Feminist Queer Anticolonial Propositions for the Capitalocene
Climate things reach peak craziness in university gender studies departments. To verify this, take a Valium and read on…
Sydney University’s vice-chancellor, Michael Spence, is badgering the federal government for research funding to replace the fee losses from what was its pre-COVID 39 per cent international enrolment. I’m sure his university’s medical and scientific research is valuable but I don’t know about the campus’s feminism/gender research output. I also notice that nine of Spence’s professors and another five faculty types pledged allegiance to Extinction Rebellion last September, and wonder why they expect continued state funding to subvert civic laws and institutions. I agree with Spence that, as he looks for $270 million worth of economies, no area should be sacrosanct (except his pace-setting $1.5m remuneration package).
However, my focus on Sydney University research in this article involves its program since 2016, “Hacking the Anthropocene”. I’ll also review the Canada-based peer-reviewed journal Feral Feminisms promoted by the university, with its Sydney Environment Institute calling for submissions last month. Sydney and Melbourne university guest editors will Hack the Anthropocene and also the Capitalocene, Plantatitionocene (sic) and the Cthulucene (sic, should be Cthulhucene, not that it matters). For definition, check this footnote.
The previous Issue 9.2 featured poet Alok Vaid-Menon, who extols his beauty in the clip below.
‘They will say that femininity is not powerful,’ Vaid-Menon acknowledges, ‘but i [ok] have stopped traffic simply by going outside’. The stakes of their public transfemininity remain laser clear, still, when they fantasize, ‘what would it mean to no longer have to be fabulous to survive?’”
IMPORTANT: My editor slaves away to make my copy literate and display topics at their best. Click here on the original to show you care and help him keep his job and pay-packet.
I’ll return to Feral Feminisms later but will first deal with the university’s Hacking the Anthropocene (etc) seminars.
This venture began in April 2016 as “Feminist Queer Anticolonial Propositions” under the auspices of its foundation Sydney Environment Institute.  The opening “family-friendly” SEI event featured “a unique gastronomic experience”. The invitation says,
Participants at this evening of art, conversation, exploration, and digestion will be encouraged to show their debt to (un)charismatic others and ask the world of invisible beings about what our common futures might hold.
Interdisciplinary US artist, the aptly-named Kathy High, set the tone with a “multimedia and interactive exploration of the power of poo. It investigates our intimate relation to the gut microbiome and asks whose poo would make you a superstar.” Usefully, a following discussion “Volatising Bouquet” involved smell research. As speaker Stephanie Springgay, a Toronto associate professor put it,
When smells are taken into the body for survival or pleasure, we open up our body to that which is not us; to the other…
The academic, nose and climate-empowering evening was rounded off with a talk “Caution, workers below”, by environmental artist Perdita Phillips, “exploring the boundaries between human and nonhuman worlds”. Her accessory was “a modified ouija board, designed to communicate with the world of termites.”
The symposium series founder was Sydney University gender lecturer Dr. Astrida Neimanis, “co-hosted in 2017/2018 by Dr. Jennifer Hamilton of Composting [no misprint] Feminisms at Sydney University.” The symposium has had three runs in Sydney, culminating in 2018 with sessions at the Sydney University Womens’ College on “What do we want?” The answer turned out to be “excellent coffee and snacks”. Neimanis and Hamilton blurbed,
From the desirous pull of the fossil fuelled high-life to grass roots activist demands (‘what do we want?’), we ask if it is possible to pursue both extravagant pleasure and intersectional, intergenerational justice. We hope you can join us for a day of communal thought, wild performance and excellent coffee and snacks (you know you want it).
Last year the scholarly research-fest migrated to Melbourne. There it featured an imported NZ scholarly expert on tree-humping and “walkshop” people honouring the ingredients of concrete in pathways (seriously).
But let’s get back to the 2016 inaugural symposium. I’m upset to have missed the “Howling the Anthropocene!” talk by Wollongong University’s Genders Professor Fiona Probyn-Rapsey (now with Sydney Uni and exploring, among other things, “critical whiteness studies”).
She was described “a leading scholar in the field of Animal Studies, which she approaches from a feminist postcolonial perspective.” She explains the anthropocenic howling like this:
Consider the dingo howl – not wild but periurban. How does a dingo, once tethered to a sanctuary fence, her body bearing old wounds of cigarette burns, learn to howl alongside the howling of inmates? The howling of inmates together, started off by one, joined by others – is a sound for the anthropocene — a goodnight, a nightmare, a prisoners [sic] lament, a warning, an eery [sic] embrace, a speculation, an agreement to sing along, a wave at the outside.
Another speaker, possibly taking the urine on the whole show, was Regrette Etcetera (below), talking on “Stretch Marx: Oestrogenic Ecosystems, Solastalgia, and Species-Panic in the Capitalocene”. She self- touted as “a Sydney-based DJ, performer, artist, activist, whore etcetera, with a set of marketable identity descriptors that land university gigs like this.”
Ms Etcetera’s talk was
a chirpily chiliastic whirlwind tour of some ambivalent Anthropocenes, tracing productive pollutions in Natures flooded with ‘gender- bending xenoestrogens’, and following the species-panics of an imperilled whiteness through the great ‘shemale-ing of humanity’ and on into an unknown land beyond Capitalism.
The next 2017 “Hacking” by the cutting-edge Sydney Uni research crowd was about “weathering”. It was supported by the SEI, the Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Centre, a Swedish arts bunch and the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.
One speaker was fashionista Lisa Heinze on “What to Wear to Weather the End of the World as We Know It: A Future Fashion Manifesto.” I suspected she was also taking the urine, but she turned out to be
a sustainable lifestyle advocate currently pursuing a PhD on sustainable fashion at the University of Sydney… and a Fashion Revolution committee member” tackling fashion “for an environmentally and socially just future.
