Sunday, 28 February 2010

Women's Day 8 March 2010

What are you doing for Women's Day?

Housmans Radical BookShop is hosting the following events:

Housmans, Peace House, 5 Caledonian Road, Kings Cross, London, N1 9DX

Focus on Feminism

To celebrate International Women ’s Day on the 8th March, Housmans bookshop are proud to present a series of feminist and woman-positive events encompassing history, environmental activism, and social commentary.Throughout March there will also be relevant photographs from Cynthia Cockburn and Alex Brew on display within the shop.

‘Feminism Today’ with Nina Power and Lindsey German
Saturday 6th March - 5pm to 6.30pm

Author and academic Nina Power joins veteran socialist campaigner Lindsey German to discuss the state of contemporary feminism, with a focus on the rise of ‘consumerist feminism’. Nina Power’s latest book, ‘One Dimensional Woman’ charts the rise of ‘consumer feminism’, the cultural phenomenon according to which the height of female achievement consists of “the ownership of expensive handbags, a vibrator, a job, a flat and a man.” But how has it come to this?, she asks. Did the desires of twentieth-century women's liberation achieve their fulfilment in the shopper's paradise of 'naughty' self-pampering, playboy bunny pendants and bikini waxes?

Socialist activist and London mayoral candidate Lindsey German similarly examines women’s places within a consumer-capitalist economy in her 2007 publication ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, in which she argues that women’s relatively recent admission to the world of work has left them exposed to the worst exploitations of capitalism.

Join the authors in conversation at Housmans bookshop for a discussion of feminism’s possible futures.

Zed Books present ‘Glamour: Social History, Women and Feminism’
with Carol Dyhouse

Wednesday 10th March - 7pm to 8.30pm 

How do we understand "glamour"? Has it empowered women or turned them into objects? Once associated with modernity and the cutting edge, is it now entirely bound up with nostalgia and tradition?

Dyhouse’s latest publication tells glamour‘s story. It explores the changing meanings of the word, its relationship to femininity and fashion, and its place in twentieth century social history. Using a rich variety of sources - from women's magazines and film to social surveys and life histories , the author examines with wit and insight the history and meaning of costume, cosmetics, perfume and fur. She disentangles some of the arguments surrounding femininity, appearance and power, directly addressing feminist concerns.

The book explores historical contexts in which glamour served as an expression of desire in women and an assertion of entitlement to the pleasures of affluence, finally arguing that glamour can't simply be dismissed as oppressive, or as male fantasy, but can carry celebratory meanings for women.

Join us at Housmans to hear Prof. Dyhouse discuss her publication. There will be an opportunity to meet the author and to have books signed. 

Resolution 242 + Jonny One Lung +
The Ruby Kid + Captain of the Rant 

Saturday 20th March  - 6pm to 9pm 

No Sweat regularly host the best nights in politically-charged music, with all proceeds going towards fighting sweatshop bosses around the world.
This evening No Sweat bring a selection of their favourite artists to Housmans, all playing in an unplugged style. The fantastic line up includes:

Resolution 242 – sharp as nails acoustic folk punk reggae
Jonny One Lung - emotive and outspoken songs
The Ruby Kid – political rap, a cappella style
Captain of the Rant - spot-on slam poetry

…plus anti-sweatshop speeches, drinks and a raffle.

‘Women and Activism’
with Maya Evans and Tamsin Omond 

Wednesday 24th March - 7pm to 8.30pm
Activists Maya Evans and Tamsin Omond will be discussing womens’ roles in contemporary peace and environmental movements.

Maya Evans was the first person to be convicted under the 2005 Serious Organised Crime and Police Act; her offence was to stand in front of the Houses of Parliament, reading out the names of British soldiers killed in Iraq. Since her conviction, she has campaigned against Islamophobia and the Afghan war, and for civil liberties.

