualistic artifacts (much like one might find displayed in a museum) and more contemporary clichéd artifacts -- tequila, beads, blankets, velvet paintings, etc. -- that are stereotypically associated with Mexicans along the border towns (e.g. Tijuana and Calexico). The crowd was encouraged by more in-character performers circulating through the crowd to approach and interact with the living "exhibits". Gomez-Peña describes the interactive action that fills the performative space:

Audience members are encouraged to interact with these replicants "at their own risk." They are instructed that they can feed us, touch us, smell us, massage us, braid our hair, take us for walks on dog leashes, or point prop weapons at us to experience the feeling of shooting at a real, live Mexican. More extroverted audience members initiate their own forms of interaction, which range from beating or stabbing us with (prop) weapons to attempting to initiate explicit sexual contact either with us or with objects in our diorama environments. (54)

The emotions displayed can be intense both from the performers and the audience. That first visit I witnessed a vegetarian yank a dead chicken from one of the ropes nooses hanging from the ceiling and threw it at "Mexterminator" screaming at him that they had no right to kill an animal for their art [8]. Mexterminator picked up the chicken and sat down on his throne -- in the various dioramas the throne is often a wheelchair or toilet -- and started to very affectionately stroke the head of the chicken while crying. The vegetarian student asked him angrily why he was crying and Mexterminator replied that the chicken represented Mexicans that were hunted and hanged for bounties by United States nationals. I later talked to the shocked young man and he stated that he had never truly known that the Western section of the United States was a colonized or occupied land in which the original occupants were often hunted or killed as a means of clearing up property disputes. Later, a man started screaming at "Cyber Vato" because he was using an American flag to clean his gun (prop). The man became quite agitated and almost appeared to lose control when a local college girl approached Cyber Vato and started to feed him grapes one at a time (the floor performers from time-to-time would pass food to audience members). Various other audience members were definitely pursuing their ethnic exotic desires by caressing performers or dressing up as ethnic "others". The contrast of these opposite emotions of anger and desire are a part of the performative space opened up by Gomez-Peña and Sifuentes. As Gomez-Peña states in a 1997 diary entry in his book Dangerous Border Crossers

"I believe in the power of decorating and aestheticizing the body in order to exaggerate, challenge and problematize mythical notions of the Mexican Other. In the American imagination, Mexicans are only allowed to occupy two different but strangely complementary spaces: we are either unnecessarily violent, hypersexual, cannibalistic and highly infectious; or innocent, "natural," ritualistic and shamanic. Both stereotypes are equally colonializing. (34)"

During the show a friend and I walked up to the stage of Mexterminator and asked him if there was anything he needed, he said he needed nourishment, we picked up a bottle of tequila and handed it to him and in the middle of a big gulp he sprayed the liquid into the air. Embarrassed, I realized that we had offered him alcohol and cigarettes instead of the fruits nearby-was there a cultural assumption behind that move? Was I reproducing my attitudes developed through tourist/carnival ventures of the past when I would travel into Mexico in order to seek forbidden or exotic adventures? Another audience member took extreme delight in mocking Mexterminator and calling him derogatory names. Mexterminator initiated a dialogue which I was unable to hear, but the man approached the stage and picked up the shotgun (prop) lying on the upraised stage. I was unaware at the time that the gun was a prop. The man stared at Mexterminator and raised the gun and pointed it at his head. Mexterminator calmly explained that now the man would know what it was like to shoot a real, live Mexican. Slowly he walked up to the end of the barrel and placed it in his mouth. They stood in this strange tableau for a few minutes until the man holding the gun started to visibly shake and then broke down crying, finally, Mexterminator walked up to the crying man and embraced him. There was also a space set aside where one could go to confess their cultural fears, desires, and sins. In those emotionally charged moments I too broke down while watching the actions of Cyber Vato. His ritualized performances of a gang member and his blood-stained shirt reminded me of my friends in California who had been killed over being the wrong race, or, in the wrong place, or, who had just plain run out of time. I visited the shrine and talked about my past actions/fears/desires … Some of my students were excited about their experiences in the 'living diorama.' Many more were uncertain about this powerful confrontation with the representation of the societal unconscious needing time to reflect further on their experiences. We spent a lot of time afterwards talking about the impact of the 'living diorama' and this performative lesson continued to shape later discussions in our class. Guillermo Gomez-Peña states that his performances are designed to evoke the ritualized aspects of the brujos and shamans that he and his friends visit as "clientele" and "audience members." Demonstrating his earlier training as a linguist he explains the etymological roots of brujo and shaman:

