Amciv.wordpress.com has been suspended for the indefinite future. I now blog at analepsis.wordpress.com
August 21, 2010
May 15, 2009
The short answer section of the final exam will work as follows: of the 15 prompts students will choose 10.
May 14, 2009
Toward the end of the last lecture somebody asked a very good question about the role of democracy in the existence of an American empire. My response to that question– I’ve been thinking ever since– was insufficient. To that student, and anyone else is interested, I would say that the question of democracy is absolutely vital to our understanding not only of the United States and its history, but world history. In some sense the logical next step after taking a course such as American Civilization is to both broaden and deepen our studies to situate the US within a global framework. One place to begin such a project is with Ellen Meiksins Wood’s essay “Democracy as Ideology of Empire” (pdf). Good luck and I hope all of you have a pleasurable and productive summer.
May 9, 2009
For what it’s worth here is a list of books almost all of which I’ve read fairly recently (last 20 mos. or so) that will be of assistance to anyone seeking to better understand the contemporary era. Obviously the titles chosen reflect my own proclivities– i.e., caveat emptor.
Henri Alleg, The Question
First hand account of torture originally published in the late 50s by a journalist who fell afoul of the French military during the Algerian Revolution.
Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities
A very influential discussion of the nation concept.
Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake.
A dystopian novel about civilizational collapse and genetic engineering.
Alain Badiou, Ethics: Understanding Evil
Written as an introduction to philosophy though quite provocative. Worth the effort required.
Michel Beaud, A History of Capitalism
A splendid history of the current mode of production.
Gail Bederman, Manliness and Civilization
This study of Machine Age gender construction and imperialism possesses powerful resonances with the present.
Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence
From one of the major practitioners of Critical Theory.
JM Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians
A slim, powerful novel which I’ve taught several times. I’ve given this book to 5 or 6 of my friends and family, which is, for me, the highest recommendation.
Jonathan Cook, Israel and the Clash of Civilizations
An insightful contemporary history of Israel and Empire by a young British journalist.
Hamid Dabashi, Iran: A People Interrupted
A hybrid text– part history, part theory, part memoir, part polemic. Very useful.
TsiTsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions.
A remarkable novel about coming of age and colonialism in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).
John Dower, War Without Mercy
A history of the Japanese and American race concepts (and racism) during WWII.
Terry Eagleton, Holy Terror
A geneology of terror from one of the best Anglophone critics out there.
Robert Fisk, The Great War for Civilization
Fisk is a powerful writer with a wealth of world experience.
Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story
A sharply detailed history of Afghanistan written by two very knowledgeable film-makers.
Amitav Ghosh, The Calcutta Chomosome
A thought-provoking sci-fi novel/ medical mystery.
David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism
Not his most important book (that would likely be The Condition of Postmodernity) though certainly a tremendous asset to anyone seeking to understand the economic transformations of the last 30-odd years.
David Hirst, The Gun and the Olive Branch
“Classic.”– Edward Said.
Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes
No living historian comes close to Hobsbawm. This volume treats “the short 20th century.”
Richard Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style in American Politics
Written over 40 years ago, the title essay of this book is– I’ll say it– indispensable.
Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire
A meticulous account of the militarization of the United States by a former CIA analyst.
Owen Bennett Jones, Pakistan: Eye of the Storm
Good, broad introduction to Pakistan’s recent history and political scene.
Rashid Khalidi, Resurrecting Empire
(Or The Iron Cage or Sowing Crisis). Despised by the neoconservative, McCarthyite right, Khalidi has been quite productive in the last several years. Resurrecting Empire examines the recent past of US involvement in the Middle East.
Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine
A wide-ranging and accessible survey of neoliberalism’s depredations.
Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, The Cold War, and the Roots of Terror
Alfred McCoy, The Question of Torture
A history of US torture.
Anne Norton, Leo Strauss and the Politics of American Empire
Examines the philosophical underpinnings of neoconservatism.
Vijay Prashad, The Darker Nations
Touted as a “people’s history of the Third World,” this book is just the right antidote for an omphalocentric nation.
Ahmed Rashid, Taliban
How many people even know what “taliban” means?
David S. Reynolds, John Brown, Abolitionist
An exhaustive and compelliing “life and times” treatment of a man Slavoj Zizek calls “the political figure of the United States”.
