Updates from February, 2016 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Mark 3:48 pm on February 29, 2016 Permalink
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    stuck in the mess of life: anticipation and disappointment 

    In recent papers Ruth Müller has offered what I think is the very important concept of anticipatory acceleration to make sense of how subjects, in this case post-doctoral researchers, wilfully participate in social acceleration. Drawing on the work of James Scott, she outlines an attitude of ‘disregard for the present’:

    The present figured not as important in and of itself, but as valuable because of its potential to become the future. Discomfort and sacrifice in the present were hence normatively acceptable and reframed as potentially beneficial. If the present is only a moment of transition towards a golden future, no serious attention needs to be paid to the trials and tribulations of the now. Uneasiness with a new system is recast as a period of adaptation, critique is washed away with the final argument of where we need to go.

    This immediately makes me think of Ian Craib’s work on disappointment. Craib argues that we are increasingly unable to live with frustrations, denials or uncertainties. We seek to ‘escape the mess of life’ by looking forward when we meet disappointment, rather than recognising that some element of disappointment is an unavoidable facet of human existence. We turn ourselves to the next person, the next job, the next city as a place where we hope that everything will be ok. But it never is because we can’t transcend the nature of our own being-in-the-world simply by trying really hard to arrange the pieces of our life in a perfect configuration that always exists in potentia. When we actualise it and come face-to-face with its imperfection, we go on looking, assuming that we can make the world as we wish it to be by finding the circumstances in which the representation in our minds can match the reality of our lives.

    Under these circumstances, the anticipatory acceleration Müller identifies in higher education becomes remarkably alluring. We bring ourselves closer to this imagined future through an “anticipatory orientation that aims to create future possibilities and tentative certainties, and ensure an ongoing trajectory that is somewhat recognizable as a good (future) life”. Or at least we hope to do so. But within higher education, we find those conditions further in retreat because so many others are chasing them:

    VOSTAL (2014) proposes that junior scholars, who often work on temporary contracts and aim at establishing themselves in academia, are particularly exposed to the demand to produce more units per time. “It seems that early career academics are particularly vulnerable to the restructuring of higher education in comparison with more established and tenured/permanently employed senior scholars and professoriate” (p.12f.). This includes a heightened vulnerability to the changing temporal frameworks of academic cultures. Similar to the differences between career stages, the focus on speed appears to be pronounced more or less strongly in different fields. While the imperative to “Speed up!” seems to interpellate a wide range of scholars across the disciplines and faculties, fast growing fields that are receiving high policy attention and investments, often due to hopes of economic return, and that are exhibiting high degrees of internationalization and competition appear to be particularly prone to processes of acceleration. One such field is the life sciences. GARFORTH and CERVINKOVÁ (2009) point out that scholars in this field are faced with a growing standardization of possible career trajectories in the context of increasing international competition. This would result in a “rigid, narrow and increasingly formalised career path […] in the biosciences” (p.172) along which particularly junior scholars must run as fast as possible to outpace a growing number of known and unknown, local and international competitors. The article at hand focuses on a distinct category of junior scholars1) in the life sciences that are, as the empirical work shows, particularly strongly affected by experiences of competition and hence acceleration: postdoctoral researchers

    So how do we respond? By going faster and faster. Wilfully hopping with ever more enthusiasm while management heats up the floor (to use the lovely image Will Davies offers). Or we quit. What’s the excluded middle: collective resistance that becomes ever hard because it entails a social hope about potential shared futures, one grounded in a communal attentiveness to the present which becomes ever more unlikely under prevailing conditions of acceleration.

  • Mark 1:59 pm on February 29, 2016 Permalink
    Tags: , , koch brothers   

    defensive elites and the actions they’re willing to take 

    This is a fascinating account in Mother Jones of the, seemingly botched, attempt by the Koch brothers and their political organisation to smear a New York Times journalist:

    Prize-winning New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer made headlines recently when she released a new book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, that revealed how the father of the Koch brothers once helped build a major oil refinery in Nazi Germany that was a pet project of Adolph Hitler. Overall, the book tells the tale of a small number of ultrarich donors—including Richard Mellon Scaife and Harry and Lynde Bradley—who did much to create the modern conservative moment, with a strong emphasis on billionaires Charles and David Koch. “It is not easy to uncover the inner workings of an essentially secretive political establishment,” the New York Timesreview of the book notes. “Mayer has come as close to doing it as anyone is likely to come anytime soon.” And there’s a section in the book that should be particularly chilling for journalists, for Mayer describes how she became the target of a nasty opposition research effort after she wrote about the Koch brothers several years ago.


