Richard Keller and Stacy Alaimo at Unnatural Disasters – Response Brian F. O’Neill

[On September 14, 2018 the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory hosted Stacy Alaimo (UT Arlington) and Richard Keller (UW Madison) on a panel moderated by Zsuzsa Gille (Sociology) a part of the symposium Unnatural Disasters: Climate Change and the Limits of the Knowable. Below is a response to the panel by Brian F. O’Neill (Sociology).]

Of Asphalt and Aquatic Snails: Tracing the Precarity of the Anthropocene
Written by Brian O’Neill (Sociology)

 

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Dr. Zsuzsa Gille moderated the discussions (Image 1) by Dr. Alaimo (Image 2) and Dr. Keller  (Image 3) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Images © Brian F. O’Neill

What can the seemingly disparate stories of urban heat islands and ocean acidification tell us about the Anthropocene?  To what extent has the Earth shifted to a novel geologic epoch concomitant with human domination of the planet? Does the term “Anthropocene” itself lay too much emphasis on the human dimension of the processes involved?  In what ways might this era be “more-than-human,” as Anna Tsing has argued, and be imbricating non-human forces and actors such as asphalt and aquatic snails?

On Friday, September 14, 2018, Richard Keller and Stacy Alaimo provided an engaging discussion to explore and problematize contemporary thinking about the Anthropocene and rethink certain “natural disasters.”  Each traced the often-precarious positions that humans hold in planet earth and across diverse societies.  Perhaps surprisingly for a conference about climate change, their investigations do not lead us to a networked vision of the globe that seeks to encompass and assert a common human predicament; rather they speak to an Anthropos embedded in often unforeseen consequences, even the smallest moments of which have global importance.

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Alaimo argued that scholars must consider “scale shifting,” to see humans and other species within the landscape if we are to develop a “trans-corporeal ecological political practice” that can converge with the world, various species, and vulnerabilities.  Referencing Donna Haraway, she argued that the inundation of totalizing visions of the world seen from an omniscient point in outer-space is a “god’s eye trick,”  which has the delusional effect of placing humans apart from their world.  Composite image from Independent.co.uk and Nora.nerc.ac.uk.

Richard Keller began the event with his talk based on his 2015 book Fatal Isolation: The Devastating Paris Heat Wave of 2003.  Keller argued that the issues of urban heat islands and heat waves remain extremely relevant. They represent “perfect storms” at the intersection of extreme heat, contemporary urban living, and social vulnerability in an age of unpredictable, often volatile climatic change.  When nearly 15,000 people died in France in August of 2003, it was not merely from an anomalous climatic event.  They died of extreme heat, but also of their precarious social positions.  Furthermore, it is a problem of extreme heat, reaching 100°F (40°C) and higher during the day, but also of abnormally high night-tine temperatures (e.g. 72°F or 22°C), such that there was no abatement during the nights. The daily absorption of heat into the concrete, asphalt, and buildings during the long summer days kept the temperatures high even during the night.  Indeed, Paris apartments are designed to retain heat during long winters, a design feature that exacerbated the problem of extreme heat.  Although the human body can withstand very high temperatures, it must have at least some small reprieve from the heat periodically.  In Paris in 2003, some residents were bombarded with heat day and night.  Nighttime temperatures in some Paris apartments were reported as being as high as 110°F (43°C).

Who is at risk?  Keller explained that women and the elderly are especially vulnerable, but other crucial factors to consider are poverty and social isolation.  Keller argued that in part due to the biopolitics of aging, whereby the elderly are construed as societal leeches, as having a certain lack of citizenship, they have increasingly become estranged from their social networks.  Women who were elderly were less likely than men to be married, which made them more socially isolated.  In addition, the lack of running water in older apartments, where bathrooms were located down the hall or on another floor, made it difficult for residents to find relief from the heat by taking a shower. Finally, social ties assist in one getting through such extreme events, and without them, cities face devastation like that of Paris in 2003.  Rather than tracing social vulnerability along a horizontal geographical axis, Keller found that vulnerability during the Paris heat wave corresponded to a vertical one.  Grey market rentals, with zinc roofs, lack of water, and cramped spaces facilitated the devastating outcomes that Paris experienced.

In the end, though, Keller argued that we must be hopeful.  Sociability and social networks among urban populations are the way to a better future.  When people learn to rely on one another in their often dense urban environments, these “unnatural disasters” might be avoided or alleviated.