Arundhati Roy, An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire
A collection of pointed essays by this Booker prize winner. She’s esp. insightful on global media.
Malise Ruthven, Fundamentalism
From Oxford’s “Very Short Introduction” series.
Edward Said, Orientalism
Arguably the founding text of Postcolonial studies, in this work Said deconstructs “the Orient”– something American policy makers and pundits have so far been unable to do.
Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army
Increasingly private corporations are taking on the responsibilities of the state. Blackwater– which received so much negative publicity for killing civilians that it was compelled to change its name (now Xe)– was only one company of many who cashed in on the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus
And Timon of Athens as well. Both of these tragedies are entirely relevant to our historical moment.
Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War
Hugely ambitious and staggeringly well informed.
Howard Winant, The World is a Ghetto
Winant’s global history of race and racism since WWII.
Robert J.C. Young, Postcolonialism
You couldn’t ask for a better introduction to postcoloniality.
Slavoj Zizek, Violence
Not his magnum opus, but a funny, mind-tweaking philosophical discussion of violence.
May 7, 2009
Students preparing for war in East Pakistan (Bangladesh).
Map of the Durand Line:
Pakistan by ethnicity:
Another map of ethnicity:
Lahore’s Old City:
A short film on American Empire narrated by Viggo Mortenson:
Adam Curtis’ acclaimed documentary, The Power of Nightmares.
April 26, 2009
“the long 60s”
“revolution in the revolution”
re-spatio-temporalization (spatio-temporal practices)
alienation vs. oppression
“Days of Rage” (Oct. 8-11, 1969)
“Bring the War Home”
“Revolutions are festivals of the oppressed and the exploited. At no other time are the mass of the people in a position to come forward so actively as creators of a new social order, as at a time of revolution. At such times the people are capable of performing miracles, if judged by the limited, philistine yardsticks of gradualist progress”
— Lenin (1905)
“If you allow a lot of young people to do nothing for a few years but read books and talk to each other then it is possible that given certain wider historical circumstances, they will not only begin to question some of the values transmitted to them but begin to interrogate the authority by which they are transmitted.”
— Terry Eagleton
“ I suppose, if Malcolm X were alive today, they would kill him.”
–Kevin Alexander Gray (2004)
“Doing nothing in a period of repressive violence is itself a form of violence.”
“Nothing’s more important than stopping fascism because fascism will stop us all.”
“The first stage of the black freedom movement in the 60s– the civil rights struggle– began as a black response to white violent attacks and took the form of a critique of everyday life in the American South. The critique primariliy consisted of attacking everyday cultural folkways that insulted black dignity. It was generated, in part, from the mulitfarious effects of economic transformation of dispossessed southern rural peasants into downtrodden industrial workers, maids, and unemployed city dwellers within the racist American South. In this regard, the civil rights movment prefigured the fundamental concerns of the American New Left: linking private troubles, accenting the relation of cultural hegemony to political control and economic exploitation.”
“The duty of every revolutionary is to make revolution. We know that in America and throughout the world the revolution will be victorious. But revolutionaries cannot sit in the doorways of their homes to watch the corpse of imperialism pass by. The role of Job does not behoove a revolutionary. Each year by which America’s liberation may be hastened will mean millions of children rescued from death, millions of minds, freed for learning, infinitudes of sorrow spared the peoples.”
“I experienced my oppression as the inability to grasp anything real beyond my own subjectivity. I was in revolt against the experience of unreality.”
— Osha Neumann (NYC Motherfuckers)
“No Frozen Moments For Tomorrow’s Fantasy Revolution!”
— Slogan of the Free City Diggers (1968)
He wore his pants
hip. He dug Hemingway
too. But his father
“Son, your taste
Thus he saddened
boosters of output—
all the time
arguing with them
—Yevgeni Yevtushenko (1960)
“ The student is a stoic slave: the more chains authority heaps upon him, the freer he is in phantasy. He shares with his new family, the University, a belief in a curious kind of autonomy. Real independence, apparently, lies in a direct subservience to the two most powerful systems of social control: the family and the State. He is their well-behaved and grateful child, and like the submissive child he is overeager to please. He celebrates all the values and mystifications of the system, devouring them with all the anxiety of the infant at the breast.”
