2014 was another okay year for critical theory, which is now and never was and yet still lingers, somewhere on the horizon. Do you see it coming? Let me know.
What is critical theory, you ask? Good question. Critical theory is a sauce you order on the side, for when you need it, can afford it, and are bored with plain fries. It's the haircut you never wanted, but got anyway just to piss off your parents, and boy are they mad now. Consider impressing and alienating your friends with this fresh weird look you've stumbled onto, and when you discover that nobody cares, you can trust that your Q rating will shoot to new and undiscovered levels of mediocrity.
Here are the year's hottest headlines:
ZIZEK IS BACK BECAUSE HE NEVER LEFT
Zizek had another big year of saying and writing stuff, and some of this stuff was (apparently) not his own. Embroiled in a pseudo-scandal of below-average proportions, Newsweek called out Zizek for cribbing notes from a white supremacist journal, to which the reigning Lacanian intercontinental champion replied that, since the passages were purely expository, he could not be accused of 'stealing ideas.'
Zizek topped off 2014 by reiterating that he hates students and wishes they would never turn in papers, preferring them, presumably, to learn by that time-tested method of watching movies and pointing out which parts comprise the symbolic, imaginary, and real (jk the real is not a thing). Between not teaching, telling students to 'kill themselves,' and maybe sort of plagiarizing, Zizek also found time to release a book of jokes collecting such gems as: "The Hegelian subject emerges precisely by way of the reflective, self-relating, reapplication of a logical operator, as in the worn-out joke about the cannibal who ate the last cannibal in the tribe." Cool.
MICHAEL HARDT ON DELEUZE ON RAP GENIUS
Leading literary theorist and frequent Negri collaborator Michael Hardt annotated Gilles Deleuze's seminal essay, "Postscript on the Societies of Control" on lyric knowledge base Rap Genius. Rap Genius's current top post is Nicki Minaj's menage-a-song, "Only," with Drake and Lil Wayne, garnering many more annotations and approximately seven hundred thousand more views.
BELL HOOKS DOESN'T CARE ABOUT YOUR POP CULTURE
In a year marked by questions of twerking and appropriated ass-movements, bell hooks wants to know, whose booty is this? Everybody's favorite grump hosted a series of public dialogues at the New School, where she sweetly and curtly reminded everyone in attendance that, contrary to popular belief, feminism doesn't mean doing whatever you want and calling it empowerment.
Appearing with Gloria Steinem, Laverne Cox, and others, bell hooks briefly touched on Queen Bee(yonce) herself, calling her a terrorist and shutting down my Facebook feed, but then later appeared in a video dancing to 'Drunk in Love,' proving that the struggle is indeed hella real. In a tribute to the radical feminist theorist, some ingenious activists set up a bell hooks hotline for those hoping to avoid pick up artists while dropping serious knowledge. The number is 669-221-6251. Give it a whirl.
CORNEL WEST ARRESTED IN FERGUSON
Public intellectual and two-time Matrix actor Cornel West was arrested in Ferguson back in October, during the first wave of demonstrations following the killing of Michael Brown. 2014 also saw the publication of West's latest book, Black Prophetic Fire, where he revisits such figures as Ella Baker and Malcolm X in order to observe how radical anger has declined in contemporary activism and its political imaginaries.
ANGELA ON STATE VIOLENCE
Prison abolitionist Angela Davis continues her lifelong radness-streak by speaking constant truth to power. In an interview for The Guardian, Davis commented on state violence and carceral politics, reminding us that there is no justice in the justice system, and warning against equating indictment with radical change. On Brown, Garner, and beyond, she notes: "The problem with always pursuing the individual perpetrator in all of the many cases that involve police violence is that one reinvents the wheel each time and it cannot possibly begin to reduce racist police violence." Right on.
Davis also went on record stating that she doesn't think Beyonce is a terrorist, so that's something.
GRACE LEE BOGGS: AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY
Nonagenarian radical and Detroit resident Grace Lee Boggs turned 99 in 2014, some seventy (!!!) years after she completed her PhD in philosophy at Bryn Mawr. In a documentary covering Boggs' history with activism, she deferred the question of her own twilight years, preferring to ask "what time it is in the clock of the world."
A difficult and inspiring thinker, Boggs has challenged young people to take up the project of thinking beyond our prevailing political conditions, suggesting that "there are times when expanding our imaginations is what is required." Boggs was recently moved into 24-hour hospice care, and her supporters have been raising funds to support her as she approaches the end of a century-long legacy of social justice. You can find the link here
~~have a very critical new year~~