Stacy Alaimo took the audience from the world of the contemporary city to the deep sea, where aquatic snails are dissolving due to ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is caused by a reduction in the pH of the ocean because of increased oceanic CO2 uptake from the atmosphere.  Ocean acidification, she explained, occupies something of a twilight zone. It is a serious threat lurking silent and largely unseen by the world.  In a literal sense, it lies outside of “the terrain of human concern” and remains “unthought” within a global climate change debate that prefers the imagery of the “god’s eye,” like a Google Earth globe seen from nowhere, but able to see everywhere.  However, the dissolving calcium carbonite shells of aquatic snails show us the precarity and fragility of life.  Alaimo argues that such problems should invite us to “scale up our thinking.”

Alaimo stated that natural scientists and marine biologists are terrified by such observations, even though they are trained in a scientific paradigm of objectivity. These findings raise the question of how one can change the course of these events, rather than providing formal documentation of the catastrophe? Does ocean acidification, like climate change, like the energy crisis, etc. necessarily call for global transcendence?  For Alaimo, the task is to build an environmentalism that at once encapsulates the multi-scalar and multi-species lives of these problems, while not obscuring environmental devastation.  The problem with the god’s eye trick, and the concept of the Anthropocene is that one cannot simply “scale up,” and transcend in order to leave everything else behind.  Instead, if these problems can be faced, it is through an engagement and intimacy with all earthly species and within the messy, material world that the Anthropos shares with other species.

Both Keller and Alaimo showed that climate change is becoming manifest in novel and unexpected ways.  However, such problems do not call for a transcendent globalized environmentalism.  Rather, they call for attention to the corporeal manner by which humans become enveloped in myriad material processes.  Indeed, in Anna Tsing’s keynote address she argued for studying the “feral,” unplanned effects and “betrayals” of nature to humans.  Nature often proceeds in its own directions fed by the projects and programs of human ingenuity.  Rather than being entranced by more typical scientific objects, creatures such as the aquatic snail or objects like the heat trapping asphalt of the big city can yield insights into the dynamics and agencies of the “more-than-human Anthropocene.”

 

 

 

 

The Future of Queer Theory / The Usure of Modernist Form – Response by Diana Sacilowski

[On November 28, the Unit for Criticism & Interpretive Theory hosted the lecture “The Future of Queer Theory / The Usure of Modernist Form” as part of the Fall 2017 Modern Critical Theory Lecture Series. The speaker was Andrew Leong (Northwestern U). Below is a response to the lecture from Diana Sacilowski (Slavic Literatures & Languages)]

The Past Futures of Queer Theory
Written by Diana Sacilowski (Slavic Literatures & Languages)

In answering the question, “What is the future of queer theory?” Andrew Leong follows José Esteban Muñoz in offering a retrospective glance that looks at the various “futures” of queer theory. Rather than looking towards the future as some horizon or blank space on which to posit something new, like Muñoz, he examines the futures of queer theory that “have been.” Engaging with long histories and with meta-narratives, Leong ultimately turns away from a de Manian undoing and dismantling of all narrative, towards an idea of usure, the erasure and rubbing away of inscription and form, which allows for a palimpsestic understanding of narratives and of the futures of queer theory.

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Doing so, Leong, rather appropriately for the last lecture of this fall’s Modern Critical Theory Lecture Series, traced the development of the various theories encountered over the course of the semester. From German Idealism to Marx to José Esteban Muñoz’s concept of “queer futurity” in Cruising Utopia (2009), via Ernst Bloch, on the one hand, and to Lee Edelman’s idea of the queer as the space of no future in No Future (2004), by way of Derrida, Saussure, and Lacan, on the other, Leong explored these theories’ consolidation and convergence, their contact and mediation with one another.

In an effort to visualize this coming and working together of these various theoretical approaches, Leong provided a triangular scheme of his thought process, helping to outline his approach, to situate both Muñoz and Edelman within larger historical contexts, and to explain why he turns back in talking about the future of queer theory. The points of his triangle were marked by the terms “money” at the apex and “thought” and “language” at the bottom; “Future” linked “money” and “thought” on one side, “Figure” joined “thought” to “language” at the base, and “Usure” connected “language” back to “money.” Throughout his lecture, Leong referred back to this diagram to suggest various theoretical connections between money, language, and thought.

In linking “thought” and “money” by way of “Future,” Leong drew from a passage from Speculate This! (2013), which notes that in the seventeenth century the word “species,” with etymological roots meaning outward appearance, also signified coin, drawing a connection between form and money. The text also points to the double-meaning of the idea of speculation – with both cognitive and economic undertones, the idea of speculation involves a kind of conceptualizing or projecting into the future, whether intellectually or financially.

