THEORY

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THEORY

Postby INNIT » Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:27 am

i've been wanting to make a dedicated T H E O RY thread for awhile now, where we can all ramble on about society and capitalism without clogging up other topics.

what is theory?

who knows, really. in the broadest sense, it's a way of critiquing society and culture using knowledges produced in the arts and sciences. this definition, however, is so broad as to be almost nebulous, so if anyone has a better way of defining "theory" or "Theory" or "critical theory" i very much encourage you to do so.

theory encompasses a multitude of very different and often contradictory schools of thought. to name a few: marxism, postmodernism/poststructuralism, feminism, black studies, critical race theory, indigenous studies, queer theory, trans theory, affect theory, new materialism, postcolonial theory, etc.* all of these fields, and the numerous others i haven't named, are up for discussion.

*note: none of these "fields" are stable categories: they all variously intersect and diverge. in other words, they all communicate with each other.

unfortunately, accessing theory usually means identifying a specific theoretical field that intrigues you and engaging with its texts directly. fortunately, we live in a time of interweb gadgets that liberate us from meat space and enable us to access a vast array of pdf texts for free. do you want to read butler's "gender troubles"? BOOM. that took me like 5 seconds to find, get on it people.

who does theory?

i would like to say everyone and anyone willing to put in the time. in reality, most theoretical writing is produced by academics within the humanities/social sciences. all of the above listed "fields" are contributed to by scholars writing within disciplines as diverse as philosophy, history, psychology, literature, sociology, political science, economics, physics, etc.

that said, i am a firm believer that it can be socialized beyond the academy, with a little work.

a note on jargon

in the interest of bringing people into the discussion, please socialize words that may be construed as jargon. the onus is on the poster to post something comprehensible (which i often fail to do myself)

so like, what do we talk about

i encourage everyone to use theory to discuss whatever it is that interests them, whether that be comic books, novels, films, fashion, theory itself, internet stuff, robot stuff, the iphone 4, whatever. ask questions, give answers, no one's an expert on this stuff and if i can fool academics into thinking that i am smart, so can you.

in conclusion

i'm just going to post a bunch of pictures of cool-looking theorists. good inspo also

Spoiler:
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Re: THEORY

Postby YoungCanoeist » Thu Oct 11, 2018 2:06 am

theorist list too white

Spoiler:
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george jackson

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WALTER RODNEY

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eve tuck

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kwame nkrumah

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amilcar cabral

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angela davis, obv

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grace lee and james boggs

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MARIA STEWART who produced the ideas articulated by

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david walker

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jose maria sison

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cedric robinson

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fannie lou hamer

ruth simms hamilton, pic not available

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thomas sankara

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kim il sung

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sekou toure

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liu shaoqi

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rhacel salazar parrenas

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catherine ceniza choy

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can't forget grandpa

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nor uncle ho

twitter @ztsamudzi @DecolonialBlack @trannycita @Alysonesque @SaltyLilOjibwe @Andrea_Lakota @tulukaruq @HamsickAndBrush @HalfAtlanta @bell_shakur @queersocialism @AjamuBaraka @ajitxsingh @tsengputterman, more

need more trans, women, queer, chicanx, native, south asian, west asian, caribbean theorists in my knowledge base, let me know!!
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Re: THEORY

Postby norman » Thu Oct 11, 2018 4:45 pm

this is all too smart for me but I'm interested in reading people's contributions
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Re: THEORY

Postby rjbman » Thu Oct 11, 2018 7:11 pm

not sure if this falls under the purpose of this but has anyone here read Non-places by Mark Auge? read it after hearing it mentioned in The Supermodern Wardrobe (great book)... it definitely felt a little academic for uninformed me, but the main point:

over time there's been a large rise in these supermodern transitional "non-places", essentially places that exist only as a way to get from point A to point B without providing anything of value, be that value civic involvement, casual socialization, etc. easy example: subways. is this bad? probably

anywas now that's sort of extending through changes in society, such as smartphones, that lead to less interactions between people with similar geographies. there's also a rise in these psuedopublic spaces that i think are loosely related: places that seem to be public, but are actually private and subject to different laws than say, a real public park.