"[Brujeria] speaks of an ancient indigenous belief system that connects its eccentric practitioners to higher or parallel worlds where time, space, and "reality," and ethics have entirely different meanings. And the Indian noun "chamanismo" means not only Indian medicine; it also implies ritual performance, proletarian psychiatry, and in some cases, political activism. … Their job, like ours, is to create, with the use of chant poetry, surprising gestures and ritualized actions, highly charged props and elaborate costumes, a coherent symbolic system that helps patients (or in our case audience members) understand themselves, their existential malaise and their socio-cultural circumstances a little better." (2000: 232-33)

Later, I had the good fortune to re-visit another of the performances in the Detroit Art Museum a little over a year later [9]. The character "La Frida Prisionera" was added to the show as was a transgendered, or sexually ambiguous, dominatrix. The performance of "La Frida Prisionera" haunts me still today because she perfectly captured the frantic, trapped madness that I had seen in many of my childhood friends who had succumbed to drugs, despair, or violence. The audience was much more experimental, loose, and participatory at this performance, probably due to the 'artistic' elites who were present and the fact that the museum provides alcohol at their shows. I also noticed that the performers in the crowd were much more aggressive and antagonistic with the crowd, perhaps to shock them out of their 'jadedness.'

Gomez-Peña's and Sifuente's performative dioramas have provided me with a lifetime of examples for opening up the classroom, for presenting alternative discourses, and ways to utilize and manipulate time/space in the learning environment [10] Their performative methods produced a Freirian conscientizacao (conscientization) that shaped my pedagogical development in an organic way leading to the initiation of "constructed situations" (Situationist International Anthology) as everyday learning tools. Gomez-Peña refuses to allow us the luxury of the 'denial of coevalness' (Fabian), in fact his performance rests upon his seizing of the cultural authority of hegemonic anthropological authority and reversing the ethnographic gaze back onto the social reality of the contemporary United States. The performance theorist Lisa Wolford when reflecting on Gomez-Peña's earlier "Border Brujo" performances in the border city of San Diego explains that the performances place the audience in the place of tourists/anthropologists who are viewing/gazing upon their own society, but instead of the clean, sanitized version of the tourist spot, or the exotic thrills of foreign beauties, the audience is confronted with their own fear and desires of the culturally Other. Using San Diego as an example Wolford explains the cultural schizophrenia that the performances bring to the surface. Fittingly this explanation is the end of Gomez-Peña's latest book:

"In San Diego, where the so-called "Third World" collides dizzyingly with the "First," the sheer proximity of the sanitized tourist districts to the economically disadvantaged inner city neighborhoods invests these contradictory modes of perceiving otherness with an almost surreal quality. (To the aforementioned diagnosis of the city as suffering from historical amnesia, add an acute case of cultural schizophrenia.) In the low-income districts of downtown San Diego, the Mexican other is constructed as inherently violent and menacing. A five-minute drive away, in the confines of the upscale tourist zone the "domesticated" Mexican (and it is by no means insignificant that the majority of the staff in direct contact with the customers in the stores and restraunts of Old Town are Mexican/Chicana women) is a site of erotic pleasure, inviting colonial fantasies of languorous seduction. Old Town promises that the true California dream, Mexico without Mexicans, is still available . . . for a price. Or failing that, an illusion of Mexico in which Mexicans (primarily young, attractive and female) exist only as part of a silent and compliant servant class, pouring margaritas against the backdrop of tropical foliage." (quoted in Gomez-Peña, 2000: 285)