The base of his pyramid derived from Edelman’s Lacanian reading of social realities. Here representing the impossible Lacanian Real, or for Edelman any essentializing concept of identity or politics, “thought” is inherently inaccessible without mediation, without the structures of language, without figural relations that inscribe and sustain social identities. Indeed, for Edelman, queerness, while also not an essential identity, but a figural one, is precisely that which exposes this unstable structure, namely, the fantasies that underpin political and social realities.

The final side of Leong’s pyramid, connecting “language” and “money,” the linguistic and the economic, via the idea of “usure,” involves the “Exergue” of Derrida’s White Mythology (1971). In this opening section of the text, Derrida plays on the two meanings of the French word “usure,” looking at it both as usury, as excess revenue from interest on a loan, as surplus value, but also as usage, as wear and tear or deterioration. Derrida frames the issue as a philosophical discussion between Aristos and Polyphilos on the language of metaphysics. Polyphilos imagines a metaphysician’s use of language as a kind of grindstone rubbing away the exergue of a coin (and here Leong points out another play on words by Derrida, “exergue” meaning both the space on a coin used for inscription and something outside of a work, like an epigraph). The grindstone erases indications specifically identifying the coins in any way, freeing them from physical limitations, lifting them to a more abstract, universal level, and granting them an unlimited and immeasurable value.

exergue

And yet, perhaps no real value or signification at all. Derrida builds upon this connection between language and money by noting Marx’s own words on the interchange between the linguistic and the economic, as well as by pointing to Saussure’s argument that both language and money gain meaning, gain value, whether semantic or monetary, only through a system of exchange and comparison. Both signs and pieces of coin hold no intrinsic, fixed worth or significance, but rather operate according to their relative position, their similarity or dissimilarity, to others things, pieces of money, ideas, words, etc., as determined by their environment.

Leong completed his retrospective glance of the convergence of various theoretical currents in his understanding of the “futures” of queer theory by delving briefly into Marxist conceptions of money and commodity. He, moreover, pointed to Edelman’s and Muñoz’s own interesting instances of usure. Both of these texts, examining ideas of futurity and the queer, feature epigraphs, exergues, from modernist writers, inscriptions that have been, moreover, rubbed away and altered – Muñoz uses a modified quotation from a text by Oscar Wilde, placing a period where the original author used a comma; Edelman turns to Virginia Woolf, allowing the quotation to drift off with the use of ellipsis where Woolf had originally placed a colon. Both scholars, looking at the future of queer theory, usure modernist form and turn to writers writing at the end of the long nineteenth century (according to Arrighi’s formulation), showing the continued resonance of these forms at the end of the long twentieth century.

Leong concluded his lecture with a reading of Japanese writer Yoné Noguchi’s “Chicago” (1900), illustrating an interesting convergence of the key ideas of his talk – money, figuration, and  the queer.

Geoffrey Bennington: “Derrida and Deconstruction” – Response by Patrick Fadely

[On October 3, the Unit for Criticism & Interpretive Theory hosted the lecture “Derrida and Deconstruction” as part of the Fall 2017 Modern Critical Theory Lecture Series. The speaker was Geoffrey Bennington (Emory University). Below is a response to the lecture from Patrick Fadely, English]

“The Logic of the Trace”
Written by Patrick Fadely (English)

palimpsestOne of the complaints sometimes lodged against deconstuction as a mode of critique is that it has little to say about the ‘real world’, that its focus on language and textuality makes it liable to overlook pressing social, political, and ethical problems. Professor Geoffrey Bennington’s talk showed the opposite to be true, and demonstrated how Jacques Derrida’s descriptions of the structure of language carry over into other domains, providing valuable insights into such exigent issues as political sovereignty and the ethical relation to other. Through his exceptionally lucid explication of deconstruction’s interest in language qua writing, Professor Bennington provided a sound introduction for those unfamiliar with Derrida, and at the same time presented a compelling argument that Derrida’s wide-ranging corpus can be thought of as a series of meditations on the logic of the trace.

