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

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Previews Of Coming Attractions: Syllabus for My Undergraduate Critical Theory Survey Course This Fall At SFAI

The Point Is To Change It 
Spring, 2018, San Francisco Art Institute

Instructor: Dale Carrico,;
Course Blog:
Mondays, 1-3.45pm, 8/27/18--12/7/18

Rough Basis for Grade: Att/Part, 15%, Reading Notebook, 15%; Co-facilitation, 10%; Midterm Precis/Toulmin Schema, 20%; Final Paper, 5-6pp., 40%.

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 | August 27 | Fact, Figure, Fetish
Maps, Stories, Warnings by Way of Introduction

                Week Two | September 3 (Drop/Add Deadline is September 7) -- Labor Day Holiday

                Week Three | September 10 | Ancients and Moderns, Margins and Centers
                Week Four | September 17 | Nietzsche and the Fetishism of ressentiment
--supplemental Selections from The Gay Science 

                Week Five | September 24 | 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 Six | October 1 | 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 Seven | October 8 (midterm grading period ends) | Commodity, Aura, and Culture Industry
Walter Benjamin, Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility 
Adorno and Horkheimer, The Culture Industry 
                Week Eight | October 15 | Nature As Fetish; Or, Ideology Is Structured Like A Language
Roland Barthes, Mythologies 
Workshop: The Toulmin Schema 
--supplemental Daniel Harris, The Futuristic
                Week Nine | October 22 | 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 Ten | October 29 (Hand in Precis/Toulmin) | "I just knew it had to be something like this."
Screen and discuss, "They Live," dir. John Carpenter

                 Week Eleven | November 5 | The Magical Universe
William Burroughs, Immortality 
Valerie Solanas, The SCUM Manifesto
--supplemental William Burroughs, On Coincidence

                Week Twelve | November 12 | Racial Fetishism and the Gaze (last day to withdraw with a "W" is November 9)
Frantz Fanon, Selections from Black Skin, White Masks
Laura Mulvey,
Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema

Kobena Mercer On Mapplethorpe 

               Week Thirteen | November 19 | Intersections
Audre Lorde, Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference

The Combahee River Collective Statement

Judith Butler, Introduction and Chapter One from Undoing Gender

Donna Haraway, A Manifesto for Cyborgs

Carol Adams, Preface from Neither Man Nor Beast and Manifesto

                Week Fourteen | November 26 | Technofetishisms
David Harvey Fetishism of Technology

Hannah Arendt, The Conquest of Space
CS Lewis
Abolition of Man (you need only read Chapter Three)
--supplemental  Hannah Arendt, Action and the Miracle of Forgiveness

                Week Fifteen | December 3 | Fact, Figure, Fetish in Planetary Assembly
Aldo Leopold, The Land Ethic
Bruno Latour,
To Modernise Or Ecologise?

Gayatri Spivak, Theses on Planetarity

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.

Today's Random Wilde

Music makes one feel so romantic -- at least it always gets on one's nerves. -- It's the same thing, nowadays.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Today's Random Wilde

If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Tuesday, August 14, 2018


I've handed in grades for the last of my summer intensives and mean to take a few days off before I begin prep for Fall in earnest. My father (from whom I have been long estranged as he Fox Newsified in his retirement during the W. years and from whom I was then even more resolutely estranged when he succumbed rather tragically and utterly shockingly to rapid early onset Alzheimer's a few year's back) has had a serious and possibly mortal fall in his treatment facility back in Atlanta and I am much preoccupied with questions of the frailty of our bodies and our bonds with one another at the moment. Students are complaining of B+s in the usual manner as all this is going on, which feels a bit comically surreal as usual, but who knows what pressures the latest highly put-upon generation must be feeling beneath their mountains of debt and with so few prospects left by the ravages of the psychotic Boomers and undereffectual (largely coming down to a matter of inadequate numbers of us, I fear, as simple as that) GenXers like me. The endlessly revolting and stupid and ugly crimes and treasons of Trumpublicans continue on as we rail, and teach, and march, and simply wait out these few months ahead to see whether or not our fellow-citizens will turn the tide in November, as we're biding our time pretending we have time to bide as the land burns and the seas poison and the skies choke with soot as the diversifying secularizing rising generation gathers its rage and its love to build a diverse, equitable, sustainable democratic polity from the ruins of the cruel scared greedhead bigots of the straight white right. I'm feeling a bit better these days, sleeping better, still comparatively fit, less depressed and panicked, but, man, man, oh man, the shit sandwich that is the present world is doing my sanity no favors at all...

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Saturday, August 11, 2018


Grading finals again today. So far, all is going well. It is quite hard not to adore my students, especially when they are really making an effort. Usually I grade to the soothing sounds of Sibelius, but yesterday I graded listening to Big Freedia all afternoon, and I suspect grade inflation may have resulted along with more grinning than is usual for a grading marathon. Hoping I have some time to work on one of my fall syllabi as well today, because the beginning of term is coming on fast. No rest for the wicked.

Today's Random Wilde

If you pretend to be good, the world takes you very seriously. If you pretend to be bad, it doesn't. Such is the astounding stupidity of optimism.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Friday, August 10, 2018

Today's Random Wilde

If one tells the truth, one is sure, sooner or later, to be found out.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Last Day

Today is the last class of this summer's intensives at Berkeley. Yesterday went better than I feared, enthusiasm for the material distracted me from my cold and all went well enough. Today we're screening "An Inconvenient Sequel," Al Gore's recent follow-up to "An Inconvenient Truth," which I taught in the first week. Together, the films form a kind of rhetorical frame within which much of our elaboration and critique of environmentalist theories, practices, identities, arguments has been pitched. Criticism of the many limitations and blindnesses and complacencies and self-promotional weirdnesses of the first, more successful film, are sure giddily to proliferate in our discussion of the second film, now that weeks of our readings have wonderfully radicalized my students on these questions. I have a steep slope of grading ahead and syllabi to whip into shape for the upcoming Fall (already looming less than two weeks ahead), but mostly right now I want to sleep and watch stupid shows on television and stroll the neighborhoods while the summer sun still shines. Even with the worst of my insomnia behind me, this summer slog has left me feeling quite exhausted.