Drs Neimanis and Hamilton were doubly pained about the Anthropocene because of its racial whiteness.
Moving ‘Towards the idea of a black Anthropocene’ would re-centre that which is already centred in the Anthropocene—race—and would move against the implicit structural whiteness of the Anthropocene… potentially towards other more accountable, decolonised, geosocial futures.
The Anthropocene was also danced by arts specialists for the 2019 Sydney Festival, after a week-long workshop led by five choreographers, once more with Sydney Environment Institute en pointe. As sponsors explain,
The point is not to paint, or write, or dance, the scalar immensity of the Anthroprocene into a single paragraph or snapshot. This would just reinforce the Anthropocene’s seeming distance from our lived experience. Instead, arts and humanities endeavours find ways to make connections to that more-than-human scale through the sensory apparatuses of our bodies: a tastebud finds a pathway to a history of colonialism; the affective tenor of a metaphor brings us into the breathless bottom of the sea; a curved arm in an antenna-like gesture establishes our animal kinship to insect species rapidly disappearing.
This brings my essay back to 2020’s impending bunyip version of Canada’s magazine Feral Feminisms.
The Sydney Environment Institute has invited ferals of all sexes to “address issues of the following: animal-human-ecological-vegetal-microbial-geological-cyborg relations.” Cyborgs, since you asked, are fictive beings combining human and mechanical life. Their relation to the purported climate emergency is obscure to me but the Sydney Environment Institute and the Feral Feminisms peer-reviewed journal take cyborgs seriously.
Feral Feminisms founding editor in perpetuity Ela Przybylo is a gender professor at Illinois State University, teaching queer and trans writing with a specialty in asexuality:
Przybylo looks to feminist political celibacy/asexuality, lesbian bed death, the asexual queer child, and the aging spinster as four figures that are asexually resonant…” Another of her books “explores ugliness in relation to the intersectional processes of racialization, colonization and settler colonialism, gender-making, ableism, heteronormativity, and fatphobia.
For those of a masochistic bent, the video below delivers a full hour of Ms Przybylo’s insights.
The journal is self or donor-funded, but obviously some work is done in academics’ flexitime.
Issue 12 of Feral Feminisms is guest-edited by Melbourne-based academic Dr Hayley Singer, a research associate of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions. This Centre of Excellence was set up by the Rudd-Gillard governments with $24 million funding for 2011-2018, at the time the largest funding award to the humanities in Australian history. From 2018, says Wiki, the UWA-based collective has continued with funding from its node universities. It has 14 chief investigators, over 38 full-time postdoctoral fellows, 37 postgrads and more than 100 associate investigators. The 2017 “hack” symposium involved no fewer than four academics from the Emotions Centre.
Dr Singer (left) helpfully provides a playlist of her favourite songs to get contributors’ creative juices flowing. The playlist includes The Red Flag, People have the Power; Ship of Fools (could this be a low blow at UNSW’s Antarctic ice expert Chris Turney?), Love Yourself, Queendom, F—k You and God Only Knows.
For the guest-edited issue, the editorial directions for
queer, feminist, anti-colonial artists, scholars, and activists” say that the Anthropocene draws on settler colonial discourse, problematically homogenizes all humans as planet destroyers and implies that we are locked into these petrifying ways of being. As a colonial figure and inheritance, the Anthropocene is articulated as a teleological story-arc that jettisons ‘us all’ towards apocalypse but fails to interrogate which humans drive and benefit from ecological degradation. It fails to consider that social systems, rather than human nature, are the cause of such degradation. It figures and normalizes the privileged white cis-male as the epitome of human-ness.
Submissions can involve “a fingery theory” but even Google fails to explain the term.
While Anthropocene Hacking will make for a riveting Issue 12, Issue 2 (2014) is hard to beat, discoursing over 103 pages on “Feminist Un/Pleasure: Reflections upon Perversity, BDSM, and Desire.” I confess to a slightly prurient inspection of Issue 2 and was not disappointed. For example, contributor E. Gravelet writes,
Every kinky feminist queer that I have ever spoken to loves Macho Sluts. Well, maybe I’m just lucky enough to know the right people, but there appears to be an overarching consensus that Patrick Califia’s hotly controversial 1988 collection of dyke S/M smut should be considered a classic.
The article appends a footnote which suggests why many a contributor is referred to as “they”:
Please note that, since this time, [author] Patrick Califia has transitioned and identifies as a transman.
An intriguing chapter in the index was “Tomatoes as Trauma” by Joseph Labine. An editor blurbs: “Using the soft, permeable and vulnerable flesh of the tomato, Joseph Labine exposes the thin borders between pain and sex.”
The issue features a screenplay celebrating the McGill University’s Women’s Centre. Screen character “Ummni” is authored by Ummni Khan, an Associate Law Professor at Canada’s Carleton University, specialising in research into BDSM and sex work. Her character says, “I’d hurry over to the university centre to meet up with my soul sisters and debrief our daily encounters with patriarchy in a safe, ‘womyn-only’ space. Sexuality was our hottest topic.” Words like “gender stereotypes,” “misogyny,” and “subversion” can be heard. A third woman – self- chosen name Dragyn – is boiling water. The walls are covered with political posters advocating women’s rights.
Later they adjourn to a club:
In one corner are foot fetishists sucking hairy toes and massaging tired insteps. In another, an adult man is in diapers, holding a baby bottle in one hand and a beer in the other. By the window, a woman outfitted in the classic kinky nurse costume is leading her “patient” around on a dog leash. In the centre, are two men taking turns whipping a very butch woman tied to some hooks in a crucifixion pose.
