Friday, September 2, 2011

Reading Marx's Capital with David Harvey

I read an essay recently which used Marx in the most marvellous way, Marc Redfield and Janet Farrell Brodie, "Introduction" to their edited collection entitled High Anxieties: Cultural studies in addiction (2002).
They cite Marx at length, including this passage:
A table continues to be wood, an ordinary sensuous thing. But as soon as it emerges as a commodity, it changes into a thing which transcends sensuousness. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to other commodities, it stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than if it were to begin dancing of its own free will" (1: 163-164).

For a close reading of the text of Karl Marx’s Capital Volume I in 13 video lectures by Professor David Harvey, go here:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

African American / Jamaican rhythm tutorial

Press this link for a tutorial about Jamaican rhythm (i.e 44 minutes of the classic Answer rhythm).
For a great comparison with African American rhythm culture see the following link for 2hours!!! of rapping over the drum break from Melvin Bliss "Substution Substitution". The first 30 minutes are especially great.

Friday, August 19, 2011

ARC Postdocs

Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA)

The Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme is a separate element of the Discovery Program. The DECRA scheme will provide more focused support for researchers and create more opportunities for early-career researchers in both teaching and research, and research-only positions.
Wednesday 18 May 2011

The Australian Sociological Association Conference- Newcastle- End of November 2011

Call for Papers- open until Sept. 5

Since the late 1960s, much prominent and influential social theory has been united by one common theme: social relations have individualised whilst economic relations have globalised. The TASA Conference 2011 – Local Lives/Global Networks – will explore the nexus between global economic, social and political discourses and the localised experiences and emotions that these forces engender for individuals faced with ever increasing uncertainty. As new inequalities arise and as traditional inequalities remain but are commonly obfuscated, a publically engaged sociology is well placed to make interventions and provide understanding in complex times. We invite papers and abstracts from all who would like to contribute to this enterprise.

  • Call for Papers & Abstracts - OPENS Monday April 4, 2011
  • Registration - OPENS Monday May 2, 2011
  • Referred Paper Submission -  EXTENDED to July29th. CLOSED. For further extensions please contact the conference conveners.
  • General Paper/Work-in Progress Paper - CLOSES Monday, August 29, 2011 EXTENDED to Monday September 5th, 2011
Check out theHealth Day:
Day theme: Engaging theory in health sociology
Date: Monday the 28th November, 2011, Newcastle, Australia
Conveners: A/Prof Alex Broom (The University of Queensland) and Dr Fran Collyer (The University of Sydney)
Key questions for the day:
  • How do we balance theory and doing research that resonates with ‘real world’ contexts?
  • To what extent are health sociologists contributing to social theory more broadly?
  • What is ‘theoretical’ and what do journals view as theoretically sophisticated?
  • Is theory needed for something to be sociological (versus health or public health research)?
  • How useful is theory for clinicians, practitioners and patients?
  • How important is theory for getting research funding from the ARC/NHMRC and other bodies?
  • What theoretical ideas are emerging at present and why/how are they useful/limited?
  • What theoretical trends dominate in Australia, the UK, Europe and the US?
Plenary panel contributors:
Professor Alan Peterson (Professor of Sociology, Monash University)
Associate Professor Maria Zadoroznyj (Associate Professor of Sociology, The University of Queensland)
Professor Kevin Dew (Professor of Sociology, Victoria University, New Zealand)
Dr Mark Davis (Lecturer in Sociology, Monash University)
Professor Jon Adams (Professor of Public Health, University of Technology Sydney)
PhD Student (TBA)
International Plenary Panel Contributors:
Professor Steve Wainwright and Professor Clare Williams from Brunel (London)
Directors of the Centre for Biomedicine and Society at Brunel and Editors of the Sociology of Health and Illness.
10-10:15 Welcome and Introductions
10:15-12:30 Plenary Panel 1: ‘Social Theory in Health Sociology’
12:30-1:30 Lunch
1:30-3:00 Plenary Panel 2: ‘Theorising health issues: A focus on publishing and journal expectations’

