Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween!

It's funny--I find myself returning to "The Battle for Christmas" (see my post on 9/18, "Tisn't quite the season, but..."), even though it's Halloween. Maybe I'm just unseasonable. But what strikes me about the book's significance to this day--all Hallows Eve--is the remarkable similarity that Halloween used to share with the Christmas holiday. In the 18th and 19th centuries, working class people customarily invaded the homes of elites on or about December 25th, sometimes in costume, demanding sweets and other confections. A failure to produce the goods often resulted in interminable drunken singing, mischief, and even acts of outright vandalism. Christmas was a temporary, carnivalesque reversal of the established social order, the class dynamics of which have been transposed onto the act of children knocking at our doors demanding candy. And in that respect, though I love Halloween, it's hard not to be a little cynical about it. The cutting, critical-edge of many of our most cherished holidays has been blunted by a loss of the historicity of our ways of celebrating (or repeating) them.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Of interest

My good friend Greg Seigworth, who teaches at Millersville and is one of the leading scholars at work on developing a Deleuzoguattarian cultural studies, wrote to me today to let me know about two things. First, he's been reading Differences & Repetitions (thank you!), and second, he sent me a list of some other blogs that might be of interest to D & R readers. Here they are, courtesy of Greg:

Steve Shaviro's Pinochhio Theory

Glen Fuller's auto shop (though it has a different name now)

Jon Beasley-Murray's post-hegemony

Spurious (no idea who this is, but fantastic writing on 'everyday life')

Jodi Dean's I Cite

and Michael Berube's:


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Why do I write?

This question has been vexing me for some time now, in part because it requires me to define something of a purpose for "Differences and Repetitions." I remember struggling with this question when, while setting up this blog, I was prompted to make a short statement on what it was about. I substituted instead a quotation on everyday life from the French Marxist Henri Lefebvre. You can see it right now, near the top of the page.

I realize, however, that I have been grappling with the question, "why do I write?" all along, albeit indirectly. The title "Differences and Repetitions" (which I draw from the work of the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze) and the Lefebvre quotation together define the ambit of this blog. Broadly, I am concerned with the notion of everyday life as both a theoretical category and as a terrain where people live out their lives in complex, modern societies. I am further interested by the two ways in which everyday life can repeat. "Everyday" often refers to what is most prosaic, ordinary, humdrum, and cliched, and indeed these qualities speak to the first way in which everyday life repeats...unwaveringly, incessantly. And yet, as Lefebvre and Catherine Regulier once wrote (in a line I habitually repeat), "there is always something miraculously charming about the rising of the sun"--this despite, or perhaps because of, its occurring every single day. There is, in other words, a sense in which the very repetitiveness of the everyday holds open the possibility for difference, innovation, creativity, wonder, and change. "Differences and Repetitions" is dedicated to exploring this tension intrinsic to everyday life, and I invite others to join me in doing so.

Apropos, to those of you who may be reading, please chime in once and awhile! I've received a few emails and have spoken with some of you about my posts, but I'd prefer if that were all aired publicly rather than in private correspondence. With that said, I want to thank Josh, Todd, Bob, Jonathan, and Kembrew for being my interlocutors and for promoting "Differences and Repetitions." With any luck "D&R" will keep on repeating, differently.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Don't let the sun go down on me...

I just returned from trip to Syracuse, NY, where I had the good fortune of hearing historian James Loewen speak about his new book, "Sundown Towns." In a word, it's fascinating. Loewen documents how the South effectively won the US Civil War (a.k.a., "The War Between the States"), given the propagation of racist ideologies and practices nationwide thereafter. He looks specifically at the flourishing of what he calls "sundown towns," that is, of towns that implemented both implicit and explicit policies to exclude people of color (and sometimes Jewish people, too) from living in their communities. And lest you think this practice was uncommon in the North, think again. Loewen spends a great deal of time documenting more than 400 such towns in Illinois alone (a blue state, no less), and he estimates that as many as 10,000 of them have existed in the US as a whole. Frighteningly, I happen to live about 1/2 hour from one, and to this day the folklore (which seems to be all too true) says that people of color shouldn't stop there after dark. How far, indeed, have we come?