A Working Man, A Working Man Keeps on Working

Hi again there, Dear Reader,

Just a quick note. I started training at my two new jobs this week and it has been kind of intense. I’m training three days a week as a bartender at the Mercury Lounge in Goleta, which is super fun and really satisfying — when I’m not screwing up!

I’ve also just started getting oriented to become the new Graduate Student Funding Peer, a position involving UCSB’s Grad Div and consists largely of planning and holding workshops, offering 1-on-1 advice, and contributing to the gradpost (a blog and newsletter for graduate students at UCSB).

So I will, indeed, start blogging in another place: http://gradpost.ucsb.edu/

I’m really excited to start these two new jobs — and I’ll give you some more updates when I’m done training and things are a bit more settled.

I’m pretty poor, so the money will be nice, but that really and truly is just a bonus for me. I love the kind of administrative work that goes into the Funding Peer position and I think it will be a great way to meet — and to help — other people in the UCSB graduate community. It will also be a great way to work on my blogging — so you, dear reader, should also benefit!

The Mercury Lounge (or The Merc as many people in the area affectionately refer to it) has been my favorite bar in the SB area for a while, so I am super excited to be spending more time there — and not getting super fat and super poor drinking tons of beer. It’s also going to be a really great way to learn about what goes into running a bar, which might be handy in the distant future, as I have a close friend who wants to open a brewery, a friend who has intense culinary training and experience, and several friends and acquaintances who are fans of great beer (microbrewery retirement project?).

Just an update.

Life just got a lot more challenging, exhausting, and exciting!

Thanks for reading.

An (Almost) End of Quarter Update

Hi Dear Reader,

Been a while since I sat down and wrote to you, so I thought I would take a few moments on this lovely Friday morning to update you on what’s happening in my class (ENGL 165 CI), my dissertation, and my (academic) life.

We spent the last week and a half of my class thinking about the Steven Soderbergh film, Contagion (2011). We prepared for it by looking at the slideshow and conclusions for Operation Dark Winter (you can see it for yourself http://www.upmc-biosecurity.org/website/events/2001_darkwinter/). The students seemed really horrified by the power of Smallpox to kill and disfigure and it seemed to be a strangely stirring force in their imaginations (and my own). I think pairing that with Contagion worked really well, because both account for global transmission (of infection and of information), and Operation Dark Winter really anticipates major scenes and trajectories in the film, so it lends to thinking about how we narrativize outbreaks.

My students really seemed to be moved by Contagion and a couple of them explained that it brought everything we’d been thinking and talking about this quarter into a more personal perspective, made it realizable, urgent. That comment surprised me, but it also excited me. The fact that a group of college students can connect the deep political problems of representations of infection/immunity//terror/security to their own lives means the class is a success; I’ve helped them develop a register for speaking and thinking about the politics of these issues in the world. I know that they’re already using these skills, because many of them have sent me links to relevant films, described relevant novels, and analyzed relevant advertising campaigns.

Now, beginning with our discussion on Contagion, we’re also going to try to think through the ethics of that issue — something that we haven’t done as much of this quarter. We’ll be reading some hefty chunks of World War Z and the first collected volume of The Walking Dead this week to help us with that. The bonus to finishing the course with these contemporary zombie narratives will be to apply everything we’ve worked on throughout the quarter to these extremely ubiquitous texts.

I couldn’t be prouder of my students and I thought I’d gush about them for a bit. That said, they’re starting to tire out. The last few weeks, readings have been done a bit more slowly, and discussion has been a little harder to spur. Still, they’ve really kept up with the rather heavy reading load.

In other news, I’m nearing completion of my first chapter draft. It’s going to be tough, but I plan on finishing it in the next week. Then I’ll have a week or two to do some heavy revisions before shipping it off to my committee over the break. 

In reading — somewhat frenziedly — to wrap this up, I’ve realized a few things about the chapter and my project. Firstly, my project will offer interventions on three levels — if it succeeds. If you are familiar with this blog, dear reader, you’ve probably already heard me babble in one way or another about my theoretical intervention, the development of the infection/immunity//terror/security paradigm (which points out the twin logic of each sides, serving almost as a molecular/molar view of immunitary biopolitics). The project also intervenes to show how science fiction and modernism were actually interested in many of the same biopolitical issues, even though they represented them in somewhat different ways. Finally, the project demonstrates that, viewed through an immunitary biopolitical perspective, historical British and American modernism — and their heirs and analogs — are absolutely relevant today in thinking through contemporary ethics and politics.