Tamsin Omond is a high-profile environmental activist and founder of Climate Rush, an all-female climate change awareness movement inspired by the struggles of the Suffragettes, who advocate peaceful civil disobedience to inspire change.

Maya and Tamsin will be discussing the roles played by women in contemporary peace and green movements, and examining questions of gender and class identity in activism. 

‘Dissenting Women of the Eighteenth Century’
with Jennifer C. Kelsey

Wednesday 31st March - 7pm to 8.30pm 

Throughout the eighteenth century, from childhood to old age, women from all strata of British society faced the same prejudice because of their sex. Not all women, however, were prepared to accept their lot; some openly objected to a double standard which placed them under far more restrictions - physical, intellectual, financial and social - than men and boys.

Even for those who did accept the status quo, there were ways to make use of, or even exploit, the situations in which they found themselves in order to better their positions and claim some autonomy. Kelsey’s new publication is a study of women’s resistance both explicit and subtle.

Join the author for a discussion of ‘A Voice of Discontent’ as well as an opportunity for questions and answers and book signing.

All events are susceptible to last minute changes, so please keep checking the website or contact the shop for confirmation and more info. 

Housmans, Peace House, 5 Caledonian Road, Kings Cross, London, N1 • 020 7837 4473 (int'l +44 20 7837 4473) • fax 020 7278 0444 (int'l +44 20 7278 0444)
Copyright © 2008 Housmans

Thursday, 25 February 2010

The IGRS Grad Forum - Women

The IGRS (Institute of German and Romance Studies) Grad Forum meets once a month. The group is led by post-grads and only post-grads attend. I'm one of the coordinators this year. I think it might be interesting to host a summer day conference for those working on any area of women-oriented studies that is in any way connected with Modern Languages. Generally, the group hears a lot of literature based work, but I'd like to see more philosophy, critical theory and science. I can only suggest a summer day conference to my co-coordinators, if there is interest in the topic. So, to that end, I'm asking those in or near London (or those who want to come to London in the summer) for abstracts. If we get enough interest, we'll set a date and take over a room in Senate House.

Send abstracts to:

CFP: SWIP UK Panel at the 2010 Joint Session (Deadline: 1st March)

I really wish SWIP UK would put on a conference every year.  I suppose they don't because of lack of resources.  In any case, they do have a panel at the Joint Session.  Here is the CFP:



At the 2010 Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association, there will be a SWIP UK panel of papers devoted to topics in any area of interest to women in philosophy.

We solicit full papers,(2500 words) plus 250 word abstract, suitable to be delivered in no more than 20 minutes with a further 10 minutes for discussion. We encourage submissions from graduate students. (As with

all the open sessions, papers accepted for this session will not be published in the Supplementary Volume of the Aristotelian Society.)

The closing date for submissions is *1st March 2010*. We expect to confirm which papers have been accepted by the end of March.
Please make sure that your submission is suitable for anonymous reviewing and attach a separate document with your name and contact details. Email submissions are preferred; please send your full paper, with an abstract, as either .doc or .pdf attachment to Dawn Phillips, at or send a hard copy to: Dr Dawn Phillips, Department of Philosophy, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK.
For information about SWIP UK, see

For information about the Joint Session at UCD, see must be or become subscribing members of either the Aristotelian Society or the Mind Association, and register as a delegate for the Joint Session.

For details on how to join the Aristotelian Society, see

For the Mind association, see

Messages to the list are archived at Prolonged discussions should be moved to chora: enrol via Other philosophical resources on the Web can be found at

Tuesday, 23 February 2010


Affecting Feminism:
Feminist Theory and the Question of Feeling
Newcastle University, U.K.
10-12 December 2010

Keynote Speakers: Ann Cvetkovich, Kate Chedgzoy,
Ranjana Khanna, Alison Light, Patricia Waugh

Over the past decade, there has been a notable turn to feeling or emotion across the humanities, social sciences and neurosciences.Affecting Feminism brings into focus the particular impact that feminist theory has played in this work on feeling and considers emotions from the mediaeval to the modern.

