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February 28, 2006

Injurious Speech/Discursive Agency

I am sure everyone is aware of/following this story, but I thought it might be productive to consider in terms of Butler's claims....

Funeral protest causes furor among legislators
Offended by anti-gay demonstrators during a fallen soldier's funeral, legislators want a limit on pickets.
Bob Von Sternberg, Star Tribune

Bipartisan outrage erupted Friday over an anti-gay demonstration outside a funeral in Anoka a day earlier, giving a boost to a legislative effort to control such picketing in Minnesota.

Two similar bills have been introduced in the House to prohibit such protests within 300 feet of the site of a service, survivors' homes or anywhere along the route of a funeral cortege. An identical bill is to be introduced in the Senate when the Legislature reconvenes next week, and sponsors predicted widespread bipartisan support.

In addition, Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Friday he strongly supports the legislation after seeing the protest held outside the funeral of Army Cpl. Andrew Kemple, who died Feb. 12 in Iraq. The protesters contend that God is killing American soldiers because they fight for a country that tolerates homosexuality.

"I was appalled by the behavior and message and insensitivity of the protesters," Pawlenty said. "You would hope they would use better judgment ... It's heartbreaking to see the effect on the families."

He said he supports a bill that would "give people space when they are grieving" and require demonstrators to "stay at a distance that's not disruptive."

The hourlong protest Thursday by six members of a small nondenominational church in Kansas ignited a talk show firestorm in the Twin Cities Friday, including on Pawlenty's weekly radio show. The picketing was condemned for hours by hosts and callers alike.

The bill was the brainchild of Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall. It was prompted not by Thursday's protest but by adoption of a similar law Feb. 13 in South Dakota.

"These people have been showing up all over the country, and I figured these characters would be over here soon, but they beat us to the punch," said Seifert, House majority whip. "What they're doing flies in the face of Minnesota values."

The Kansas church members are followers of the Rev. Fred Phelps, who has preached a fervently anti-gay message for decades. Since the Iraq war began, his group's focus has shifted from the funerals of AIDS patients to services for soldiers killed in action.

In the past few months, volunteers calling themselves Patriot Guard Riders also have shown up at military funerals to counter the Kansans' message.

A companion House bill has been introduced by Rep. Dan Severson, R-Sauk Rapids, and a Senate version will be introduced next week by Sen. Don Betzold, DFL-Fridley.

"It's a sad commentary that we have to do something like this, and nobody's saying we're going to repeal the First Amendment," Betzold said. "But we're just saying let these people have some space."

Independently, a courier service owner from Brooklyn Park began circulating a petition Friday, demanding just such a state law. He plans to present the petitions to state officials next week. "What they're doing ain't right, but you can't take away people's right to protest," said Billy Bishop. "This law should be passed, like, today."

Similar legislation is being considered by at least 14 states. Phelps has denounced them as unconstitutional, "offspring of passion, prejudice and putrid pandering to the rabble."

But the law, if enacted, is unlikely to face a constitutional challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota because it wouldn't directly violate any protester's right to free speech, said Chuck Samuelson, the group's executive director.

"Placing restrictions of time, place or manner [of protesting], but not on the content of speech, can serve a compelling public interest," he said. "We generally don't like these things and part of me says leave [him] alone and he'll go away. But this is not a constitutional issue, it's a public policy issue."



I'm not sure what this suggests about the conslusions of the Sloop article, but I found the results of the case interesting. A school district in NJ ruled that a transgendered individual would be allowed to return to substitute teaching in an elementary school. I have to wonder when the parents express concern for their children being confused by Miss McBeth whether or not they are transferring their own confusion onto their children.

February 27, 2006

difference and repetition

Let me first state my question as succinctly as I can and then add a few qualifying comments.

What repetition has as its correlate the maximum difference?