“A little less conversation, a little more action.”
— Elvis Presley
“The acid experience is so concrete. It draws a line right across your life– before and after LSD– in the same way you felt that your step into radical politics drew a sharp division. People talked about that, the change you go through, how fast the change could happen on an individual level and how liberating and glorious it was. Change was seen as survival, as the strategy of health. Nothing could stand for that overall sense of going through profound change so well as the immediate, powerful and explicit transformation that you went through when you dropped acid. In the same way, bursting through the barricades redefined you as a new person. It’s not necessarily that the actual content of the LSD experience contributed to politically radical or revolutionary consciousness– it was just that the experience shared the structural characteristics of political rebellion, and resonated those changes so that the two became interdependent prongs of an over-arching transcending rebellion that took in the person and the State at the same time.”
— Carl Oglesby, “On Revolution”
“Finally you just split if you couldn’t cope.”
— former Love Child/ Acid Freak (now a roofer and parent living in california)
“What is a revolutionary? Someone who says no, but whose refusal does not imply a renunciation.”
“If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with. No more appeasement.”
–Ronald Reagan, 4/7/70
“They felt it’s just, ‘they’re assholes and we’re the heroes.'”
Anthony Bonza, NYPD
— Abbie Hoffman
“Democracy is in the streets.”
— SDS slogan
“I come all over the pavement.”
— grafitti on Paris wall, May 1968
The Long 60s Timeline
Independence of Ghana
Little Rock 9
Civil Rights Act (gives Justice dept. greater authority in elections)
Battle of Algiers
“The Cat in the Hat”, Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel)
SCLC founded (Atlanta, GA)
“Jailhouse Rock”, Elvis Presley/ “Haitian Fight Song”, Charles Mingus
“The White Negro”, Norman Mailer
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater founded.
“Howl”, Allen Ginsberg.
“Lolita”, Vladimir Nabokov.
US Army fieldtests an experimental weapon: soldiers at Ft. Bragg, NC engage in wargames under the influence of LSD.
Raisin in the Sun (Lorraine Hansberry) appears on Broadway.
Motown Records (Detroit)/ Stax Records (Memphis).
“The 400 Blows”, Francois Truffaut.
“Starship Troopers”, Robert Heinlein.
Urban Renewal in New Haven displaces thousands.
Production and distribution of the Barbie Doll begins.
First widely known sit-ins (Greensboro, SC)
Anti-HUAC demonstrations in SF.
African Decolonization : French Cameroon, Togo, the Malagasy Republic (Madagascar), the Independent Congo Republic, Somalia, Dahomey, Upper Volta, Ivory Coast, Chad, the Central African Republic, Gabon, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Nigeria, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.
Freedom Riders challenge segregation of interstate travel.
69 anti-apartheid demonstrators killed in the Sharpeville massacre (South Africa).
Lumumba murdered. (Congo)
First man in space, Yuri Gagarin (USSR)
Port Huron Statement (SDS)
James Meridith becomes the first black student to attend Ole Miss.
First American to orbit the earth, John Glenn.
“The Fire Next Time”, James Baldwin.
“Letter from Birmingham Jail”, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Assassination of Medgar Evers (Mississippi)
Black rebellion in Birmingham, Alabama after a church bombing kills four young girls.
Fall of Diem in Saigon.
Liberation Front of Quebec (FLQ).
Assassination of JFK (Dallas, TX)
“The Outsiders,” Howard Becker.
First woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova (USSR).
“Wretched of the Earth”, Frantz Fanon.
Malcolm X leaves the Nation of Islam.
Free Speech Movement (Berkeley, CA)
Freedom Summer (Mississippi). 3 anti-racism activists murdered in Philadelphia, Miss.
US-backed right-wing coup overthrows Brazilian president and establishes a dictatorship.
Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party crashes the Democratic National Convention.
Gulf of Tonkin “incident” provides a pretext for the acceleration of the Vietnam War.
1964 Civil Rights Act, which Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) deems a “threat to the very essence of our basic system”.