This conference addresses two points of central importance. The first is a recent identification of the tendency to distinguish between good and bad feelings.  What are the implications of privileging emotions such as happiness, compassion and empathy over more negative affective states?  Has recent work on ‘negative’ emotions such as melancholia, shame, grief or disgust sought to challenge or revise such perceptions? The second point concerns the historicisation of affect.  Our modern understanding of feeling has its roots in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century discourses of sentiment, sympathy and passions. Does the prominence of these discourses of affect obscure earlier languages of feeling? How can feminist scholarship act to recover and interpret such discourses? What can feminist theory learn from attending to historical accounts of emotions and how are they, in turn, re-inflected by and through contemporary debates?

Topics may include but are not limited to:
v     Historicising language and feeling
v     Emotion and embodiment
v     Sexuality and affect
v     Histories and cultures of feeling
v     Positive and negative affects
v     Affect and the nonhuman
v     The neurobiology of emotion
v     Feminist theory and affect
v     Emotion in feminist histories
v     Feeling and technology

This conference marks the launch of the journal Feminist Theory  the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics at Newcastle University.
Conference Organisers:  Stacy Gillis, Robin Stoate and Anne Whitehead

We invite paper or panel proposals that will address these questions across different cultural and historical contexts and forms of media, including literature, film and visual cultures, as well as engaging with a range of affects or feelings.  Please send 300-word abstracts for 20-minute papers (or 900-word panel proposals), with a brief bio note (50 words), to  The deadline for submissions is 15 May 2010 (with notification of decision by 1 June 2010).

Monday, 22 February 2010

'LACAN, Jacques, son modernisme s'abille a Pompei'

Hello blogland.  Will one of you much-smarter-than-I folks please translate this for me:  'LACAN,Jacques, son modernisme s'abille a Pompei'.  It may be that s'abille should be s'habiller.  In which case, can someone tell me what dressing like Pompeii has to do with anything?

French illiterate,

Friday, 19 February 2010

Herstoria Magazine

Just came across the new magazine HerStoria.  It's a UK publication that promises to uncover the lives of women - offering a history of women where none has done before.  The website link is here:

Without doubt, it's about time!  And aside from the rather plonky name and look to the thing, it seems interesting. Reviews thus far have said it's glossy and well-researched.  I might check it out at the library before sending the £16 for a subscription. I'm a student.  I'm cheap.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Feminism Conference London March 2011

Watch this space!  A colleage and I are putting together a 2 day conference on feminism for March of 2011.  We shall be releasing the CFP and CFArtists in the next few weeks. 

The conference builds on themes uncovered in a Workshop on Feminism and Heterosexuality held in 2009.  The website for that workshop is here:

The 2011 conference will not focus on heterosexuality. It will include topics dealing with feminism and religion, domestic identity, domestic violence, apathy in the academy as well as feminism's response to its critics, how to include men in the picture and/ or work with Men's Rights movements. 

Also, it's a woman only event.

We hope to have some money available to help with accomodation and travel as well, but probably won't have tons.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Women's Lib Movement - Conference March 12-13

Ruskin College in Oxford is hosting a Women's Lib Movement Conference in March.  No one told me!


12-13 March 2010, Ruskin College, Oxford

In 1970, 500 women came together at the first UK Women's Liberation Conference organized at Ruskin College Oxford. The conference built on existing feminist and women's activism and formulated the first four demands of the Women's Liberation Movement. Were you at the original conference? Want to share your story with delegates for the 40th Anniversary conference?