rambling now so i'll cut it off here, but any thoughts? i think there can probably be two lines of thought tbh, smartphones and their effect on society could be a whole fucking forum on its own
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Re: THEORY

Postby wrong » Thu Oct 11, 2018 9:20 pm

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paulo freire
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Re: THEORY

Postby thephfactor » Fri Oct 12, 2018 2:58 am

my favorite theorists:

mom
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dad
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and the person reading this <3
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Re: THEORY

Postby kickingthefly » Mon Oct 15, 2018 5:50 am

wait is it ok to rep judith now after avital ronell letter thing
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Re: THEORY

Postby Naka_ » Mon Oct 15, 2018 7:18 am

haven't had that much time for reading recently so I'm gonna try out audiobooks. First up is Anna Tsing's The Mushroom at the End of the World. I really enjoy theory that plays with form so I hope it's a good fit with the format.
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Re: THEORY

Postby eli7 » Mon Oct 15, 2018 6:34 pm

So what does everything think about the Sokal Hoax? If you're unfamiliar you can read a short opinion piece about it here:

https://anthrodendum.org/2018/10/12/sokal-squared-as-satire/

I tend to steer clear of writing in a traditionally academic way (at least whats traditional in the humanities). Although I am a theory-head, I need things I write to be explicable in simple terms because you can really tangled up in jargon when you're formulating theoretical backgrounds for a practical project. I have undergrads that dabble in theory and what they write literally makes no sense and they can't explain their arguments because they depend on a set of vocabulary they've recently learned, not realizing that the words have meanings. Every semester when it comes to teaching about basic theories of time and temporality, I have to have a discussion about the inherent purpose of theory and jargon and why it's not just a convoluted or pleonastic way of saying something simple (even though it absolutely is that sometimes).

That being said, I love Reza Negarestani for how obtuse he can be. Some theory/philosophy I don't even try to read in a linear way, I just sort of look at the page and create word clouds in my mind because it would take me 1,000 years to get through one piece. I think it works sometimes, especially with Deleuze and Guatari but I'm sure most people don't see it this way and just read it and understand every nuance somehow. Not me though.

Here's a good chat between Susan Sontag and John Berger that I enjoy about how to tell a story(she was always criticized for how she densely she expressed herself):
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Re: THEORY

Postby INNIT » Tue Oct 16, 2018 2:20 am

eli7 wrote:So what does everything think about the Sokal Hoax? If you're unfamiliar you can read a short opinion piece about it here:

https://anthrodendum.org/2018/10/12/sokal-squared-as-satire/

I tend to steer clear of writing in a traditionally academic way (at least whats traditional in the humanities). Although I am a theory-head, I need things I write to be explicable in simple terms because you can really tangled up in jargon when you're formulating theoretical backgrounds for a practical project. I have undergrads that dabble in theory and what they write literally makes no sense and they can't explain their arguments because they depend on a set of vocabulary they've recently learned, not realizing that the words have meanings. Every semester when it comes to teaching about basic theories of time and temporality, I have to have a discussion about the inherent purpose of theory and jargon and why it's not just a convoluted or pleonastic way of saying something simple (even though it absolutely is that sometimes).

That being said, I love Reza Negarestani for how obtuse he can be. Some theory/philosophy I don't even try to read in a linear way, I just sort of look at the page and create word clouds in my mind because it would take me 1,000 years to get through one piece. I think it works sometimes, especially with Deleuze and Guatari but I'm sure most people don't see it this way and just read it and understand every nuance somehow. Not me though.



i had never heard of this hoax but agree that it is super fucking funny

a few unorganized thoughts:

i have no idea what "traditional" academic writing is. i think a case could easily be made that the extremely dense writing styles of french post structuralists (i bring them up because they are the theorists most often accused of being arbitrarily obscure) have long been out of fashion within the humanities. sara ahmed's career trajectory is a good a example: compare the way that she writes in "affective economies" (2004) to the way that she writes in any of her later works (e.g. "pursuit of happiness" (2010)). put simply: using simple language, personal anecdotes, examples from popular culture, etc. to contextualize and unfold arguments is trendy right now. experimenting with form in academic writing is especially trendy.

i think that all academic writing is subject to trend and mood and style. if we all just systematically stated our arguments as bluntly and linearly as possible we would be boring and we can leave the burden of writing boring papers to people in STEM fields.

