the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

Archive for September, 2009

Keeping up

Posted by rigorousm on September 28, 2009

“… the voice is always  more than the body from which it emanates and less than the meaning it materially supports.”

– Eric L. Santner, “Miracles Happen: Benjamin, Rosenzweig, Freud, and the Matter of the Neighbor” in The Neighbor: Three Inquiries in Political Theology (2006), pp. 104.


  • Condencity (here). Poetry, photographs, observations about being in cities. Located in Seoul.
  • For Flavorwire: Dispatches from the Field: Urban Love Hotels in Seoul. (here)
  • For Flavorwire: Grace Kim’s photography: Love Hotel Series. (here)

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ANTH 345: earlier notes

Posted by rigorousm on September 22, 2009


It’s easy to offer yourself as sacrifice if no one is willing to sacrifice you.

Power is sacred; every state has a sort of religious core and mystique. Primary myth: the death of the sovereign (individual(s) who have and contain power) — what is the power that emanates when he/she is killed? Sacrifice always releases massive amounts of power.

Are some individuals inherently dangerous? If so, does the State have the right to treat them differently?

The State does not invent; it appropriates from outside. The State wishes to maintain its equilibrium and will expel those who don’t fit.

The abject is related to the expulsion of things. It is desired by both the masochistic and the sadistic. It has relations to the political (getting rid of undesirable (infectious, polluted) characters).

  • Julie Kristeva – “Powers of Horror.” On “the abject” and the attraction to death, which is repulsive.
  • Maso – “Venus in Furs.” Contradicting components of love.
  • Deleuze – “Desert Islands.” Continental versus originary or oceanic islands. The dream of starting anew. The myth of second origin. The revelation of profound opposition.


Paranoia defined: an obsession with secrecy, the belief of being in the midst of enemy space.

Systems create certain affects; how does socialism create paranoia? The big question: what sort of affects does the State produce through atmosphere?

Movements on the micropolitical scale (the neighborhood, small groups) are dangerous because they are imperceptible.

Censorship on higher levels creates a culture of rumor: selective secrecy. It takes two forms: the governmental/constraining/controlling and the social/viral/uncontrollable. It creates social schizophrenia: the good citizen doesn’t gossip, but also speaks to the proper authorities about suspicious activities.

Affect & desire: why do we/does desire desire our/its own repression? Lack-desire is making oneself into the right kind of person because one lacks — so much constant deprivation must effect a transformation. Is desire instinctual or created? Is it always passive? What does it mean to have desire for courage? Being a revolutionary is all about desire — and personality. Producing desires is engineered through will, but production is not the same as understanding. Must desire be spoken? The refusal to define things in terms of lack is radical, is against desire. If you are always aware of your actions in terms of systems and structure, you can never truly be radical; your thoughts will be in terms of lack, which is reactionary. Creative endeavor is one’s own desire without regard for what one lacks.

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Posted by rigorousm on September 22, 2009

Listening: Debussy.

Watching: “Aachi & Ssipak,” a Korean animated film whose wiki plot summary is: “Sometime in the future, mankind has depleted all energy and fuel sources, however they have somehow engineered a way to use human excrement as fuel. To reward production, the government hands out extremely addictive, popsicle-like “Juicybars”, which in turn also act as a laxative. Aachi and Ssipak are street hoodlums who struggle to survive by trading black market Juicybars. Through a chain of events involving their porn-director acquaintance Jimmy the Freak, they meet wannabe-actress Beautiful, whose defecations are rewarded by exceptional quantities of Juicybars. For that reason, Beautiful is also wanted by the violent blue mutants known as the Diaper Gang (led by the Diaper King), the police (most notably the cyborg police officer Geko), and others.”

Not a great movie by any means, but amusing. Could be read in parts as about the anger of a generation who has sacrificed their labor and their bodies to reproduce society and is furious at being alienated (literally driven underground, no longer categorized as humans) after their contributions. Could be read as a critique of excessive consumerism: buying things is shit, your payments are installments of shit. Could also be a relatively mindless cartoon about gangsters and poop.

Part One.6 Greatness.214 We come to know truth not only by reason, but even more by our heart; it is through this second way that we know first principles, and reason, which has no part in it, tries in vain to undermine them…. the knowledge of first principles, such as the existence of space, time, movement, number (is) just as solid as anything produced by reasoning. And reason must trust this instinctive knowledge and base all its arguments on it….

Part Two.8. Mischellaneous Notes 925. Rivers are roads which move, and take us where we want to go.

Rhetoric 957. When some feeling or effect is described in a natural style, we feel within ourselves the truth of what we hear without previously knowing that it was there. We are therefore well disposed towards the person who made us feel it, because he has not made a display of his own riches but of ours; and so the benefit that he has conferred on us makes him sympathetic, apart from the fact that our similarity of outlook necessarily arouses our sympathy.

