An Apology, a Purpose, and a Fragment: Ways and Modes of Grappling with Ideas

When I created this blog, the original purpose was to engage the unfinished, draft fragments of my work. I had two primary purposes. The first was simply to challenge academic processes of production which recognize work as either in process (and therefore relatively secret) or as finished/published (and therefore complete, unchanging, and static). The second was to recognize that my work is–in a “working” or “finished” form–always presenting and representing only fragments of me, fragments that I choose to make public.

I’ve failed at both of these in a particularly telling way. I continue to think of things I might post, only to stop myself in the process, thinking it is “not quite read yet.” Therefore, there aren’t fragments of my production or fragments of my process of becoming and self-representation. There is only an occasional post of things moving toward “completion.”

I’d like to disrupt that trend here and now with a first fragment. It is a mini-project rooted in my readings of several introductions to commentaries on Gilles Deleuze (who I plan to grapple with in detail this summer). In each of these introductions, some attention was paid to the ways that he wrote and talked about his writing. I was struck, in particular, about Deleuze making the claim that his work on other philosophers was an act of grabbing them “by the middle.” This was striking as a way of reading, contrasting with analytic (which I might characterize as searching for a string of more or less logical arguments) and continental (a search for hidden, absent, present signifiers through close readings) modes of engaging a text or work. Another example I borrow from scholar Eve Tuck, who writes about Deleuze in education, talking about Deleuze being “relentlessly scalar” — an idea that also captured my imagination.

So I began thinking it would be useful to have a list of the different modifiers you can use on ideas, to twist out nuances in your readings and writings. The points where I write “vs.” below are a pretty simplistic approximation trying to articulate that there is some tensionality between these two positions. One way to articulate the purpose of this mini-project is that it works at some of the phenomenological experiences associated with ideas and our experiencing of ideas.

Without further delay, here is the beginning of my list. I welcome suggestions.

  • Harden v soften
  • Clarity v stuttering
  • Scaling
  • Translating
  • By the middle (Deleuze) vs. hidden signifiers vs. analytic.
  • Spatial
  • Territorial vs deterritorial
  • Regional
  • Smooth vs striated
  • Tree vs rhizome
  • Normative vs resistant
  • Conscious vs unconscious
  • Empty vs full
  • Firm solid vs unstable
  • Connective v disconnective
  • Opacity
  • Singularity
  • Multiplicity
  • Active vs reactive
  • Rigid vs malleable
  • Texture
  • Complex vs simplify
  • Pitch – flat vs sharp
  • Crunchy, chewy, soft
  • Alive v dead
  • Attractive vs ugly
  • Abstract vs sensual
  • Engaging vs distant
  • Revealing vs obfuscating
  • Light vs heavy
  • Light vs. dark
  • Clean v messy
  • Internal v external
  • Inside v outside
  • Intellectual vs lived / experienced
  • degrees of Pressure
  • Being v. doing
  • Speed up vs. slow down
  • Bulleting
  • Countour, line, point

Why deal with the “hard stuff” in class?

Or, the danger of sterilizing education (Reblogged from UMinn Techniques in Teaching and Learning)


“So, what did you learn?”

I asked this recently of a former student become a friend as we were sitting together in my office. She was catching me up on her previous semester, specifically an interesting class on the history of science.

“You know, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton… How science changed through all of those things.”

“Sounds interesting. Did you learn about eugenics?” I ask.

This question has been present on my mind as soon as she started talking about the course. Maybe it was growing up Jewish that made me particularly attentive to this question, or maybe it was my education in ethics. Either way, it felt like an important thing to learn about in a course purportedly training our future scientists about their historical roots.

“No, what’s that?”

“The scientific movement that provided the ammunition for Hitler’s attempted extermination of the Jews and the forced sterilization of mentally ill people in the United States and indigenous people in Australia.”


“Yeah. Did you learn about IQ? How it was used to justify racism?”


Social Darwinism?”

“No… We probably should have learned these things, huh?”

Yeah. Probably. Continue reading