hyper reading (http://nkhayles.com/how_we_read.html). katherine hayles, the person that usually comes before donna haraway in the "posthumanism" section of theory anthologies, talks about how younger generations hyper read (rather than "close read"). the simple fact is that D+G will appear to be a dense web of jargon unless you've gone back and read spinoza and nietzsche and simondon and a bunch of other old white people. this sounds elitist and old and stodgy but holy fuck is it true. but nobody goes backwards anymore; instead, they read theoretical texts laterally alongside webpages that give the "gist" of what the text means, and mine the text for snippets of jargon and quotable material. engaging a complex work for an extended duration to properly grasp what it's trying to say is off the table. many factors contribute to this phenomenon: waning attention spans, shorter periods to complete degrees (and therefore to read shitloads of background material), the fact that reading old stuff is boring while reading new stuff is fun, failing to contextualize theorists within their philosophical lineages, etc.

why is simplicity demanded of the humanities and only the humanities, even at the highest level of scholarship? presumably i wouldn't be able to understand a graduate level paper about quantum physics, but that wouldn't lead me to accuse the author of being needlessly obscure or jargonistic. i think that there is an underlying presumption that the knowledges produced in the humanities are, at their core, simple, and only made complex through language, because how could assertions made about culture and society actually be complex??

undergrads do misuse jargon but honestly i'm pretty impressed when i find out that a 19 year old student is tackling lacan or something, even if their argument makes no sense.
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Re: THEORY

Postby eli7 » Tue Oct 16, 2018 12:58 pm

why is simplicity demanded of the humanities and only the humanities, even at the highest level of scholarship? presumably i wouldn't be able to understand a graduate level paper about quantum physics, but that wouldn't lead me to accuse the author of being needlessly obscure or jargonistic. i think that there is an underlying presumption that the knowledges produced in the humanities are, at their core, simple, and only made complex through language, because how could assertions about culture and society actually be complex??


Yea I encounter this a lot, particularly with undergrads. Students will straight up prioritize a STEM exam/assignment over my own. They ask for extensions all the time because they have other work they want to get in on time and they think they can submit any bullshit that completes the page minimum and that will assure them at least a B+. Especially if they use concepts like liminality and anthropocentrism. I always give it to them because it makes no difference to me if things are in on time but I do recognize the asymmetry. Grades are in fact inflated in the humanities, the medium at my university is an A- which is absolutely insane given the quality of the work that is regularly submitted. I think STEM medium is like B+ or something like that (ivys are very generous with grades). Of course there are great students as well, ones who really want to learn and do really quality work.

Ok, back to theory though. I want to make the offer that if people on here are looking for papers/books in particular bodies of theory that they're intrigued by, we can share PDFs and recs here. I do this all the time with friends and students who want to read stuff I'm into like mult-species anthro (hey Donna and hey Derrida's cat), post-humanism, queer theory (Paul B. Preciado's Testo-Junkie is bonkers good, so is Mel Chen's Animacies), things like time/temporality, landscape theory, thing theory, etc. I love sharing stuff especially because I have access to lots of databases.

Another thought: Another thing that comes up a lot is whether a theorist should be recognized purely for their contributions to a given field and have their personal misgivings overlooked. This most recently came up with Judith Butlers defense of Avital Ronell. For me, I will not read Heidegger even though profs in my department assign him constantly and love him dearly, it's my own personal war. What I will do is read other theorists on Heidegger like Graham Harman or something so I'm not lost when seminar discussions turn to him.
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Re: THEORY

Postby Naka_ » Tue Oct 16, 2018 1:21 pm

eli7 wrote:Ok, back to theory though. I want to make the offer that if people on here are looking for papers/books in particular bodies of theory that they're intrigued by, we can share PDFs and recs here. I do this all the time with friends and students who want to read stuff I'm into like mult-species anthro (hey Donna and hey Derrida's cat), post-humanism, queer theory (Paul B. Preciado's Testo-Junkie is bonkers good, so is Mel Chen's Animacies), things like time/temporality, landscape theory, thing theory, etc. I love sharing stuff especially because I have access to lots of databases.

