Publicly Sponsored Hate Speech

I hadn’t intended to write another post about the virulent hatred of fat, fatness, and fat people that is currently shaping our culture. My previous post on the topic led to some interesting and intense conversation, but there are many other topics to discuss and many other dangerous political trends to analyze. Besides, this is a communications blog.

But when I came across this astonishing campaign image on the subway recently, I realized that it deserves its own post.

"Cut the Junk" NYC Campaign

“Cut the Junk” NYC Campaign

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Reading Kids and Dogs

For the first time, I am simply going to post a link to another person’s content: Madeline Gabriel’s post, “Should You Share That Cute Dog and Baby Photo?” on her blog “Dogs and Babies.” But of course, since I am an academic, this “simple” redirect will be followed by a few points of analysis.

“peaceful and companionable”

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“Why the Little Things Matter”

I thought I would share this video about the presidential elections, which I’ve been showing at the beginning of my in-class Business Policy workshops. It’s well-edited and there are many comments about communication that are directly relevant to the students’ upcoming presentations. In addition, it’s a fascinating little history lesson of televised presidential debates since Nixon/Kennedy (1960). One of the commentators is Candy Crowley, who moderated last week’s debate. It’s a great conversation starter with highly topical political content to boot.

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I’m not astonished by the hatred of fatness currently present in our culture, or by the extent to which it has intensified over the past few decades. Cultures go through phases and cycles, and there are always scapegoats and victims of shame and blame. What shocks me is how fully this hatred has been adopted into public discourse.

I’m not going to rehearse the critique of anti-fat discourse in any depth here. Suffice it to say that statistical correlations between fatness and illness have nothing to say about the causes of such illness or how about how to avoid it. It is impossible to isolate the health effects of fatness in a context of rampant dieting, since dieting itself seems to be very unhealthy. Even if fatness were shown to be a predictor of certain kinds of illness, losing weight wouldn’t necessarily be a solution. And even if it were, a predisposition to illness is the last thing in the world that ought to provoke anger or scorn.

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Knowledge Politics #2: What Universities Do

This is my second post in a series on the politics of knowledge. My goal with these posts is to consider a basic question of critical university studies: How do universities differ from other kinds of social organization such as government agencies, corporations, and cause-oriented nonprofits? What is the importance of higher education? What kind of constituency does it present? What does it mean to build a social institution around the transmission and discovery of knowledge? What is “knowledge” in this context and what are its politics? [Read more…]

Competition Piece

In high school, I participated in a large-scale competitive festival of performances by high school drama clubs. This was not the beginning of my interest in theatre-making but it was a turning point for me. The production process was so intense that it was not until I had graduated college and moved to Poland to work with a professional experimental ensemble that I found something to match it.

My high school, Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, was a participant in the Massachusetts High School Drama Guild Festival, which we simply called “Festival.” I remember the competition rules exactly: Each high school sent a forty-minute production to compete. Five minutes were allowed for set-up and for strike. These time limits were strictly enforced and exceeding them meant disqualification. I remember practicing one year, over and over, to ensure the set-up of a fairly massive stage design in under five minutes. Putting up the set was as precisely choreographed as the show itself.

Comic and Tragic Masks: The MHSDG Logo

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Knowledge Politics #1: Critical University Studies

Following my last post, I had a bit of a heated exchanged with a commenter named Ryan. What came up for me from that was a desire to more fully articulate the relationship between knowledge and politics. I attempted to do something like this back in October, but as usual I bit off more than I could chew and wrote a long and probably esoteric-sounding post. I want to try again, so in the coming weeks I will attempt a series of posts that focus on the politics of knowledge from a few different angles. I hope this will be a place to work through some of my questions, and I eagerly welcome comments and feedback.

There has been much discussion recently of how to make teachers more “accountable” through measurable data, and of how and when to involve new technologies in the classroom or even to develop internet-based courses and degrees. These are important issues but, as with so many things, public debate surrounding them is for the most part superficial and shortsighted. Instead of having a real conversation about the politics of knowledge, we are distracted by reductive ideas of accountability and shallow notions of technological advance.

CUNY City College of New York

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Ethics and Politics in the Classroom

Last year I walked to class one day with a student. He told me that where he comes from professors are highly respected and that for him it was an honor to be walking to class with me. He also expressed surprise and curiosity about my being a professor at such a young age, since in his country the title of professor is usually attached to much older people. Finally, with no prompting from me, he began to explain to me why he is a proud Republican.

an honor to be walking

He told me that, as a devout Christian, he would like abortion to be completely outlawed. Furthermore, as an immigrant to this country, he would like all forms of governmental safety net to be abolished, forcing people to work harder and making things “more fair.” Finally he suggested that U.S. society can basically be understood as a conflict between white people and black people in which black people are responsible for most of the problems.

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The National Conversation

One of the points frequently made about Occupy Wall Street is that it has shifted the national conversation by putting income inequality and financial deregulation back on the table. At the same time, one of the most inspiring things about the actual site of Zuccotti Park, and the other Occupy encampments, has been their creation of a forum for open conversation about issues of local and national policy.

But what is the national conversation? Where does it take place? Whose voices are involved? Today I want to ask: Could expanding the national conversation become a focal point for political mobilization? Could activists mobilize around a clear articulation of the need for a more open, engaged, diverse national conversation? Could this be a way to bridge constituencies that currently have a hard time talking to one another?

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Pop Cultural Pop

Doing pop culture analysis is like trying to carve a tunnel through a mountainside with a spoon. But as a daily rider of public transportation, I can’t help but notice the images that barrage us as we travel from one point to another. It amazes me that we have sold this space to advertisers rather than using it for art, news, or public dialogue.

Here’s one that I noticed recently:

Advertisement for “The Big Bang Theory”

What strikes me about this ad is that it seems to un-self-consciously demonstrate mainstream America’s imaginary world of neatly defined identity categories and their associated hierarchies of power and influence.

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