MLK, Jr. receives Nobel Peace Prize
“One Dimensional Man”, Herbert Marcuse (Los Angeles, CA)
GI Joe doll introduced. In 1969, Joe– newly available in black and white colors– demilitarized and became an “adventurer” who battled the elements rather than killing other dolls. Even so, the toy was discontinued in 1976, only to be re-introduced in the Reagan 80s (1982) with a new (“Real American Hero” series) look.
The 1st Marine Division lands in Da Nang (Vietnam).
Sustained bombing campaign (“Rolling Thunder”) of North Vietnam.
US invades Dominican Republic with 20,000 troops.
“Man and Socialism in Cuba”, Ernesto Guevara.
First teach-ins at U of Michigan (Ann Arbor).
Augustus Stanley Owsley III completes his first batch of LSD.
Watts explosion (Los Angeles)
“The Colonizer and the Colonized”, Albert Memmi.
LBJ’s Great Society Program
Malcolm X assassinated.
After a series of long and arduous strikes, California farm workers (UFW) organize an international grape boycott that lasts five years (“La Causa”).
Sukarno is overthrown in Indonesia; hundreds of thousands of communists are murdered in the aftermath.
Cultural Revolution begins (China)
TV premiere of “Get Smart”, a series that satirized cold war espionage, pitting the evil KAOS against Agent 86, Maxwell Smart, of CONTROL
“Bloody Sunday” in Selma.
Amiri Baraka and others form the Black Arts Repertory Theater/School.
Drop City commune founded “on six acres of scraggly goat pasture outside Trinidad, CO”.
Black Panther Party for Self Defense (Oakland)
James Meredith’s “March Against Fear” from Memphis to Jackson
“The Little Red Book,” Mao Zedong.
Stokely Carmichael’s Black Power speech
“For Marx”, Louis Althusser
Formation of the Underground Press Syndicate.
First celebration of Kwanzaa.
“The Ballad of the Green Beret”, Barry Sadler/ “Crosscut Saw”, Albert King/ “River Deep, Mountain High”, Tina Turner.
The sustained bombing of Hanoi causes massive civillian casualties.
Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year” is anybody “25 and under”.
Mastercard and Bankamericard intitiate the credit card revolution.
“Respect”, Aretha Franklin
MLK, Jr. condemns the American War in Vietnam and calls the US “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world”.
Muhammed Ali stripped of title for refusing induction in the army.
The CIA launches Operation Chaos, spying on US activists.
“Revolution in the Revolution”, Regis Debray.
“Message to the Tricontinental”. Within the year Che Guevara murdered in Bolivia.
Left Coast: Summer of Love, First Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park, The Diggers celebrate “The Death of Hippie”.
“Battle of Algiers”, Gillo Pontecorvo.
FBI launches COINTELPRO.
“The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual”, Harold Cruse.
“Tiger Force”, a 45 member Army reconaissance platoon, roams the Central Highlands of Vietnam from May to November, killing hundreds of unarmed civillians.
Edward Brooke (R-Mass) becomes the first African-American senator since Reconstruction, almost 100 years before.
“Society of the Spectacle”, Guy Debord.
Shirley Chisolm elected to Congress.
Student uprisings in Warsaw, Mexico City, Tokyo, Delhi, New York, Paris, Berlin, etc.
“Police riot” at the Democratic National Convention.
American Indian Movement (AIM).
MLK, Jr. assassinated. Black rebellions in cities throughout the US.
“Soul on Ice”, Eldridge Cleaver
May ‘68: France comes the closest to revolution of any western democracy in the 20th century. Workers and students unite.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos make Black Power salutes while receiving their medals at the Mexico City Olympics. (Their medals are revoked).
Lincoln High School “Blowouts” (Los Angeles).
Marijuana arrests in California rise 324%
“Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing”, Larry Neal and Amiri Baraka.
League of Revolutionary Black Workers (Detroit)
Young Lords (NYC), Weatherman (Flint, Michigan), SF Red Guards, MEChA, Brown Berets (Los Angeles), Bread and Roses (Boston), Redstockings (NYC).
End of the Cultural Revolution
Murder of Fred Hampton and others.
First human on the moon (US)
Days of Rage in Chicago.
“Minimanual of the Urban Guerilla”, Carlos Marighella (Brazil).
Trial of the Chicago 8 (later 7 when Bobby Seale’s trial is separated from the other defendants’)
After campaigning on a “law and order” platform, Nixon narrowly defeats Hubert Humphrey and takes office.
