Monthly Archives: March 2011

Tariq Ali in NZ

Here’s a transcript of an interview with Tariq Ali on recent events in North Africa and the Middle East. For the post-literate, you can see video of the exchange at this link:

[Additional remarks (about 10 minutes) made in an interview with a New Zealand radio program can be found here:]

Transcript of Paul Holmes Q +  A interview with Tariq Ali, March 20, 2011.

PAUL  …. Tariq Ali, welcome to the programme.


Good to be with you.

PAUL Leave aside Libya just for the moment – we’ll get to Libya, of course – but what is happening in the Middle East?  What is it about?

TARIQ  It’s about two things.  It’s firstly about people in the entire Arab world feeling that they don’t need the despots who have been ruling over them for 20, 30, 40 years and wanting to get rid of them and not being able to get rid of them through democratic elections, deciding to take history by the scruff of its neck, marching out into the streets.  And so we’ve had a process of what I would call national democratic revolution or upheavals still going in the Arab world, demanding change, demanding freedom and saying to the West, which has propped up these despots and dictators for most of the time, ‘Enough.  No more.’

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The Power

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent.

— Barack Obama, Dec. 20, 2007

Reading Signs

Vehicles belonging to loyalist forces explode after an air strike by coalition forces, along a road between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah Photograph: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters (from UK Guardian)

For those who are interested in such things, now is a good time to pay attention to the public discourse surrounding the bombardment of Libya. Some of it will be non-sensical, of course, while in other quarters arguments about international law, the legacies of (in this case Italian) colonialism, human rights, the character of air war, and the principle of “humanitarian intervention” will be put forth.

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Life Writing Prompt (HUM470)

The prompt from class on Friday:

Describe an object from your past either synecdochally or metonymically.

Synecdoche: A form of metonymy. Something is referred to indirectly, either by naming only some part of it (ex. “hands” for sailors). In other words, the part stands in for the whole.

Metonymy: the name of a thing is replaced with the name of something else closely related to it (ex. “White House” for the executive branch of the federal government).

To clarify: the chosen object should stand in for something else: a phase of your life, an event, a relationship, etc. The object is in this way a door into that other thing.

Extra (HUM415)

This was added to the course information page about a week ago:

Extra Credit Assignments:

Students may complete up to two extra credit assignments for an additional 4 points each (8 total).

Assignment #1: Screen one of the following films and write a response to it in the context of the key concepts introduced in Unit One, Unit Two and/or Unit Three. BE SURE to incorporate some degree of formal analysis. Due date: Apr. 4.

Films: District 9The Edge of HeavenA ProphetDirty Pretty ThingsViva Laldjerie.

Assignment #2: As above, but focus on key concepts discussed in Unit Five and Unit Six. Due date: May 13.

Films: Red Road; Gattaca; Videodrome; Scanner Darkly; V for Vendetta; Blade Runner; Children of Men.


Deconstructing the Text (HUM303)

Here are some of my remarks on the second section of Belsey’s essay. If you have questions or observations about them, or even vague, half-formed notions about that essay as a whole, please address them to this post.

“By these means [closure, hierarchy of discourses] classic realism offers the reader a position of knowingness which is also a position of identification with the narrative voice. To the extent that the story first constructs, and then depends for its intelligibility, on a set of assumptions shared between narrator and reader, it confirms both the transcendent knowingness of the reader-as-subject and the ‘obviousness’ of the shared truths in question” (664).

Deconstructing the Text

In the first paragraph Belsey reiterates a double truth of ideology: it is inconsistent and it conceals its inconsistencies. Against this tendency, Belsey offers the critical practice of deconstruction, a set of methods that focus not on authorial intention (what the author “really meant”) but the formal elements of the text and the way they are configured.

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