Monthly Archives: February 2016

Gravy Train vs. Freedom Train (HUM415)

Here’s a little peek into American politics. At present a huge amount of attention is being paid to the mythical “Black Vote,” which is often discussed as if it were some kind of object, a prize to be gifted to the deserving candidate.

As you can see in this exchange between Dr. Cornel West and Bakari Sellers, however, there is no monolithic African American position on who will make the best Democratic nominee. Like the fabled African American community– increasingly an “imagined community,” to borrow a phrase from Benedict Anderson– the “Black Vote” is in reality plural and contradictory.

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I just got this book in the mail today, so I’m not even done with the introduction. But I had to pass this along because it almost defies comprehension:

“If there were a single indicator to measure the status of Black women in the United States, it would be the difference in median wealth for single Black women compared to single white women. A 2010 study found that the median wealth for a single white woman was $42,600 compared to the surreal median of $5 for single Black women.”

— Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation

Piketty on New Times/ Debt Collections (HUM415)

This is an interesting article by French economic historian Thomas Piketty. It’s effectively an endorsement of Bernie Sanders, but more importantly it offers a thumbnail sketch of the transformation in capitalism from the Social Democratic/ Keynesian to the Neoliberal.

Also of note: a man in Houston was arrested by 7 US marshals for a 30 year old student loan, apparently.

Chairman Fred

I bounced into this quote @ Daughter of Oya .

The full text of Fred Hampton’s speech can be found here:

We got to face some facts. That the masses are poor, that the masses belong to what you call the lower class, and when I talk about the masses, I’m talking about the white masses, I’m talking about the black masses, and the brown masses, and the yellow masses, too. We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you don’t fight capitalism with no black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.

Cui Bono (HUM415)

Upon looking into the matter more closely I discovered that the reference to cui bono came not in Hall’s “After Neoliberalism” but in Zizek’s “In the Wake of the Paris Attacks, etc.”

“The greatest victims of the Paris terror attacks,” he writes, “will be refugees themselves, and the true winners, behind the platitudes in the style of je suis Paris, will be simply the partisans of total war on both sides. This is how we should really condemn the Paris killings: not just to engage in anti-terrorist solidarity but to insist on the simple cui bono (for whose benefit?) question.”

In any case, the value of this question as a method of analysis seems pretty obvious. The corollary to it– which is intended to refine our thought– is the time-honored observation that correlation does not necessarily equate to causation. We used the school uniforms and test scores example to illustrate this principle.

“Since the headmaster mandated school uniforms students’ test scores have risen 20%.”




“Students are also being given test answers in advance.”


We watched Mark Boulos’s All That is Solid Melts Into Air and you did your first in-class writing assignment, ICW1. I’ll have the results back to you next week.

Finally, I’ll be revising the schedule of readings and the grading rubric this week.

Full Immersion Gothic (HUM220/ HUM303)

The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is hosting  a film series titled Gothic Cinema: Darkness and Desire. The films to be screened range from arthouse to grindhouse and the directors include Mario Bava, James Whale, David Lynch, Don Siegel, Georges Franju, Terence Fisher and Ingmar Berman.

Tickets are $8 for students. See