In 2010, 40 years on, the Women's Liberation Movement @ 40 Conference will celebrate and explore the intervening period, feminist work and changes within society. The conference aims to bring together feminist and women's activists across borders (spatial, generational, political and demographic and others) to engage in debate and discussion around contemporary issues.
•Keynote addresses by Shelia Rowbotham, Beatrix Campbell and others on the changing contexts of feminist and women's activism.
•Creative workshops
•Panel sessions on key moments and tactics
•Skills workshops on organizing
•Publishers and organization

The conference is supported by Ruskin College Oxford and the Oxford International Women's Festival .

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Reminder: Irigaray Summer School 2010

Luce Irigaray rang yesterday.  Really. 

We got to know one another last year when I attended her summer school in London. Now, many of you might be a bit tired of me harping on about this, but I want to - at least one more time - put up a notice about her summer seminar for post-grads in 2010. The seminar was, without question, the most intense and rewarding experience of the time I've spent working on my PhD. Not only did Irigaray offer one-on-one interpretations of my work, she is also a window into an intellectual climate in France that is long gone - but for which many of us long. Irigaray was there during the May 68 revolt. She studied under Lacan and even got herself kicked out of his course. She is strong, hard-headed with a mind like a trap for philosophy. She expects discipline in a way that no-one does anymore. If you want answers, you will find them. If you have questions to discuss, she will discuss them.

Perhaps more importantly, however, is that if feel like you're in isolation - typing out your feminist thoughts in a vacuum that seems unconcerned or even antagonistic - you will get a break from that. The seminar introduced me to intelligent, creative people who were in the same boat that I was. My isolation was remedied! We still keep in touch.

Invitation to the Seminar of Luce Irigaray, Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, June 14-19, 2010.

Since 2003, Luce Irigaray has held an annual seminar for researchers doing their PhD on her work. The seminar offers the opportunity to receive personal teaching from Luce Irigaray and to exchange ideas, methods and experiences with other participants. The seminar was hosted by the University of Nottingham during the first three years (see Luce Irigaray: Teaching edited by Luce Irigaray with Mary Green, and published by Continuum, London & New York, 2008), by the University of Liverpool the fourth year, by Queen Mary, University of London, the fifth year and by the Goodenough College of London the sixth year. In 2010, it will be hosted by Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, in Ireland.

The framework of the seminar is this: a group of fifteen researchers doing their PhD on the work of Luce Irigaray stay one week on the university campus. The schedule includes: a presentation by each researcher of the aspect of their PhD which most focuses on the work of Irigaray, the discussion of this presentation by the group, comments from Luce Irigaray herself and her answers to questions raised by each participant. Also included are sessions devoted to the explanation of key-words or key-thoughts chosen by the participants. Personal meetings with Luce Irigaray are organised on the last day. The participants pay for their travel, but receive hospitality from the university. The seminar is conducted in English.

The participants in the seminar come from different regions of the world; they belong to different cultures, traditions and fields of research – Philosophy, Gender Studies, Religious Studies, Literature, Arts, Critical and Cultural Studies, etc. The themes of their research include, for example: the treatment of personal or cultural traumatic experience; the resources that various arts can offer for dwelling in oneself and with the other(s); the maternal order and feminine genealogy; the interpretation and embodiment of the divine today; the contribution of sexuate difference to personal and social development; new perspectives in philosophy etc. In each of these fields, diverse domains, approaches and methods are represented. To date, participants have come from Australia, Vietnam, Korea, India, Sri Lanka, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, Latvia, Spain, Italy, Ireland and from different regions and universities of the U.S.A. and of the U.K. Beyond the multicultural teaching which results from such a gathering, the participants learn to live together and to share in difference during the time devoted to the work, and also during meals, walks, personal meetings etc. The atmosphere of the seminar is intense but friendly and joyful, and its outcome highly successful for both the research and the life of each participant.