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Marc Anthony Neal

This is a video featuring - Marc Anthony Neal (MAN) interviewing Pierre & Jamyla Bennu & Rebecca Walker.
Pierre & Jamyla Bennu are a couple of film-makers. They made a great film about African American dance called Sun Moon Child.
They also made a great and quite provocative series about black barbie.  They talk about how unusual it is too see a black woman in power (i.e. with gun) in the way that is depicted in the black barbie series.
(I'm not sure where part 3 is.)
There is a great section during the interview where MAN asks Pierre Bennu about why he uses social media to distribute his work. He says that it is impossible to compete with the giant oligarchs of the media. With social media you can be like the mosquito  buzzing aroud but moving too fast for the big guy. You can annoy him. (He might even crash his car).
He cites Michael Jackson as an example of this. Hollywood wasn't giving any African-Americans lead roles- so Michael Jackson made his own films using a format that no one had ever taken seriously- the music video- with his music as the soundtrack.
See “Bad”. Directed by Martin Scorcesee- Best song ever.

MAN also interviews Rebecca Walker. Rebecca Walker is the daughter of Alice Walker. She lives in Maui. She writes and teaches. She is a Buddhist. She seems like a great woman.
They have a great conversation about the recent strikes in Wisconsin in the context of global political turmoil. Walker suggests that things have to break down periodically in order to reshape themselves.
Walker cites:
Dambisa Moyo, How the west Was Lost
A great book of poetry by a Russian Poet called Vera Pavlova called If there is something to desire there will be something to regret.
Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Harlem is Nowhere: A journey to the Mecca of Black America.
Walter Mosley, The Last days of Ptolemy Grey
MAN cites
Nataliey Moore, The Almighty Black P Stone Nation
Nicole R. Fleetwood, Perfomance Visuality and Blackness
Grant Farred, What’s my name: Black vernacular intellectuals
He also mentions that itunes has just released four episodes of the Nat King Cole show.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Seun Kuti


Rise by Knitting Factory

With the mighty new From Africa With Fury: Rise, Seun Anikulapo Kuti heads up Egypt 80, the extraordinary combo first fronted by his renowned father. The album follows Kuti’s critically praised debut, 2008’s Many Things, which was unanimously hailed for continuing Fela’s musical legacy. From Africa With Fury: Rise sees Kuti finding his own idiosyncratic voice as songwriter, singer, and band leader, its songs and sonic approach marked by provocative edge, powerful righteousness and sense of resistance. "We must rise... against companies like Monsanto".
Monsanto is an agricultural company. Farmers around the world use their products to "produce more with less, conserving resources like soil and water. And to improve lives. They do this by selling seeds, traits developed through biotechnology, and crop protection chemicals."

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Latest in Corporate Responsibility


The Tobacco industry has been using fairly soft health warnings to deflect attentoin away form the impositoin of harsher measures for decades. I'm not putting alcohol and tobacco in the same bag- I don't think any of us are ready for that yet, but it is inteeresting to see how the same tatics are recycled again and again.

Think before your next drink, and use only as directed on the label
Mark Metherell, Erik Jensen
July 12, 2011

Read more:

HEALTH warnings will appear on most beer, wine and spirit products today as a result of a liquor industry decision to take voluntary measures after years of government dithering.
The warnings, aimed at young people, pregnant women and problem drinkers, will be carried by alcohol products representing 80 per cent of the market, including supermarket brands.
The interchangeable warnings are: ''Is your drinking harming yourself or others?'', ''Kids and alcohol don't mix'' and ''It is safest not to drink while pregnant''. A pictogram of a pregnant woman drinking is also available.