Today's Random Wilde

Everything popular is wrong.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Teaching Today

Staving off a summer cold that wants to confine me to bed with two more days of lecture to perform and a pile of finals to get through first. My body is protesting twelve weeks cramming three weeks of intensive instruction into each one all this season long, I suspect. It's been a pretty good summer, but relentless. Yesterday my energy was seriously ebbing throughout lecture and I fear today is going to be like pushing through a concrete wall. On the final day we're screening and discussing a film, which takes a little pressure off, so it's a matter of slogging through the swamp today, making sure I cover the syllabus material and attend to their final worries and just get to a couch and under a cover with something hot and wholesome in my stomach as soon as may be. The subject is technofixes and smart cities and geo-engineering and futurological nonsense, which disgusts me without enthusing me these days (as witness my lack of writing about it here in the shit stoopid epoch of Trumpublicanism).

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Today's Random Wilde

The basis of optimism is sheer terror.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Teaching Today

Setting up a debate between Mike Davis and Stewart Brand on slum ecology as a kind of post-millennium sequel to the mid-century debate between Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses and a set up for tomorrow's discussion of technofixes and futurological derangements of environmental praxis. Yes, I still teach anti-futurology even if I no longer write about it much these days, here at any rate... It's the last week of summer intensives and I'm feeling a combination, twelve weeks in, of exhausted burnout and anxious anticipation of fall courses beginning with nary a respite to recover in. A couple of student presentations remain to be done, evaluations will happen some time today or tomorrow depending on the pacing of the lectures, who knows if students will be keeping up with the readings and ready to discuss them as they scramble to complete their final projects. Everybody is ready to be done. And given the subject matter, we're all cooked anyway.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Today's Random Wilde

Life is a nightmare that prevents one from sleeping.

Sunday Walk And Upcoming Teaching

Lovely long walk to the rose garden after brunch at our diner. The Morcome Ampitheatre of Roses is having something of a second wind, it would seem: blooms are multiplying deliriously again in the August sun, there were more blooms and there was more fragrance in the air since we've strolled there in the early spring. As usual, we shared this vast magical place of fountains and shady lanes and elegant geometries of orange and yellow and cascading purple with fewer than a dozen other Oaklanders under that tight sheet of pure blue sky. Such a miracle of a place. This afternoon, I'm reading works on ecological city planning and technofixes from geoengineering to digi-denialism for Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday, we're screen the recent sequel to Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, a film I've never taught before or even seen! Since we began we AIT, the sequel brings us full circle as we finish up this six-week intensive. Yes, this is the last of twelve weeks of summer teaching at Berkeley this year. I'll admit I'm feeling quite breathless, cramming three weeks' instruction into every week for nearly three months straight. I'm ready for a break and a birthday -- unfortunately, I've got just under two weeks between the last of my summer lectures and the first of the fall, with final grading and syllabus reframing to get done in between. No rest for the weary!

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Star Trek News

The news that Patrick Stewart is returning as Jean-Luc Picard for a future series about a Picard somewhat transformed by the passage of twenty years' time (as have we all) is exciting -- although I would be even more excited were it a series developed for anything but the additional subscription service that has kept me waiting for Star Trek: Discovery all this time, refraining from releasing DVD and blu-ray sets for sticks-in-the-mud like me (and, mind you, the overwhelming majority of tee vee viewers still) who don't stream everything via Netflix and Amazon and so on. I would be truly thrilled by a stand-alone series in which Picard takes on the unresolved politics of warp-drive as an environmentally-destructive practice on which the Federation as it is constituted nonetheless indispensably depends... Perhaps his experience as Kamin in "The Inner Light" might make him an activist grasping the environmental analogies here, perhaps using and threatening his reputation as flagship captain to push against the grain of the Federation's self-righteous hypocrisy here (and elsewhere) and tangling him up with unexpected allies (Klingon women scientists, secret technocratic matriarchal power behind the imperial boy's throne would be one personal pet theory I'd like to see elaborated too). Also, more queers, more civilians, fewer humanoids, fewer soldiers, and no more daddy issues or grown ass men who can't treat women professionally, please.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Friday, August 03, 2018

Not A Thing

For the first time in weeks I have spent a day doing pretty much nothing. Skipped exercise (back ache), skipped working on next week's lectures, just nuzzled a purring Penny next to her shifting pool of sunlight on the bed, listening to music and catching up on a couple episodes of my favorite podcast, The Read, reading some more from Becky Chambers' rollicking new novel Record of A Spaceborn Few, taking it easy, looking forward to watching Dr Who and then possibly Barbarella high with Eric tonight over pesto tortellini and peanut M&Ms. Next week I'll be grading final projects and starting to panic about syllabi and upcoming Fall courses, but for today I am refusing to look at garbage cruel racist sexist homophobic ignorant death-dealing greedhead Trumpublican news of the day and just living life like it's summer break under a shining sun for just a little bit...

Barbara Lee SpeaksFor Me Daily

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Today's Random Wilde

Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Today's Random Wilde

If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily