amor mundi

Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Syllabus for My Upcoming Summer Intensive

CS 301AK-01 (3759) Critical Theory B: For Futurity: A Clash of Futurisms

When/Where: Tuesdays/Thursdays, 4.15-7pm. Online (ONL-CS3) 
Summer Session, 2020, June 9-July 30 at the San Francisco Art Institute
Course Blog:
Instructor: Dale Carrico;

Course Description: Futurity is a register of freedom, "The Future" another prison-house built to confine it. Futurity is the openness in the present arising out of the ineradicable diversity of calculating, contending, and collaborative stakeholders who struggle to make and remake the shared world. "The Future," to the contrary, brandishing the shackle of its definite article, is always described from a parochial present and is always a funhouse mirror reflecting a parochial present back to itself, amplifying its desires and fears, confirming its prejudices, reassuring its Believers that the Key to History is in their hands. This course will stage a contest of futures: Italian Futurism, corporate-military think-tank futurologies, Afro-Futurists, punks, crips, queers, and some competing versions of posthumanism for good measure. Both ranting and raving will be involved. In the end, I will send you out on stage yourselves... and Into! The! Future!

In this class we will distinguish (while also pressuring these distinctions):

1). Futurity: The quality of openness inhering in the diversity of stakeholders to any political present.
2). The Future: Sites of imaginative investment, a Destiny/Destination at which "We" never arrive.
3). Futurisms: imagined and intentional communities, subcultures, memberships, and fandoms organized and sustained through identification with particular visions or narratives of The Future.
4). Futurology: A parochially profitable pseudo-scientific discipline confusing marketing with understanding, and the quintessential justificatory discourse for white-racist patriarchal extractive-industrial corporate-militarism (ie, global financialized "neoliberal" capitalism).

Grade Provisionally Based on the Following: Attendance/Participation, 15%; Reading Notebook (3 Quotes/3 Questions/3 works), 15%; Mid-term Precis (2-3pp.), 15%; In-Class Presentation, 15%; Final Symposium Presentation, 15%; Final Paper, 25%. (This is a rough basis for your final grade, which is also subject to contingencies, improvement, and so on.) 

Schedule of Meetings (Subject to Change, Check Online Version for Updates)


Week One: Futurity 


Jenny Anderson, "The Great Future Debate and the Struggle for the World"
Ted Goertzel, "
Methods and Approaches of Future Studies"
Roland Barthes, from
Mythologies, "The Nautilus and the Drunken Boat," “Jet-Man," "Plastic" (for the relevant passages scroll to pp. 65-67, 88-90, 97-99.)
Audrey Watters:
The Best Way to Predict the Future Is To Issue A Press Release  
William Gibson, "The Gernsback Continuum" (short story)

Discussion, Tuesday, June 9
Workshopping: Syllabus
PRESENTATION(S):  Personal Introductions

Lecture, Thursday, June 11

Week Two: Singularity


Shannon Mattern, Databodies in Codespace
Marc Steigler, "The Gentle Seduction" (short story)

Lecture, June 16

Discussion, Thursday, June 18
Workshopping: Ethos, Pathos, Logos; Audience and Intentions.

Week Three: Ecology


Laurie Anderson, “The Language of the Future” (performance)

Lecture, Tuesday, June 23

Discussion, Thursday, June 25
Workshopping: The Toulmin Schema

Week Four: Eugenics


Peter Cohen (dir.), Homo Sapiens 1900 (a documentary about 20C eugenics)
Wendy Hui Kyong Chun,
Race And/As Technology
Critical Arts Ensemble,
Eugenics: The Second Wave
Alison Kafer, Imagined Futures from Feminist, Queer, Crip
Amy Goodman interviews Harriet Washington about her book Medical Apartheid: Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present
Octavia Butler, The Evening, the Morning, and the Night (short story)

Lecture, Tuesday, June 30


Discussion, Thursday, July 2
Workshopping: Aims of Argument: Interrogation – Convinction – Persuasion – Reconciliation
Precis due by end of scheduled class session.