Ummni (voice-over): Their audacity was stunning. Heart-breaking … I discovered stark differences in sexual practices, pleasures, aesthetics, and ethos, ranging from the classic s/m leather-dom to the animal-emulating furries. But there we were, bound together by our perverted sexuality and the disgust we evoked in others. It was sublime.
The edition was not short on supervisory oversight, with three editors, one guest editor, nine on the editorial board, six on the communications committee, and 13 on the advisory board, plus peer reviewers. A contributor thanked the editors for “their brilliantly committed work, meticulousness, and keen expertise throughout the process of creating this issue”. The issue was workshopped weekly at “FAG (Feminist Art Gallery) with Professor Allyson Mitchell“contributing chocolate mint tea and Deep Lez insights.” Amongst her other groundbreaking works, Professor Mitchell boasts on her university web page of recently co-constructing “Killjoy’s Kastle: A Lesbian Feminist Haunted House” whose goal is to
provoke and pervert. The humorous and costumed characters in the kastle – including polyamorous vampiric grannies, a demented women’s studies professor, and lesbian zombie folksingers – give expression to old and new anxieties, creating a space for critique, affect, and discussion.
The edition followed Toronto’s 2014 Feminist Porn Conference, run in conjunction with the Feminist Porn Awards, analogous to the Walkley Awards handed out for unionised downunder leftist journalists. Described by the issue’s contributors as an “unprecedented platform” for “audiences full of dykes”, the issue saw one feminist stressing “how thrilled she was to be at FPcon [Feminist Porn Conference], how enormous were its accomplishments, and how stunning were its alternative visions.”
Other editions involved “interactive praxis of radical world-making” and “Disrupting U.S. state projects of devaluation and disposability.” The journal offered feminist responses to “cancel culture, rape culture, white supremacy, Native dispossession, xenophobia, heteronormativity, homonormativity, and other practices of exclusion/inclusion.”
The magazine sought reviewers not for critical appraisals but to “celebrate” the works of “trans, nonbinary, or Two-Spirit person[s].”
Issue No 10 wanted contributions relating, among other things, to queerness, transness, capitalism, colonialism, blackness, whiteness and sex work, “topics that are close to our queer fem(me)inine hearts!” Another issue focused on “imperial and colonial forces” and necropolitics determining “who is invited into the realm of social life and who, instead, is confined to social death?” (I know that “social death” feeling from trying to socialise in Dan Andrew’s locked-down People’s Republic of Victoria).
If you think LGBTQI is confusing, these Feminism scholars have hardly started. One reference is “Expanding the Rainbow: Exploring the Relationships of Bi+, Trans, Ace, Polyam, Kink, and Intersex People (Sense).” Incidentally “Q/WOC” stands for “Queer/Women of Color”.
Although past issues have been Canada-based, I felt a quiet pride that one scholar-contributor working on “post-structuralist and feminist theories of the body” hailed from Latrobe University, currently at risk of going broke.
The peer review process at Feral Feminisms is interesting, given that “peer-reviewed” papers normally count towards academics’ promotion, allocation of funds to departments and universities’ global ranking. Feral Feminisms says, “Submissions are subject to a two-tiered process. Guest Editors review all submissions and select for peer review those submissions that best fit the aims and scope of the issue. Subsequently, pieces under consideration are subject to double-anonymous peer review, are reviewed by peer reviewers, and receive collegial feedback on their work.”
Sounds good, until one finds:
Feral Feminisms needs Peer Reviewers! We invite prospective peer-reviewers with interests in intersectional feminist theory, queer and trans theory, anti-racism, decoloniality and Indigenous studies…Feral Feminisms welcomes involvement from individuals at various career stages within academia and beyond and particularly encourages graduate student participation. No previous peer review experience is required.” (My emphasis).
Just about all Australian universities have gender studies departments charging young females fat fees for feminist/queer/green-left teaching. The staff have become so inbred that the weirdness of their output goes unquestioned. The motto of my own alma mater, UWA, is “Seek Wisdom”. You won’t find much of it in today’s arts faculties. Note also the Sydney feminists’ lame attempts to attach themselves to the global warming scare. If the scare is a dog, those are its fleas.
Tony Thomas’s new book, Come to think of it – essays to tickle the brain, is available as book ($34.95) or e-book ($14.95) here.
The invitation has been taken down but read: “Call for submissions for Feral Feminisms’ special issue: Submit your written or artistic piece for the upcoming publication, CFP Issue 12 – Do-It-Together (DIT): Hacking the Anthropocene, by Sunday 31 May. Your piece will address issues of the following: animal-human-ecological-vegetal-microbial-geological-cyborg relations.” The deadline has been extended to June 13.
 “The diverse earth-wide tentacular powers and forces and collected things with names like Naga, Gaia, Tangaroa (burst from water-full Papa), Terra, Haniyasu-hime, Spider Woman, Pachamama, Oya, Gorgo, Raven, A’akuluujjusi, and many many more.”
 Incidentally, the Anthropocene as a geologic era does not exist.
 This event was made possible by funding and support provided by the Sydney Environment Institute, with additional assistance from the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry of the University of Sydney.
 She now seems to be at UNE.
 “This walkshop engages critically and sensually with what is beneath our feet, honouring both the ingredients that make up the concrete pathways that hold us and the soil beneath … We name and acknowledge the sand, lime, silt and clay and through an immersive process will explore the deep time … asking what is our responsibility to honour the concrete for both its utilitarian and multi-specied complexity and our obligation to unearth the negations of this concrete for the soil beneath.”
 On the Politics of Ugliness (Palgrave Macmillan 2018)
 The book “bolstered a burgeoning sex-positive leather dyke community”.