In order to understand the significance of Derrida’s thought, Bennington pointed out, it is helpful to start with Ferdinand de Saussure, whose reflections on language gave rise to the “linguistic turn” in twentieth-century philosophy. Saussure’s name is often associated with the dictum that the relationship between a word (the signifier) and its meaning (the signified) is wholly arbitrary—that there is no inherent reason to call a leafy, fruit-bearing plant a “tree,” rather than “árbol” or “Baum” or, for that matter, “table.” But this had been established well before Saussure, and was really only a starting point for his thinking about language. From this observation follows a question about the identity of the sign: given that the sign does not get its identity by virtue of its relationship to the thing it signifies (because that relationship is wholly arbitrary), where can we say this identity comes from? It cannot be the result of some primal scene of agreement on shared conventions, because language is always already inherited and handed down. The radical implications of this question—which Saussure eventually backed away from, but which Derrida took as fundamental—is that the identity of the sign arises only by a relation of difference between itself and all other signs.

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Deconstruction, Bennington explained, radicalizes this insight: once we have accepted that all meaning is the result of differential relations among signifiers, we are led to the conclusion that difference and absence must play as much of a role in our thinking about language as do identity and presence. This Derridean radicalization of Saussure’s insight inaugurates the logic of the trace, which served as the central concept in Bennington’s talk. In the logic of the trace, the presence of meaning is brought into being and accounted for by the play of a spectral and dynamic force field of differences—that is, traces. If we apply the logic of the trace to the field of language in general, then the structure of language comes to seem more in line with what has traditionally been said of writing (it bears witness to an absence, lacks vital motivating intention, and is subject to mechanical repetition) than what has traditionally been said about speech (it bears witness to a presence, is alive with the speaker’s intention, and exists uniquely in the moment of its utterance). If applied to politics, this same logic reveals that what we think of as sovereignty depends upon a prior set of internal and external relations that tends to dissolve the self-identity of sovereign power. When applied to the subject, the logic of the trace means that the self only emerges through a prior (ethical) relation among Others—that what we call the self is in fact always already an other. In all these areas, Bennington’s talk showed, these markers of identity—the sign, the nation-state, the subjective self—are compromised, spectralized, hollowed-out and in principle ‘defeated’ by the ‘others’ that bestow and disrupt their identification.

90df942fce11bc47110b7cc57d7633c8The Q&A raised several interesting issues. For example: is it not the case that we human beings are the agents that make meaning? Do we not stand outside the textuality of the real and establish is significance? Professor Bennington demurred, saying that although it is always tempting to try to find some meaning or agency that transcends the play of signification, it will always be pulled back into that orbit, if only because its entire raison d’etre is to put an end to the endless dynamism of difference. Professor Vicki Mahaffey asked about the relationship between deconstruction and psychoanalysis: couldn’t it be said that much of what Derrida posits about the logic of the trace bears a more than passing resemblance to what Freud (and, later, Lacan) describe in the relationship between conscious and subconscious, in which identity is based upon a prior relation to difference, and wherein intent and meaning are always haunted by unintended significance? Here Bennington pointed to Derrida’s reading of Rousseau in Of Grammatology, where Derrida insists repeatedly that he is not doing a psychoanalytic reading—a gesture of refusal that will be familiar to readers of Freud and Lacan, and one that hints at a deep connection between the work of deconstruction and the work of psychoanalysis.

Toward the end of his prepared remarks, Professor Bennington had playfully staked out a ‘categorical imperative’ for deconstruction: “Be hospitable to the event of the arrival of the other in general; and be inventive when you can.” His talk met both demands admirably. 

Jennifer Doyle: "Sex, Paranoia & the Workplace" – Response by Tim Dean

[On March 30, the Unit for Criticism & Interpretive Theory hosted the lecture “Sex, Paranoia & the Workplace” The speaker was Jennifer Doyle, Professor of English at UC-Riverside. Below is a response to the lecture from Tim Dean, Professor of English.]

Response to Jennifer Doyle’s “Sex, Paranoia & the Workplace”
by Tim Dean, Professor of English

Jennifer Doyle and I met for the very first time today; but I have admired her work for over a decade, and all the more so after reading her recent book, Campus Sex, Campus Security (published by Semiotext(e) in 2015).  One of the things I admire most is her capacity to keep the critical lens focused on sex, especially at a time when the field of Queer Studies has retreated from the difficulties of thinking sex in favor of other objects of study.  From her first book, titled Sex Objects: Art and the Dialectics of Desire (2006), Professor Doyle has focused on how libidinal energies and impasses shape the cultural and social fields.  This focus strikes me as deeply psychoanalytic, even when Doyle steers clear of particular psychoanalytic methods and vocabularies.  In my remarks today, I want to situate her reading of Freud’s “Case of Paranoia” in relation to her work as a whole, before opening the floor to discussion.  I would like to articulate a number of observations and questions, but I will try to be brief.