Week Five: No Future!                                


Alfonso Cuaron (dir.), Children of Men (film)
Lee Edelman, The Future Is Kid Stuff

Lecture, Tuesday, July 7

Discussion, Thursday, July 9
Workshopping: Critical Film Terms

Week Six: The Italian Futurists


FT Marinetti, The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism
FT Marinetti,
War, The World's Only Hygiene
Valentine de Saint-Point, Manifesto of Futurist Women
Valentine de Saint-Point,
Futurist Manifesto of Lust
Luigi Russolo,
The Art of Noises
Toxic Titties, Mamaist Manifesto
Karen Pinkus,
Futurism: Proto Punk

Lecture, Tuesday, July 14

Discussion, Thursday, July 16
Workshopping: Final Papers

Week Seven: Afro-Futurists

“Africa Is The Future”
Mark Dery interviews Samuel Delany, Greg Tate, and Tricia Rose
Tananarive Due,
Afrofuturism: Dreams to Banish Nightmares
Nnedi Okorafor,
The Magical Negro (this one page story is the first in Okorafor's wonderful collection Kabu Kabu, and the easiest way to read it free is just to preview the book at Amazon, and scroll to the story)
Nnedi Okorafor:
On Stephen King's Super-Duper Magical Negroes
Lanre Bakare, Afrofuturism Takes Flight: From Sun Ra to Janelle Monae
Janelle Monae: “Dirty Computer” (short “emotion picture”) and selected other videos (linked on the blog).

Lecture, Tuesday, July 21

Discussion, Thursday, July 23

Week Eight: Symposium

Symposium, Day One, Tuesday, July 28 (program will appear online)

Symposium, Day Two, Thursday, July 30 (program online, followed by housekeeping, last chance Presentations, and concluding remarks).
Final Paper due by end of final scheduled class session.

Thursday, March 19, 2020


To be an adjunct right now is to be exhorted to expend ever greater efforts while one’s efforts are treated as ever more expendable.

Monday, March 09, 2020

The Car People

I know I'm a grumpy old man now, but I cannot resist the anecdotal report that drivers seem to me to be getting altogether more reckless lately, at least around here. I am seeing near collisions with pedestrians almost daily now, and my own vigilance is ramping up considerably lately... Is it that people are relying on all this faux-smart vaporware "navigation" software now? Is it that everybody's on their phones now and letting things slide? Is it that general norms about waiting for lights, watching for pedestrians, and so on are evaporating or just changing in ways I haven't picked up on yet? There is a quality of reckless impatience I am discerning in drivers lately. I could easily be wrong, I cannot entirely trust my impressions because I have disdained car culture all my life and am always happy to assume the worst of people (after half a century of knowing them), but it's starting to feel sometimes like the ones with the cars sometimes act like getting where they want in their big cars matters more than the lives of the little people without cars, it's starting to feel sometimes like people without cars aren't quite as real to people in cars as we should...