I’ve also realized that the work of Wyndham Lewis is integral to my analysis, and his value to thinking through the history of biopolitics is immense. In skimming and reading the critical books about him, it seems that most scholars tend to miss some very interesting connections in his work, that seem very valuable. When I finish this chapter I’ll give you, my dear reader, a summary of it.

In other news, it looks like my first publication is forthcoming, I didn’t want to mention it here just in case it fell through — and I am still superstitiously knocking on wood as I type this. I’ll give you some more detail as things come into focus a bit more, but it looks like my essay on biopolitics, security, and the sanction of violence in The Walking Dead and Night of the Living Dead will be published in a super interesting collection that MacFarland is going to put out. My working title is “Burying the Living with the Dead: Security, Survival, and the Sanction of Violence in The Walking Dead.”

Woot!

I’ll plug the book itself, Better Angels, considerably more when the process is a bit further along, but keep an eye out for it in a year or two.

I’m really interested in editing my own collection on biopolitics and zombies, and I’m still thinking about the logistics of that. It’s something I’d really like to do.

I guess that’s where I’ll end this update, Happy Holidays, Dear Reader.

 

 

A Note on What I’m Reading and Some Loosely Connected Thoughts

Hello Dear Reader,

I thought I’d check in with you and just let you know what I’m reading and thinking about, if any of you out there are so inclined, please feel free to suggest related books are open a dialog with me in the comments/irl.

I’ve been writing my first dissertation chapter about Wyndham Lewis, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, and Who Goes There in relation to the rise of biopolitics in the early twentieth century. I’m trying — as those of you who read this blog regularly already know — to think through the politics of the relation between infection and immunity, terror and security. Specifically, I’m interested in analyzing their representational employment — whether consciously or not — in relation to the justification of problematic biopolitical logics. 

I’ve been reading around a bit these days… (made my way through the first chapter of Eric Cazdyn’s The Already Dead, reread some Agamben, reread Achille Mbembe’s “Necropolitics”)

I still seemed to be missing something, though, and it recently clicked. If I really want to understand biopolitics, and the relation of modernisms to biopolitics, what I really need to understand is the relation of both of those to eugenics. 

I’ve just started reading up on this — turning to a 1931 edition by 3 German scientists on Human Heredity, as well as a couple essays from Foucault in the Age of Terror, and Donald J. Childs’ Modernism and Eugenics. 

What has really caught my interest, though — I’ve only made it through the series and volume introductions but I’m intrigued — is Marius Turda’s Modernism and Eugenics, from Palgrave Macmillan’s Modernism and series of books. 

What I’ve learned in this long day of researching (I had no idea it was so late!) is that the artistic movement of modernism, in its drive for revitalization and rejuvenation, is really, philosophically, not that unlike the driving force behind eugenic thought. In the past 3 or 4 months, I’ve also learned that historically, the term biopolitics comes out of the evolution of a eugenic discourse about the health of the state (as if it were a biological organism). So the obsessive connecting of biopolitics to the holocaust seems to be a double gesture, looking at a supremely bio/thanatopolitical moment, but it is also an uncanny doubling back on the term’s own history, a citation of the darkly obscured lineage of biopolitics itself.

This realization troubles me a bit, though, because so many biopolitical explorations eschew this troubled and important history altogether.

This also led me, somewhat nebulously, to a set of questions I don’t yet have the answers to, maybe you do?

What does a positive biopolitics, like the one Roberto Esposito aspires to, really look like? 

Would a positive biopolitics still be too entrenched in a certain privileged relation between science, medicine, war, and bodies to be TRULY positive? 

What would the relation of a positive biopolitics be to positive eugenics? How would a positive biopolitics acknowledge and negotiate that relationship?

These thoughts are admittedly extremely nascent, and I still have several texts to read on the subject (sitting right in front of my face! Immunitas has been taunting me for some time, Modernism and Eugenics is up for now, but I also need to read and reread some Nikolas Rose).

My apologies for how ill-formed this is, the spark of curiosity shocked me into action, and I was just hoping I might be able to spread it to you.

Thanks for reading, keep thinking, farewell dear reader!

PS: Oh, and yes, this amounts to another blog entry begging that people historicize.

 

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