  • Mark 10:16 pm on February 28, 2016 Permalink
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    Henry Rollins was on BBC Hard Talk! 

  • Mark 10:12 pm on February 28, 2016 Permalink
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    Henry Rollins on drugs, alcohol & self-transformation 

    I always find Henry Rollins interesting to listen to. But this interview is particularly engaging, even by his standards:

    It suddenly struck me how obviously this song is about self-transcendence:

  • Mark 4:40 pm on February 28, 2016 Permalink
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    The first year of the Accelerated Academy project 

    After a year’s work, we’re pleasingly getting to the end of the first phase of the Accelerated Academy project. Here’s what we have to show for it:

    In the not too distant future, we’ll have announcement about the second and third Accelerated Academy taking place in 2016 and 2017. We’re also planning to start work on a book later this year. Meanwhile I’ll be speaking on academic acceleration and social media at Warwick and MMU next month.

  • Mark 1:33 pm on February 28, 2016 Permalink

    Early Career Researcher Event @TheSocReview: A Master-Class with Professor Éric Fassin 

    The Sociological Review Foundation invites applicants to take part in a masterclass with Éric Fassin, who will delivering our Annual Public Lecture on the same day at SOAS at 6pm.

    The master-class will explore:

    • How are sex, gender and sexuality racialised in contemporary Europe and the world?
    • In what ways are nation-states implicated in sexual politics and identities?

    If your research involves thinking through the intersections of race, nation, migration, sexualities and gender, this masterclass offers a wonderful opportunity to work through critical issues in your work with Éric Fassin.


    • All participants will read Éric’s work (circulated in advance).
    • Each participant will prepare a 3 minute presentation about their research – highlighting a particular issue they are struggling for Éric and the group to discuss.
    • The masterclass will be 2 hours long. It will begin with some introductory remarks from Éric and then proceed with the presentations and group discussion. 


    This event is FREE but places are limited to 10 people. To apply for a place, please fill in this online application form] by 5pm on 1st March 2016.

    Applicants will be notified by 1st April 2016.

    Please note: ECR means PhD students or postdocs (within 3 years of award of doctorate)

    Any questions may be directed to Brigit McWade: b.mcwade@lancaster.ac.uk

    About Professor Éric Fassin

    After teaching in the United States from 1987 to 1994 (at Brandeis University and New York University), and at the École normale supérieure in Paris from 1994 to 2012, Éric Fassin is now a professor of sociology in the Political Science Department and co-chair of the Gender Studies Department at Paris 8 University. He is a founding member of the new Laboratoire d’études de genre et de sexualité – Research Center on Gender and Sexuality Studies (LEGS, CNRS / Paris 8 / Paris 10). His work focuses on contemporary sexual and racial politics, including immigration issues, in France, in Europe, and in the United States – often in a comparative perspective. He is frequently involved in the French public debates on issues his work addresses – from same-sex marriage and gender parity to the politics and policies of immigration and race, but also on the evolution of the left. In English, he has regularly published in French Politics, Culture & Society, French Historical Studies, Public Culture, differences, Contemporary French Civilization.

  • Mark 10:28 am on February 28, 2016 Permalink
    Tags: , , diversity, , ,   

    The Reactionary Politics of Tech Bros 

    A slogan more frequently encountered on pro-police demos has been repeatedly daubed inside the Facebook headquarters, creating embarrassment for a corporation whose staff are overwhelmingly white and male:

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has reprimanded employees following several incidents in which the slogan “black lives matter” was crossed out and replaced with “all lives matter” on the walls of the company’s Menlo Park headquarters.