If you are interested and would like to participate in such a seminar please send, as soon as possible, a CV, a PhD abstract (1 page) and a presentation of the issues and arguments of your PhD that most focus on the work of Luce Irigaray (5-6 pages) to Luce Irigaray (by mail: 15, rue Lakanal, 75015 Paris, France). After receiving this material, Luce Irigaray will tell you if you can participate in the seminar of 2010. You will be contacted for further practical information by Marita Ryan at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick after the selection of the candidates.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Women in the Bible - Channel 4

I've really gotten into Channel 4's series, The Bible: A History.  Last night, Bettany Hughes brought us 'The Daughters of Eve'.  You can see it here:

She made a really interesting point. She suggested that the female virginity clause in Christian doctrine was embraced by many women who had lived under the Pagan Eros.  These women were, in short, tired of having to have sex.  Christianity gave them the power and opportunity to say no for the first time.  I don't know my Bible history, and I'm positive there are problems with this interpretation, but on the surface she's got a point.  The right to say no might very well be a little discussed Christian gift to women.

I read so much French psychoanalysis and work inspired by French psychoanalysis, that I have often been led to think of Eros as the promise land of female sexuality - Eros is that thing we should all be aiming towards.  Hughes has countered that with something I have long wanted to write about: the perversion of the female 'no'.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Feminist post-grad, post-doc funding

If, like me, you're beginning to wonder what the future holds, you might be looking for funding in 2010. Finding funding to do any kind of a feminist-based, woman-based project can be incredibly difficult, particularly if you're doing philosophy in the UK.

I was excited to discover that the Leverhulme trust granted a Major Research Award to Madawi Al-Rasheed at KCL for the project 'A Masculine State: gender, religion and politics in Saudi Arabia. Check out the proposal here:

I was also excited to see that the ARHC has awarded a Research Project Award to the project 'A History of Television for Women in Britain: 1947-1989 to three researches at Warwick. The project is detailed here:

Both of these projects give me a glimmer of hope that it is possible to do studies about women in the current academic environment in the UK and to get them funded. Now, if you're scrambling for a post-doc position next year, you might just be out of luck. Most deadlines to apply have come to pass. There are, however, two that I know of coming up next week.


- King's College London's Arts and Humanities Dept has a number of Early Career Fellowships on offer. The deadline is 19 Feb 2009. Who can apply is up to the individual schools in the department (and some of the schools don't even mention they have the Leverhulme opportunity) so get in contact quickly.

- Oxford also has four Leverhulme fellowships on offer. One in Classics, One in History and two in English. The deadline is the 15th of Feb and you've got to go through a lot of hoops to meet that one, so hurry:
The rule of thumb for post-doc funding is that you must plan to apply before November the year before you want to start.

As far as post-grad funding goes, the AHRC offers plenty of funding across the UK to UK residents and citizens. Also the OSRAS is great for international students.

- Warwick is a good place to go to do feminist-based studies and they have an easy to understand funding website.

- Middlesex is a good place to go if you want to do continental philosophy, though they give hardly any information about funding on their website. Best to get in touch:

- The Philosophy Department at the University of Liverpool is headed by Gillian Howie. She has been consistently involved in feminist philosophy and is a board member of SWIP UK. In other words, she's awesome. The University has a great Funding Search application that you can find here:

- And finally, the Philosophy Department at the University of Dundee is also great for feminist philosophy. Johanna Oksala heads the department and lists feminist philosophy in her research interests. The school's funding page is listed here:

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Christina Hoff Sommers

I've just come across the existence of Christina Hoff Sommers.  I have to say that if you believed woman had found the equality they sought to find 150 years ago and should now quiet down about the trivial inequalities, this is the 'thinker' for you.

Christina Hoff Sommers claims to be a philosopher.  A quick review of her publication history, however, suggests this is not the case.  The closest she's come to publishing something that resembles philosophy is Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life, an introductory volume to ethics that doesn't mention Aristotle, Paramendes, Kant, Hegel, Derrida or Levinas. Even Certeau is left out, which is surprising considering that 'everyday life' is in the title of the book.  Despite, or maybe because of these exclusions, this book is a best seller on the college textbook circuit in America. A fact that might explain why American students have no clue about the history of ethics.

