Megan Prelinger and Arturo J. Aldama, Co-Editors
Issue #73, April 2005
Welcome to Bad Subjects Issue # 73 for members of the production team. It is the authors themselves who hold this issue together rather than their topics: These are the people who bring you Bad Subjects. Well, two-thirds of us. We are proud of this issue, because it represents a unique opportunity for us to stand together in cyberspace in a way that geographic distance prevents us from ever doing in person. If only our essays could pass beer and pretzels around to one another.
We are a widely varied group of editors and writers. Each of us has defined ourselves as thinkers in unique ways, and we are joined in our shared work of producing the magazine more than in our career paths or our disciplines of inquiry or accomplishment. We have enjoyed writing our contributions to this issue, and assembling it. We've watched our thoughts take shape and take in the world that is both contemporaneous and historical; and political and flavorful. More of us are professors than are not; those of us who represent the academy appreciate the opportunity to step outside the parameters of self-expression that constrain our everyday work. Those of us who are public intellectuals speak as artists, writers, and workers.
The strength of our collective is our diversity and heterogeneity of interests and a shared commitment to live our lives with political meaning that challenges the hegemonies of class, race, gender and sexuality. We also embrace the sometimes irreverent and sometimes deadly serious oppositional stances that define our individual subjectivities into a collective subjectivity. As "bad subjects" in the literal Althusserian sense we resist the direct interpellation by the state and its apparatus. We refuse to be "docile" citizen subjects who patriotically embrace the violence of US foreign policy and the violence of US policy on the poor, the queer, the feminist, the ethnic/racial other, and the religious other. We celebrate our right to dissent and our right to resist.
Tomasz Kitlinski opens the issue with an essay that is relevant to the recent news of Pope John Paul II's death. As a scholar in Poland, Kitlinski has a close view on the growth and expansion of Poland's Right politics. In New Europe, Old Monsters, Kitlinski describes Poland's current ongoing culture war and describes how the Pope functions symbolically in that war: The Catholic Right expresses its anger at cultural progressives by vandalizing artwork that critiques Catholicism through irreverent depictions of the Pope. Kitlinski's will teach readers that perhaps no country in the world will be as hard-hit by the Pope's death as Poland. He also provides an historical context for looking at how Polish culture may change without a Polish Pope in power to function as a symbolic hero for the Right.
Arturo Aldama's essay also resonates deeply with the current recent death of a world leader. Writing about Ronald Reagan's passing in 2004 in "¿Donde Estan Los Muertos?", Aldama questions how people can mourn the loss of a leader without including in their memory the loss of life that his leadership engendered. He suggests that Reagan be remembered for the wars he sponsored and the number of lives lost -- hundreds of thousands -- between the South and Central American anti-Communist aggressive he led and the domestic collapse his regime oversaw. Aldama, co-editor of this All Bad issue, implicitly suggests that memory of public figures should expand to honor the histories of those figures' victims.
"My Canadian Confusion" by Jonathan Sterne provides an engaging first person travelogue that discusses Jonathan's recent move to assume an academic position with his partner at the famed McGill University, coined as the Harvard of Montreal. His pieces provides an absorbing series of reflections and observations on a "trans" subject position that is in transition from the US and its leftist political and intellectual circles to trying to fit into the intellectual landscape and "settle in" into a new cityscape with its complex linguistic tensions (Francophone vs. Anglophone). Although he is somewhat exempt from these national and nationalist tensions due to his status as an American foreigner they nonetheless continue to reinforce a certain of liminality common spaces of migration.
Megan Prelinger, co-editor of this All Bad issue, offers an engaging and lively essay on building your own serious library as both an alternative intellectual and as a community building space. This essay, which has a certain Michel de Certeau feel to it, really explores the ways in which libraries organize and can democratize knowledge and serve as archives of primary materials. In undertaking the commitments of building a serious and lasting archive of knowledge, the library becomes a space that helps re-define ones role as a public intellectual As Megan states directly, "The physicality of the browsing experience was also built by cohering the library's contents around four central threads: landscape and geography, media and representation, historical consciousness, and political history."
Kim Nicolini's intense personal memoir "The Real Me" grabs us and won't let us go. Nicolini writes to explore how her public modes of self-expression have changed throughout her life. In doing so, she describes how she has continually had to redefine herself in the process of building a life from scratch. She has historically self-identified as a visual artist, but in the past two years her blog has changed the shape of her public persona, and has impacted how she is received in the semi-formal academic world to which her husband belongs.
Mike Mosher is also a visual artist, and his essay "Distortions of War: a Portfolio" is a mixed-media essay that combines poetic writing with sketch, watercolor, and collage artworks to express the author's disgust with the current American war in Iraq. Mike employs a minimalist and poignant written text and allows the vitality of his images convey a visual language of outrage, and witness to the brutality of war. His pastel color schemes, and choice of images, a seahorse and a waiter, do not intrinsically belong the apparatus of war. Mosher makes a statement by showing how these benign items and actions are brutalized and broken by the war, thus showing how the violence of war seeps into and invades all aspects of the fabric of life.
"Reagan, Nixon and Bush" by Steven Rubio gives a personal testimony on how his hatred for Reagan comes close to his hatred of Nixon and their legacies and policies of corruption and violence. He make interesting parallels between Nixon and Bush senior and Nixon and their cold contempt towards others; and Reagan and Bush Jr, and their "smarmy charisma" dumb good old boy persona that masks brutality in a type of cheap populism. He ends his no punches held back piece on his reflections Reagan and Nixon with the following quote, "Don't cry for Ronald Reagan, cry for us, for we are still alive, and so is George W. Bush."
JC Myers' essay "Explaining CEO Pay" analyzes how market forces have drastically changed the proportional relationship between worker compensation and CEO compensation. This work of recent economic history illuminates a little corner of the wide world of injustice that probably few of our readers have direct acquaintance with. Myers' writing invites readers to consider how ignorance of this situation contributes to false consciousness among workers that may impede their own interests in organizing or otherwise demanding better equity.
"Toxic Culture, the Consumer Ethic, and Teaching Biocentrism" by Pancho McFarland looks at the pedagogic and political struggles of trying to teach an ethos and worldview that is not Eurocentric, and that is not anthropomorphic that locates the consumer as the dominant force in the world. In trying to teach this bio-centric world view Pancho butts up against the normalization of corporate and capitalist violence that depends on the consumption for profit and gluttony of animals, goods and resources with zero consideration of environmental impacts and the destruction of all forms of life.
In "The Taste of Memory" Elisabeth Hurst reminisces about the delicacies and joys of home cooked food, including the dosas, curries and yogurt dishes of India, and makes a profound and highly personal series of observations on the role of food as a way to sustain community and, in a sense, as a way to live one's life. As she remembers, Hurst considers the politics of food, including how capitalism strips small farmers away from their own production of food. Hurst also considers how the recipes of foods travel and are part of a fabric of family, memory and community.
In "Mezze Ideology: Community, Class, and Multicultural Cuisine," Scott Schaffer articulates, in mouthwatering fashion, how Middle Eastern and other non-European cultures have advanced rules of hospitality and politeness that govern even casual guest-host relationships. These rules involve the widespread offering of food, delicious food, which Schaffer describes in savory detail. He goes on to analyze the relationships between class and food, against the backdrop of his own international cooking skills and the parties that he offers to his academic colleagues in rural Pennsylvania.
As co-editors, our hope is that readers and ourselves can re-connect with the diversity of our interests, political engagements, projects, concerns and tastes. Welcome to the potluck and enjoy!