 For example, the ABC’s Cardinal Pell-chasing Louise Milligan won two Quill awards from the Melbourne Press Club, including the Gold Quill for best story of the year, and her book on child abuse allegations against Cardinal Pell was awarded the 2017 Walkley Book Award and the Sir Owen Dixon Chambers Law Reporter of the Year Award. In a unanimous decision last April, the High Court annulled Pell’s convictions.
 Sydney University: “The study of gender is one of the most intellectually challenging and socially important areas of enquiry in the Humanities and Social Sciences.” Its SEI offers “Gender and Environment (GCST263) — This unit uses feminist frameworks to investigate how environmental problems are shaped by intersecting factors of gender, race, sexuality, ability, economic status, and colonialisms. Drawing on examples such as climate change, toxic contamination, water privatisation, and resource extraction, this unit examines the material and conceptual links between human and non-human natures, and cultural, political, economic and social forces.”
I blame Australians. First it was Dame Edna Everidge, who came to England in the early sixties, making jokes about clitorises and New Zealanders, subjects about which we English youth knew little or nothing, followed by Robert Hughes, the only art critic who could evaluate Damien Hirst’s shark in formalin from the point of view of someone who’d fought them hand-to-fin the Pacific, and above all, Clive James, who made it cool to watch Doctor Who, provided you could do it while quoting Shakespeare and Roland Barthes. Suddenly, culture was fun, and dreary nerdy English Guardian-reading types could let their hair down and have a giggle.
When you wake up at the age of x (fill in as appropriate) and realise there’s more to life than eternal Monty Python repeats you may well panic, and if you lack the necessary insight to look at the source of your distress (yourself) you may be tempted to project your panic on to the whole world, its thin crust of biosphere, its inadequate number of sexes, and its general unfairness. That’s when you start bleating “two degrees is too much, two sexes is not enough” and talking to dead termites.
Australia is ahead of the rest of the world – about nine hours ahead in our case – which is a lot in a world where the average inhabitant has the attention span of a gnat.
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Thanks Geoff..I think.. :)…my brain melted reading the quoted dross..it really is the end of times…Tony should be applauded for managing to mock..what is truly insane..
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What is “decoloniality” (it needs peer reviewing apparently); something related to the removal of statues, or to the removal of guts?
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Please tell me this is a parody – for the sake of my sanity!
Maybe Peanuts was wrong when he said, “It can’t be the end of the world, it’s already tomorrow in Australia.” This certainly sounds like end days, and it appears Canada is also swirling the drain, and in the same direction! They’ve conquered planetary rotation, in addition to common sense. Defund the Liberal Arts!
BTW Lubos Motl reports that the insanity is spreading into science networks, shutting down an important server for STEM researchers.
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Tony, very interesting overview on what passes for learning.
Appropriate that Cthulhu is fictional (H.P. Lovecraft from the 1920s) much built on since. He’s a ‘great old one’, an (artificial) creation myth authority figure. Being a dragon and man and octopus combined, his head is the octopus part and hence has many tentacles coming from it. For reasons somewhat beyond me, the many tentacle thing has earned a place in trans theory, regarding which the humble asterisk (many pointed) is also pulled into service. I think it’s all meant to represent touching all things at once, and yet at the same time being all one single concentrated (and uber) concept, to which Mr Cthulhu lends authority perhaps. At SF or Fantasy Cons, little knitted Cthulhus are sold, often in rainbow colours so I think connects the Fantasy Lovecraft to the trans theory angle. Anyhow, I am going somewhere with this, because in addition to the mentioned Cthulhuscence (using indeed what it *should* be), I think this is the origin of ‘fingery theory’, which you could not locate, the ‘fingers’ fulfilling the same function as the tentacles, or points of the asterisk. I cite Hayward and Weinstein (2015): “The asterisk, a diminutive astral symbol miming a starfish’s limby reach, follows trans and attaches to it, attaches it to something else, a spiky allergenic pollen soliciting immunological mobilizations, a viral latching-on to membraneous surfaces of words. Trans* is meant, in part, to break open the category of transgender, transwoman, or transman. It is recognized as “an effort” (after all, an asterisk can suggest emphasis, which is perhaps also affective) to include all noncisgender identities. The * is a paratactic: it denotes a database search, it designates multiplication, it can be a disclaimer indexing the fine print, it indicates pseudonyms or names that have been changed, and, in computer code, asterisks around a word will embolden it. The multipointed asterisk is fingery; it both points and touches. If trans was not understood, in at least one of its modes, as “always already” relational, working and playing parasitically at the level of language, thought, and ideology, then the * repurposes, displaces, renames, replicates, and intensifies terms, adding yet more texture, increased vitalization.”
It’s also cultural claptrap, and if your essay hasn’t already put people off their lunch I’m sure this will finish them off. I’ve dipped the end of a toe into Critical Whiteness; very like arcane religious texts, and yet toxic. While I’ve not had the stomach for much, what I’ve seen seems mostly produced by white people. Which came to mind when I saw Andy Ngo’s and other videos of ANTIFA white persons in Portland Or, banging on cars with older couples inside to intimidate them, and shouting ‘whitey’ as an insult. One can see how the kind of grievance study spoofs done by Lindsay / Boghossian / Pluckrose can so easily penetrate and up-end this domain, it has no real principles and is classic cultural dressing, seeming wise but saying nothing, it’s only purpose to entrap adherents. Such spoofs require formal deceit though, which few will risk, and no doubt protections / checks on identity of contributors have been heightened since.
P.S. for those dying to know, Solastalgia is a neologism that describes a form of emotional or existential distress caused by environmental change.
Andy, you are triggering nostalgia in me.
