Introduction: The Season Finale
Issue #5, May 1993
'We hope that this newsletter can help to promote radical thinking about the political implications of everyday life. In the tradition of the post-60s American left, we at Bad Subjects believe that the personal is political; we also believe that the left needs to rethink seriously its understanding of the connections between the personal and the political. The purpose of a Bad Subjects article is to take a stand, preferably one which is defiant of conventional leftist wisdom in the service of leftist politics; principled defiance is part of what it means to be a 'bad subject.' A bad subject is also a subject unafraid to imagine what it would mean to participate in a Utopian community in which freedom does not mean anarchy and structure does not mean domination.'
— Bad Subjects Issue #1, September 1992
That's how we announced what Bad Subjects was all about back in September. We haven't always been able to make every article in every issue a demonstration of this manifesto, but on the whole we think we've done a pretty fair job. Judging from the feedback we've received, many of you do, too. A lot has happened since the first issue came out. Since this is the last issue until next fall, and also the last issue with ourselves as the sole editors (more on this in a moment), we wanted to use this column as an opportunity to review briefly the first season of Bad Subjects.
We wanted to provide a forum in which people who identify themselves with leftist, progressive or radical politics could sympathetically challenge the orthodoxies of American oppositional politics. As regular readers will know, by 'orthodoxy' we mean what is generally called 'identity politics' or 'multiculturalism.' Like proponents of identity politics, we also support the project of articulating the connections between politics and personal experience; however, we reject the tendency of identity politics to reduce personal experience and political reality to a function of essentialized categories like race, gender and sexual orientation. We believe that individuals are constituted as political subjects as much by their everyday experiences in a common culture, such as commercial popular culture, as they are by their racial and ethnic origins. In the first issue of next fall, we hope to restate our principles in more detail, as well as to provide a critique of our position and of the work we've done so far.
We deliberately cultivated a confrontational attitude in both in our articles and our symbolism (our original handgun-bordered logo, for example). We expected to provoke a reaction, and we were not disappointed. In the nine months or so since that we've been around, we were attacked by a professor, publicly rebuked by leaders of our graduate student union (AGSE), and parodied by a group of undergraduates. Yet we are still here, and doing better than ever, largely because of growing support from our readers; we also tried to learn from our mistakes, changing our format and logo a bit, and deliberately aiming for more accessibility in our articles.
We originally planned eight issues and managed to produce six. We achieved a circulation that is small but extensive — we have readers around the country and the globe. We know that Bad Subjects has been taught in a few classes, either for particular articles or as a whole text. Professors, students, and staff people talk about us; we even have readers not connected to the campus community. We know of at least one graduate seminar that spent two hours discussing our last issue with one of the contributors. In short, we've had an effect; people are talking about Bad Subjects. And that, we feel, is our greatest success.
As we announced in the last issue, we now want to expand the ranks of this publication and form a collective that will share responsibility for all aspects of its production and distribution. An initial public meeting toward this end was held on the afternoon of April 27, and was attended by the following individuals: ourselves, Charlie Bertsch, Steven Rubio, Ann Marie Caffrey, Carlos Camargo, Catherine Hollis, Kevin Wong, and Greg Forter. The meeting was a great success — the level of enthusiasm and support was incredibly encouraging, leaving everyone with high hopes for next year's endeavor. However, we still both need and want participation from more people, so we have scheduled another public meeting (we also didn't do a very good job publicizing the first meeting — our apologies).
The main decision reached at the April 27 meeting concerns the future organization of Bad Subjects. The plan is to form a main editorial collective to provide something like the 'infrastructure' of the newsletter, and then to assemble an array of 'teams' who would be responsible for putting together individual issues; one person might serve on several teams, performing a different job for each one (there's plenty of work to go around!). This means that even if you only have a limited amount of time and energy to give to us, we can still use your help — if you can't join the collective, perhaps you can join a team for a particular issue. If you are at all interested, we invite you to join us at the next planning meeting for Bad Subjects on Thursday, May 13, from 5 - 7 p.m., in the English Department lounge, which is in 330 Wheeler Hall on the UC-Berkeley campus. If you can't make the meeting, then leave a note in our mailboxes in 322 Wheeler, or send us e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
We also want to urge everyone to use the summer break to write that article for us that you know you've been thinking about but haven't got around to yet. Just in case you're stumped for topics, we drew up a quick and arbitrary list. Remember, any aspect of everyday life is fair game for political analysis at Bad Subjects. But here are our suggestions: the Clinton administration; environmental issues; the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); nationalism after the Cold War; politics and high technology; meditations on the Rodney King verdicts; the politics of late-night TV and/or TV networks; thoughts about the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual March on Washington; the UC budget crisis; responses to popular culture; the politics of your profession.
If there's any one thought we want to leave you with for the summer, it's this: at Bad Subjects, we like to think that REVOLUTION IS FUN!
It's been cool. Our thanks to everyone who helped us in any way. Have a great summer.