Month: August 2018

When the Predator is a Lady

We are pleased to run the unexpurgated version of a piece on Avital Ronell and Asia Argento that was recently published elsewhere (in what Kipnis described as a brutally eviscerated form). Big news this week on the sexual transgression front. Two well-known women—one a movie star and #MeToo luminary, Asia Argento; the other an academic star, New York University professor Avital Ronell—were hit with allegations by two young men claiming to have been sexually victimized. Terrible as the charges were, I confess that part of me was relieved: the #MeToo conversations had started to seem a bit smug about...

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The Germans Come Back to Psari

Elsa said it once or twice as a joke: “The Germans are coming back to Psari! Och!” The “Och!” was supposed to express fake fear. When they had come before, in the early summer of 1944, the fear had been well grounded. The village had been occupied, a woman raped, and the occupiers chased out by the Resistance. Then the German army had come back, the village had been burned to the ground, along with all its crops, and those inhabitants who had not fled (the usual number given is 5) had been shot. Those who hid in the...

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Overarching Craft

[Originally published in The Architectural Review July/August 2018] Frontal view of Casa IV. Matola, a hamlet in the semi-desert of the southeastern Spanish province of Alicante, Valencia, is a tiny crossroads that sports a community centre, health club, hardware store, supermarket, bakery, and several bar-restaurants specialising in local rice dishes. Beyond this loose concentration of roadside businesses, however, lies a sprawl of large residential lots tightly enclosed by fences, gates and hedges that shield every style of house, from modest vernacular constructions to neo-neo-classicism or the latest in narco-Minimalist neo-Modernism, a style loosely inspired by Le Corbusier’s white period that seems to appear in Spanish news media whenever a drug lord or political leader is arrested. The guest suite and patio-garden Matola’s semi-rural residential fabric exemplifies a kind of exurban sprawl found throughout Europe. What makes Spanish exurbia unique, however, is that much of it consists of second homes. It is not unusual, especially in Valencia, for a family to live in a flat in town during the week, and to spend weekends and Spain’s long summer holiday period just outside town —sometimes only minutes away— in a rural retreat. For wealthier families, a third property on the coast, or even a fourth at a Pyrenees ski resort is not unheard of; real estate comprising one of Spain’s largest economic sectors, not to mention one of its cesspools of financial...

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No Substitute for Professional Boundaries

As an academic preparing for the start of the school year, I have only just caught up on the Nimrod Reitman v Avital Ronell story. Dr. Ronell’s position is that the playfully intimate queer language she used was about mentorly endearment, support, and self-expression. Dr. Reitman’s position is that he increasingly felt pressured to keep up with her discursive game, as she had power over his job prospects. I do not personally know Avital Ronell, and therefore cannot attest to the veracity of either position. All I can do is state my own, after nearly thirty years experience as...

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Fuck Work: Social Necessity and Meaning

Paul Jorion asks, “what is Livingston’s argument? Does he say that work is an abomination and if we had an ounce of reason, we would never have learned to love it? Or does he say that there is no more work and that we should mourn it? These are, of course, different conclusions and their assumptions are different. In the first case, if we should never have learned to love work, then our present era doesn’t differ at all from those that preceded it, and our own stupidity – of which our love of work would be the confirmation – is a constant.” From the point of view of abstract reason, these two arguments do indeed look like logical alternatives. From the perspective of a historian, however, and in particular a historian who has taken Hegelian dialectics as seriously as James Livingston has, there is no real choice between them. Smart and stupid are historically relative, as is reason itself. History, which as Livingston argues has been slowly pushing toward the abolition of work—that is, work in the sense that Hegel himself celebrated, as a mixing of oneself with the world and therefore as a means of self-transcendence– has thereby made it possible and then increasingly likely that we will find work an abomination and will castigate ourselves for our stupidity in loving it. From a Hegelian viewpoint, the...

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