Reading Round-up 22/02/2015

Why Ernesto Laclau is the intellectual figurehead for Syriza and Podemos

When a radical activist movement has become so successful that it is called upon to do the work of the state, not just by vulnerable citizens but by the state itself, the political conjuncture is striking in its uniqueness. Podemos is drawing directly on Laclau’s work to make the most of this opportunity, rejecting the old Spanish left of the PCE (Communists), smashing the discredited austerity-lite of the PSOE (Socialists) in the polls, and channeling a rehabilitated notion of leftist populism.

Powers to bring empty houses into use ‘ignored’

“It’s totally scandalous to have thousands of homeless people sleeping rough when there are nearly a million empty houses” said Taylor, who obtained the latest figures while research a report on the housing crisis which is due in March. 

Sublime Fragments of Gothic Futures

Brecht spoke of modernism ‘erasing the traces’ of the cold past but the only thing that’s getting erased these days is the modernist canon. Brutalist Britain and its concretopias being sold off to make way for a future minimalist in content; gentrified villages as the nihilistic narcissistic white smarminess that proliferates the so-called ‘creative industries’ and all the post-Fordist capital associated with it. Finally ‘alternative’ capitulates to quaint kitsch revanchist throes of ‘community’, as if we couldn’t see the tragic farce anyway.

The Ladies Vanish

Of course books don’t digitize themselves. Human hands have to individually scan the books, to open the covers and flip the pages. But when Google promotes its project—a database of “millions of books from libraries and publishers worldwide”—they put the technology, the search function and the expansive virtual library in the forefront. The laborers are erased from the narrative, even as we experience their work firsthand when we look at Google Books.


Ipeirotis found that almost 70% of mechanical turkers were women. How shocking: the low prestige, invisible, poorly paid jobs on the internet are filled by women. Women provide the behind the scenes labor that is mystified as the work of computers, unglamorous work transformed into apparent algorithmic perfection.

The NYT wrote about lynching by white people without using the word “white”

It’s no secret that black Americans were the victims and white Americans were the perpetrators and supporters of lynchings, and most people reading this most likely understands this context. After all, it’s not as if these were random crimes. Rather, they played a central role in maintaining white supremacy. The report itself says, “some ‘public spectacle lynchings ‘were attended by the entire white community and conducted as celebratory acts of racial control and domination.”

Closing time for gay pubs – a new victim of London’s soaring property prices

Perhaps what is vital isn’t access to pubs or bars per se but to places where LGBT people can socialise and build community. “What can result from this kind of thing [multiple venue closures] is more community-based reactions,” says Cook, “from squatters’ groups to people organising film nights or reading groups at home. Physical spaces are absolutely crucial, but they don’t only need to be bars.” Brighton seems to bear this out – even as the bar scene struggles, the city’s annual Pride event goes from strength to strength and gay choirs and sports clubs attract hundreds of members.

The Slow Boat to China

Transoceanic shipping is, in large part, responsible for these widening inequalities: since shipping operates beyond the territorial spaces governed by labor regulations, it allows corporations to do away with the hard-fought democratic and labor rights struggled for and earned within local labor contexts.

“Blacks around the table” Absent from the Academy

Alas, instead of answering the question posed, McQueen sidelined it in favour of another, asking instead how it is possible for directors to make films set in places such as New York and LA and not cast a single black or Latino person in any role of relevance. ‘Why is that?’ asks the interviewer, ‘I don’t know’ McQueen responds, ‘Ask them’, pointing to his fellow directors.

The silence that follows is mesmerizing. McQueen has shone a light directly onto their previously invisible and naturalized whiteness. There is little they can say by way of response. The only option available is to question their own motives, their own positions in relation to accepted modes of Hollywood practice. They of course collectively decline to engage in such a conversation, but by that point it doesn’t really matter, the implications resonate across our screens.

Eija-Liisa Ahtila by Cary Wolfe

We weighed different solutions both for the shooting and for postproduction. It soon became obvious that the more we tried to reproduce in the portrait of what we saw standing next to the tree and combine that with our ideas about the portrait of the tree, the more the final work would be about the devices and technology of cinematography and about us humans as observers. Again, the spruce returned us to Uexküll’s ideas about the coexistence of separate spatial and temporal worlds of different living beings and to the idea of existence next to and with something else.

What’s Wrong with All Lives Matter?