    “‘Black lives matter’ doesn’t mean other lives don’t – it’s simply asking that the black community also achieves the justice they deserve,” Zuckerberg wrote in an internal Facebook post obtained by Gizmodo.


    Will such attitudes inevitably thrive under the conditions of meritocratic elitism which characterise much of the technology world?

  • Mark 7:28 am on February 28, 2016 Permalink
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    The advice given by W.E.B. Dubois to his teenage daughter 

    An absolutely beautiful snippet from Brain Pickings: the letter of advice W.E.B. Dubois wrote to his teenage daughter when she went away to school in England.

    Dear Little Daughter:

    I have waited for you to get well settled before writing. By this time I hope some of the strangeness has worn off and that my little girl is working hard and regularly.

    Of course, everything is new and unusual. You miss the newness and smartness of America. Gradually, however, you are going to sense the beauty of the old world: its calm and eternity and you will grow to love it.

    Above all remember, dear, that you have a great opportunity. You are in one of the world’s best schools, in one of the world’s greatest modern empires. Millions of boys and girls all over this world would give almost anything they possess to be where you are. You are there by no desert or merit of yours, but only by lucky chance.

    Deserve it, then. Study, do your work. Be honest, frank and fearless and get some grasp of the real values of life. You will meet, of course, curious little annoyances. People will wonder at your dear brown and the sweet crinkley hair. But that simply is of no importance and will soon be forgotten. Remember that most folk laugh at anything unusual, whether it is beautiful, fine or not. You, however, must not laugh at yourself. You must know that brown is as pretty as white or prettier and crinkley hair as straight even though it is harder to comb. The main thing is the YOU beneath the clothes and skin — the ability to do, the will to conquer, the determination to understand and know this great, wonderful, curious world. Don’t shrink from new experiences and custom. Take the cold bath bravely. Enter into the spirit of your big bed-room. Enjoy what is and not pine for what is not. Read some good, heavy, serious books just for discipline: Take yourself in hand and master yourself. Make yourself do unpleasant things, so as to gain the upper hand of your soul.

    Above all remember: your father loves you and believes in you and expects you to be a wonderful woman.

    I shall write each week and expect a weekly letter from you.

    Lovingly yours,



  • Mark 6:42 pm on February 24, 2016 Permalink
    Tags: homelessness, ,   

    “Let Me Stay”: Exhibition on Housing Insecurity in Manchester 


    Glasgow artist Penny Anderson’s first exhibition in Manchester, in association with the Social Action and Research Foundation, presents work that interrogates the modern fact that we do not remain in a rented home for a life-time, with many tenants having to move house every six months.

    ‘Let Me Stay’ uses the traditional craft of embroidered labels attached to read-mades such as doll’s furniture and crockery, samplers which are all placed within this installation to explore precarity and insecurity – to contribute to a much needed debate on the condition of houses not being homes for many people in society.

    The exhibition will be held at Manchester Creative Studio, 16 Blossom St, Manchester, M4 5AW between Saturday 26th March to Tuesday March 29th.

    Opening private view 6-8pm Friday March 25th.

    For more information, email dan@the-sarf.org.uk

    With thanks for the generous support of Creative Scotland’s Open Fund.

  • Mark 11:13 am on February 23, 2016 Permalink
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    The Promise of the Pivot Format 

    Recent years have seen the proliferation of what I tend to think of as mini-mongraph formats. In their new book on interdisciplinarity, Felicity Callard and Des Fitzgerald offer a really nice account of the promise of these formats:

    The Pivot format is produced within a distinctive (rapid) temporal horizon, and offers a particular length (mid-way between the long journal article and the usual scholarly monograph). We, when writing this volume, were interested in exploring what those constraints would do to our modes of argument, to the register of our writing, and to the kinds of material with which we engaged. The book works with, and mixes up, different kinds of ‘data’ and evidence, and employs diverse styles of argument. Our hope is that the volume functions as a provocation that carries a particular tone –one slightly different from the usual ‘voice’ of a peer-reviewed journal article (from whichever discipline), or of a heavily footnoted research monograph.