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Baudrillard’s observation, in Simulacra and Simulation, that, “when the real is no longer what it used to be, nostalgia assumes its full meaning”: the underlying implication is that, if we were awash in some sense of the authentic, we would not have much occasion to look backward to find it—let alone yearn for a return.
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I have learnt this morning that there is more in heaven and earth that I don’t know [the discussion of a feminist view of concrete (footnote 6) reveals that my geological knowledge is probably riddled with sexism and that I should probably be ashamed of myself] and furthermore, don’t wish to know. I doubt if my old geology department at Toronto has withstood such a flowering of feminism. Perhaps they are now teaching modules upon trans-uniformitarianism, non-whiteist sedimentology, or volcanoes as sex objects.
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Alan, it’s hard to be ironic with this stuff, because whatever you can think of, likely exists. Given the famous feminist glaciology paper of a couple of years back, there’s pretty likely to be similar treatments of geology, including volcanoes. Yep, 2 minutes googling found this…
Inspired by feminist science studies and geophilosophies, in this article I follow geophysicists to find in their encounters with lithic things alternative modes of knowledge production. By tracking ethnographically their scientific practices, I try to render visible the pragmatics of the abstractions through which they attempt at apprehending inhuman elements and processes. Particularly, I identify two geophysical operations. First, what I call the geoaffective operation of geophysics, or its constitution on a sensual and embodied ecology that does not suspend the abyssal difference between ‘us’ and the radical alterity of geological things, but is rather the consequence of an open being-with inorganic matter. Second, I engage with geo-poetics as a genre of scientific narration that integrates geological entities into scientific accounts, while at the same time preserving their impossible distance with the human. Both operations, I argue, gesture towards a mode of geo-social knowledge in which geophysical abstraction-making, against the call of critical theorists, is empowered to avoid anthropocentric absorptions and symbioses – and hence towards the reformulation of what politicization means in catastrophic times.
Including volcanology as mentioned within: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1600910X.2019.1610017
Not quite volcanoes as sex-objects yet, but likely a deeper search would pull up something 0: And with the extra bonus of the catastrophic. Not only that, but the admitted intent is to ‘infect’ all other fields, e.g. see here: “This paper theorizes that one future pedagogical priority of women’s studies is to train students not only to master a body of knowledge but also to serve as symbolic ‘viruses’ that infect, unsettle, and disrupt traditional and entrenched fields. In this essay, we first posit how the metaphor of the virus in part exemplifies an ideal feminist pedagogy, and we then investigate how both women’s studies and the spread of actual viruses (e.g., Ebola, HIV) produce similar kinds of emotional responses in others.” https://hipatiapress.com/hpjournals/index.php/generos/article/viewFile/1983/1624#page=78
A flat-out statement that this is about cultural takeover via emotive response, hence not to do with rationality (because emotive biases subvert reason).
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Andy, I don’t know whether “Good Grief” or “Bloody Hell” is the appropriate response. I read your post standing up and had to rapidly sit down. Satire merging into shear horror at the implications.
Interesting how posts on this thread and upon the “Too much progress” thread reinforce each other.
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Andy, as you know, genderists have denounced rocket science for its masculinity; just look at the shape of them on the launching pad.
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Ron, we’re gonna need a lot more fuel for a pudenda shaped one 😉
To credit original sources, a seminal quote is from Robert Godwin: “Say what you want about the liberal arts, but they’ve found a cure for common sense.” This and much else is in Robert Curry’s essay Making Sense of Common Sense
“When I headed off to college, my high school teacher who was my mentor offered me two commonsense rules to follow: “Take care to stay well, and choose professors, not courses.” Because of my high regard for him, I took his words to heart. Later, when I saw the problems my fellow students brought on themselves by not getting enough sleep and generally being careless about their health, I understood the practical wisdom of what he had told me. And the second rule helped me more quickly understand the value of navigating my way through college by who was teaching the course rather than by the course title.
For years, I handed on the same commonsense wisdom to young folks I knew when they headed off to college. But I have not offered that advice for some years now. Here is what I tell them now: “They are going to try to knock common sense out of you; don’t let them.”
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I wonder what they see as the end goal? The immediate goal appears to be power, but after succeeding, how are they going to maintain hold of that power? After they’ve replaced reason and logic with compassion and emotion, what happens next? Are they prepared to fight to maintain their positions? Is it something anyone would feel compelled to defend? It seems to me they’re inviting their own destruction.
Andy, the propulsion experts are working on the technology.
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“I wonder what they see as the end goal?”
Young cultures are often like forest fires, the individuals in them are concerned only with intensifying / spreading the word to the next place the fire can take hold. Via which they earn kudos in the domain they’ve emotively committed to, plus potentially getting one over on those they’ve come to hate. As the culture matures, and typically grows a formal heirarchy, unless this learns to slow the burn and make some pragmatic concessions to reality, it likely will destroy itself. The Khmer Rouge essentially would have done this, if it wasn’t kept alive for longer in exile by third parties for geo-political reasons. I guess that the The Great Leap Forward had a fair chance of collapsing the country and thereby extinguishing Chinese Communism, but it pulled through and did get much more pragmatic thereafter. The mainstream religions are fantastic examples of a pragmatic balance (lasting millennia) even though they are still based around completely fairy-tale narratives. But apparently humanity has had about 100,000 religions, so I guess they’ve had plenty of opportunity to get it right. While all cultures tend to promise wonderful things should they eventually triumph everywhere, it’s a hollow promise anyhow and there’s not typically any consideration of what that could look like or how it would work. Magically, we’ll all just be better off somehow; but given the narratives are fairy-tales anyhow, this is just another part of the tale. In short, I seriously doubt adherents of identity politic and similar brands currently have any long-term goals except – more more more.