San Diego's "Old Town" has become a "pilgrimage site for tourists" who want a safe, "authentic" Mexican experience without the perceived risk of actually visiting Mexico. Gomez-Peña has created a performative pedagogy designed to critique the social, economic, spatial, and temporal realities of "here and now" America by looking back on it from a mythical future society. His performative pedagogy leads his audience through a reworking of the dominant temporal and spatial social realities as originally portrayed by the dominant discourse. The materialist feminist Rosemary Hennessey describes this practice as a "disarticulation/rearticulation" in which the creator of a text takes an event, a personage, or a cultural history and re-presents a competing reality/narrative of the chosen subject. The chosen theme/subject is decoded/disarticulated and then re-encoded/re-articulated. The most important factor of this process is that it presents us (readers/viewers/listeners) with a "powerful strategy for rewriting the theoretical texts we encounter" (Hennessey, 7) -- whether they are artistic, political, social, historical, popular, or business discourses, they are all attempting to profess a position, or taking a pedagogical stance ("peda"="to lead"). Organizational theorists David Boje and Robert Dennehy point out that:

"People who do not tell stories well, listen to stories effectively and learn to deconstruct those stories with a skeptical ear will be more apt to be victims of … exploitation and power games . . . Part of exploitation is to deny an interpretation, point of view, or experience, that differs from the dominant view. Rhetoric about healthy, happy, and terrific harmony and unity can mask just the opposite reality. A simple sounding moral or prescription about consensus or teamwork can mask deeper costs in terms of power and domination." (339)

I've been back to my home state of California many times since those early performances and I have never looked at my homeland in the same way after experiencing the "Mexterminator" living diorama or reading the "Temple of Confessions". This is the power of Gomez-Peña's performative pedagogy, it enhances the chances of creating an active and creative public who can better recognize and re-write cultural and political myths.

Michael Benton


[1] Reprinted in Dangerous Border Crossers. (2000: 61). [^]

[2]This was my second year teaching at a university level. [^]

[3] These were actual comments made in anonymous written responses in which I encouraged my students to voice their concerns about the academic system so that we could bring them out into the open. I made the initial assignment anonymous so that the students would not fear reprisals for any statements they made about me as their instructor.[^]

[4]The website, "Temple of Confessions," is still operating at Link [^]

[5] This is a reproduction of the text that is reprinted in Gomez-Peña (2000: 52). [^]

[6] A similar experience was recently initiated by my attendance at Spike Lee's brilliant and controversial film Bamboozled (2000) which fictionally explores how the contemporary entertainment industries re-produce earlier black-face entertainments. For those who are interested in this historical entertainment tactic of black-face, check out Eric Lott's seminal work Love and Theft (1993). Unfortunately, I haven't had the opportunity to revisit this film, or my initial reactions, due to its quick disappearance from the local movie theaters. Clips and previews can be viewed at Bamboozled . I had earlier recognized this feeling, though not as strongly, since it was in the safe environment of a classroom, when during my first year of teaching I screened Celluloid Closet (1995), a powerful historical documentary on Hollywood cinema's representation of homosexuals. During a collage of scenes where cinematic characters (all male) use the term "faggot" as a derogatory term of hateful spite and de-masculinization I recognize this as a ritual that the males, including me, of my working-class neighborhood engaged-in to demonstrate their heterosexual masculinity. While teaching this documentary I learned that these attitudes had been reproduced in the incoming generation of males. After sitting through various depictions of violence and hatred against homosexuals, two male students got up when the documentary portrayed recent positive portrayals of homosexual life. The scene that disturbed them enough to leave the room was when on the screen a man affectionately kissed another man on the cheek and playfully patted his butt. [^]

[7]Of course not everyone has the same experiences during a performance. These statements are based upon my situated experiences, my students, and some of my colleagues. I also spent some time observing audience members after they had exited the performance and were recounting their experiences to filmmakers outside the theater. [^]

[8] Not that it really matters, but I found out later that the chickens were bought dead from a farm nearby. [^]

[9]Guillermo Gomez-Peña was visiting our university for a gathering of former McArthur Genius Grant Winners and they decided to create a performative diorama in the famous Diego Rivera room. I was fortunate to spend time talking to him and Roberto about their art while escorting them around campus. [^]

