You might think, and some days it’s true, that the BABEL Working Group runs on Manhattan cocktails, WD-40, ramen, loose change, the kindness of strangers, old Talking Heads albums, matches, a glitter ball, chewing gum, and a few guitars. Indeed, without institutional or foundational funding, but with a lot of elbow grease in the wee hours of the night, the BABEL Working Group has, since 2004, worked very hard to: 1) develop new co-disciplinary, nomadic, and convivial confraternities between the humanities, sciences, social sciences, and the fine arts (both within and beyond the academy), 2) to build shelters for humanist and post/humanist vagabonds, 3) to foster a politics of friendship both within and beyond the University, and 4) to create new spaces for para-academic alliances (such as our biennial conference, our symposia series, but also our press punctum books and or new sound label punctum records).But the fact of the matter is, we cannot keep doing everything we have been doing, not to mention continue to build even more new spaces and events and projects and platforms, without some sort of regular fund-raising campaign, which we’ve decided to undertake beginning this year, in both spring and fall of each year. It’s important to us that we never charge membership dues [although many people have urged us to do just that], because as idealistic and foolish as it might sound, I’ve always envisioned BABEL as an attempt to put theory into practice — more specifically, to see if it’s possible to build and sustain something like Deleuze and Guattari’s “desiring-assemblage,” which of its very nature must have propensities, trajectories, flows [and also breaks in the flows], attachments, detachments, reattachments, agglomerations, itineraries, ETC. that cannot be predicted in advance nor managed bureaucratically nor controlled. As such, all manner of persons must be invited to jump on, and also jump off, with no impediments to their movements in and out of the spaces we are creating to foster new modes and experimental forms of creative intellectual work. We don’t want officers. We don’t want Robert’s Rules. We don’t want dues. Consider, also, that without any of that — and again, without any institutional support [although some, like GW-MEMSI have generously helped fund our biennial meeting and social events] — we’ve managed to do the following: Read more
In the Flesh (Holly Crocker [University of South Carolina])
Melting Flesh, Living Words (Jay Zysk [University of South Florida])
The Temporal Excesses of Dead Flesh (Cynthia Turner Camp [University of Georgia])
Carnival in The Merchant of Venice (Jonathan Goldberg [Emory University])
The Curious Pleasures of the Heroic Corpse (Kathryn Schwarz [Vanderbilt University])
Scattered Remains and Paper Bodies: Margaret Cavendish and the Siege of Colchester (Frances E. Dolan [University of California, Davis])
Fleshing out the text: The Transcendent Manuscript in the Digital Age (Elaine Treharne [Stanford University])
Spirited Flesh: The Animation and Hybridization of Flesh in the Early Modern Imaginary (Emily L. King [Vanderbilt University])
Hi Mho Jhi Kudd: Thomas Stephens’s Translated Flesh, or, Coconuts in Goa (Jonathan Gil Harris [Ashoka University])
- “Exegetical History: Nazis at the Round Table” — Martin Shichtman and Laurie Finke
- “Modern and Genuine Medievalism: Guido Kisch’s Romance with the German Middle Ages” — Mitchell B. Hart
- “Defending the West: Cultural Racism and Pan-Europeanism on the Far-Right” — Daniel Wollenberg
- “Remarks on the Name Jew and Universal” — Jean-Claude Milner, trans. Robert S. Kawashima
- “The History of an Incorrect Term: Agamben, Etymology, and the Medieval History of the Holocaust” — Heather Blurton
- “One or Several Jews? The Jewish Massed Body in Old Norse Literature” — Richard Cole
- “Response: Ethics and the Voices of the Past” — Fred Evans
MediaCommons is a community network for scholars, students, and practitioners in media studies, promoting exploration of new forms of publishing within the field. MediaCommons was founded with the support of the Institute for the Future of the Book, and with assistance from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Through this network, we hope to refocus scholarship in the field on the communication and discussion of new ideas in the field. . . . Our hope is that the interpenetration of these different forms of discourse will not simply shift the locus of publishing from print to screen, but will actually transform what it means to “publish,” allowing the author, the publisher, and the reader all to make the process of such discourse just as visible as its product. In so doing, new communities will be able to get involved in academic discourse, and new processes and products will emerge, leading to new forms of digital scholarship and pedagogy.
I was very lucky to be invited recently by George Washington University — more specifically, GW’s new Digital Humanities Institute [Alex Huang], GW’s Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute [Jeffrey Cohen], and the Gelman Library [Geneva Henry and Karim Boughida] — to give a talk on the state(s) and future(s) of open-access publishing, and in order to make this talk more accessible, I am sharing it here [in augmented form]!
A Time for Radical Hope: Freedom, Responsibility, Publishing, and Building New Publics
Professional Challenges. Amateur Solutions.
~The Bruce High Quality Foundation
For what may we hope? Kant put this question in the first-person singular along with two others — What can I know? What ought I to do? — that he thought essentially marked the human condition. With two centuries of philosophical reflection, it seems that these questions are best transposed to the first-person plural. And with that same hindsight, rather than attempt an a priori inquiry, I would like to consider hope as it might arise at one of the limits of human existence [such as the collapse of an entire culture]. . . . What makes hope [in the face of such a collapse] radical is that it is directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is. Radical hope anticipates a good for which those who have the hope as yet lack the appropriate concepts with which to understand it.
~Jonathan Lear, Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devestation
The Bruce High Quality Foundation is an anonymous collective and unaccredited art school, formed in 2004 by graduates of Cooper Union art school in New York City, who wanted to “foster an alternative to everything,” especially in New York City’s rarefied art world. Bruce High Quality is their whimsically invented figure-head: a sculptor who supposedly perished, along with all of his works, in the 9/11 attacks, and whose memory and legacy the collective seeks to maintain. One of their first interventions, or acts of institutional critique, happened in 2005 when the Whitney Museum wanted to honor the legacy of the illustrator Robert Smithson by constructing an actual “floating island” based on one of his drawings, “Floating Island to Travel Around Manhattan Island.” The constructed island, complete with living trees, was pulled by a tugboat around New York Harbor. The Bruce High Quality Foundation responded to the event with their own performance, titled“The Gate: Not the Idea of the Thing but the Thing Itself,” in which members of the collective pursued the Smithson island in a small skiff carrying a model of one of the orange gates by Christo and Jeanne-Claude that had been displayed in Central Park earlier that year. In 2007, they donned football gear and “tackled” public sculptures. They also produced a film in 2008 in which zombies take over the Guggenheim, and the Bruce High Quality Foundation fights them with the actual art collections (for example, decapitating the zombies with Brancusi sculptures while the art critics hide and cower in the museum’s cafeteria). In 2010, and despite the Bruce High Quality Foundation’s efforts to remain anonymous and iconoclastic, they were included in theWhitney’s 2010 Biennale. We’ll call this the “coming full circle” narrative, from inside the institution (Cooper Union) to its radical Outside and then back in again (the Whitney). Read more