Christina Hoff Sommers is not a philosopher.  She is a critic who has figured out a way to make a buck off criticising feminism.  Her other titles include:

Who Stole Feminism?: How Women have Betrayed Women
The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men

Do these titles scare you?  She says they shouldn't.  For her, it's time to criticise feminism. According to Hoff Sommers, popular feminism came to a halt in the 80s because it became too idealogical (i.e. too intellectual) and angry.  For her, feminism has and is based upon 10% of women who blame men for the evils in the world.  Feminism is thus invested in blaming men for all cultural and political violence.

I fully support criticising feminism and agree that feminist philosophy, as is true of all philosophy, is somewhat removed from the real life of real women.  In fact, I have become rather used to being the one in the room whom other feminists argue with.  I preach about female responsibility and that makes everyone tired, uncomfortable and angry.

HOWEVER, Hoff Sommers is doing something completely different.  She's bought into the idea that legal equality means real equality.  We all know this is not the case.  Legally, women in the US are treated the same as men. That's true, however, only when they 'act like men'.  Women who do any of the pesky things that make them women: have babies, menstruate, go through menopause, etc, are not treated the same.  When women are women, the equality breaks down.

For instance, in some companies, women who are on maternity leave no longer enjoy 401K matching by their employer.  Thus, they are paid for the 6 weeks of leave, but their future is no longer supported.  This has been to the courts.  I recently heard an American feminist thinker suggest that re-classifying pregnancy as a long-term illness would solve the problem.  I think that speaks for itself.

Hoff Sommers also does a lot of work on rape. She combs through statistics and points out how they don't match up, proving, in her mind, that rape is overvalued as an event. For her, the discourse on rape has created a non-existent crisis.  You can find one of her articles here: and an interview here:

I agree we should look more carefully at rape stats and not produce fear in women when there is none.  However, most of the world doesn't live in a quiet, middle-class, suburban, American neighbourhood that protects women from rape.  To assume that feminism is here only to talk about middle-class, American women is to forget, as Hoff Sommers does, that the rest of the world exists.  Feminism might have made enough gains in America to offer middle-class women the luxury of self-criticism, but without doubt, there are women alive and scared that feminism has not, nor will it ever, touch. So while it's great to be self-critical, we must do so in light of our global, not our local, achievements.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Men's rights

From what I understand, the Superbowl was plagued with commercials aimed at supporting men in a time when emasculation has become rampant.  I haven't seen any of these and welcome links pointing to them!

One of my favourite responses to the argument that men are being emasculated by Feminism came from the Daily Show last week.  It had me snorting with laughter.  You won't be able to see it in the UK or Europe (though it was obviously broadcast here), but it's here for those of you elsewhere:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Male Inequality
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

About 30 years ago, French feminism predicted that if Feminism took an equality to approach to rectifying the unequal status of women in society, a war of the sexes would break out.  America seems to currently be proving the French right.  Have a look at this website:

Their mission statement is:

Manhood 101 is a completely FREE resource. We are a growing community of men dedicated to reestablishing male authority and defending the male identity against the emasculating culture of Feminism.
By teaching men how to improve their social skills, establish relationships, properly care for women and defend their masculine role in society, we hope to change men's lives around the world.

What is fascinating here is that they have picked up on something that has inevitably been a basic trend when humans come to live together in large cities: the feminization of culture.  The fact is that the larger our cities get, the closer we are forced to live together. This proximity requires traits that are seen as 'feminine' such as cooperation, intuition about others, respect of others, quietness, etc rather than  'masculine' traits such as loudness, selfishness, individuality, etc.  This basic trend is not the result of Feminism, but is in fact a necessary shift if we are to go on living together in closer and closer proximity. The closer we get, the more 'feminine' traits are valued.

