ANT/Gramsci, pt. 1

by CarlD

Over the next week I hope to do a series of posts setting up my talk on Actor Network Theory, Gramsci, and the practice of blogging at this year’s Rethinking Marxism conference. The current post will describe some rules and methods I’ve settled on for this project.

*I will not be writing a formal paper at this stage. I’ve always thought there was something almost catastrophically hilarious about academics going to conferences and reading canned prose at each other as fast as possible, often going over their time and using up the discussion period, leaving the productive dialogue to happen by accident around the edges. Oral communication is a different rhetorical form than written text; how do we of all people not know this? The answer, as usual, is to be found not in the manifest but in the latent functions of these events.

*My purpose is not to report finished work but to think out loud. My presentation will be brief, and oriented toward giving the audience enough to go on to think along with me.

*I have something like a point to make, but I will not ‘close’ the point in my presentation. My aim is a real discussion, not a socratic deathmarch to a predetermined conclusion.

*I may try to suggest connections with my fellow panelists’ work, although because I submitted a solo proposal I’m on a Sunday morning whatsis panel so those connections may not be obvious.

*In line with the theme of the project, I am working mostly from blog and other e-sources. The talk will be like a blog post with links.

*I will preview as much of it here on this blog as possible, and I invite discussion of all of it, including this outline of my plan.

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7 Comments to “ANT/Gramsci, pt. 1”

  1. “I’ve always thought there was something almost catastrophically hilarious about academics going to conferences and reading canned prose at each other as fast as possible, often going over their time and using up the discussion period, leaving the productive dialogue to happen by accident around the edges.”

    Tee hee. Or no discussion at all. Let’s not forget the stereotypical, but oh so real philosopher holding court prating about god knows what (his or her ‘famous’ friends, new book, blah blah blah) at a table filled with gawking onlookers, networking careerists putting in time and the far too polite. Mikhail and I found ourselves in this very situation last Spring (conferencing, ran into some people, went to dinner with 10-12 people, one idiot babbling on and on about himself) and we finally looked at each other, nodded, quietly summoned the waitress, paid the bill and left. Pathetically, we put in far too much time at the table. Awful, just awful, but you got to love the pageantry of academic conferences. Honestly, while I think it’s hilarious as well, I actually don’t mind the mechanic reading of the paper. It’s the q and a that often baffles, e.g. repetition of bloggy dynamics (or is it vice versa), e.g. biggest monkey on the mountain, or something like that. As in, “Why did you not talk about x, if I wrote that paper, I would have done it this way.” Then again, someone told me a long time ago that if you don’t get any comments or questions after a conference paper then you did a shitty job writing it.

    Anyway, your paper sounds neat, I’ll look forward to watching it unfold. I was at RM in ’02 or ’03 and thought overall it was quite good. I remember being pleasantly surprised that there were so many people still talking about Althusser, vaguely remember a raucous all Bulgarian panel and had a laugh watching people wait in a line at Starbucks 30 people deep all the while clutching their Rethinking Marxism journals and programs…

  2. I like your plan. I would like to suggest that you actually use the phrase “socratic deathmarch” in your talk. My theory is that within several years, it will turn up as a band name.

  3. Can you record it (either audio or even video) and post it? That would be great.

  4. I always thought that starting a good argument was a fine goal. Even in grad school, I found myself much more willing to present much less-finished work, in the hope of getting useful feedback that I could–wait for it–use to make it a stronger argument.

  5. I’m super excited to hear what you have to say. I read a bit of Gramsci earlier this term, and am taking a course on ANT, and I had never once thought of them in the same breath.

    Also, I completely agree re: presentations. Just writing your talk as a talk improves it by several orders of magnitude, and isn’t particularly onerous even if you already have the paper written.

  6. I would buy every one of Socratic Deathmarch‘s albums.

  7. Thank you all. Asher, you wanna play rhythm in this band? Anyone else have an instrument they’d like to contribute?

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