Monday, August 15, 2005

Zarvarzadeh on Pleasure and Crisis 1

Mas’ud Zavarzadeh’s 1994 “article,” “The Pedagogy of Pleasure 2: The Me-In-Crisis” is both a rant against the idea of the personal and an urgent plea for students (and scholars) to engage in a “rigorous critique of their situational in history” through ideology critique (and rigorous intellectual work, producing scientific knowledge). Zavarzadeh is vehemently opposed to the idea of the individual and strongly in favor of collective; he’s against experience and for science/knowledge; he’s against “talk” and for “reading.” In other words, Zarvarzadeh defines subjectivity as historical and class-founded, as opposed to subjectivity as individualism. At this point, I am with Zavarzadeh. We are on the same page. But Zavarzadeh takes this difference in subject formation and uses is as a jumping off point to rail against experience--seeing experience as used only to illustrate difference and thereby perpetuate the myth of the individual as distinct from others (as the “me’s” experience is not the same as the next “me’s” experience). Here he argues that experience’s “main political outcome is to mystify the historicity and class-founded nature of subjectivity.” This is because experience focuses on effects (according to Zarvarzadeh) and obscures causes: “causes have to be KNOWN through CONCEPTS.” In other words, we can’t KNOW anything through experience. Power must be theorized, not “talked” about.

This stance leads him to critique feminism and feminist pedagogy, which he describes as anti-intellectual. His goal of course here (and he as much as admits this at the end of his “article”) is to antagonize, and he does it well, but while Zavarzadeh is busy critiquing students, scholars, feminists, etc. for ignoring and/or obscuring and/or failing to recognize causes and their own situational, he fails to acknowledge the ways in which the types of knowledge and idea of CONCEPTS/CONCEPTUALITY that he calls upon are training in patriarchal modes of thinking, learning, speaking, and writing. He fails to question the ways in which the formal paper that he assigned also protects the privileges of the bourgeois subject (something he accuses his student of doing)--the ways in which a formal paper (presumably written in formal academic discourse) fails to “confront the historical and socio-economic structures of the subject in history.”

Thursday, August 04, 2005


I haven’t finished reading Julie Lindquist’s A Place to Stand: Politics and Persuasion in a Working Class Bar, so I may be jumping ahead of myself, trying to question points she is making that she later in the book addresses, complicates, and/or answers.

Still, I have questions:

On page 74 Lindquist states that “Smokehouse ideologies of class are highly narratizable, yet stubbornly unnamable.” (Background: The Smokehouse is the working class bar, which Lindquist is referring to in the title. She works there as a bartender while attaining her doctorate. In part, Lindquist is looking at the ways in which the Smokehouse regulars—“Smokehousers”—express and/or interpret class/experience through their daily discussions.) What ideologies of class are nameable? At numerous points in the book (so far), Lindquist comes to the (seemingly surprising, to her) conclusion that the Smokehousers lack a language for class, yet don’t most people? Not just working class, bar regulars…?

I am constantly running into this predicament—not having a language with which to speak about class, not having a framework for the unsatisfactory language that we do have. Because, from the folk who frequent the Smokehouse to the students who sit in our classrooms—the people don’t read class theory.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

reading 2: pleasure-in-crisis

So far this summer I have not read a single book "for pleasure." Today I went to the town library to grade papers, while sucking in the AC, and I took out a book: The Book of Salt. I think I deserve to read it.

Earlier in the summer I started reading Highsmith: A Romance of the 1950s. I wasn't terribly impressed with the writing, but I was intrigued enough to keep reading, so I would like to finish it.

I think that one or both of these two books should join me on my three day bike adventure next week. In addition, I'll bring along Zavarzadeh's "The Pedagogy of Pleasure 2: The Me-in-Crisis." Not sure what else from the academic world will come along.

Maybe the book I'm (I've been) currently reading--the one that really does not seem to apply to my project in any way (I could say this about A LOT of the things I'm reading right now--e.g. Althusser)--A Place to Stand: Politics and Persuasion in a Working Class Bar.