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

Monday, August 30, 2021

Syllabus for My Fall 2021 Course At SFAI

Critical Theory A: The Point Is To Change It

Fall, 2021, San Francisco Art Institute

Instructor: Dale Carrico,;

Course Blog:
Fridays, 1-3.45pm, MCR, 8/30/21--12/6/19

Rough Basis for Grade: Att/Part, 20%, Reading Notebook, 20%; 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, Lorde, Butler, and Stone. 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 | September 3 | Intro(se)ductions
Maps, Stories, Warnings by Way of Introduction


                Week Two | September 10 | Ancients and Moderns, Fontenelle and Wilde

Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle, Digression on the Ancients and the Moderns -- Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man Under Socialism               

                Week Three | September 17 | Nietzsche and ressentiment as Fetish

Nietzsche, On Truth and the Lie in an Extramoral Sense -- Nietzsche, Ecce Homo: Preface -- Why I Am So Wise -- Why I Am So Clever -- Why I Am a Destiny

--supplemental Selections from The Gay Science 

                Week Four | 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 Five | October 1 | Freud and Sexual Fetishism
Sigmund Freud, Fetishism -- from Freud's Study of Schreber: 1, Psychoanalysis and Scientificity 2,  Storytelling  3, Psychoanalysis and Patriarchy (Homosociality and Homosexuality) 4. Psychoanalysis Brought to Crisis.

                Week Six | October 8 | Aura and the Culture Industry

Walter Benjamin, Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility -- Adorno and Horkheimer, The Culture Industry 

--supplemental Benjamin, A Short History of Photography and Adorno, The Culture Industry Reconsidered

                Week Seven | October 15 | Nature As Fetish; Or, Ideology Is Structured Like A Language

Roland Barthes, Mythologies ; Toulmin Schema Workshop.


                Week Eight | October 22 | From 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 | October 29 | Out With The Old, In With The New

William Burroughs, Immortality -- supplemental Burroughs, On Coincidence

John Carpenter, dir. They Live.


                Week Ten | November 5 | The Eye of Power: Fanon, Mulvey, and Mercer 

Frantz Fanon, Selections from Black Skin, White Masks -- Laura Mulvey, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema -- Kobena Mercer On Mapplethorpe 
                Week Eleven | November 12 | The Carceral Archipelago and Abolition Democracy

Michel Foucault, from Discipline and Punish (this is a .pdf of the entire book from which you should read from the excerpts as far as you like) from "The Body of the Condemned" (pp. 3-31), "Docile Bodies" (pg. 135 +), and "Panoptism" (pg. 195 +) -- Angela Davis, selections from Are Prisons Obsolete? (Chapters 1, 2, 6)  

-- supplemental Michel Foucault, from History of Sexuality: We Other Victorians, Right of Death and Power Over Life

                Week Twelve | November 19 | Intersectional Feminism
Audre Lorde, Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference  -- The Combahee River Collective Statement -- Donna Haraway, A Manifesto for Cyborgs 


                Week Thirteen | November 19 | Thanksgiving Holiday, Workshopping the Final Paper at Home


                Week Fourteen | Queer Theories

Judith Butler, Intro. and Ch. One from Undoing Gender -- Sandy Stone, The Empire Strikes Back – Sara Ahmed, A Killjoy Manifesto (handout)

                Week Fifteen | November 3 | Environmental Justice

John Bellamy Foster, The Four Laws of Ecology and the Four Anti-Ecological Laws of Capitalism -- Aldo Leopold Thinking Like A Mountain (handout) -- Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor – Robert Bullard, Confronting Environmental Racism in the United States$file/bullard.pdf -- Hazel Johnson, A Personal Story


                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 polycultural assemblies.

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

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Syllabus for My Berkeley Summer Intensive This Year, Intro to Critique


RHETORIC 116, Introduction to Critique and Critical Theory

Summer, 2021, University of California at Berkeley, Department of Rhetoric

Instructor: Dale Carrico,; 

Course Blog:

1-3.45 pm, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, July 6 through August 13, in Session D (Remote Instruction)

Rough Basis for Grade: Attendance/Participation, 20%; Reading Responses, 15%; Co-Facilitation/In-Class Presentation, 15%; Final Paper/Project, 5-6pp., 50%.


Course Catalog Description

Analysis of rhetorical practice in the context of social and cultural change with particular reference to the historical transition from pre-industrial to industrial society in the west.


Class Description

What does it mean to think critically and why is this valuable? It is commonplace to equate “being critical” of an argument, a form, or a person with being dismissive of them. But what if being critical is a way of engaging with ideas and understanding people more deeply, more responsibly, or more creatively? What is the purpose of critique and do critics have a crucial function in a society or a crisis? What is the formal discipline of "Critical Theory" and why is so much scholarly work shaped by its preoccupations and terms? In this course we will explore histories and practices of critique and criticism. We will draw from the tradition of rhetoric to elaborate and to workshop practical skills in logical argument, textual interpretation, conflict resolution, and public debate. We will consider the ways critique has operated across the humanities and social sciences historically, as well as the ways critique continues to be mobilized in politics, art making, social resistance, personal and public life.