    I share this sense of their promise. But I also worry that such formats are a function of the acceleration of higher education: an attempt to preserve something akin to a monograph when many rarely, if ever, feel able to read a more traditionally sized monograph in full. 

  • Mark 8:41 pm on February 22, 2016 Permalink

    Protest and Performance Week @WarwickUni 

    Sad I can’t make this, shared in case others can:

    Protest and Performance Week will take place on campus in week 10, from Monday 14th – Thursday 17th March 2016. It includes film, comedy, theatre and panel discussions. All events are free (except the film – reduced price tickets available) and open to everyone. You need to register to reserve a place. Highlights include:

    • Kate Smurthwaite (award winning comedian and activist) with her new show on freedom of speech – ‘The Wrong Sort of Feminist’.
    • ‘We Are Many’ – The acclaimed story of the biggest demonstration in human history, including Q & A with the film’s director, Amir Amirani.
    • Presentations and panel discussions from academics and students discussing protests at Warwick University, and elsewhere.
    • Seasoned campaigners and journalists talking on the theme of ‘How do we make our voices heard?’ (including Emily Scurrah from 38 Degrees).
    • To Know How You Stand – The IATL student ensemble explore the university as a space of protest.

    More details and registration for all events are here – http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/research/centres/chrp/protest/performance/

    This programme of events has been created through a collaboration of Warwick staff and studentsunder the auspices of Warwick’s Centre for Human Rights in Practice, and is supported by IATL. It is happening in conjunction with a special issue of Lacuna Magazine on the theme of protest. Many ‘Protest and Performance Week’ speakers are appearing in Lacuna Magazine now, and over the next couple of weeks. Check out their writing at http://www.lacuna.org.uk. If you are interested in finding out more about Lacuna, and/or attending our next lunch time get-together, please email Alice Panepinto atA.Panepinto@warwick.ac.uk

  • Mark 11:29 am on February 22, 2016 Permalink
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    On Subculture 

  • Mark 10:31 am on February 22, 2016 Permalink
    Tags: , , , energisation, energy,   

    “feeling more or less alive on different days” 

    I came across this wonderful passage by William James, quoted by Robert Frodeman in Sustainable Knowledge and reproduced on Brainpickings here:

    Every one is familiar with the phenomenon of feeling more or less alive on different days. Every one knows on any given day that there are energies slumbering in him which the incitements of that day do not call forth, but which he might display if these were greater. Most of us feel as if a sort of cloud weighed upon us, keeping us below our highest notch of clearness in discernment, sureness in reasoning, or firmness in deciding. Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked. We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.


  • Mark 4:03 pm on February 21, 2016 Permalink
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    Two upcoming events @socialontology @sociowarwick 

    A workshop on the morphogenetic approach:

    June 21st, 10am to 5pm
    The University of Warwick

    This one day workshop is intended for those currently using or planning to use the morphogenetic approach in their research. In the first half of the workshop, Margaret Archer will give an overview of the morphogenetic approach and its development, as well as address conceptual and methodological questions that participants might have. In the second half of the workshop, there will be plenty of time to present work-in-progress or planned projects, get feedback and discuss with others who are doing similar work.

    If you’d like to participate then please e-mail mark@markcarrigan.net with a brief biography and description of your project.


    A workshop on investigating the internal conversation:

    Reflexivity Forum
    10am-5pm, May 24th 2016
    R1.04, University of Warwick

    Following from a successful initial meeting last year, this event will be the first of a hopefully ongoing series of events aimed at those investigating human reflexivity through empirical research. The ‘internal conversation’ was developed by Margaret Archer as a solution to the problem of structure and agency: a mediatory mechanism that accounts for how society’s objective features influence its members to reproduce or transform society through their actions. Since initially discussed in Being Human, this account of human reflexivity has been developed through a trilogy of books reporting on empirical studies into the distinct modes through which reflexivity operates. This body of work has been used in projects across a range of disciplines and been the topic of much theoretical and methodological debate.

    The event is free but registration is essential. If you would like tospeak at the event, presenting a work in progress, please register byMarch 31st with a title and 100 word abstract. If you would like toattend then please register by April 30th.