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Feed Me To The Trees

We're all going to die -- sooner than necessary to all appearances -- but I'm glad to see my own preference for eventual disposal is getting closer and closer to being a legal as well as practical reality here in the state of California, as it already recently has done in Washington, via The Los Angeles Times:
A Los Angeles lawmaker wants California to allow for human composting, an eco-friendly alternative to traditional burial or cremation in which the dead are turned into soil. The state of Washington became the first state to allow human composting when Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee signed a law last year permitting the practice. “I would love to be a tree one day,” said Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), who introduced Assembly Bill 2592 to allow for human composting, or “natural organic reduction” as the upstart industry calls the process. “I think this is about giving people another option.” Washington’s law goes into effect on May 1, with a Seattle business called Recompose preparing to open a funeral home that offers the service in early 2021. Recompose’s process involves placing a body into a vessel with wood chips, alfalfa and straw, allowing it to be decomposed by microbes and reduced to a nutrient-dense soil in about a month. The end result is about a cubic yard of soil per person, which is then returned to families or donated to conservation land for use. Supporters of the practice say it’s an end-of-life option that will have a positive impact on the environment. Alternatively, cremation is an energy-intense process that produces carbon dioxide emissions, while traditional burial uses chemicals to embalm bodies and a non-biodegradable coffin to store them... The newly introduced California bill has not yet been scheduled for a hearing in the state Capitol... The process recreates what happens to animals on the forest floor without chemicals or emissions while allowing the soil produced to be used to plant trees that help the environment. Recompose plans to charge $5,500, which is less than the average burial with a casket but more than the average cremation. “When I started this several years ago I was shocked at how many people find this not only palatable but comforting and meaningful,” said Katrina Spade, the chief executive of Recompose. “People who recognize that soil is the basis for all life on Earth and also are aware of the climate implications of sequestering carbon through the creation of soil find this attractive.” People in California have expressed an interest in the process and have been contacting the company. “I knew the moment I heard about this, it was what I wanted to do,” said Nikolaus Kraemer of Los Angeles. “I’m 55 and healthy, but I would put this in my will or advanced directive that when I’m dead I don’t want to be pushed into a crematory or buried six feet under. I think this is a peaceful way to go back to where we came from.”
I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Syllabus for This Spring's Undergraduate Patriarchy in Antiquity Course at SFAI

HUMN-220E-01 (3534) Patriarchy in Greek and Roman Antiquity

Spring 2020, San Francisco Art Institute
Thursdays, 4.15-7pm, Chestnut Room 18

Course Blog:
Instructor: Dale Carrico,
Office Hours: Before class and by appointment.

Course Description:

The societies of Greek, Roman, and Christian antiquity were conspicuously patriarchal. Homeric heroes made history and conquered death with great words and deeds in an aspirational fantasy of masculine agency. The Roman paterfamilias, perhaps patriarchy's most quintessential expression, centered around the authoritarian male head of the household who held an unquestionable power of life and death over his children, female relatives, and household slaves. But in philosophy and in poetry, in Greek tragedies and in Roman comedies, we find glimpses of a considerably richer and more complicated world of gendered relations, erotic imagination, and human possibility, we encounter profound anxieties, ambivalences, and resistances to patriarchal practices and prejudices. This course will examine these tensions. We will be reading from Sappho, Homer, Gorgias, Plato, Aristophanes, Euripides, Cicero, Terence, Juvenal, Petronius, and many others.

Course Requirements:  Attendance/Participation (15%), Reading Notebook (15%), Midterm Paper, 2-3pp. (15%), Presentation 2pp. (15%), Final Paper 5-6pp. (40%)

Attendance Policy:  Attendance and punctuality are expected. Necessary absences should be discussed in advance whenever possible.

Provisional Schedule of Meetings

Week One | January 23 | Introductions

Week Two | January 30 | Poems of Sappho
Presentation: Portrait of a Girl {"Sappho"}; Portrait of Terentius Neo (two works)

Week Three | February 6 | Homer First and Last Chapters of the Iliad and an excerpt from Chapter IX posted on the blog.
Presentation: Apollo Belvedere

Week Four | February 13 | Gorgias -- Encomium of Helen; Thucydides -- Melian Dialogue and Pericles' Funeral Oration
Presentation: From the House of Jason ("House of Fatal Love"), three works: Medea; Phaedra; Paris and Helen

Week Five | February 20 | Euripides -- Hecuba
Presentation: Athena Parthenos (Tennessee Reconstruction)

Week Six | February 27 | Plato -- Symposium
Presentation: The Old Drunkard {or Drunken Old Woman}

Week Seven | March 5 | Plato -- Apology and "Allegory of the Cave" from the Republic; Aristotle on Women
Presentation: Venus de Milo; Venus de' Medici (two works)

Week Eight | March 12 | Aristophanes -- Wasps
Presentation: Venus Kallipygos; Michelangelo Pistoletto: Golden Venus of Rags (1967-71) (two works)

Week Nine | Spring Break

Week Ten | March 23 | Terence -- Eunuchus
Presentation: From the House of the Vettii: Priapus