[10] For more experimental performative exercises check out Berry/Epstein, Garorian, Gomez-Peña, and McLaren. [^]

Article Link

U.S. Reports Possible Case of Mad Cow Disease

(courtesy Discourse)

The government health officials are being vague about the wherabouts and conditions for the test, but they have admitted that another cow has been found to have this disease (not really sure why the NY Times would include the word "possible" in their title):

U.S. Reports Possible Case of Mad Cow

Friday, November 19, 2004

Landscapes of Global Capital

(From the introduction)

This is a project about public, commercial representations of Global High-Tech Capital. We are interested in how space/time (speed), capital and globalization are represented in corporate television advertising.
We view television advertising as part of a larger "cultural economy of signs." By this we mean that advertising is dedicated to the cultivation and circulation of sign values. What we are calling sign values, the industry refers to as branding. In the global marketplace, goods and services that lack an identifiable brand value tend to lag behind, if they survive at all. This cultural economy of branding (circulating signs) seeks to produce values by rearranging and assembling cultural systems of Meaning.

We believe that this cultural economy of signs has become every bit as significant as the more traditional political economy of Capital which precedes it and underlies it (Goldman & Papson, 1996). We want to explore what we perceive to be a correspondence between advertising as an economy of signs and the logic of capital. When capital expands and speeds up (high tech global capitalism) does the cultural circulation process also expand and accelerate? How is this cultural economy of signs related to the most powerful forces within the larger global economy of capitalism?

Linear Version of Landscapes of Capital

Linked Mapping Version of Landscapes of Capital

Indexed Version of Landscapes of Capital

Searchable Database of Over 900 Annotated Global Ads

Semiotics of Advertising


Killing the Buddha

(Introduction to the website)
Killing the Buddha is a religion magazine for people made anxious by churches, people embarrassed to be caught in the "spirituality" section of a bookstore, people both hostile and drawn to talk of God. It is for people who somehow want to be religious, who want to know what it means to know the divine, but for good reasons are not and do not. If the religious have come to own religious discourse it is because they alone have had places where religious language could be spoken and understood. Now there is a forum for the supposedly non-religious to think and talk about what religion is, is not and might be. Killing the Buddha is it.

The idea of "killing the Buddha" comes from a famous Zen line, the context of which is easy to imagine: After years on his cushion, a monk has what he believes is a breakthrough: a glimpse of nirvana, the Buddhamind, the big pay-off. Reporting the experience to his master, however, he is informed that what has happened is par for the course, nothing special, maybe even damaging to his pursuit. And then the master gives the student dismaying advice: If you meet the Buddha, he says, kill him.

Why kill the Buddha? Because the Buddha you meet is not the true Buddha, but an expression of your longing. If this Buddha is not killed he will only stand in your way.
Why Killing the Buddha? For our purposes, killing the Buddha is a metaphor for moving past the complacency of belief, for struggling honestly with the idea of God.
Killing the Buddha

What is Wrong With the Patriot Act?

The good soldier Švejk over at Red Harvest has a good post linking up to arguments--both from the right and the left--against the Patriot Act:

Extremism in Defense of Liberty

Richard L. Rubenstein: The Cunning of History

Rubenstein, Richard L. The Cunning of History: The Holocaust and the American Future. NY: Harper Colophon, 1978.

{Thivai—pages 12-21 examine the judicial process that led to the development of the death camps and mass extermination. Important in this legalistic development was the designation of “apatrides or stateless persons” (12) at the end of WW1. These were people who had been denied any official standing in the nation and thus could be prosecuted or jailed at any time for no reason at all. Also the process of denaturalization or denationalization was increasingly used during and after the 1920s to deal with unwanted minority groups within the European states. This was an effective stripping of any rights whatsoever. Concentration camps first appeared across Europe to deal with apatrides (or refugees).}

The concentration camps for the apatrides served much the same purpose as did the original Nazi camps in 1933 and 1934. In the popular mind, the first Nazi camps conjure up images of wild sadism by brutal brown-shirted storm troopers. The images are, of course, well deserved, but they tend to hinder precise understanding of the development of the camps as a legal and political institution. (Rubenstein, 15)