The labels have been developed by the industry-funded educational organisation DrinkWise Australia and the liquor industry.
A decision on government-mandated warning labels is not expected until at least the end of the year. That follows several calls from experts for warning labels in recent years culminating in the recommendation made by an advisory committee in January.
The new warning on pregnancy is less explicit than the US version, which warns of the risk of ''birth defects''.
The National Health and Medical Research Council declares that ''maternal alcohol consumption can harm the developing foetus or breastfeeding baby''.
The chairwoman of DrinkWise Australia, Trish Worth, said the move was not a bid to pre-empt government measures as DrinkWise had been working on the idea since early 2008.
An obstetrician, Alex Welsh, welcomed the warnings as a way of highlighting the risks of alcohol. It was wisest for women to avoid alcohol when they were planning a baby, were pregnant or breastfeeding, but they should discuss this issues with their doctor, said Professor Welsh, NSW chairman of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
The psychiatric leader Ian Hickie said the latest research left no doubt that delaying teenagers' initiation to alcohol was the right approach. ''From a brain science point of view, you would not mix alcohol and a teenage brain at any period,'' said Professor Hickie, the director of Sydney University's Brain and Mind Research Institute.
About 14 countries, including the US, France and Germany, have mandatory health warnings on alcohol.
In Australia, the warnings will be carried by the three biggest brewers, Foster's, Lion and Coopers and virtually all big wine and spirit brands including Jacob's Creek, Wyndham Estate, Bundaberg Rum and Gordon's Gin.
The chief executive of Fosters, John Pollaers, said the agreement involving the liquor companies was a major breakthrough.
For Jimmy Lin, a restaurant manager, the warnings would do little to stop his drinking; they were not the graphic warnings of cigarette packs, and they were not things he didn't already know

Do you think alcohol bottles need health warnings?

Yes, it's a risk to your health
Only for the stronger forms of alcohol
No, we all know the risks

Saturday, February 12, 2011

1950s Cowboy Stories

I have been writing an essay on the rise of the Marlboro Man in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Marlboro man first appeared in 1955. The argument I make is that Marlboro borrowed from an existing network of meaning surrounding the cowboy to invest meaning in its cigarettes. Sounds reasonable? To that end I have been doing a bit of work on cowboy stories- a great subject. There are, obviously, lots of different ways of slicing this cake. Many of the virtues of the cowboy, his emphasis on freedom and autonomy, emerged in the "pleasant conditions" of life in America in the eighteenth century, before the Revolution. ("Pleasant conditions" is a reference to Hannah Arendt, On Revolution, 1963, p. 24). The relationship with the landscape, which is such an important site for the cowboy to express his virtues, is made possible, so the argument goes, by virtues of ideas about the sublime (Kant and Burke) and the noble savage (Rousseau). The vision of the frontier played a role in the nineteenth century when settlers flooded west, particularly following the gold rushes in California, 1859-1852. The notion of the Western, as we know it, emerged in the 1890s after the conquest of frontier had been finalised. The cowboy myth, in a way, is a nostalgic, kitsch rendition of an earlier history. The first Buffalo Bill Wild West shows first appeared at this time, as did Turner's famous paper on the affects of frontier life on American man. Teddy Roosevelt was a great advocate of western imagery. It is the 1950s that could be considered as the golden age of the west. Hollywood produced more western films at this time than before or since. Westerns like "Gunsmoke" dominated television ratings. Radio and dime novels also told western stories. The principle setting for the western is Texas in the 1870s.

I have been working my way through the western collection of my local video/DVD library- watching mainly the classics. High Noon (1952), Directed by Fred Zinnemann, starring Gary Cooper and a 23 year old Grace Kelly: Shane (1953), directed by George Stevens, starring Alan Ladd: The Man From Laramie (1955) directed by Anthony Mann and starring James Stewart (they made five westerns together): The Searchers (1956), Directed by John Ford, staring John Wayne: Rio Bravo (1959), directed by Howard Hawks starring John Wayne and Angie Dickinson.

The genre talks about many features of American life. The battle between ranchers (“we don’t need fence wire”) and homesteaders is fascinating. Men and masculinity is an important theme. The representations of Indians in films like The Searchers is a bit hard to intellectualise. I’m sure you could say something about the connections with American foreign policies during the era. The gender relationships are also fascinating. The tough guy who is quite unmanned in the presence of a woman seems to talk to ideas that we want women who are beautiful and vulnerable, but (secretly) tough as well.  It’s a hard act to follow.

