Monthly Archives: March 2010

Group Presentations (AMS179)

We need to establish the shape of the coming group presentations after Spring Break. There’ll be no time for that in class on Tuesday, obviously, as you’ll be taking your midterm. On Thursday, however, I’d like each group to come to class with a list of its members and its topic. We’ll spend some time that day working out who will present at what time.

Scheduling (HUM415)

In the run-up to the midterm we went somewhat askew and now, according to our original schedue, we’re about a week behind. In order to catch up I’ve decided to tweak the syllabus: we’ll drop Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, and the week after Spring Break– for three whole days or 150 minutes– focus on Frank Miller’s 300, a passage from Herodotus, and a general discussion of Iran’s history and its political misuses in US media. I strongly suggest that during your break you also begin (if not complete) William Gibson’s Neuromancer, which is one of the longer reading assignments for the course.

What else? As the syllabus says, the Hamid reading response is due on Monday, March 15.

Finally, look at this: Alexa Meade’s truly disorienting art project, Acrylic on Flesh.

Du Bois/ Midterm (HUM470)

Got white? Take the test:

A reconstruction of Du Bois’s Paris Exposition exhibit:

The malleability of race. A famous cartoon from Harper’s Weekly. Note that the grotesque caricature of the African-American figure exactly balances the grotesque caricature of the Irish-American figure.

For the midterm:

Bring a bluebook.

2 sections: identification and short essay. The former will include key phrases, names and quotes from the primary texts we’ve read. The latter will incorporate the critical categories for the study of autobiography we’ve discussed in class. Students who evince fluency with the socio-historical context of those texts will likely score high.

Recommendations: look over all the posts for American Autobiography. Have a conversation with someone in the class about what we’ve covered. Go to bed early. Come to class on time.

Any questions? Direct them to this post.

Branding (HUM415)

Today we talked about Jean-Paul Sartre’s essay and some of the final paragraphs of Nervous Conditions. We discussed the position of the “native elite” (and a related term, somewhat synonymous though generally used as a pejorative, “comprador”) in relation to both colonized and colonizers.

In Sartre’s view the native elite is “branded… as with a red-hot iron, with the principles of western culture” and functions to exploit and control more efficiently the mass of natives under colonial hegemony. The most obvious candidate for this role in Dangarembga’s novel would be Babamukuru, whose acculturation to what Ma’Singaiyi calls “Englishness” allows him to gather power and, in his eyes, uplift the family. Certainly Baba’s branch of the family is better off materially than Jeremiah’s, though his marriage and his culturally hybrid children are explicitly in crisis. If, on one hand, Baba is authoritarian and unsympathetic he also seems to fit the paradigm of the self-made man, someone who has risen socially due to ambition, luck and talent. Yet the opportunities he has maximized are provided by the missionaries who, you might recall, expect certain things– diligence, a deferential attitude, Baba’s clear-cut commitment to mission values– in return. His function as an educator is to inculcate his students with those values, to teach his students their role in Rhodesian life, to guide their ideological development and thus attempt to guarantee the social reproduction of the colony.

Recently we’ve been discussing the parallel between Tambu’s personal development– as a young woman, as a student, as a hybridized subject– and the political development of Rhodesia into the nation-state of Zimbabwe. We can link the chimurenga to decolonize and attain independence with the conflict Tambu (and that other deuteragonist Nyasha) experiences in coming of age. The dangers of the transformation are manifold: loss of identity, alienation, even madness. One question we might ask is what happens when those problems extend beyond the post-colonial individual and come to characterize the post-colonial nation?

Where We’re Headed (AMS179, HUM415, HUM470)


Tuesday we discuss Nathanael West and Theodor Adorno. Remember to print out “The Culture Industry Reconsidered.” Thursday we’ll review for the midterm.


Monday we finish out Dangarembga and Jean-Paul Sartre. Be sure to print out Sartre’s preface to Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth. Wednesday we review for the midterm. Friday we (by which I mean you) take the midterm.


Tuesday is a combination of discussion of DuBois and midterm review. Thursday is the midterm.

We Won

Good rally at the Civic Center this evening. Demos with little kids are the best. I was complimented on my slogan (“Neoliberalism is Defunct”) and a man asked me where I got my boots and how much they cost (GI Joe’s in Portland, Oregon for 60 bucks but that was like 8 years ago). I had the pleasure of seeing a few of my students, notably Comrade Sara who graciously agreed to pose for a cell phone picture:

Also, I gathered a few facts:

2009 California budget cuts: 15 billion

One month in Iraq and Afghanistan: 12 billion

Budget gap facing all 50 states in 2010: 180 billion

Income of top 500,000 Californians: 175 billion

2010 military spending: roughly 1 trillion

Wealth of richest 1% of Americans: 21.9 trillion


MARCH 4 (AMS179, HUM470)

AMS179 is cancelled on Thursday, Mar. 4 due to a strike action. You can read more about it here.

HUM470 will have an abbreviated class until the picket begins at about 10 a.m. In deference to those participating in the strike I will not take roll. Attendance is optional.