Week Eleven | Cicero, Against Cataline, Philippics (Against Antony), Suetonius -- Caligula
Presentation: Trajan's Column

Week Twelve | 6 Hortensia in the Forum (posted to the blog), Marcus Cicero -- Commentariolum Petitionis
Presentation:  Aphrodite, Pan, and Eros (one work)

Week Thirteen | 13 Juvenal -- Satires I, II, and III
Presentation: Sleeping Hermaphroditus [sic]

Week Fourteen | 20  Petronius -- Trimalchio's Feast from Satyricon (The link takes you to Chapter Six -- keep reading through Chapter Ten.)
Presentation: The "Dionysiac Frieze" from the Villa of the Mysteries

Week Fifteen | 27 Workshop for the Final Paper

Week Sixteen | 4 Concluding Remarks, Augustine from City of God | Final Papers Due

Friday, January 17, 2020

Syllabus For This Spring's Graduate Introduction to Critical Theory at SFAI

At this point, after teaching variations of this course at UC Berkeley and SFAI for nearly a quarter century, I only just tinker with this syllabus around the edges. There are times when I could cheerfully jettison most of the first half of this syllabus altogether, honestly.

CS-500A-01: An Introduction to Critical Theory
Spring, 2020, San Francisco Art Institute

Instructor: Dale Carrico,;
Course Blog:
Wednesdays, 4.15-7pm, Fort Mason Lounge, 1/22/20-5/10/20

Rough Basis for Grade: Att/Part, 20%; Reading Notebook, 15%; Presentation, 15%; Final Paper, 15-20pp., 50%.

Course Description:

"The philosophers hitherto have only interpreted the world, but the point is to change it." -- Karl Marx

"Feminists are no more aware of different things than other people; they are aware of the same things differently. Feminist consciousness, it might be ventured, turns a 'fact' into a 'contradiction.'" -- Sandra Lee Bartky

"Artists inhabit the magical universe." -- William Burroughs

This course is a chronological and thematic survey of key texts in critical and cultural theory. A skirmish in the long rivalry of philosophy and rhetoric yielded a turn in Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud into the post-philosophical discourse of critical theory. In the aftermath of world war, critical theory took a biopolitical turn in Arendt, Fanon, and Foucault -- a turn still reverberating in work on socially legible bodies by writers like Haraway, Spivak, Butler, and Puar. And with the rise of the global precariat and climate catastrophe, critical theory is now turning again in STS (science and technology studies) and EJC (environmental justice critique) to articulate the problems and promises of an emerging planetarity. Theories of the fetish define the turn of the three threshold figures of critical theory -- Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud (commodity, sexuality, and ressentimentality) -- and fetishisms ramify thereafter in critical accounts from Benjamin (aura), Adorno (culture industry), Barthes (myth), Debord (spectacle), Klein (logo), and Harvey ("tech") to Mulvey and Mercer (the sexed and raced gaze). We think of facts as found not made, but facts are made to be found and, once found, made to be foundational. Let us pursue the propositions that fetishes are figures we take to yield false facts, while facts are figures we have fetishized to yield paradoxical truths.

                Provisional Schedule of Meetings

                Week One | January 22 |
Fact, Figure, Fetish
Maps, Stories, Warnings by Way of Introduction

                Week Two | January 23 --
Ancients and Moderns, Margins and Centers
                Week Three | February 5 | Nietzsche and the Fetishism of ressentiment
                Week Four | February 12 | Marx and the Fetishism of Commodities
Marx on The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof from Capital 
--supplemental Marx and Engels, Theses on Feuerbach and Marx on Idealism and Materialism

                Week Five | February 19 | Freud and Sexual Fetishism
Sigmund Freud, Fetishism
Excerpts from Freud's Case Study of Dr. Schreber: 1, Psychoanalysis and Scientificity; 2,  Storytelling;  
3, Psychoanalysis and Patriarchy (Homosociality and Homosexuality); 4. Psychoanalysis Brought to Crisis