There are blaxploitation westerns too. A flick through Darius James’s That’s Blaxploitation: Roots of the Baddasssss ‘Tude (1995) highlights Bucktown (1975), directed by Arthur Marks, starring Fred Williamson and Pam Grier. Then there is The Harder They Come (1972), directed by Perry Henzell and starring Jimmy Cliff, would count as one. Nelson George gives The Harder They Come mad props in his Buppies, B-Boys, Baps and Bohos: “The Harder They Come starring reggae star Jimmy Cliff, turns into a midnight hit that helps popularise Jamaican dance music in the U.S. while showing the effects of American western movies in the Third World... With its blend of advocacy, rebellion, and music, this film will stand as both the best rock movie and he best blaxploitation movie of the decade.” Western imagery featured in Jamaican dancehall into the 1980s, with Lone Ranger’s series of classic early 1980s hits, like Hi Yo Silver Away (Greensleeves, 1982), and, M16 (Hitbound/Channel One, 1982).


I'm in Vancouver at the moment, doing a postdoc at UBC. The city is divided east-west. The east end of town is where the action is. I'm living on campus on the far west end of town. Last weekend I travelled east on the 99. I dropped into Pulp Fiction Books on Main Street; to pick up a book I had seen a couple of weeks previously, a collection of essays by Gerald Early, The Culture of Bruising: Essays on Prizefighting, Literature and Modern American Culture, Echo Press New Jersey, 1994. The book is in part, about boxing- hence the "bruising of the title", and not to be confused with Eliot Gorn's The Manly Art of Prize-Fighting. Boxing, Early says in his introduction, is "a metaphor for the philosophical and social condition of men (and sometimes women) in modern mass society... It is a kind of dumb play of the human crises of identity in the modern society. This was a bit heavy going for me. Working in gender, the “men (and sometimes women)” sounded a bit to Norman Mailer-esque. And I think the term “crises needs to be qualified.

While I was at Pulp Fiction I couldn't resist Horace Campbell's Rasta and Resistance: From Marcus Garvey to Walter Rodney, Africa Press New Jersey 1987 and Nelson George’s Buppies, B-Boys, Baps and Bohos: Notes on post-soul black culture, Harper Collins, 1992. To round it out I indulged my current 1950s-America theme, with Mickey Spillane's Vengeance is Mine (1950).

Nelson George has kept my attention all week. The book- as far as I have read it, which is the first half, is a collection of essays about hip hop published, primarily, in the Village Voice, in the 1980s. It is a bit like having Wax Poetics on tap. The book starts with "Chronicle of post-soul black culture", from Melvin Van Peeble's Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song in 1971 and ends with Shabba Ranks having the #1 black album in America in 1991.

Highlights/miscellany from the “Chronicle”/timeline include, from 1971, citations of Black Enterprise, the 'bible of the burgeoning class of white-collar blacks', and Essence, 'which targets collegiate black women'. Both document 'more subtle issues than the soul-era periodicals Ebony and Jet'. I noticed this partly because I had been listening to Left of Black #19, a televised series of interviews hosted by Marc Anthony Neal from This edition (#19) featured an artist, Hank Willis Thomas, talking, amongst other things, about his engagements with consumer culture and advertising. He describes himself as a "visual culture archaeologist". In the interview Thomas talks about a number of his works. One of these is "Fair Warning" (2010), a collage of images of black women taken from Virginia Slims cigarette commercials from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. The cigarette is part of the "quality of life" represented by these women, their haute couture clothes, and "zest for life". The advertisements themselves are an acknowledgement of a "separate and distinct black buying middle-class”. Marketers started to advertise to niche black audiences (rather than a homogenous whole). So you get a hip hop audience, a middle-class audience, and so on. Iman, a black model, was seminal in representing this new black femininity. Willis also did a piece called "Black is Beautiful"  (2009), another collage, of black women taken from the Jet magazine "beauty of the week" 1953-2008- over 2500 weekly images. Neal and Willis describe Jet as a "black social media before social media, in the sense of its capacity to speak to a wide audience. The work (“Black is Beautiful”) is influenced by a recent book by his mother, Deborah Willis, Posing Beauty: African women from the 1890s when it was political to talk about black beauty", to the present. The ideals of beauty presented in the photographs change over time becoming blacker. The hair styles change as well.