– Pascal’s “Pensees.”

Unintentional (Subjective?) Themed Summer Readings

A few years ago, about repressed and suicidal blond women, repressed and motherly dark-haired women – some Sylvia Plath, some works by an excellent Japanese author whose name I forget – very atmospheric, stylistically stilted but intentionally so, often the events took place in Tokyo during the summer.

This summer, the theme was upper-crust Atlantic layabouts—the vain, upwardly mobile (or at least ambitious) women (who get by solely on their quote unquote charms and don’t know much else – nothing about money management) and the men who love them (or think that they love them, although they mistake passion and patriarchal/overprotective instincts for love. They are frequently alcoholics. They tend to come to bad ends; they are never happy, even (especially?) when they have the things they think they want.

More commonalities: the women trading in on looks, relying on alcohol to make society happen, slow loss of ideals and morals, the mistaken assumption that causing scandal is the same thing as asserting individuality and creativity. Very few of the characters do anything with their lives – they think about writing books, sometimes – they believe that the immediate state of being is more important than doing. (Which is something Wharton writes in another one of her books.)

The point being as long as men control money, law, occupation and education — and education about all of the aforementioned, women are disadvantaged. If they cannot be given the means to control their lives, if their only capital is being pretty, their only bargaining tools femininity, how can equality ever enter into the picture?

  • Henrik Ibsen – The Doll’s House
  • Edith Wharton – Summer
  • Edith Wharton – Custom of the Country
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Beautiful and the Damned
  • sort of: Gossip Girl, Mad Men

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ANTH345 – notes on The Neighbor – Three Inquiries in Political Theology – 9/21

Posted by rigorousm on September 22, 2009

Introduction: Freud’s understanding of the neighbor as that which is encountered and must be (the human instinct for aggression) done violence makes the commandment “love your neighbor as yourself” difficult to understand, much less do. Although excess is (now) seen as the core element of humanity, it is an intensity adversely affecting man’s search for happiness-in-moderation; therefore man may become amoral in order to avoid those injunctions that intensify life and restrict pleasure and comfort.

Slajov Zizek – “Neighbors and Other Monsters: A Plea for Ethical Violence”

Because this society is permissive the revelation of one’s (emotive) self is (a) not radical (b) disgusting.

Ethical violence is defined as “the tendency to submit to criticism ethical injunctions that ‘terrorize’ us with the brutal imposition of their universality” (135). The fallout of its common practice seems to be (a) the complete malleability of the past — change it to serve one’s ‘self-realization’ (b) the denial of the effects of the past on the subject (because they can, thus ought to, perform the self-realizing task of rewriting, therefore trauma should no longer exist).

The Self (decentered, exposed, unknowable in full, embedded, finite), the imaginary Other (the semblant, relates to the Self by mutual recognition (of humanity), by the Self’s responsibility (and eventual moral activity), by competition), the Other qua Real (the impossible Things, the inhuman partner with which no exchange is possible), the Symbolic Other (the big Other, signifying structure, an impersonal set of rules coordinating the Self’s existence, determines the Self, the Third (the bounced back gaze)) are all in relation. The Self encounters the imaginary Other and, suspecting the Other qua Real to be lurking within, must rely on the symbolic Other to interact with imaginary Other.

When one gets what one secrety wants (actively assumed passivity = shame), one is no longer the same subject; an argument about the uncanny: what people create in their heads as fantasy cannot be realized, and an encounter with real-life replication/approximation is monstrous, dehumanizing, desubjectivizing. (147-148)

(156) The harsh answer to Levinas: killing Others is necessary for one to exist.

(164) JOUISSANCE defined: “that which we cannot ever attain and that which we cannot ever get rid of.” Defined in the PED as “possession and use of something affording advantage; enjoyment; pleasure.”

Does therapy implicitly or explicitly undermine the power of the big Other/symbolic order? SZ (later) says no, the first-second-third remains.

(171-3) Exhibitionism forces the witness to acknowledge the flaws in the grander ambivalence, to acknowledge his own ambivalence about those flaws; is the shame of the witness that he has failed to carry out the Law? Is shame only bodily? (177) Shame is only possible/meaningful within a symbolic order — so would it be applicable to the anomic atheist?

(178) Let’s do the time warp again: the modern subject is one who slips out of the stream of living and privately views it withotu himself being viewed — but is this an illusion of security? Or of ever being watched at all?

(184) If love is privileging one out of many, and justice is the recognition of the faceless many, you have to realize that every relation is actually carried out with the (silent, UNacknowledged) presence of the faceless third (which is either god or society or the people we don’t ever recognize as such) or the consequence is that you personalize all acts and therein lies the possibility of allowing anything — permissiveness.

