Hostis, Issue 2, Call for Papers: Beyond Recognition


Seeking recognition is always servile. We have little interest in visibility, consciousness raising, or populist pandering. Recognition always treats power as a give-and-take. On the one hand, the dispossessed use recognition as respite from exploitation; while on the other, the State expects its authority to be recognized as the first and final say. According to this logic: for the dispossessed to even get a step up, they must first acknowledge a higher power than themselves.

The particulars of our own time are even more obscene. Following the spread of economic rationality on a global scale, it is clear that the flow of forces has reversed. The State pornographically exposes its long-protected interior for others to abuse while lasciviously grooming what is beyond its regular reach. Recognition chastely reassures the State of its powers. All the while, the most banal State functions are farmed out to the highest bidder. So when their parking ticket is authored by a private corporation, those who seek recognition fall back on the State dictum that nothing good comes from the outside. Continue reading “Hostis, Issue 2, Call for Papers: Beyond Recognition”

To “Suffer in Silence”: On Masochism in Virgilio Piñera’s René’s Flesh


Today, my students concluded Cuban modernist Virgilio Piñera’s 1949 novel René’s Flesh. Subverting the genre expectations set in the first few chapters, René’s Flesh defies the linear motion of the coming of age novel. The conventional coming of age novel begins with a stubborn climb in the attempt to conquer societal expectations by overcoming them, the protagonist’s ultimate passage to transcendence traverses failure with recognition and acceptance. In that way, character development in the coming of age story occurs at the moment rebellion turns to understanding and the protagonist desires the demands put on him by society.

René, a sick and pathetic excuse for a boy, is twenty years old yet incapable of meeting even his family’s simple demands. It opens with René nearly passing out at the butcher shop during a joyous day when it has the unrestricted sale of meat, which is met by excitement and hysteria by the rest of the town. René is soon introduced to his central role in the “The Cause” and its “battle of the flesh” as its soon-to-be chief. Millions of lives hang in the balance, yet René’s clouded inability to understand the simplest meaning spills over to the reader. In content becoming form, Piñera uses absurd nonsense to confirm René subversion of the genre – instead of recognition and acceptance, René’s Flesh is an exercise in frustration and evasion. Continue reading “To “Suffer in Silence”: On Masochism in Virgilio Piñera’s René’s Flesh”

The Marxist Literary Group Institute on Culture and Society 2013


Come meet me, AwC. I promise to drink beer, talk for/against smashing things, and be just rude enough for you to have fun.

Deadline extended– Now accepting proposals until March 15

Call for Papers

The Marxist Literary Group’s annual Institute on Culture and Society (MLG-ICS) will convene this year in Columbus, Ohio, June 24-28, on the campus of the Ohio State University. This year’s ICS special topic will be “Marxism and Representation.” The topic was chosen not only for its general theoretical interest, but also for its pertinence in considering the shift in political possibilities brought about by the global economic crisis and growing political unrest throughout the world. As some claim, it is precisely the political potential of our present moment that charges theoretical questions about representation with renewed practical urgency: If any attempt to construct a Marxist politics has to contend with the inherited representational forms taken by social antagonisms, then our own historical moment demands that we engage with problems of representation articulated by both emerging political movements and academics. What strategies of revolutionary self-representation become possible in the aftermath of the postmodern ‘crisis of representation’? How do new social realities and existing cultural forms affect these representations? What kind of emerging economic, social and political practices contain the seeds of a radically-other society? How do movements engage with what seems to many radical critics to be a crisis of radical political imagination?

Meanwhile, the global scale of capitalism’s ongoing crisis and political upheaval creates a different set of representational problems for Marxism. As Fredric Jameson puts it, the stretching of social relations onto a global scale makes subjective experience incommensurate with scientific knowledge of the systematic functioning of capitalism. Therefore, any experience of the system has to be mediated by an aesthetic object. If so, what kinds of representational strategies can be used to capture both the systemic nature of capitalism and the desires that underpin individual experience? What forms of political representation are flexible enough to accommodate different spatial scales? How can workers who burn down factories in Bangladesh communicate with rioters in London? Which representational practices are flexible enough to speak to wholly different socio-cultural contexts and their respective spaces of political resistance?

The Institute on Culture and Society is run in consecutive sessions, and the discussion is most fruitful when participants stay for the entire Institute. Housing is available on campus, and every effort is made to keep the cost of attendance low. Graduate student participation is subsidized by the Marxist Literary Group. Proposals are welcome for traditional panels, individual presentations, roundtables, film screenings and Performances.

While talks pertaining to the chosen topic are encouraged, submitters should not feel limited by it. Every year, MLG is happy to host presentations relevant to all aspects of historical, political, and theoretical Marxism.

Confirmed speakers at this year’s institute include Michael Hardt, Paul Smith, Barbara Foley, Eugene Holland, Jason Read, Jane Winston, Kanishka Chowdhury, Kevin Floyd and others.

All proposals except panel proposals should be a maximum of 250 words in length, and should include title, author, and author’s affiliation. Panel proposals should include for each proposed paper a 250-word abstract, including title and affiliation, as well as a title and 100-word rationale for the session itself. Please send submissions (plain text or commonly used file format) by March 15, 2013 to

Escape For Non-Experts

My dissertation charts the political imaginary of freedom by way of the problem of escape. The project begins with a question: how does escape remain a political concept in a world that has been hemmed in by modern distance-demolishing technologies (cars, planes, modern weapons, and now information technology like the internet and global positioning systems)? Specifically, I propose three major themes that show how changes in the way people escape foreshadow larger societal transformations. The first is how anonymity reshapes interaction in the overlap of digital media and urban living. The second is how sound metaphors explain new types of social action. And the third is the way recent subcultures entice their members to change identities, or even attempt to abandon labels altogether.

The methods I use in this study are drawn from philosophy, social science, and literature. In particular, I use the cultural philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, recent anthropologies of state formation, and twentieth-century literary theories of social action.

I advance Deleuze and Guattari’s provocative idea of drift, which enables me to pose hypotheses about potential societal transformations that do not require a bloody political revolution that seizes the government. For raw material to test the idea, I look to anthropologies of government for historical examples of actually existing people who ‘ran to the hills’ in order to escape abuses of state power. Lastly, I identify key literary and artistic texts that cover the theme of escape: from ‘drop outs,’ to runaways, to the criminal underground.

Ultimately, I consider if running to the hills has been replaced by burrowing deeper into urban centers. And, to fully understand the effects of the shift in escape from running away to a kind of internal exodus, I look to recent changes in modern life.

Continue reading “Escape For Non-Experts”