“The Wild Bunch”, Sam Peckinpah.
Liberation of People’s Park followed by the occupation of Berkeley. Gov. Reagan: “If they want a bloodbath, let’s get it over with. No more appeasement.”
Panther 21 indicted.
“Homecoming”, Sonia Sanchez.
US begins secret bombing of Cambodia and Laos.
Kent State/ Jackson State murders.
Jonathan Jackson killed.
“Soledad Brother”, George Jackson
First Earth Day.
Salvador Allende becomes the first democratically elected marxist leader in the western hemisphere (Chile).
US invades Cambodia.
“THX-1138”, George Lucas.
Attica Prison Rebellion
George Jackson killed.
US voting age lowered to 18.
US goes off the gold standard (effectively ending the Treaty of Bretton Woods).
“There’s a Riot Goin On”, Sly and the Family Stone/ “Shaft”, Isaac Hayes/ “What’s Goin On“, Marvin Gaye
Weatherman launches a string of attacks on government and corporate targets.
In D.C., 500,000 people demonstrate against the war in Vietnam.
School desegregation leads to racist violence.
Winter Soldier Investigation (Detroit).
Christiania founded when Danes take possession of a former miliary base in the center of Copenhagen.
Equal Rights Amendment falls 3 votes short of ratification.
“Mumbo Jumbo”, Ishmael Reed.
England occupies Northern Ireland. ‘Bloody Sunday’ massacre in Londonderry.
US continues a devastating bombing campaign in North Vietnam as it withdraws its ‘last combat troops’.
Gloria Steinem founds Ms. magazine.
Seige of Wounded Knee (Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota)
Roe v. Wade.
“Return to the Source“, Amilcar Cabral.
War Powers Resolution passed over Nixon’s veto.
“The Open Veins of Latin America”, Eduardo Galleano.
Ferdinand Marcos becomes “President for Life” of the Philippines.
“Energy Crisis” in western nations leads to “stagflation”.
Henry Kissinger/ Le Duc Tho awarded the Nobel peace prize.
“Carnation Revolution” in Portugal.
SLA kidnaps Patricia Hearst (Berkeley).
“Oreo”, Fran Ross.
Top-rated TV shows: All in the Family, Sanford and Son, Chico and the Man, The Jeffersons.
“Angela Davis: An Autobiography”
Independence of Angola and Mozambique.
“Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism”, Weather Underground Organization (WUO)
The Weather Underground
April 22, 2009
Here are the readings for the Warhol assignment:
“The Best and Worst of Warhol,” 1969
“Man for the Machine,” 1971
“King of the Banal,” 1975
“A Caterer of Repetition and Glut,” 1987
April 21, 2009
As was announced in lecture today, the syllabus has changed. If this is slightly irritating for those of you who yearn for structure, consider that your professors’ occasional tweaks of the schedule indicate an on-going connection to the course.
We will screen Hearts and Minds, an academy award winning documentary on the Vietnam War.
Readings: Chapter 30 of the Norton; Tim O’Brien’s short story “In the Field” from the Heath
Lecture: ‘What’s Going On’ Is Not a Question: The 60s from the Days of Rage to Wattstax
Readings: A handout (provided in lecture on 4/23) culled from Weather Underground’s Prairie Fire; Levertov and Komunyakaa (Heath); “Letter from Birmingham Jail” & “The Ballot or the Bullet”.
The due date for the final paper has been pushed back to 4/28. Remember, tempus fugit– so make the most of this opportunity.
It’s probably far too late in the semester to raise the issue, but if you don’t bring your book to class then why bother coming? Would you go to the pool without a swimsuit? Frankly, it’s getting pretty fucking annoying.
I urge you not to phone it in for the last weeks of class. This is deadly serious stuff, and your honest, diligent engagement with the course will profit you in ways far exceeding mere lucre. As we skid into the contemporary era in our studies, you may find useful tools with which to pry open many of the most perplexing aspects of the present. Passivity and alienation are, in the end, luxuries which most of the planet simply can’t afford. Which is to say: because we are here others are not. Others are flipping burgers, fueling jets, folding t-shirts, booting up, washing dishes, counting minutes.