In-class notes:

If shame is the recognition of alterity of the Other and is also the forced spectacle (rather than quietly being), what is its relation to toal exposure? Does shame only occur in a shameless/shameful combination of persons?

If Zizek’s subject is always impenetrable (that is, cannot be given clear-cut meaning), both to self and others, then what is an act of exposure? Can it be total? Can it be interpreted or analyzed? Can it be total but also an engima (resistent to relating). Does it create a feeling of repression or shame in the self?

“Sad passions” = recognition of the enigma in others should be joyful: comfortable monstrosity.

Earnest permissiveness vs. complicit censorship. The consumption of other people’s affect (specifically emotional exhibitionism) is deadening; the importance of pitiless censorship of the self: be selective in what you use to think with. Do we already have a society where standards and judgment are lost?

Censorship is creating your own structure, finetuning your process and intensity. We need to feel estrangement through art.

All of this only applies to exceptional people.

The result of becoming a secret is that one can be understood in brief (certain intensities are shared) but incomprehensible as a whole, uncontainable, transparent but impenetrable.

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hodgepodge life

Posted by rigorousm on September 14, 2009

Listening: That Mitchell and Webb Sound.

Watching: Seducing Mr. Perfect, Afro Samurai.

Reading: Completed: Edith Wharton – Summer, Anne Allilson – “Memoirs of the Orient,” Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 27, no. 2 (Summer, 2001), pp. 381-398. In Progress: Philip Gourevitch – We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda + school reading.

Doing: Thesis proposal, getting to know Portland (again).

“Poetry and prose:
[indent]In prose too much seems superfluous to me, in poetry (genuine) everything is necessary. Given my attraction to the asceticism of the prosaic word, I could end up with a skeleton.
[indent]In poetry — there’s a certain innate measure of flesh: less is impossible.”

– Marina Tsvetaeva, “Excerpts from the Book Earthly Signs”

“…postfeminism as a cultural shorthand and popular characterization– embodied onscreen by girly heroines, Final Girls, ad female dicks — needs to be addressed in media studies as a factor in both production and reception, as an interpretive grid, and as a commodification of certain feminist issues. That is, inaccurate though the term may be as a way to describe a history of feminism, “postfeminism” by now accurately describes how filmmakers, audiences, and the media may conceptualize certain characters and narratives.
At its worst, such an interpretation enables “the tactic of publicly burying feminism”…. Sexual and racial differences are buried, too. … most alarming for me is how the lesbian overtones of the hardboiled, high-heeled heroine fade when the heels are Manolo Blahnik rather than femme masquerade. The availability of the commodity posits an egalitarian utopia in which sexual, racial, and ethnic differences among consumers recede — supposedly one of the pleasures of the postfeminist aesthetic. What is also lost is another pleasure of the detective genre: the impact of the woman in the man’s shoes, so to speak, and the resulting dissonance between bodies and genders that can suggest that the lesbian body is a particular political and social entity.” (122-123)
– Linda Mizejewski. “Dressed to Kill: Postfeminist Noir,” Cinema Journal, Vol. 44, No. 2 (Winter, 2005), pp. 121-127.

“Bureaucratic rationalisation… revolutionises with technical means… ‘from without’ — it first changes the materials and social orders, and through them, the people, by changing the conditions of adaptation — by contrast the power of charisma rests upon the belief in revolution and heroes… charismatic belief revolutionises men ‘from within’ and shapes material and social conditions according to its revolutionary will.”
– Max Weber, Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology, 1978, p. 116.

“Frontiers are, of course, particular sorts of spaces — symbolically, ideologically, and materially. They represent the first wave of modernity to break on the shores of an uncharted heartland. As the cutting edge of state-sponsored forms of accumulation, frontiers are characteristically savage, primitive, and unregulated. At the margins of state power, they create their own territorial form of law and (dis)order. … But frontiers are also locally encoded in symbolic terms, and often carry a powerful ideological valency, particularly when national identity itself is seen to derive from “frontier stock,” or if economic potential (“development”) is seen to be wedded to the opening of the frontier.” (116-7)
– Watts, Michael J. 1992. “Space for Everything (A Commentary). Cultural Anthropology 7(1):115-129.

“Europe is far removed from the center of civilization, which is the Chinese Empire. As for the various sorts of people who live there – calling themselves Russian, Turkish, English, French, German, and so forth—it would not be a serious error to think of them as closer to beasts of the field than humans. And their language, furthermore, being as the shrike’s tongue, is difficult to listen to. Their religion, called Christianity, swarms with vulgarities, superstitions, and false beliefs and does not go beyond the heresies of barbarians. They are beneath the consideration of cultured men.”

