Category Archives: General

My Mistake

I had the feeling I mispoke in class today when I said that it is illegal to be gay in Russia. Technically, that’s not true. Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1993. (Notably it was first decriminalized the year of the Russian Revolution, 1917, and recriminalized with the consolidation of Stalinist power in 1933.) See below:


Homosexuality in Russia – unlike more than 40 countries in the Commonwealth and 70 worldwide – is not illegal. To date, over six months since the law came into force, fewer than a dozen people have been fined for “gay propaganda”. Not a single person has been jailed. Russian police do not have powers to detain people they suspect of simply being gay or lesbian, as a New York Times leader erroneously stated last year. If this were so, then how do we explain the fact that gay clubs are able to advertise and operate in Moscow and other big cities?


If Putin is indeed waging war on Russia’s LGBT community, then why has he not followed the example of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, which has just introduced a new law that stipulates jail sentences of up to 14 years for gay people? Or India, the world’s largest democracy, where the supreme court recently reinstated a colonial-era ban on gay sex? If he wants to get really harsh, of course, Putin could look to Saudi Arabia, whose habit of executing homosexuals has done little to break up what Barack Obama has called the “long history of friendship” between Washington and Riyadh. This, of course, is the same Obama who has “no patience” for Russia’s gay propaganda law.

Left Alone

Sean Smith, a photographer working for the UK Guardian who has done some stellar reporting from both Iraq and Afghanistan, has a new clip up on the Guardian’s website.

Housekeeping (VIAL)

It was good to see everyone in class today. Remember that the first two assignments have already been given: 1) go to and personalize that page with the key phrases a) american values and b) american life AND 2) read through page 62 of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It’s important that you get the edition at the bookstore because we’ll be using some of the material at the end of the book. 

Friday I’ll lecture on what we mean when we use the term “values” and relate that concept to the idea of national identity and everyday life. Recall that the word value is etymologically related to “wield”– that’s an important collateral meaning as it indicates that values aren’t merely abstractions hovering somewhere in the aether, but that they are, above all, emplaced, embodied and practiced.  If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask them in the comment section of this entry.

Housekeeping (contcult)

Welcome to Contemporary Culture. Just to recap the assignments thus far: 1) go to and personalize that page using key phrases and terms from the syllabus. For example: contemporary culture, empire, post-colonial, postmodern, etc.  2) the reading assignment for NEXT WEDNESDAY is the first two chapters of Terry Eagleton’s After Theory which is now available in the book store. 

Friday I’ll lecture on culture in the contemporary period. Next week we’ll begin our discussions of Eagleton’s book. If you’ve had no experience with “high theory” (specifically the work of writers such as Kristeva, Foucault, Spivak, and many others) then this text will give you an insight into the stakes of that loose agglomeration of critical views and methods.

I’m really looking forward to the semester. If you have any questions you can ask on this blog entry. See everyone on Friday.

General Remarks

I graded the quizzes, which ranged from excellent to abysmal. Regarding the latter it was quite clear that some have done little if any of the reading. This is rapidly leading me to the conclusion that a final examination may be necessary to adequately evaluate students’ performance. 

Attendance has also come up as an issue. More than three unexcused absences means a no-pass in the attendance portion of the final grade. Looking at the roll sheet I see that quite a few people have already crossed this Rubicon. I would strongly recommend… well, not missing class. 

Final Essays (cali/cont cult)

Final essay assignments are up on the appropriate pages. Two pieces of advice:

Begin your research now. It’s absolutely vital that these papers be the product of informed reflection. You’ll need to time to let your ideas and the information you gather ferment. 

Write multiple drafts. As I said in class these papers should be superlative: no grammar problems; proper format; a developed, intelligent engagement with some of the major themes of the course.