1. I was not sure if this question fit under the category of hegemony. The question is something that really interests me in that I would like to know about the (ontological) nature of change, its conditions of possibility, the formal expressions it assumes, etc. I was thinking of this question after last class when we were discussing how symbolic change happens through a specific process of iteration and repetition. It seems that in historically-linguistically different circumstances a signifiers iterability suggests the possibility for a repetition that may cause the signification as such to "slide" or glissage away from a hateful usage to a more "benevolent" one or something like that [deluca talks about this with "black" in Jamaica following Hall, Butler talks about "queer" and such things. So this seems like a key thing for rhetoricians to think through. If we agree that the structure of language as such is that iteration forces repetition w/ chance for difference, what kind of difference are we talking about? Is it just that things can mean differently? No doubt, this must be significant because for one thing to mean otherwise an entire chain of signifiers must also shift along with that one thing. ---still! Saussure says this happens only by accident, yes? if that then are we ultimately theorists of accident? surely we are not talking about self-identical subjects strategizing about how a word could change its meaning, or are we?---

2. There must be different kinds of difference, kinds we cannot imagine. I like this (derridean inspired from Brian Lain) example (iteration):

Follow this procedure to see maximum difference:
1. Look at the words below
2. Look away
3. Look at the word again

--Cellar Door--

The word has changed, why? The word has changed again. Each iteration must include within itself the maximum quantity for difference. So is it that the most precise repetition has as its correlate the maximum amount of difference? Some ways this makes sense: as difference in kind--bergson/deleuze/happy here--the word may only differ, truly differ, in its difference from itself not from another word or a thing from another thing for that matter. So this then is about potential rather than possible. There are any number of possible differences like cello door or cellar dook or cellar doors or anything, but the maximum potential for difference must be within and from the word itself, yes?

3. I guess I'm wondering how the butler stuff fits in with my thoughts about difference in kind rather than difference in type.

February 17, 2006

Process of Hegemony

Hegemony is a concept that has been popping up all over in readings for other classes…but an interesting use of it is found in Steven Buechler’s Social Movements in Advanced Capitalism. He describes “cycles of hegemony that define such very different political climates? and that there are 4 specific stages that associated with the rise and fall of hegemonic power (p. 67) associating that with a rise, maturity, and decline of hegemonic power. For him, these cycles are tied to changing economies and how states take advantage of economic opportunities (thus starting a hegemonic cycle). Obviously here, he is not pulling from Laclau and Mouffe (his citation is Gramsci), and that the hegemony is giving as example is the US military-industrial system and its forms/stages from 1900-present (and assuming that this is a dominant/influential world force)—clearly some material evidence with the type of production and economic system at a given time. But I was interested in seeing if a “life cycle? of hegemony fits with the process that Laclau and Mouffe outline.

Given that articulation/disarticulation is a process, then life cycle might fit. There would be, arguably, some evidence for the movement of the frontier and/or strength of the rearticulation/current articulation (how fragmented or contested it would be). Using Ron’s example from class, would it be fair to suggest that marriage between man/woman was strongest when there was no recognition or terminology for homosexuality? And that at this point we might be at the emerging phase of rearticulating the concept of marriage/traditional concept of marriage in decline? Perhaps gauging the strength of given concepts by forms of text or discourse and how these concepts are referred to? If we can say that articulation processes can be thought of as a life cycle, it might also be possible to think that there would be certain strategies that can be employed at different times of that life cycle for rearticulation to be more or less successful. In thinking of the war example (Matt’s use of Cloud, Greene, and DeLuca articles), would it be a matter of the peace movement making itself known or targeting specific articulation targets at given points along the way? For example, the peace movement was ineffective because they were acting at the height of the changeover (when the dominant was most defensive of the current articulation) so needed to lay other groundwork (like the other rearticulations that Ron suggested) to have effect on their specific target with military in America and combating the yellow-ribbon press. Although Laclau and Mouffe might not have intended their version of hegemony to be used as a tool for the oppressed (but do suggest rethinking?), with our discussion in class on the peace movement, we were leaning towards utility and action with this concept…hence my thinking here.

There are problems with thinking about hegemony as a life-cycle, so I am not certain that this makes sense given what we talked about in class. My concern would be:
1. How does one tell at what point of the life cycle you are at?
2. Can we really strategize with these practices? As Ron suggested, with the other issues that are connected/need to be rearticulated as well, how can we access those decisions or change some things given the material reality it is connected to?
3. Is there a level of consciousness that has to be gained about these hegemonic forces—do some act subconsciously (again, making it hard to determine life cycle or our ability to rearticulate)?

Lots of questions here, but wondering if it is a worthy place to push the process of hegemony in this way and what that might lead us to.

February 16, 2006

Some Thoughts to Hegemony: H and Dominant Ideology

It occurs to me we are left with at least 3 different ways of thinking about hegemony. I will add a fourth (though see Amy's 2-17 post for a movement model for hegemony). IT is worth making sure we understand what those ways are and what the stakes are when going in one direction as opposed to another.