                Week Six | February 26 | Commodity, Aura, and Culture Industry
Walter Benjamin, Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility  
Adorno and Horkheimer, The Culture Industry 

                Week Seven | March 4 | Nature As The Fetish; Or, Ideology Is Structured Like A Language
Roland Barthes, Mythologies 

--supplemental Daniel Harris, The Futuristic

                Week Eight | March 11 | Being to Having, Having to Appearing, Appearing to Branding
Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle
Naomi Klein, Taking On the Brand Bullies from No Logo  
--supplemental Naomi Klein, Patriarchy Gets Funky

                Week Nine | Spring Break
                Week Ten | March 25 | "I Knew It Had To Be Something Like This"
Screening, Carpenter (dir.) They Live 

                Week Eleven | April 1 | Out With The Old, In With The New
William Burroughs, Immortality 
Hannah Arendt, Reflections on Violence
--supplemental William Burroughs, On Coincidence 
Hannah Arendt, The Miracle of Forgiveness and Must Eichmann Hang? (handouts)

                 Week Twelve | April 8 | Racial Fetishism and the Gaze
Frantz Fanon, Selections from Black Skin, White Masks
Laura Mulvey, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema  
Kobena Mercer On Mapplethorpe 
--supplemental Fanon, "Concerning Violence

                Week Thirteen | April 15 | MFA Reviews

               Week Fourteen | April 22 | The Carceral Archipelago and Abolition Democracy
Michel Foucault, from Discipline and Punish, the Body of the Condemned (pp. 3-31) Docile Bodies (pg. 135 +), Panoptism (pg. 195 +)
Angela Davis, selections from Are Prisons Obsolete? (read Chapters, 1, 2, 6 of the pamphlet at least if you can)
--supplemental Foucault, from History of Sexuality: We Other Victorians, Right of Death and Power Over Life

               Week Fifteen | April 29 | Intersections and Performances
Audre Lorde, Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference  
The Combahee River Collective Statement 
Donna Haraway, A Manifesto for Cyborgs 
Judith Butler, Introduction and Chapter One from Undoing Gender
--supplemental Carol Adams, Preface from Neither Man Nor Beast and Manifesto

                Week Sixteen | May 6 | Fact, Figure, Fetish in Planetary Assembly 
Aldo Leopold, The Land Ethic
Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor
Bruno Latour,
To Modernise Or Ecologise?

Gayatri Spivak, Theses on Planetarity
--supplemental David Harvey Fetishism of Technology

Course Objectives:

I. Contextualizing Contemporary Critical Theory: The inaugural Platonic repudiation of rhetoric and poetry, Vita Activa/Vita Contemplativa, Marx's last Thesis on Feuerbach, Kantian Critique, the Frankfurt School, Exegetical and Hermeneutic Traditions, Literary and Cultural Theory from the Restoration period through New Criticism, from Philosophy to Post-Philosophy: Marx, Nietzsche, Freud; the postwar biopolitical turn in Arendt, Fanon, and Foucault; and the emerging post-colonial, post-international, post-global planetarity of theory in an epoch of digital networked media formations, anthropogenic climate catastrophe, and intersectional associations.

II. Survey of Key Themes in Critical Theory: Agency, Alienation, Aura, Cisheteronormativity, Critique, Culture Industry, Discourse, Equity-in-Diversity, Facticity, Fetish, Figurality, Humanism/Post-Humanism, Ideology, Intersectionality, Judgment, Normativity, Performance, Planetarity, Post-Colonialism, Queerness, Race, Recognition, Resistance, Scientificity, Sociality, Spectacle, Textuality, White Supremacy.

III. Survey of Key Critical Methodologies: Critique of Ideology, Marxism/Post-Marxism, Psychoanalysis, Foucauldian Discourse Analysis, Critical Race Theory, Gender Theory, Science and Technology Studies, Environmental Justice.

IV. Connecting theoria and poiesis: thinking and acting, theory and practice, creative expressivity as aesthetic judgment and critical theory as poetic refiguration, etc.