Week One, Declarations

Tuesday, July 6           Introduction to Course Themes and Personal Introductions.

SKILL SET: Key Definitions 

[1] Rhetoric is the facilitation of efficacious discourse as well as an ongoing inquiry into the terms on the basis of which discourse comes to seem efficacious or not. Rhetoric is concerned with the occasional, interested, and figurative dimensions of discourse.

[2] A text is an event experienced as arising from intention, offered up to the hearing of an audience, and obligating a responsiveness equal to it.

[3] An argument is a claim supported by reasons and/or evidence. 

[4] Critique is the systematic examination, elaboration, and evaluation of discourse.

Wednesday, July 11 U.S.Declaration of Independence ; Declaration of Rights and Sentiments of the Seneca Falls Convention                      

SKILL SET: Textual Materiality, Performativity, Citationality

Thursday, July 12, Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience; John Perry Barlow, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

SKILL SET: Audiences (Sympathetic, Unsympathetic, Apathetic) and Intentions (Interrogation, Conviction, Persuasion, Reconciliation)


Week Two, Nietzsche: Ancients and Moderns

Tuesday, July 13 Bernard de Bovier de Fontenelle, Digression on the Ancients and the Moderns (handout); Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man Under Socialism       

SKILL SET: Ancients and Moderns, Aristotelian Rhetoric: Forensic, Legislative, Epideictic

Wednesday, July 14    W.E.B. DuBois, Of Our Spiritual Strivings; Immanuel Kant, Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View                         

SKILL SET: Aristotelian rhetoric: Ethos, Pathos, Logos

Thursday, July 15 Frederich Nietzsche, On Truth and Lies in an Extra-Moral Sense

SKILL SET: The literal as conventional, the figurative as deviant; Figures, Tropes, Schemes; Four Master Tropes 


Week Three: Fetishisms: Marx and Freud

Tuesday, July 20 Karl Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party (selections)

SKILL SET: Four Habits of Argumentative Writing: 1. Formulate a Strong Thesis, 2. Define Your Terms, 3, Substantiate/Contextualize, 4, Anticipate Objections

Wednesday, July 21 Roland Barthes, Mythologies (selections); Naomi Klein, No Logo (selection)     

Thursday, July 22 Sigmund Freud, Fetishism

SKILL SET: The Toulmin Schema


Week Four, Intersectional Feminism

Tuesday, July 27 William Burroughs, Immortality; Valerie Solanas, The SCUM Manifesto         

SKILL SET: Logoi Dissoi

Wednesday, July 28 The Combahee River Collective Statement; Audre Lorde, Age,Rage, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference   

SKILL SET: Rogerian Rhetoric

Thursday, July 29 Sandy Stone, The Empire Strikes Back; Alison Kafer, “Imagined Futures” from Feminist Queer Crip


Week Five, Environmental Justice

Tuesday, August 3 Aldo Leopold, Thinking Like A Mountain ; John Bellamy Foster, The Four Laws of Ecology and the Four Anti-Ecological Laws of Capitalism ; Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Introduction)             

Wednesday, August 4 Hazel Johnson, A Personal Story; Robert Bullard, Environment and Morality: Confronting Environmental Racism

SKILL SET: Keywords/Alternate Final Project

Thursday, August 5 Workshopping Final Projects


Week Six, Abolition Democracy

Tuesday, August 10 Angela Y. Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete? (selections)              

Wednesday, August 11 Mariame Kaba, Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police; Josie Duffy Rice, Mariame Kaba, Reina Sultan, “What Does Accountability Look Like Without Punishment? ; Judith Butler, “The Force of Nonviolence,” Gifford Lecture (video)

Thursday, August 12  Conclusions, Submission of Final Work, Bacchanal

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Friday, January 22, 2021

Back to School

As you see, I'm teaching once more at SFAI this Spring. To say the school's circumstances are precarious is an understatement. The story is widely circulating by now, but if you are unaware and interested you can find accounts in the New York Times, the LA Times, Artforum, Hyperallergic.

The Committee to Re-Imagine SFAI recently completed an assessment of every aspect of the school in its present distress. The recommendations of especially the subcommittee for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion seem to me to be the foundation for the school going forward into the twenty-first century, if it is to manage that feat at all. I was also really excited to hear visions of the school as a center for work in art and environmental justice. 

It's hard to connect such visions to the realities of the day. It's hard to know what is coming next. For now, I've got a job again, teaching a handful of bright beautiful students excited to talk about art practices as testaments to violence and as practices of nonviolent resistance. If only it lasts. 