1) hegemony is the name of how cultural/politcal resources organize a common sense (a consenus) to support a dominant ideology (a world view that supports current asymmetries in power relationships between nominal groups). At times, as Gunn and Treat recenly pointed out in QJS, hegmony in critical rhetoric/communication often takes the place of ideology, tout court, in an effort to distance hegemony from the overly deterministic connotations of ideology as determination. And, as one might notice in Cloud, ideology and hegemony get very close to one another. However, in the hands of someone like Dana Cloud Or Todd Gitilin, this approach to hegemony, explains how the dominant ideology reproduces itself, and protects itself from being challenged. Though, to be honest, hegemony and dominant ideology become so fused in Cloud's analysis that they are nearly substitutable. ( Pedegogically, I would suggest that this substitution effect should be avoided, and as an editor for journals I demand it :.)

2) what might this mean for rhetoric. I want to answer this question by following what I take to be, following the writings of Leff, Gaonkar, Charland, the central challenge of contemporary rhetorical studies; namely the relationship between rhetoric as stratetic intervention/as cultural practice of persuasion and rhetoric as rhetoricality, a general process that describes the linguistc character of all human institutions, including, humans.

a) as stragegic intervention: the view of hegemony as s a consensus/common sense toward a dominant ideology potentially divides all cultural/politcal documents into two camps: those that support the dominant ideology (hegemonic texts) and those that do not support the dominant ideology ("counter-hegemonic" texts?). Dominant ideology, therefore stands in as something that is known or must be explained, but the strategic intervention (the text, as a philosophically loaded shorthand), is read for how it constructs the common sense, or adherence to, the dominant ideology.

From such a standpoint, it becomes necessary to describe what textual charctersitic links the text and the dominant ideology. In other words, what is important is how the text "speaks" promotes the dominant ideology. For example, Cloud's case on Oprah, the link is the "Rhetoric of Tokinism." Tokinism is a judgement about the narrative logic of the Oprah Texts she describes, She borrows the concept of tokinism from sociology, and gives it a rhetrorical character ("rhetoric of") by essentially turning Tokinism into a way to classify a host of different texts (a meta genre, if you will). So what we thought was, for example, a biography (a literary genre) is given a "rhetorical" dynamic by the way it partakes in a broader rhetorical/sociological classification, tokenism.

One important point needs to be made. In none of Clouds examples are we dealing with the traditional rhetorical text or genre (perhaps epidiectic would be the best way to describe the Oprah texts that she discusses, especially, the tribute show but, she does not use these classical rhetorical concepts). At the very least, her examples are not political examples in the sense of an effort to persuade an audience to make a judgement about a particular policy issue. They are genres associated with the terrain of popular culture. At which point, the question is what makes her project about rhetoric. My point is that her object domain should not be automatically imagined as a "rhetorical" object. For her to do so, she needs to align rhetoric with a general process that can be given a rhetorical character. The general process is hegemony and the concept that links these texts to the general process of hegemony is "a rhetoric of tokinism." a classification of fragmented multigeneric texts into a unified whole. ( a discursive articulation, to use L/M langauge)

As an aside: lots of folks deal with this slippage between the classical forms of rhetoric (epideictic,deliberative forensic) and contemporary forms of rhetoric like seriel television shows, by using the concept "cultural rhetoric" to describe the latter. According to Mailloux, "cultural rhetoric means taking on the study of the political effectivity of trope and argument in culture" (Rhetorical Power 59). (of couse, at this point, we are already beginning to move away from intentional efforts at persuasion to make a judgement in a situation, to a more subtle forms of persuasion as influence with or without worrying about specific situational moments that require judgement. In fact Mailloux fully belongs to a vision of rhetoric as general process ( where would their not be the political effecticity of trope and argument in culture, especially, after we textualize culture?) Back to Hegemony as common sense/consensus

b) as general process. In the Hegemony as consensus to dominant ideology approach, therefore, rhetoric becomes a general process to the extent that hegemony takes place accross the cultural/politcal sphere and this sphere has a linguistic character. Hegemony, almost by definition, has a rhetorial character, because it manifests itself in linguistic forms throughout a social fromation. We turn rhetoric into a general process to the extent that key concepts (like hegemony) are said to have a rhetorical character. The only limits, then, on the rhetorical, is the limits of the concept that has been re-made as rhetorical. For example, for Cloud, it is hard to know what text would not be either "hegemonic" or "counter-hegemonic" . Is it even possible, to have an ahegemonic text? Though, it should be noted, that attaching rhetoric to hegemony, does not necessarily, mean that we would talk about the general process in the radical sense the L/M suggest, For Cloud, rhetoric (in the first sense) either promotes or challenges power relationships (those relationships may not all be imagined as rhetorically constituted)