Initially, the concentration camps were established to accommodate detainees who had been placed under “protective custody” (Schützhaft) by the Nazi regime. Those arrested were whom the regime wished to detain although there were no clear legal justification for so doing. Almost all of the original detainees were German communists, not Jews. Had the Nazis’ political prisoners been brought before a German court in the first year or two of Hitler’ regime, the judiciary would have been compelled to dismiss the case. This was not because the German judiciary was anti-Nazi, but because it was bureaucratic in structure. In the early stages of the Nazi regime, there was no formula in law to cover all the political prisoners the Nazis wanted to arrest. This problem was solved by holding them under “protective custody” and setting up camps outside of the regular prison system to receive them. Incidentally, the American government did something very similar when it interned Japanese-American citizens during World War II. They had committed no crime. No court would have convicted them. Prison was not the place to detain them. Happily, as bad as were the American concentration camps, they were infinitely better than the German counterparts. (15-16)

One of the least helpful ways of understanding the Holocaust is to regard the destruction process as the work of a small group of irresponsible criminals who were atypical of normal statesmen and who somehow gained control of the German people, forcing them by terror and the deliberate stimulation of religious and ethnic hatred to pursue a barbaric and retrograde policy that was thoroughly at odds with the great traditions of Western civilization.
On the contrary, we are more likely to understand the Holocaust if we regard it as the expression of some of the most profound tendencies of Western civilization in the twentieth century. (Rubenstein, 21)

In order to understand more fully the connection between bureaucracy and mass death, it will be necessary to return to the apatrides. They were the first modern Europeans who had become politically and legally superfluous and for whom the most “rational” way of dealing with them was ultimately murder. A majority of the apatrides had lost their political status by a process of bureaucratic definition, denationalization. (Rubenstein, 31)

Men without political acts are superfluous men. They have lost all right to life and human dignity. Political rights are neither God-given, autonomous nor self-validating. The Germans understood that no person has any rights unless they are guaranteed by an organized community with the power to defend such rights. They were perfectly consistent in demanding that the deportees be made stateless before being transported to the camps. They also understood that by exterminating stateless men and women, they violated no law because such people were covered by no law. Even those who were committed by religious faith to belief in natural law, such as the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church, did not see fit to challenge the Nazi actions publicly at the time. (Rubenstein, 33)

State Power + Corporate Power = Fascism?

"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power."

---Benito Mussolini The Doctrine of Fascism

Michael Atkinson's List of Important Left Films

"Counter Cultural Programming"
Michael Atkinson, In These Times
Republished at Alternet


Zero de Conduite (1933) With this early talkie, legendary filmmaker Jean Vigo's lyrical genius reinvents schoolyard rebellion as all-purpose, anti-authoritarian anthem. Essential radical viewing in any year.

It's a Wonderful Life (1946) OK, it's not Christmas and this poor movie may already be bled dry for most of us, but take another look: It's the most passionate, anti-big business, pro-Socialist Hollywood film until Reds 34 years later. If Dick Cheney overacted more, he'd be Mr. Potter.

Salt of the Earth (1954) Independently made by real union miners and McCarthy blacklistees, this gutsy little epic remains the premier American union film. It met with federal opposition at every step of its production and distribution, and Mexican star Rosaura Revueltas was imprisoned and deported as a Communist. That this landmark is all but forgotten in the mainstream and the anti-union On the Waterfront is consistently celebrated cannot be happenstance.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956/1978/1993) This sci-fi nail-biter scenario -- made three times in three political climates but never exhausted -- stands as a trifold vision of every liberal's nightmare: the conservative, empathy-free homogenization of society. As walking metaphors go, you can't get more visceral.

Paths of Glory (1957) One of the very best anti-war movies -- Stanley Kubrick doing WWI -- and so an eloquent reminder for the home-frontier about artillery-ground soldier meat and self-interested authority.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) The ultimate conspiracy thriller, despite the fact that its sky-high assassination plot -- which chillingly forecast Dealey Plaza by just a month -- is blamed on Sino-Soviet brainwashers. Here was the first movie to dare suggest that U.S. politics is a parliament of whores and criminals.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) The official antidote for jolly-ho Brit Empire colonialism -- here, the white hero is an egomaniacal, exotica-drunk fop, standing in for imperialists everywhere.

Les Carabiniers (1963) International cinema's premier radical, Jean-Luc Godard, takes a lampooning cudgel to war and patriotism. Simple and merciless.

The Best Man (1964) Master upstart Gore Vidal wrote this election-year dogfight in 1960, but he could be writing it right now. Possibly the least naive American film ever about electoral combat.

The Battle of Algiers (1965) A classic, semi-documentarian portrait of "low-intensity," neo-colonialist warfare from the Arab freedom fighters' P.O.V. -- still pertinent enough to warrant a Pentagon screening late last year.

A Report on the Party and its Guests (1966) A John Ashcroft party film, this Czech parable about informant culture and social oppression is creepy, inexorable and criminally underseen.

Greetings (1968) Brian De Palma's first film and possibly the most incendiary American youth film of the '60s. Why aren't there new fist-shakers like this, and audiences for them, today?

Punishment Park (1971) Brit dystopian Peter Watkins prophecizes the Ashcroft effect: Vietnam-era protestors and lefties are arrested, tried tribunally and surreptitiously executed in the desert.

The Candidate (1972) Robert Redford as Howard Dean? This realistic farce plays presidential politicking as media mah-jongg, and the voters lose.

State of Siege (1972) Greek troublemaker Costa-Gavras explores the Tupermaro guerrillas in '70s Uruguay, but the villain is a kidnapped government agent used to initiate right-wing coups.

The Parallax View (1974) A jittery Warren Beatty nightmare -- the star's first liberal statement -- about JFK-like assassinations as an integral ingredient in American politics.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974/2003) Bush Country and low-rung consumerist capitalism have never been so scary; the new remake gets credit for prescience.

The Battle of Chile/The Pinochet Case (1975/2001) Possibly the most outraged political document ever made, an on-the-scene, Holy Shit record of the U.S.-supported 1973 coup and its recent denouement. A must-see.

Harlan County USA (1976)/American Dream (1990) Barbara Kopple's documentaries track the reality of the worker majority struggling to keep their livelihoods and unions.

Network (1976) This screaming Paddy Chayefsky satire is so prophetic -- reality TV, punditocracy, news-as-entertainment, etc. -- it's almost redundant. Remake, anyone?

All the President's Men (1976) Still a sobering view, ratfucking and all, of standard White House bullshit.

Apocalypse Now Redux (1979/2001) The only, and funniest, American film about Vietnam to acknowledge the conflict's colonial roots and reality.

Winter Kills (1979) Based on the Richard Condon novel, yet another ludicrous-yet-persuasive burlesque on modern power and the JFK flashpoint; this time, John Huston stars as a diabolical Joseph Kennedy.

Reds (1981) As heartfelt and convincing a pitch for full-on socialism as Hollywood will ever make. Warren Beatty deserved a Nobel.

The Killing Fields (1984) The secret bombings are danced around, but otherwise this portrait of the Khmer Rouge rise is a powerful and convincing view of barbaric upheaval fomented by U.S. meddling.

Salvador (1986) More U.S. meddling in the post-imperial badlands, and full of talk about Reagan-era responsibility.

Walker (1987) Director Alex Cox virtually ended his career with this Molotov-cocktail about the famous U.S. freebooter who took over Nicaragua in the 1850s on behalf of federal greed and Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Roger and Me (1989) Michael Moore's first film. America the unemployed beautiful, outside of the millionaires' gated communities.

The Handmaid's Tale (1990) Margaret Atwood's bad dream about abortion rights, in which right-wing moralism creates a dreadful future of female subjugation.

JFK (1991) Oliver Stone might not be right about everything, but he's not crazy. Here are enough cold facts to put you off trusting politicians for a lifetime.

Thelma & Louise (1991) Perhaps it's time to revisit this feminist self-immolation -- perhaps even as an empathic essay about having nothing left to lose.

The Panama Deception (1992) Bush I gets strung out to dry in this Oscar-winner. Data and more data, about an administration virtually identical to the one we have now.