    To register contact mark@markcarrigan.net

  • Mark 3:04 pm on February 21, 2016 Permalink
    Tags: , , , over production, , ,   

    The Vertigo of the Accelerated Academy 

    From Sustainable Knowledge by Robert Frodeman, loc 1257:

    I feel like I am drowning in knowledge, and the idea of further production is daunting. Libraries and bookstores produce a sense of anxiety: the number of books and journals to read is overwhelming, with tens of thousands more issuing from the presses each day. Moreover, there is no real criterion other than whim for selecting one book or article over another. To dive into one area rather than another becomes a willful act of blindness, when other areas are just as worthwhile and when every topic connects to others in any number of ways. The continual press of new knowledge becomes an invitation to forgetfulness, to lose the forest for the trees.

  • Mark 2:02 pm on February 21, 2016 Permalink
    Tags: , , economy policy, , John McDonnell, ,   

    John McDonnell’s New Socialism 

    I listened to this earlier today and I was really impressed:

    It’s part of a broader intellectual project in meetings currently taking place around the country. Hopefully one in Manchester soon! Here’s the list.

  • Mark 1:42 pm on February 21, 2016 Permalink
    Tags: , , rachel hills, sex myth, , ,   

    The Sex Myth 

    I first encountered the work of Rachel Hills in 2012, when she interviewed me for an essay in the Atlantic exploring asexuality. The conversation itself was incredibly stimulating and the ensuing piece of work was the best thing I’ve read about asexuality in the media. I’ve been waiting since then for her book, The Sex Myth, with high expectations of what it will include. It doesn’t disappoint. It’s an engaging and thoughtful overview of what Rachel calls “the gap between our fantasies and realities”. The lived space of ambivalence and anxiety in which so many of us dwell, so much of the time, yet which often resists articulation in a sexual culture that offers us an expansive array of ways to talk about sex acts but far fewer to talk about what sexuality itself means to us.

    My own interest in this topic stems in large part from my research on asexuality. More specifically, I remember my bewilderment at the clear patterning that could be seen in how those who weren’t asexual had responded to attempts by participants in my research to explain their asexuality to those around them. The same responses came up time and time again: there must be something wrong with your hormones, you’re just a late bloomer, you must have been abused as a child, maybe you just haven’t met the right person yet. Asexuality often proves incomprehensible, at least initially, to non-asexual people: how can someone live without sex? Yet so many do, for significant swathes of the life course, if not as a permanent feature of existence. This prima facie incomprehensibility of asexuality reveals features of a broader sexual culture which often escape notice, at least if we inhabit them unproblematically much of the time.

    Throughout The Sex Myth, Rachel’s concern is to understand those experiences when people don’t inhabit this sexual culture unproblematically. As she puts it, “The Sex Myth fades into the background when we are secure in our choices” but “It is when our footing is less solid that it is most powerful”. The uncertainties and stumblings, the private anxieties and unspoken agonies, so often attached to a part of life which is publicly proclaimed to be an unparalleled locus of human fulfilment. She’s a considerate interviewer and engaging writer, never failing to produce a readable pen portrait which nonetheless offers important insights into the wider themes of the book. The prevailing impression I was left with by the book was that everyone suffers under the sex myth, as the space in which one can just be contracts in the face of a creeping pathologization that perpetually leads people to ask “am I normal?” I particularly enjoyed her discussion of the politics of kink to this end. She deftly unravels how our neo-libertine culture often imposes unspoken limits on those drawn to kink and places further burdens on those who lack interest in it.

    It’s reminded me of what had once been my post-doc plans: continuing my interest in a/sexuality studies by exploring the lived experience of sexuality for other groups for whom sexual normativity creates profound problems. But maybe looking at outlier cases misses the point, even if it could prove methodologically productive. What really interests me are the everyday experiences, private moments of quiet shame for failing to live up to a standard one might neither assent to nor fully understand. I’d like to excavate this baggage, understand it better conceptually but also explore the new vocabularies to talk about sexuality and intimacy which I’m familiar with from the asexual community but which can also be found elsewhere. Anxiety pervades contemporary sexuality and I’ve yet to encounter a convincing reason why this needs to be the case.

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