3. Some Critical implications:

a) A hegemony as consensus or common sense approach requires that you provide an account of the dominant ideology that your texts are said to be hegemonizing (that, is building consensus toward)

b)Try to minimize the easy substitutablity between hegemony and ideology. For example, in a phrase like hegemonic masculinity, do we mean a commons sense about masculinity that supports or changes a particular dominant ideology ( a world view that supports an asymmentrical relationship of power- Patriarchy) or do we mean that hegemonic masculinty is a dominant ideology about masculinity. In which case, what is the name of that dominant ideology. We should all be careful about this conceptual slippage effect. If you mean for hegemony to mean a common sense to a particular idea of x such a view is neutral to its relationship to power, unless you make specific claims about how that common sense harms or disadvantages particular groups or how that common sense gives a history to the dominant ideology. IN other words, if patriachy is the dominant ideology you are studying, how does patriachy change due to changing notions of our common sense about masculinity.

To think of hegemony as common sense, has builit into it the problem between product and process, I would suggest thinking hegemony is the process, commons sense is the product. The question is, what is the rhetorical character of that process that reveals a common sense (its product). The second step is to argue that the product (common sense) is bad or good for power relationship between folks. At which case, we may or may not need to concept ideology.

c. I we will return to ideology as a concept, but, I would encourage folks to follow Condit's lead and seperate hegemony from dominant ideology, they are two different concepts ( a future post will explain the implications and assumptions I find in Condit's approach). In fact, we have reasons to keep hegemony, but abandon ideology, dominant or otherwise (See Deluca on L@M). At the very least, we need to return to whether or not we should be thinking of ideology as a terrain as opposed to a product/thing (Protestantism). A concept like dominant ideology presupposes that ideology be imagined as a thing/product. As we will begin to explore next week, ideology can also be described as a process of interpellion, that makes subjects. so the relationship bewtween hegemony and ideology is not easily worked out without an idea of the difference between the two concepts and the relationship between the two concepts.

Let me know if any of this was helpful, seems wrong, seems to need amendment/clarity.

February 8, 2006

The Project of Hegemony

This is a response to the Laclau talk discussion, as well as a new question --

Perhaps there really is no demand 1, or at least the rhetoric of demand 1 is not really a begining point for hegemonic articulation. That is, if demand 1 is thought of as an entirely localized and self-birthed demand. The way Laclau constructed a diagram during the talk of demand1, d2, ect orginally in horizontal relation to one another suggested that conception of d1. However, I think the kind of hegemonizing HSS calls for is a task that can only take place when an articulator is reacting not only to a local instance of injustice (as per demand 1) but is rather reacting to a richer matrix of previously stated demands and injustices. It may be the original articulation of such injustices may make it more or less easy for a hegemonic articulation to start to construct a logic of equivilence with that demand and others (ie it may easier to bring together poor native workers and underemployed immigrants if, for instance, the workers articulate their demands in terms of corporate exploitation instead of xenophobia). But it seems that the hegemonizing articulations must come after (in response to) local demands that have already been voiced.

While I'm not very familiar with the circumstances of the Kiaros document, it seems like it does come at such a momement when previous demands had already been made and the task had begun of producing both an equivalence among those demands, as well producing what Laclau and Mouffe call "a set of proposals for the positive organization of the social" (189).

What seems to be strikingly absent in HSS are examples, like Kiaros or the Palestinian Declaration of Independence perhaps, of democratic hegemonizing articulation (there are obviously much less cumbersome ways to talk about this, but when in Rome . . .) My question is, why are such examples are absent in the book? Do they not believe such articulatory practices occur as organic responses to contemporary conditions? Is the call for such a project, which they seem to assign to an entirely future status both at the end of the book as well as the 2000 introduction, a project for an intellectual vanguard? Is their claim really their post-structuralist analysis is needed to announce the conditions of possibility for such a hegemeny project, and only then can it begin? What's the status of the intellectual vanguard for radical democracy?