This article has given me an idea for a story. It probably won’t be a very good story. It only has a setting at the moment, & lacks either characters or a plot. Still, I wonder if there is a home for it in one of these insane asylum symposia.
@Andy I clicked on your link because I was suspicious that your text had been assembled by a souped-up version of the postmodernism generator. I can confirm that it appears to be real. But as with many such walls of text, I find it difficult to be sure that it is not an elaborate hoax. I simply cannot believe that we have come to this pass, and wonder if at some point someone will pop up laughing, saying “You thought that was real? You fell for it? What a dope.”
The title: “Lithic abstractions: geophysical operations against the Anthropocene” is pure gibberish to begin with.
The journal: “Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory” seems to be made up.
The special issue: “The Ambivalances of Abstraction.” Have they made a new word here? Am I missing something?
Of the author, it is said: “His latest projects have engaged with issues of toxicity, environmental justice, politics of care, and geological modes of knowing. He is currently engaged in a 4-year ethnographic project on indigenous modes of attention to geo-climatic disruptions.”
As is often the case, the individual words are generally interpretable but the whole is not.
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“@Andy I clicked on your link because I was suspicious that your text had been assembled by a souped-up version of the postmodernism generator. I can confirm that it appears to be real. But as with many such walls of text, I find it difficult to be sure that it is not an elaborate hoax. I simply cannot believe that we have come to this pass, and wonder if at some point someone will pop up laughing, saying “You thought that was real? You fell for it? What a dope.”
Yeah, I know just what you mean. I did minimal checks myself, the Journal does have a Wiki entry for instance. But the truth is that this particular wall of text is mild compared to many I have seen in feminist or critical whiteness studies or whatever. They get much worse, while apparently still being published in all seriousness. If you’re not familiar, look at the papers submitted by Lindsay / Boghossian / Pluckrose. To prove that the whole area they termed ‘grievance studies’ (because there are generally supposed grievances behind much of this ‘work’, i.e. regarding colonialism, masculism, whiteism or whatever that suppresses people), was terminally bogus plus devoid of genuine working principles, these 3 submitted a raft of entirely fake papers. These fake papers did indeed include randomly generated text, plus some of the most outrageously stupid things they could think of. Seven of them got published, with some even receiving special praise. And of course later, they did the big reveal that these were hoaxes to embarrass the relevant journals, plus this whole domain. Yet in truth, it has hardly made a dint; the industry churning out this stuff still continues. And the 3 authors faced sanction for subverting the academic process.
The Feminist Glaciology is a corker too, Paul Matthews had a post on it here back in 2016. Unfortunately, we have come to this pass, and I see that some papers of this ilk have been around for at least 20 years.
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Andy, Maybe it’s my pandemic-adled brain, but how are these narratives any different from viruses? They also have to learn how to be infectious without killing their hosts too quickly.
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If this video is for real, the exposure of climate justice warriors is frightful.
Ron: “Andy, Maybe it’s my pandemic-adled brain, but how are these narratives any different from viruses? They also have to learn how to be infectious without killing their hosts too quickly.”
You are far from addled. This is good insight. In some circumstances, this is quite a close analogy, and there have even been attempts to model them using similar mathematics to the biological case. However unlike viruses, these narratives, net, which is to say after their not infrequent (and occasionally awful) downsides are subtracted, provide an absolutely critical service to us, which is allowing us to act as large groups. This has been a massive survival advantage, without which even the basics like altruism wouldn’t work (altrusim operates ‘in-group’, and culture tells you who the group is). The narratives and our brains co-evolved, and the system works via emotive responses that subvert rationality. Without culture, 1000 people have 1000 opinions, with it you can approximate to a single opinion, that of the predominant culture (who are indeed ‘singing off the same hymn sheet’, our phrase for this type of coordination that comes from religious culture).
I doubt anyone knows whether in modern times the net effect is still the big advantage it once was. But I’ve tried to get large teams to do stuff in industry, and it’s usually hopeless without strong team spirit and some emotive leadership. But anyhow, it’s baked in, due to gene / meme co-evolution probably right down at DNA level. Hence we aren’t going to change it any time soon. Assuming net advantage still, once the cultures do get more benign, which as you note they must to stop killing their host, they are more like a benign parasite than a virus, i.e. they are making their own living (and will do so blindly), but within limits that not only preserve their host but provide the binding that allows their host population to triumph over others that have less binding (so say, strong nationalist and / or religious fervour motivating a nation to win a war). But in the early / inflamed case, so to speak, they are very like viruses, and the strains that replicate most are preferentially selected in exactly the same kind of process.
In modern times there is more social process that limits cultural entities (democracy, the law, science), but the cultures can fight back by corrupting those processes to some extent, plus I think there are more simultaneous cultures fighting for our attention space (some of which are allied, or opposing, some of which are relatively independent). Cultures have many tricks to beat out their competition or to find advantageous alliances, or overcome skepticism or attempts to ‘vaccinate’ against them. An old and very simple (but still effective) one is: ‘there is only one God, and his name is X’. Which protects against all religious competitors who will have gods not called X.
Wonderfully deadpan Tony. Congratulations.
Worth noting that all the grants where any of the content includes ‘climate’, ‘Anthropocene’ or any such thing would go into the funnel to make up the big number in Fact 13. The cost-benefit analysis I propose as the second stage after that would I’m sure be most interesting.
Ron (8:51pm): Just watched that. It’s from the InfoWars stable, right? Very disturbing – and very hard to verify from where I sit. The involvement of the guy from ‘Asymmetric Solutions’ which also advises government law enforcement is weird at best. The Green New Deal as terrorist training for kids with ‘white privilege’. Wow. Thanks for the pointer.