Bob Roberts (1992) In this campaign mock-doc, Tim Robbins masterfully mocks the seductive idiocy of right-wing populism.

Lessons of Darkness (1992) Werner Herzog's lyrical survey of the burning Kuwaiti oil fields. Unforgettable.

Land and Freedom (1995) Old-school lefty Ken Loach visits the Spanish Civil War and turns out one of the most eloquent films about collective society ever made.

Wag the Dog (1997) The manufacture of consent in action. This was intended as wacky spoof, but all that seems far-fetched now is the notion that we'd bother to fake a war rather than just wage a real one.

Starship Troopers (1997) The decade's most outrageous satire of American-pop jingoism, bar none. No wonder it was misunderstood.

Bulworth (1998) In a hip-hop context now, Warren Beatty again dares to utter the 'S' word and mean it.

The Thin Red Line (1998) Another "best" anti-war film, unmuddied by heroism and ruled by irrationality.

Pleasantville (1998) A cartoon metaphor in which underage sex, masturbation and literature destroy reactionary control. We can dream.

Three Kings (1999) David O. Russell's blessedly disrespectful comedy of Gulf War greed, whose idea of a sentimental ending is the bribing of U.S. officials to let refugees live.

A Time for Drunken Horses (2000) Of the many acidic Iranian films we've seen, this one softens no edges about refugee life in Mesopotamia.

La Commune (Paris, 1871) (2000) Peter Watkins' six-hour faux-news report about the nearly forgotten proto-communist uprising is virtually a living seminar in class-consciousness.

Kandahar (2001) A pre-9/11 Afghan voyage by master Iranian Mohsen Makhmalbaf and a surreal, chador-haunted critique of both Taliban conservatism and Western opportunism.

Bloody Sunday (2002) A minute-by-minute account of the famous Irish massacre. Accurately and furiously anti-British, but a gut-wrenching window on civilian casualties everywhere.

Noam Chomsky: Power and Terror in Our Times (2002) Any C-SPAN lecture would do, but this hit theaters and attacks the War on Terror's profound illogic.

Bowling for Columbine (2002) The NRA is one of Bush II's big contributors; this movie should run 24/7 on cable all fall.

The Trials of Henry Kissinger (2002) He's been employed by every president since Nixon in one capacity or another, and yet he's personally responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. Let's take it to The Hague.

In This World (2003) Michael Winter-bottom's verit頤ay-in-the-smuggled-refugee-life puts you in 15 million people's threadbare sandals.

The Fog of War (2003) War bureaucrat Robert McNamara double-talks and rationalizes his career on camera, and a few more million deaths are left unaccounted for. This is how government officials live with themselves.

Michael Atkinson is a film critic for the Village Voice and most recently author of "One Hundred Children Waiting for a Train."

Entire Article

Project for Public Places: What If We Built Our Cities Around Places?

November 2004 Issue of Making Places

El Oso: The Absolute vs The Relative

El Oso continuing his dialogical approach to the differences between conservatives and liberals has initiated an interesting dialogue concerning the place of morals in politics:

The Absolute vs The Relative

After the Empire

After the Empire: Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, creators of an influential theory of globalization, are back with the next phase

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri: Multitude--War and Democracy in the Age of Empire

Media Matters For America

Media Matters for America is a new organization founded to combat conservative misinformation in the media and an activism network enabling you to monitor the media and hold it accountable:

Media Matters for America

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Akhil Gupta: The Song of the Nonaligned World

The processes that position people as citizens of nations and as members of larger, smaller, or dispersed units of agglomeration need to be conceptualized together. Citizenship ought to be theorized as one of the multiple subject positions occupied by people as members of diversely spatialized, partially overlapping or non-overlapping collectivities. (73)

Gupta, Akhil. “The Song of the Nonaligned World: Transnational Identities and the Reinscription of Space in Late Capitalism.” Cultural Anthropology 7.1: 63-79.

President Bush's Example of Unilateral Action: The World Learns and Responds

Putin would probably be a problem no matter who was president, but there is no doubt that we are once again setting a dangerous tone for political affairs and military actions. Everyone is once again developing their weapons as quick as they can because "might makes right" and the spoils will go the victors.

