Posts Tagged ‘Communication studies’

Currently I’m in the process of reading for my comprehensive exams. Admittedly it is a little unusual for a two-year MA to have both a thesis and comps, but I am actually pretty excited to have the opportunity to do both; it’s good preparation for a PhD program and also just good academic practice in general. Today’s article is “From Public Sphere to Public Screen: Democracy, Activism, and the ‘Violence’ of Seattle” by Kevin Deluca & Jennifer Peeples. This work expands on DeLuca’s book Image Politics: The New Rhetoric of Environmental Activism by utilizing the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle as a site of analysis. DeLuca & Peeples state:

Image events are dense surfaces meant to provoke in an instant the shock of the familiar made strange. They suggest a Benjaminian sense of time, where any moment can open up on eternity, any moment can be the moment that changes everything, the moment that redeems the past and the future.

While I have not read Walter Benjamin (much to my chagrin), the ability to conceptualize of a moment in time, particularly a image-laden performative moment, as a potential site of intervention strikes me as a frame that ties into the ways in which activists articulate goals. My immediate thoughts on this quotation relate to the many times that I have seen activists engage in spectacle, and many times that those activists have been told they are being too confrontational or distracting. But those spectacles allow access to the corporate controlled public screen. The failing that activists risk, though, is engaging in spectacle without meaning; of demanding attention when there is no other substance to be seen.


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Compost has been an alluring metaphor for me precisely because of its productive darkness and mystery. The diverse mix of compost might be the closest thing to our notion of the melting pot. Decaying objects do not and cannot discriminate. Compost, the mixture, or the varied ingredients denote the noun. Compost, the conversion, the change from one state (death) to another (life) allows us to view activism as necessary. Activism, like decomposition, alleviates societal bloat, condenses matter, makes more matter, and moves matter, making room for matter.
Like compost, activism is healthiest when it is diverse. The only times that activism has led to significant social changes have been when a variety of individuals and organizations were coming at the same problem from a variety of angles. That means, among other things, that we need to be self-reflexive when we have the impulse to criticize activists who share our goals but use different tactics arises.
Both activists and academics discuss how hard it is to create change even though change is the only constant in life and happening all the time. Rather than thinking about the very difficult business of creating change out of nothing, what if we consider ourselves as working within an ongoing process of continual change, much like the process of composting? To me, compost is about living out the questions and sitting in the tensions, being in the inquiry, naming my contradictions and making the effort. To be honest with myself, to face myself in the actions and choices of my daily life is to compost. I try to make it a practice, one I show up to—clear about my intentions to dig and heave.

Alison Fisher, “Composting the Tribulations of Activism in Academia”

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I seek the truth, I encounter error. How do I recognize error? It is obvious, like truth. Who tells me? My body. Truth gives us pleasure. It makes us burst out laughing, trembling. Blushing. It’s hot. It’s like this: I grope. I try the word “hesitation.” I taste it. No pleasure. No taste. I cross out. I try: “correction.” I taste. No. I taste ten words. Finally I fall on the word: “essay.” Before even trying I already sense a pretaste… I taste. And, that’s it! Its taste is strong and fine and rich in memories of pleasure.
Truth strikes us. Opens our heart. Our lips. Error makes us sense the absence of taste. Drops us like a dead person, apathetic tongue, dry eyes. Error really can’t fool us.

Hélène Cixous & Catherine A. F. MacGillivray, Without End; no State of Drawingness; no, rather: The Executioner’s Taking off

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From Hélène Cixous’s “The Laugh of the Medusa”

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