In both her reading of Freud’s case and her recent book, Doyle is interested in the desires, anxieties, and disavowals that structure the workplace—including our workplaces at public universities.  In her reading of Freud, she has an explanation for why the workplace has become intolerable for the woman in question.  And in her book Campus Sex, Campus Security, she has an explanation for why our working conditions at public universities have increasingly become intolerable.  But they are not the same explanation, even though both turn on “sex.”

In her reading of Freud’s case, Doyle raises the possibility of a non-pathological paranoia—what she calls “a healthy kind of paranoia.”[1]  When conditions are structured to prevent a certain possibility for a particular class of persons in the workplace (here, women), then something like a paranoid response appears reasonable.  Calling it “paranoia” is a way of de-legitimizing the response, a way of denying that what the woman has perceived is real.  It’s all in her head.  Doyle is right to claim that, no, it’s not all in her head, it’s structured into the conditions of her workplace by the gendered division of labor.  The woman in Freud’s case, quite apart from the “revenge porn” scenario she conjures avant la letter, is perceiving something that the professional men involved staunchly disavow, namely, the workplace as a sexual space.

But what exactly does it mean to describe the workplace as a sexualspace?  It means something different in Doyle’s reading of Freud than it does in her reading of public university campuses in the 21st century United States.  In her reading of Freud, Doyle draws on a particular Italian Marxist-feminist account of labor—associated with Silvia Federici and Leopoldina Fortunati—to argue that the woman in Freud’s case is caught in the contradictions that structure the capitalist division of labor between production (in the workplace) and reproduction (outside the workplace).  In this schema, sex is “not only administered as that which ‘happens’ outside the sphere of work; it is positioned as ‘the opposite’ of work.”[2]  There is thus no conceptual space for accommodating sex in the workplace and, indeed, no possibility of acknowledging sex as itself a form of work.  This is one way of explaining why our society cannot really think through the category of sex work—and why male sex work in particular seems to short-circuit rational thought.  To grasp how sex and work are not each other’s opposites likewise obliterates the distinction between pleasure and labor that organizes Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1930).

At the end of her reading of Freud, Doyle refers to “the collective disavowal of the fact that ‘work’ is always already sexed.”[3]  Here, I believe the term “sexed” means gendered—i.e., the workplace is structured by a gendered division of labor that uniquely disadvantages women.  I have no quarrel with that claim, but I worry about how the term “sex” has slid from meaning something libidinal—sex as in fucking—to meaning sexual difference, sex as a term European feminists use where we would be more likely to use the term gender.  The fact, as Doyle puts it, that “‘work’ is always already sexed” is not the same as saying that the workplace is a sexual space.

Another way of articulating my concern would be to say that the Marxist feminist critique of the gendered division of labor, valuable though it is, keeps in place a distinctly heterosexual paradigm for understanding sex.  That paradigm makes it harder to see how, for example, same-sexsexual harassment functions in the workplace or on campus.  When gender difference organizes your concept of sexuality, certain things become invisible, or much harder to perceive.  This is a problem with the intellectual tradition Doyle is drawing upon in her reading of Freud; but it’s a problem that does not appear in her book Campus Sex, Campus Security, where she uses the term “sex” differently.

What Doyle describes as a collective disavowal of the libidinal dimension of the workplace takes an historically specific, neoliberal form on contemporary college campuses.  In my view, that disavowal helps to explain how queer theory, once it became institutionalized in the university, stopped paying attention to sex.  In the mid-1980s, Gayle Rubin announced—in an article (“Thinking Sex”) that inaugurated the field—that “The time has come to think about sex.”  But by the end of the millennium, queer theorists had simply decided they would prefer not to.  Jennifer Doyle represents a notable exception to that institutional retrenchment, and I am profoundly grateful for the searching brilliance of her latest book. 

One of the things Campus Sex, Campus Security makes evident is how “sex” has become what renders the campus and its administrators insecure.  The most acceptable campus discourse about sex is how to stop it from happening.  In the latest incarnation of a Foucaultian nightmare, sex has become something that must be, above all, administered.[4]  Outside of biology labs, there is virtually no space on campus for actually thinking sex.  There are plenty of campus spaces for thinking about how to getsex.  And every campus has multiple sites for engaging intellectually with questions of gender (even though those sites tend to be under-resourced and under attack).  But if you’re searching for a place on campus to theorize human sexuality apart from a biological model, you are basically out of luck.   