I presume that the root of the “Capitalocene” (never encountered the term before) is capitalism. I am not sure how sedimentary rocks will record an economic system, nor what it’s index fossil will be (a plastic credit card perhaps?).
I see your Capitalocene and raise you with the Wokeocene.
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“volcanoes as sex-objects”
I’m told some are quite hot…
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Dennis. Utter, utter filth. You exemplify all that these hardworking Commonwealth academics are striving to oppose. You should be ashamed of yourself.
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Re decoloniality and the removal of statues, one of the statues that the trendies deem a celebration of slavery and racism and thus something that must be toppled…
…commemorates someone who won a DSO for fighting coastal slave traders and was killed during a campaign against slave raiders who had been terrorizing inland tribes: Captain Edward Lendy, Inspector-General of the Frontier Police Force of Freetown/Sierra Leone. His force was mostly recruited from creoles – freed slaves and their descendants. His force’s enemies, the slave raiders, were themselves possibly still slaves of a sort, which complicates things a bit, I suppose. As does the fact that they were known as sofa warriors.
But Edward Lendy undeniably fought against slavery and died while trying to do more of the same* yet is receiving hatred from ignorant
sofaarmchair warriors fighting against slaveries that have long since been banished by the likes of Lendy.
Funny old world.
*Lendy, who was half-French, wasn’t killed by sofa warriors but by the French. A French force mistook his British force for sofa warriors and attacked its camp; the British mistook the attacking French for sofa warriors and fought back. For forty minutes, two white-led forces of black soldiers fired at each other thinking that they were firing at sofa warriors. It was only when the French commander tried to blow a ceasefire on his dead bugler’s bugle and was shot by the British and brought into their camp for treatment that both sides learned the truth.
The French beheaded a local chieftain who had told them that the camp belonged to sofa warriors but accepted formal responsibility for the fuckup and paid the British £9,000 in compensation. £2k of this went to Lendy’s mum.
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Wow, thanks Vinny. Only 25 when he was killed. It looks like his Mum lost his older brother the next year, in Bulawayo, also celebrated in the same monument – and possibly that’s more the reason it’s listed. By Topple the Racists I mean. This memorial is not currently listed, the Imperial War Museum says.
The Paddington Bear statue will probably be on their list too. With a career in the military, Michael Bond must surely have been a white supremacist and Paddington is obviously not a Bear of Colour.
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Definitely the Pastuso bear statue (aka Paddington Bear) should be removed immediately. It was an itinerant immigrant with no documents or skills (or dress sense) and no means of support. It says it’s from darkest Peru and so could be an Shining Path infiltrator. Do we wish to celebrate a destructive good-for-nothing wastrel?; cart it off. How far is the Thames?
Paddington survives until the Paddington Incident in 2136.
The Paddington Incident
The Paddington Incident took place between about 3 p.m. on the 11th of July 2136 and about 4 the following morning. The spark for the event is said to have occurred in Rainbow Square* when a group of students noticed an unusual smell. They tracked this down to a white-cis-male-dinosaur, Frank Achieson, whose sandwich was discovered to include grilled pig meat.
The students assaulted Achieson, forcing him to reveal the source of his food. This was found to be a deli in Soho, which had begun to sell the flesh of animals under the counter. By the time the students reached the deli, they numbered about 150. They ransacked the place, and a few rogue elements stole a jar of (vegetarian) tapenade.
At that point, a chance remark about a “cartoon bear who was also an advocate for the murder and eating of pigs”, who was memorialised nearby, gave the growing mob a new target.
At Paddington Station, the mob numbered 500. Police had been called but chose not to intervene in order to prevent a potentially violent confrontation. Members of a local climbing club had, by coincidence, a number of ropes in their possession, and the statue of the animal-murder-advocating bear was uprooted and dragged away by about 8 p.m.
What happened next is commonly understood to be a misunderstanding of history. Someone in the mob told their colleagues that Paddington Station was in fact named in honour of this disgraceful ursid. It seemed the only rational thing for the mob to do was to first smash the building up from top to bottom, looting some Softmints from WHS in the process, and then set fire to the whole.
The fire was brought under control by the early hours.
The statue of Paddington was removed from the Thames early the next week, and is now in the British Museum, although not on public display.
Thirteen arrests were made on the night of the 11th, although no charges were laid on any of the rioters.
Achieson fled into protective custody. Authorities differ on what became of him then. Some say he changed his identity and gender and started a pottery school in Devon.
*Known until the middle of the 21st century as Trafalgar Square.
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University of Helsinki researchers using encephalography find that brains of readers reduce their effort by first identifying high and low value words.
I shudder to think what researchers would have made of some of the feminist quotations in Tony’s latest opus. Much of these texts comprise words that in other settings would be “high value” but they are assembled together into meaningless drivel that would defeat any encephalogram. Used out of context or with new meanings, such words mislead rather than aid understanding. And as for the use of spur-of-the-moment made up words….
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“Much of these texts comprise words that in other settings would be “high value” but they are assembled together into meaningless drivel that would defeat any encephalogram. Used out of context or with new meanings, such words mislead rather than aid understanding. And as for the use of spur-of-the-moment made up words….”
The best way to view them I think, is as arcane religious texts, which provide ‘academic’ and hence authority backup to the cultural movements they extol. Of course, only the high priests can interpret their detailed meaning and implications. Damn convenient, and even better than disguising the word in Latin, because some pesky folks might go and translate that. In practice, such assemblages can have pretty much any meaning that is broadly consistent with feminism / anti-whiteism / transism, or whatever they purport to support. It’s important only to stuff them with as many emotive stabs at what they don’t like and as many emotive attractors to what they do like, as possible, of which a lot can be single word or very short phrase triggers. All the while, of course, maintaining the surface feel of on academic treatise even if not actually any kind of actual insights that such might provide. Which isn’t to suggest that most authors are executing such works consciously in this manner, they learn the process (not principles, apart from above there are none), and simply replicate it.
