splitting the list and introductions

Jon Beasley-Murray jpb8 at acpub.duke.edu
Sun Aug 13 14:09:00 MDT 1995


My apparent complaint about the number of professors posting to the list
was a joke--obviously the system of marking irony in a post fails at a
certain point.

I don't see the list as having been "hi-jacked" by activists and
personally am both generally unimpressed with the activist/professor
distinction (more on this anon, perhaps), and still quite opposed to
splitting the list.  Though if there is a significant consensus in favor of
doing this (and I don't regard the couple of posts we've seen recently as
a significant consensus, though I do take seriously the fact that this
suggestion is raised fairly frequently), I would set up the requisite
machinery for such a split.

(Re)introductions seem a good idea to me, however.  I zipped into the
marxism archive to have a look at how I originally introduced myself, and
append the relevant post below.  I was quite surprised upon re-reading
it.  First, by how academically oriented it is--I guess if I were writing
a new intro now, I'd emphasize more the "activist" side of my life, given
the way the list has developed.  Second, by the fact that I have done
most of the things I said I was going to do--concentrate in Latin
American studies, start to learn Italian etc.  These obviously weren't
flash in the pan ideas, and my obsessions have stayed more or less the
same (see my last couple of posts!).  But I guess I should have mentioned
affect [!?].

Take care

Jon

Jon Beasley-Murray
Literature Program
Duke University
jpb8 at acpub.duke.edu
http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/~spoons
---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Wed, 13 Jul 1994 17:59:31 -0500 (CDT)
From: Jonathan Beasley Murray <jbmurray at alpha1.csd.uwm.edu>
Subject: Marxism: a first introduction!

Hey everyone.  I guess this is the first post to the new "marxism" list.

Well, I thought I'd kick things off with an introduction.  It would be
helpful if as many people as are now signed up on the list felt free to
say hi and introduce themselves, with perhaps particular attention to the
extent of their engagement with marxist texts, or their reasons for being
on the list, etc. etc.

In particular, it would be helpful if we started a loose discussion as to
how those signed up to the list thought the list should conduct itself.
The moderators' ideas are, in the main, outlined in the "info" text.  In
addition, however, we thought we might begin a "reading" in the near
future and (ambitiously) are prepared to suggest a reading of _Capital_.
Why not start big?  However, we would very much like feedback both on the
idea of doing "readings" of any sort, and on the prospect of reading
_Capital_ in particular.  It would be useful to guage the strength of
interest for this proposal, and to receive other suggestions should
anyone have them.

Anyhow, here goes for my introduction:

I have just finished an MA at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (modern
studies concentration--kind of interdisciplinary, based in English), having
done my BA in the UK (in English).  At the end of this Summer I will be
moving to the Literature program at Duke.

I started reading Marx as an undergrad (for the "English moralists"
paper!), and read more Althusser than anything else, mostly because he
sounded fun, it meant I didn't have to read Hegel, and everyone else
thought it was a bad idea (such are the ways I tend to make choices).  At
the time, I enjoyed Marxist rhetoric as much as anything else--for one
thing, it ensured you were always "right" and (with Althusser) had
Science and Truth on your side.  Of course, the proletariat was always a
little more difficult to locate.

At the same time I started reading Deleuze, and also read Guattari and
Negri's _Communists Like Us_.  That marked the beginning of an engagement
with "autonomist" marxism, which is one of the major things I'm working
on right now (and someday I'll get round to learning Italian).

This ties in with a long spiel about the influence of Gramscianism on
cultural studies (which I declare myself against), but I'll spare you that.

So essentially (and following Negri etc.) I am interested in an analysis
of the State, and also in looking at economics or the "base": hence, for me,
the project to read _Capital_.  Also, I hope, this entails a "return" to
Althusser (who, in my opinion, was never so interested in culture and
ideology as he was in the State and economics, and who was the last thing
around before everyone, by which I mean the Birmingham school, jumped on
the Gramscian bandwagon).

And I throw Bourdieu into the mix for good luck too.  I find his
analysis of culture extremely useful, and a useful "antidote" to the
celebratory nature of much of what passes for cultural studies nowadays.
However, I am interested in supplementing Bourdieu's social analysis, in
part through a fuller investigation of the nature and sources of power
(which is a given in his framework, it seems) and partly through
re-interrogating both his notions of class and the moments at which he
suggests the system may break down (which I compare to a
DeleuzoGuattarian deterritorialization).  These moments, however, are few
and far between.

As far as "practical" politics are concerned, apart from Labour party
activism (young socialists in Croydon North East!), and some TA unionism,
my major interest and involvement has been in Central America, which I
visited a couple of times both before and during my BA.  I continue to
be interested above all in the issue of Latin and Central American
cultural identity and nationalism in a post-colonial context.

Over the past couple of years (the MA), I've been doing a lot of theory
therefore (Bourdieu--D&G--*autonomia*).  One of these days I'll find a
"text" or two to look at too, and will probably concentrate on Latin
American cultural politics, therefore.  But there's time.

So as far as my personal position both on Marxism and on the "marxism"
list, I guess my disposition as I move further and further away from the
discipline of English, is generally away from culturalism, but my
educational formation means that I'm not yet prepared to junk all of the
work that Western Marxism in particular has done in this area.

I hope that others on the list will now feel free to jump in and add
their own introductions, start their own debates, make known their own
concerns.

Jon

Jon Beasley-Murray
Department of English and Comp. Lit.
U. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
jbmurray at alpha1.csd.uwm.edu




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