Sex is not supposed to contaminate the campus as a workplace.  Now, when I went to college in the 1980s, it was precisely in order to have sex (and perhaps secondarily to reflect on what that meant).  All my undergraduate feminist friends talked incessantly about which professors they wanted to shag; as students we speculated endlessly, and in minute detail, about what various faculty members would be like in bed.  I’m not sure how much has changed since then (you tell me); but what has changed is the growth of a large and complex bureaucracy to administer sexual complaints.  At universities such as the ones Doyle describes in her book, the campus bureaucracy has become increasingly militarized, not to mention paranoid about securing boundaries in a way that deserves to be diagnosed as pathological.  (We are not talking here about “a healthy kind of paranoia.”)

When my college friends and I generated a discourse whose sole object was our professors’ sex lives, we did so as a result of the phenomenon that Freud named transference.  “He whom I suppose to know, I love.”  Transference is a psychoanalytic term for describing the libidinal energies that pervade relationships structured hierarchically.  Transference is the engine that drives psychoanalysis in a clinical setting and it permeates hierarchical institutions such as schools.  It’s a way of talking about the libidinal component of our relationship to authority.  I would argue that sex haunts the workplace in large part because transference goes unrecognized and unacknowledged.  Freud said that the essence of psychoanalysis lay in handling the transference.  One might say that the essence of teaching lies similarly in handling the transference that permeates pedagogical relationships.  When a teacher or a student fail to recognize that what’s happening between them is transferential, that’s when they are most likely to end up having sex.  And by now we have a pretty good idea of how that story ends.

Let me redescribe what I’m trying to get at here.  In the Marxist-feminist critique of the division of labor that Doyle invokes, there is a division between production and reproduction that creates an impasse for women in the workplace and fails to acknowledge certain kind of labor as labor.  Partly in response to this impasse, Italian Marxist philosophers such as Maurizio Lazzarato and Antonio Negri have developed the concept of immaterial laborto describe “labor that produces an immaterial good, such as a service, a cultural product, knowledge or communication.”[5]  In my own research on sex work, I’ve been using the idea of immaterial labor to think through forms of affective labor, aesthetic labor, and glamourlabor.  What psychoanalysis adds to this account of immaterial labor is the crucial idea of unconscious labor—the work that our minds do, in the service of pleasure, unbeknownst to us.  (Freud uses the term arbeit, the basic German word for work, to describe this mental labor)  We might say that the unconscious is the ideal laborer of capitalism because our minds continue working even when we’re asleep.  What they produce is a called a dream—an immaterial product if ever there were one.

Transference is a way of talking about the unconscious component of all human relationships that are structured hierarchically.  It acknowledges that there is another kind of work going on, work that is intentional but eclipsed by consciousness.  The workplace is a sexual space because every human being who occupies that space is accompanied by a ghost, namely, their unconscious.


[1]Jennifer Doyle, “Rethinking a Case of Paranoia as a Workplace Complaint,” Studies in Gender and Sexuality, vol.18, no.1 (2017), 10.
[2]  Doyle, “Rethinking,” 11.
[3]  Doyle, “Rethinking,” 12.
[4]  Here Doyle’s account recalls political anthropologist David Graber’s brilliant critique of contemporary bureaucracy in The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy (2015).
[5]  Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Harvard University Press, 2000), 290.

A State with No Budget (with apologies to America)

By James Treat, Associate Professor, Religion

On the first part of the journey
I was looking at all the life
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
There was sand and hills and rings
The first thing I met was a gov with a buzz
And the sky with no clouds
The heat was hot and the ground was dry
But the air was full of sound
I’ve been through the college in a state with no budget
It felt good to be out of the money
In the college you can remember your debt
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no funds
La, la, . . .
La, la, . . .
After two years in the college sun
My face began to turn red
After three years in the college fun
I was looking at a river bed
And the story it told of a river that flowed
Made me sad to think it was dead
You see I’ve been through the college in a state with no budget
It felt good to be out of the money
In the college you can remember your debt
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no funds
La, la, . . .
La, la, . . .
After nine terms I let the state run free
‘Cause the college had turned to work
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
There was sand and hills and rings
The world is a college with its life underground
And a perfect disguise above
Under the cities lies a heart made of stone
But the leaders will give no love
U-C I’ve been through the college in a state with no budget
It felt good to be out of the money
In the college you can remember your debt
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no funds
La, la, . . .
La, la, . . .