Another thought: Another thing that comes up a lot is whether a theorist should be recognized purely for their contributions to a given field and have their personal misgivings overlooked. This most recently came up with Judith Butlers defense of Avital Ronell. For me, I will not read Heidegger even though profs in my department assign him constantly and love him dearly, it's my own personal war. What I will do is read other theorists on Heidegger like Graham Harman or something so I'm not lost when seminar discussions turn to him.


That's a great idea, much appreciated. I wonder if you have anything about politics or relations with Waste? If anything springs to mind... I'm quite interested in human-waste relationships and it's obvious links with climate change.
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Re: THEORY

Postby soko » Tue Oct 16, 2018 2:50 pm

had a party at mine and someone knocked over the hookah :cool:
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Re: THEORY

Postby JewTurk » Tue Oct 16, 2018 6:03 pm

eli7 wrote:
why is simplicity demanded of the humanities and only the humanities, even at the highest level of scholarship? presumably i wouldn't be able to understand a graduate level paper about quantum physics, but that wouldn't lead me to accuse the author of being needlessly obscure or jargonistic. i think that there is an underlying presumption that the knowledges produced in the humanities are, at their core, simple, and only made complex through language, because how could assertions about culture and society actually be complex??


Yea I encounter this a lot, particularly with undergrads. Students will straight up prioritize a STEM exam/assignment over my own. They ask for extensions all the time because they have other work they want to get in on time and they think they can submit any bullshit that completes the page minimum and that will assure them at least a B+. Especially if they use concepts like liminality and anthropocentrism. I always give it to them because it makes no difference to me if things are in on time but I do recognize the asymmetry. Grades are in fact inflated in the humanities, the medium at my university is an A- which is absolutely insane given the quality of the work that is regularly submitted. I think STEM medium is like B+ or something like that (ivys are very generous with grades). Of course there are great students as well, ones who really want to learn and do really quality work.

Ok, back to theory though. I want to make the offer that if people on here are looking for papers/books in particular bodies of theory that they're intrigued by, we can share PDFs and recs here. I do this all the time with friends and students who want to read stuff I'm into like mult-species anthro (hey Donna and hey Derrida's cat), post-humanism, queer theory (Paul B. Preciado's Testo-Junkie is bonkers good, so is Mel Chen's Animacies), things like time/temporality, landscape theory, thing theory, etc. I love sharing stuff especially because I have access to lots of databases.

Another thought: Another thing that comes up a lot is whether a theorist should be recognized purely for their contributions to a given field and have their personal misgivings overlooked. This most recently came up with Judith Butlers defense of Avital Ronell. For me, I will not read Heidegger even though profs in my department assign him constantly and love him dearly, it's my own personal war. What I will do is read other theorists on Heidegger like Graham Harman or something so I'm not lost when seminar discussions turn to him.


Interesting article (https://medium.com/@soleri/sexual-abuse ... ecb8e99648) about this by Daniela Soleri (daughter of Paolo Soleri). I read Soleri's the bridge between matter and spirit is matter becoming spirit which was just a collection of some of his essays over an extended amount of time, talking about his idea of arcology. Regardless, I kind of lean on the side of it being okay to enjoy/partake in peoples work but you should be willing to accept the fact you're supporting someone with some problematic aspects to them.

I'll have to look for a copy of Testo-Junkie.
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Re: THEORY

Postby INNIT » Tue Oct 16, 2018 6:17 pm

everyone has problematic aspects to them. all of the progressives of yesteryear are now being critiqued ad nauseam for the implicit violences contained within their works. D+G have been ripped apart by theorists within indigenous studies/postcolonial studies/black studies, foucault is a neoliberal, etc. the problem is that many of these authors' ideas have become fundamental to entire strains of thought and their theories have become the baseline assumptions that certain fields proceed from (queer theory w/o foucault? feminism w/o butler?). solutions to this always seem pretty binary: either throw away the author completely or continue to use them (while very tastefully mentioning their shortcomings).

a form of suspicious criticism and reading has taken over in recent years. here's felski on "the hermeneutics of suspicion" (http://journal.media-culture.org.au/ind ... e/view/431). there is a much longer version of this that you can read ("the limits of critique). i find suspicious critiques to be kind of boring, often obvious, and always necessary (though, not necessarily generative).

we'll all be dinosaurs one day, folks
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