Perhaps we can think about the phrase “black lives matter.” What is implied by this statement, a statement that should be obviously true, but apparently is not? If black lives do not matter, then they are not really regarded as lives, since a life is supposed to matter. So what we see is that some lives matter more than others, that some lives matter so much that they need to be protected at all costs, and that other lives matter less, or not at all. And when that becomes the situation, then the lives that do not matter so much, or do not matter at all, can be killed or lost, can be exposed to conditions of destitution, and there is no concern, or even worse, that is regarded as the way it is supposed to be. The callous killing of Tamir Rice and the abandonment of his body on the street is an astonishing example of the police murdering someone considered disposable and fundamentally ungrievable.

We Walk Among You: Poverty in the Ivory Tower

Disengaged, I spent the remainder of class thinking about how I could locate my Medicaid case worker, so that I could cancel student insurance, so that I could get some student loan money back, so that I could pay a ticket that doubled last week, so that the amount doesn’t increase, so that my car doesn’t get the boot, so that I can go to field placement, so I don’t get behind on hours, so that I can complete my field placement hours, so that I can graduate. Yup. This class is spot on. Poverty is a complex thing, and hunger sucks. And have I mentioned that I also have to call DHS to see if I can list my sister as my dependent because my $189 in food stamps are not enough to feed three people? (My mother is not working because of long-standing mental health issues.)

Totally Mexico! How the Nathan Barley nightmare came true

One evening Condou met Tracey Emin at a party the Pet Shop Boys had thrown at Sam Taylor-Wood’s studio on Redchurch Street. He told Emin how sorry he was to hear about the recent fire that had destroyed all her work. “She just looked at me and went ‘meow’. I was so taken aback. Did she just meow at me? Did that happen?” The next day he told Brooker and Morris about it. “We’re having that,” they said.

How to Decolonize Your Yoga Practice

To be colonized is to become a stranger in your own land. As a desi, this is the feeling I get in most Westernized yoga spaces today. Of course, powerful practices that reduce suffering persist, despite all attempts to end them. These facts are critical to understanding the power and privilege we continue to possess or lack, to clarifying the positionalities we embody as we practice, teach and share yoga today.

Two Years At Sea: little happens, nothing is explained

Since Rivers started making Two Years At Sea, a new term has found purchase in film circles: “slow cinema” – meaning the type of contemplative, observational movie where image (and soundtrack) takes precedence over conventional narrative. Bracketed into this category are international auteurs such as Béla Tarr and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, possibly with Tarkovsky and Antonioni the movement’s spiritual forefathers. The term fits Rivers’ work like a glove. At times, Two Years At Sea almost slows to the stillness of a photograph, with just a tiny amount of motion in a static image to let you know time is passing – some socks blowing on a washing line, or a cloud drifting across a woodland landscape.

Angry Residents Block Entrance to Naameh Dump in Lebanon

Residents and officials are at odds concerning the closure of the Naameh dump after Progressive Socialist Party head Walid Jumblatt, whose party enjoys wide support in the area, agreed to a three month extension for the landfill.

Here’s What It’s Like For A Woman To Send a Job Rejection To A Man

I am posting this because I want people to see how women are treated online. The number of times that I have received gender based insults from people on the internet is horrifying. Receiving even one is horrifying. But it’s not just the gender based insults, because the sexism would be there even without the insults. It’s in the tone that he adopts — the arrogant, authoritative, “king of all he surveys” attitude. And I don’t think that we can separate this individual’s response from his gender.

Value, Measure, Love

From what standpoint can I criticise this production of sameness – from the arrogance of one who believes herself to be, somehow, immune? No, it’s because it doesn’t accord with my subjective sense of the world. Reality seems to fall short of reality. This subjective dissonance is the precondition of critique. Because I am sentimental, tired, easily hurt, I give this dissonance the temporary name “love,” and mortgage everything on a dubious future in which… everything may be, but probably will not be, different.

Zebra Katz: ‘Creating a strong, black, queer male is something that needed to happen’

This was at New York’s Eugene Lang College, a liberal arts college where Morgan studied after attending art school in Florida. There weren’t many other black male students, he explains, and so “there were those moments, when I was dealing with my peers, when I’d be like, are you kidding me?” They included, for example, encountering students opposed to colour-blind casting in his drama class. When Morgan studied Shakespeare he submitted a thesis on moors in the plays after “being cast as all these characters because of my skin tone. You want me to put a piece of bone in my nose and play Caliban, you know?”

The Women of #BlackLivesMatter

In the beginning, the first 21 days, when we were under militarized police occupation, I can say for sure it was way more women than men in those streets. So many black women put their bodies on the line for this cause, because we birthed the people that the police are killing. So not only are we out there for ourselves, but we’re out there for our husbands, our boyfriends, our kids, our cousins, our nephews. Because we’re the ones who keep birthing black people, basically.


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