– Minster of Education, Sin Ki-son, 1896 textbook on the West

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ANTH414 notes: Kathleen Stewart – Ordinary Affects

Posted by rigorousm on September 6, 2009

Is it possible to be outside the ordinary, escaping the mainstream? Compare and contrast with Simmel re: numbing/attention (country:difference:: city:same).
Compare and contrast with Massumi’s arrow? (Potential versus actuality) Importance of GROUPS versus free radicals of people.
Compare and contrast with Veena Das: the descent into the ordinary versus KS’ only relation is that of feeling.
KS talking about the self on the scale of micro movement – is she straddling the 3 scales of instantaneous process, macro levels, strategic thing?
KS levels all types of evidence. Is the ordinary portable? Patterns (the importance of)? Everything continues? Is this book and its analysis usable for contexts outside the US?
Was there an event for us – but we don’t know what it was and we’re continually descending into the ordinary? Are we united by eventlessness? Is the no common thread? Or is everyone feeling AS IF they went through the world-obliterating violence but it’s just an affective characteristic.
Postmodern: subject? point of view?

  • Person (bounded, entity within context): Mauss, Geertz, Goffman, Halliwell, Simmel (?).
  • Self (relational): Volosinov, Geertz, Goffman, Freud, Simmel (?)
  • Subject (sometimes linguistic, post-Freud): Lacan, Foucault, Das (?), Massumi (?), Volosinov, Badiou, Urban, Goffman (feeling), Humphrey.

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Posted by rigorousm on September 6, 2009

Listening: Macbeth, classical music (no more vocals).

Watching: detective shows, Inglourious Basterds.

Reading: Completed: Genet, collection of Sherlock Holmes, Nellie Bly – Ten Days in a Madhouse, Henrik Ibsen – A Doll’s House. In Progress: The Love Letters of Abelard and Heloise, Henry James – The Aspern Papers, Edith Wharton – Summer.

Doing: back to school.


  • A Brief History of Shorthand @ NYTimes. (here)
  • Su Blackwell’s book sculptures @ the Millions. (here)
  • Short films library @ the REEL 13 website. (here)
  • Korean furniture museum and seongnakwon @ designboom. (here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7)

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ANTH414 – person, self, and subject notes – alain badiou – saint paul: the foundation of universalism 3/31/09

Posted by rigorousm on September 6, 2009

Event – truth process- rupture is actually a continuous process although there is a moment.
SUBJECT – not a reconstitution but WHOLLY NEW; what’s unknown prior to the EVENT is the shaper of the event. The unknown is potentially available to all (compare with Humphrey’s non subject – 363) – the subject is the one who can articulate the truth? The fourth discourse (mysterious) (59-51). A proper event is going to be universalist.
In a conversion experience, the Other is an event, a non person (but is the same as intersubjective a la psycho logistic analysis or Rosaldo?).
Agency/action – knowledge/desire: what you want is interdicted by the law (which determines sins, articulates prohibitions), something beyond what’s permitted – the void. Because the event is nonpartializing it overturns the particularized prohibitions of law. Cathexys.
Universals exist! (But universality is not true everywhere; Badiou is against relativism. BUT if you believe it, you have a perspective, it‘s a singular event (that allows you to forge a path into law).) Art-Love-Science-Politics actualize Truths – Badiou is a theorist of breaks (which anthropology has a hard time discussing; continuity and stabilization are preferred and disjunctive moments are erased)(the break is the disjunctive period, counting new things) and not of everyday life.
Badiou is the opposite of embodiment theorists, e.g. Massumi.  The Father is problematic because authority is isolated – the Son changes the nature of authority and subject-hood. (Love, Solidarity, radical subjectivity)
The importance of relations and networks to understanding – individual subjects can constitute themselves – process v. in-action.
Evil for Badiou: People who use the Event to perpetuate the system that gave rise to the Event, e.g., Fascists.

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urban anthropology notes – ANTH374 – 2/5/09: the chicago school

Posted by rigorousm on September 6, 2009

  • What makes a city? How is a city (Chicago particularly) in the eyes of Wirth, Park, Burgess, and Hannerz bounded, divided, defined?
  • How are these spaces socially defined?

Wirth on segregation – incompatible modes (moral/abstract/ethical claims of difference) of life.
‘City’ must not be confused with industrial capitalism; city as economy versus capitalist city; the alienation of producer and consumer, relations for utility. (7) The visual hegemony and categorization of people is very capitalist/utilitarian: everything is material, controlled. (16)

  • Are the increased differences in a city more than such high numbers of people might account for? Consider divisions of labor, economic specialization.
  • In comparison: Wirth is making a critique of Park and Burges – material objective understanding. Government is not mentioned as much — it is implicitly ignored because structure is not important? Or is economy more important? Does Wirth make an implicit “culture concept”?
  • Is Portland a progressive city? NB ‘progressive’ is not the same as ‘permissive.’ Check out

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