Syllabus for My Spring 2021 Course at SFAI


“Peace in Pieces”: Histories, Theories, and Practices of Violence and Nonviolent Resistance

Instructor: Dale Carrico; e-mail:;

When/Where: Thursdays, 1-3.45pm: Online (ONL- CS1)

Course Blog:

Rough Basis for Grade: Attendance/Participation, 15%; In-Class Presentation, 15%; Reading Responses, 15%, Midterm Precis/Toulmin, 3-4pp., 15%; Symposium Presentation, 10%; Final Paper, 8-10pp., 30% (subject to contingencies)

Course Description:

The arc of the moral universe is a longing... and it bends from just us. In this course we will read canonical texts in the theory, history, and practice of nonviolent resistance and world-making. This course is provoked and inspired by stories and strategies of reconciliation connected to traditions of nonviolent politics. But is this "non-violence" simply an alternative, at hand, or is it instead another fraught artifact we are making together under duress? We will take seriously and look critically at the subtle and structural violences that ineradicably shape everyday life. We will also consider testimonies to violation, in a variety of textual forms, while simultaneously considering the cultural ideals of persuasion which often accompany definitions of violence and its limits. We will both take up and take on the many paradoxes of nonviolent activism and violent order that complicate the teaching of what passes for peace: The State as site of violence and alter-violence. Nonviolence, interfaith dialogue, and freethinking. Spontaneity and training. Democracy as assembly, resistance, occupation, and abolition. Prerequisite: Critical Studies A (CS-300) Satisfies: Critical Theory B, Critical Studies Elective, Global Cultures, Liberal Arts elective

Provisional Schedule of Meetings: 

Week One | Thursday, January 21 | Introductions 

Week Two | Thursday, January 28 | Consent of the Governed

The Declaration of Independence (US)

Howard Zinn, Introduction to Thoreau on Civil Disobedience and Reform 

Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

Henry David Thoreau, A Plea for Captain John Brown

Week Three | Thursday, February 4 | Thoreau and Gandhi

Karuna Mantena, The Power of Nonviolence

Logan Rimel, My "Nonviolent" Stance Was Met With Heavily Armed Men

Correspondence of Count Leo Tolstoy with M. K. Gandhi

M. K. Gandhi, The Doctrine of the Sword

M.K. Gandhi, The Meaning and Practice of Ahimsa


Week Four | Thursday, February 11 | Suffragettes

Screen film, "Iron-Jawed Angels," dir. Katja von Garnier

Emily Thornberry, We Owe It To the Suffragettes To Keep Campaigning for Women

Nadine Bloch, 100 Years Later, Lessons from the Sufferin’ Suffragettes

Ken Butigan, Alice Paul's Enduring Legacy of Nonviolent Action

Jane Addams, New Ideals of Peace: Passing of the War Virtues


Week Five | Thursday, February 18 | King

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from the Birmingham City Jail

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam

Ella J. Baker, Bigger Than A Hamburger 

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, A Third Reconstruction

William C. Anderson, A Call for Self Defense in the Face of White Supremacy


Week Six | Thursday, February 25 | War

Arundhati Roy, War Is Peace

Chris Hedges, On War

Gene Sharp, selections from How Non-Violent Struggle Works

Marcie Smith, Gene Sharp: The Cold War Intellectual Whose Ideas Seduced the Left


Week Seven | Thursday, March 4 | Argument

Karl Rogers and Rogerian Synthesis

Be Water: Seven Tactics in Hong Kong’s Democracy Revolution

The Toulmin Schema

William May, Rising to the Occasion of Our Death (handout)


Week Eight | Thursday, March 11 | Fanon and Arendt

Frantz Fanon, Concerning Violence

Hannah Arendt, Reflections On Violence and “Must Eichmann Hang?”
Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Case for Reparations


Week Nine | Thursday, March 18 | Spring Break

Week Ten | Thursday, March 25 | David Cronenberg

Screen film, “A History of Violence,” dir. David Cronenberg


Week Eleven | Thursday, April 1 | Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler, Kindred


Week Twelve | Thursday, April 8 | Abolition

Angela Davis, selections from Are Prisons Obsolete?

Nick Estes, Fighting For Our Lives: #NoDAPL in Historical Context

Week Thirteen | Thursday, April 15 | Slow Violence and Animal Abuse

Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor
Carol Adams, An Animal Manifesto

Carol Adams, Beastliness and a Politics of Solidarity


Week Fourteen | Thursday, April 22 | Workshopping the Final Paper

Final Paper Workshop


Week Fifteen | Thursday, April 29 | Symposium

Final Project Symposium


Week Sixteen | Thursday, May 6 | Conclusions

Judith Butler, selections from The Force of Nonviolence

Course Objectives:

Survey canonical texts in the history, theory, and practice of nonviolent resistance: Thoreau, Tolstoy, Gandhi, King, Sharp, Zinn, Davis and abolition democracy. Consider texts applying and criticizing this canonical history in contemporary contexts.

Address further questions of structural violence, marginalization, exploitation, and oppression. Consider the in/adequacy of their address within the terms of the canon of nonviolence.

Provide a basic toolkit of critical thinking, reading, and writing skills. Use this instruction as an occasion to elaborate but also pressure the traditional distinction of persuasion from violence.