New Nuclear Weapon to Surpass Others, Putin Says

Louis Proyect: The Sopranos, Capitalism And Organized Crime

Swans Commentary

From the epigraph:

"A philosopher produces ideas, a poet poems, a clergyman sermons, a professor compendia and so on. A criminal produces crimes. If we look a little closer at the connection between this latter branch of production and society as a whole, we shall rid ourselves of many prejudices. The criminal produces not only crimes but also criminal law, and with this also the professor who gives lectures on criminal law and in addition to this the inevitable compendium in which this same professor throws his lectures onto the general market as commodities. . .The criminal moreover produces the whole of the police and of criminal justice, constables, judges, hangmen, juries, etc.; and all these different lines of business, which form equally many categories of the social division of labour, develop different capacities of the human spirit, create new needs and new ways of satisfying them."

—Karl Marx, Theories of Surplus-Value


The Sopranos, Capitalism and Organized Crime

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Masks of the Spirit: Image and Metaphor in Mesoamerica

eScholarship Editions and University of California Press

Entire book available online (and over 400 others):

Masks of the Spirit: Image and Metaphor in Mesoamerica by Roberta H. Markman and Peter T. Markman

1 The Mask as the God
2 The Mask in Ritual Metaphor in Motion
3 Coda I: The Mask as Metaphor
4 The Shamanistic Inner Vision
5 The Temporal Order
6 The Spatial Order
7 The Mathematical Order
8 The Life-Force Source of All Order
9 Transformation Manifesting the Life-Force
10 Coda II: The Mask as Metaphor
11 Syncretism The Structural Effect of the Conquest
12 The Pre-Columbian Survivals The Masks of the Tigre
13 The Syncretic Compromise The Yaqui and Mayo Pascola
14 Today's Masks

Picasso at Lapin Agile

Steve Martin's Picasso at Lapin Agile is playing Nov.18-21 at UK's Guignol Theatre.

I saw it last week and it was one of the best plays I have seen in awhile. Intelligent, hilarious, great production, actors and directors. Plus its only $10 in a small, cool theatre environment. Support independent entertainment--the Guignol theatre is definitely a worthy cause.

Kentucky Tax Justice Conference, November 18th

Kentucky Tax Justice Conference
Thursday, Nov.18 at the downtown Public Library

The Kentucky Economic Justice Alliance hosts "Kentucky Can Do Better: Exploring Tax Reform Issues and Solutions?" this Thursday, November 18th at the downtown branch of the Lexington Public Library, 140 E. Main St at the corner of Limestone. The conference will run from 10am to 4:30pm and is envisioned as a day of ?education and activation for people concerned about tax reform and Kentucky?s future?. For more info and a conference agenda, visit This Website for More Info

16 Days of Activism Against Domestic Violence (November 25 - December 10)

Moving Ideas

In preparation for 16 Days of Activism Against Domestic Violence (November 25 – December 10), a worldwide campaign to combat gender-based violence, Moving Ideas and Amnesty International USA have teamed up to host an online chat on domestic violence on November 16th. Read the transcripts below.

Bringing Human Rights Home

Mark Fiore: The Depressed Democrat's Guide to Recovery

(courtesy of Mason)

The Depressed Democrat's Guide to Recovery

The Hypocrisy of Republicans: House Changes Rules to Protect DeLay

House Changes Rules to Protect Delay

Remembering Mervyn Peake

Hopefully you've had the mad pleasure of reading Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast Trilogy--if not get thee to an independent bookstore:

Today in Literature

On this day in 1968 Mervyn Peake died, aged fifty-seven. Peake's career as a writer and artist was prolific, varied and, some say, too eccentric for mainstream popularity. But if the critics continue to ignore or quarrel over the achievement, the fans continue to assemble, arriving from all corners and by many paths. Apart from many recent, international editions of Peake's books, there have been stage, radio and musical adaptations, plus a lavish and highly-praised BBC TV mini-series -- reviewed in The Guardian as "quite different from anything else on TV. Or on earth.

More About Mervyn Peake