Another far-fetched journey into a religious analogy Andy, if you don’t mind me saying.
Show me anything generally called a religion where the ‘arcane texts’ are as recent as this gibberish.
I’d turn it completely on its head. The religion consists of the common assumptions, like that of white guilt, with much more ‘mainstream’ texts. These folks are not at the centre but the fact they exist at all speaks of the trouble we are in with the mainstream.
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The generic form is a cultural entity. We’ve had approx 100,000 of them that are religions (aka their core narratives are ‘spiritual’), and now also a bunch of secular ones too. So, they don’t need to be formally called a religion to necessarily comply to the same rules. Nevertheless, some modern ones are viewed as such. Scientology is one good example. Quite fascinating.
The current mainstream religions have been around on the order of a millennia or two, so as noted in the exchange between Ron and I above, they not only evolve to be benign, they provide critical (net) advantages to their host populations. It is for this reason that the whole narrative / emotive response system evolved in the first place. New cultures can often be much more destructive. Even when established / benign, cultures may have splits / merges / revolutions within themselves, at times, and often gnostic fringes (like the Cathars for Catholics – all exterminated in their millions by the mainstream, and the Ismailis for Islam), whose practices are much more esoteric. Various modern cults borrow some elements from the mainstream religions to compile bizarre beliefs, and narratives supporting same, e.g. The Children of God (renamed as Family International later I believe). Some may borrow from other authority sources or causes, and some are very extreme indeed; The Church of Euthansia does both, by stealing elements of Christianity and malthusian variants of environmentalism, to come up with the great narrative elements ‘Save the Planet, Kill Yourself’, and also ‘Eat a Queer Fetus for Jesus’. There is a branch of study of ‘New Religious Movements’ (NRM), see wiki for same, and this estimates that there are about 10,000 of them. In practice, due to the mixed elements, some of these are not strictly all about being spiritual, but most are. Some view the KKK as a religion, though it’s primary principles are about race, but for sure it is cultural and seeks authority from religion.
“These folks are not at the centre but the fact they exist at all speaks of the trouble we are in with the mainstream”
Absolutely agree. They are essentially fringe cults that have garnered rather more attention than most of the ones above, and their high-moral / emotive angle gets a stranglehold upon the population who are too afraid / confused to defend. And indeed, because mainstream values (both religious and secular, in the latter case cultural or not [including the enterprise of science, for instance]), are struggling. This is often how the mainstream supported culture eventually collapses, with something new potentially arising from the ashes, or alternatively taking the host populations down with it. In the case of the Roman empire, Christianity was just one of many small cults that eventually made the big-time (one of its biggest competitors being Mithraism). Despite a century and more of trauma in the switch-over from their old deities, the empire survived the upgrade, which was eventually hugely beneficial. But societies don’t always survive this process. As noted by Ron the early cultural start-ups are like viruses, and can be extremely destructive in some cases (e.g. the culture formed by the intersection of national socialism, anti-semitism, and eugenics for the science / authority backup).
Richard D: Charles Lendy does seem to have been a bit of a bad hat. He slaughtered a Shona chief and more than twenty of his people with Maxim guns just because the chief had been a bit cheeky. This was debated quite a lot in Parliament, where the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies called Lendy a murderer. He later decided that this language was unsuitable for a government minister and explained that what he really meant to say was that Lendy had shown ‘a culpable disregard of human life, which was deserving of great censure’.* Lendy’s main critic in Parliament, Henry ‘Labby’ Labouchere, had no such qualms. Lendy was a murderer, what he did was a massacre and the British South Africa Company (to which Lendy was seconded) was ‘a wretched, rotten, bankrupt set of murderers and marauders’.**
The trendies say that the Lendys were ‘both responsible for murdering African tribes with machine gun fire’. If you replace ‘tribes’ with ‘tribesmen’, you could make a case that Charles was guilty. Edward? He was present at actions where the Brits used Maxims (and rockets) but I don’t think that makes him a murderer.
So how about only half of the statue gets thrown in the river?
Charles Lendy was a fitness freak and is said to have died from a surfeit of dumbbells. He and his bro are commemorated by a statue of a lion. Whoever does the armchair warriors’ heavy lifting could perhaps cut off the lion’s head and replace it with a big dumbbell.
Or they could just stay at home and be good citizens.
*I show a culpable disregard of human life and am deserving of of great censure
You [can’t think of this one]
He is a murderer
**It sounds like Labby should be a hero of today’s anti-Lendy trendies, no? Er, probably not. He is best known for introducing a cheeky amendment to a bill about child prostitution, which amendment made all male homosexual activity a criminal offence for the first time and got Oscar Wilde two years of hard labour. He was also an anti-Semite and would probably be deemed a misogynist these days because he opposed women’s suffrage. Luckily, he doesn’t have a statue anywhere.
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Vinny, somehow I can’t see the mob figuring all these complexities out! More likely they’ll just err on the side of ‘suspicious Victorian dude’ = gotta go, in such circumstances 0:
Another Vinny vignette. I almost feel like I was there. (Being fired on by a Maxim or doing my stint in Reading Gaol? Whatever.)
What has become of academia? A political correct inquisition house. I weep.
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It looks like the astronomers have caught the bug:
I’m not saying I am binary and I’m not saying I’m non-binary. I think I am a bit of both. Or perhaps I am just a nebula.
The sexuality of stars could be a hot research topic.