I'm all for men getting in touch with their maleness.  I fully support them finding ways of being together in the world beyond the sporting, drinking events that they seem limited to.  In fact, I think it would be fascinating to hear about any original takes on maleness they come up with, for, I agree, it's a state-of-being that is very, very prescribed.

I hope that at some level these men recognise the irony of their meetings. Remember it was women who got together in 'consciousness raising groups' in the 70s in order to figure out what it meant to be a woman.  Feminism made that happen for those women in exactly the same way that Feminism is making it happen for these men now.  The only difference being that men are doing it to re-establish their authority over the other, over women, whereas women were looking for self-understanding.

The day that men realise their maleness is not threatened by the feminine, but is threatened by a certain way of thinking that defines maleness in opposition to femaleness, is the day we will begin to learn something more about the being that is male.  I look forward to it!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

staff cuts at King's part II

The buzz on the philosophy circuit is that the staff cuts at King's are part of a larger problem for UK academics. They feel that:
1. There is an increasing tendency to combine departments in order to offer interdisciplinary degrees to students at the undergraduate level. This, they argue, decreases a student's chance of becoming expert in any one field. Expertise in one field, some argue, is key to doing 'real scholarly work' in the interdisciplinary model.

2. They also argue that the combining departments will remove the possibility of fostering an academic community within one single discipline. Thus, the philosophers are forced to talk to the mathematicians and (even worse) the social theorists.

3. They additionally feel that combining departments is not in the interest of saving money, but is part of a less explicit move to manage the work of academics. Thus, the claims about universities making these moves because they are financially struggling are somewhat bogus. The cost of restructuring is thought to far outweigh the cost of leaving everything as it is.

Now, as you all know I've got mixed feelings about staff cuts.

Having done my undergraduate degree in the states, which is interdisciplinary by default, I don't feel I am no expert in my field. Rather, I feel that when I come up against historical, political, sociological, psychological or literary and aesthetic consequences of the ethics I'm working on (btw, had a dream I was sat next to Levinas in a class last night), I am able to dig into all of those disciplines. In other words, I have the confidence to go beyond my comfort zone and paint a broader picture for myself. Am I always good at it? No. In fact, it's hard. And I struggle with it. I would prefer to never step out of the ethical jargon I think and write in. I would prefer to remain firmly in the ethics of 1970s France. But, the fact is that stepping outside my comfort zone makes my work more interesting and honest. For instance, I've recently begun to enunciate for myself the connection between post-WWII thinking and thinking after May 1968. Without being able to delve into other disciplines with some confidence, I'd never have got there.
On the other hand, I completely understand that restructuring and redundancies are emotionally difficult. The academic world has been protected from these things in recent history. However, both redundancies and restructuring were the norm for many working folks last year. Those who were experts in their field - whether that is marketing, sales, advertising, and administration - have faced redundancy. Why in the world would academic experts expect to be treated any differently? Why should they be?
The fact of the matter is that if you rely on the government for your paycheck, the government is going to dictate the conditions of your employment. If you want to escape this trap, get out of your government sponsored job.
My hope is that after this has all settled down, the senior academics who have been put out into the rain find new and creative ways to continue to pursue their passion. For that's really the one thing that academic work offers us that other work does not - the ability to pursue our passion. And it's absolutely terrifying to think that we won't get to do that anymore. So, if academics have to figure out ways to fund our research ourselves, or find private funding, or pursue it in an office with mathematicians and sociologists, then so be it.

And just be fair. This is the link to the petition to save the KCL philosophy dept:

Also, this is the link to the KCL website.  At the bottom of the page, is the university's document detailing the process for redundancies and re-application.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Academic freedom that's actually free

I've recently gotten into two websites: - publishes full versions of many (and I mean many) useful texts for those working in critical theory, cultural theory, linguistics, philosophy, etc.  It includes both primary and secondary texts. - publishes recorded lectures from important theorists working today. 

Both of these are incredibly useful if you're far, far from a library.

Are there others?