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You are here: The Platypus Affiliated Society/Archive for category 2010

In the years immediately following World War II French intellectuals Jean-Paul Sartre and Frantz Fanon turned their attention to racism, anti-semitism and anti-black racism. Both men were engaged with both. Neither wrote from identity, but rather both sought to link their reflections to Marxism, to its failure and possible reconstitution.

The texts Sartre and Fanon wrote during the years 1945-1952 – primarily Anti-Semite and Jew and “Black Orpheus” by one and Black Skin, White Masks by the other – remain enigmatic, resisting assimilation to the canons of identity politics. Unlike later writings taken up by the New Left in the 1960s, above all Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth with Sartre’s notorious preface, the writings from the immediate post-war years are rarely revisited today and, insofar as they cannot be rendered mere precursors to the later works, they are ignored.

This talk seeks to recover the concerns of Sartre and Fanon regarding racism in the post-war years and, if possible, to estrange these writings in the process. That is, it seeks to raise as a question what has since become falsely naturalized: How did Sartre and Fanon intend their writings on racism not as contributions to the dismantling of Marxism, but to its reconstitution?

Wednesday, November 17 @ 5pm
UIC Stevenson Hall Room 303
701 S Morgan St

Recommended reading: selections from Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks and Sartre's "Anti-Semite and Jew"

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Mark Rudd
Alan Spector
Osha Neumann
Tim Wohlforth

Spencer A. Leonard

The memory of the 1960s, which has long kindled contestation and debate on the means and ends of freedom politics, is rapidly fading into the political unconscious. The election of Barack Obama and the collapse of the anti-war movement mark the end of a period that has now come full circle. After a half-century of rebellion, many old New Left- ists now call for a “New New Deal” to return to welfare-statist and authoritarian society against which the New Left rebelled. History threatens to repeat itself, this time in an even more dimly recognized and ferocious form. “In the United States today there is no Left,” C. Wright Mills declaimed in the waning months of the 1950s, making him one of the most be- loved intellectuals of his generation, “political activities are monopolized by an irresponsible two-party system; cultural activities—though formally quite free, tend to become nationalis- tic or commercial—or merely private.” If Mills continues to speak to us, it is as a reminder of tasks long deferred, memories long repressed.

This panel attempts to address the current moment, in which many who participated in the moment of the New Left’s beginnings have survived a full cycle of history. Rather than a rehash of old debates or yet another nostalgia- ridden recap of the era, interventions which have ceased to offer critical perspective on the present, this panel seeks to ask the simple but fundamental question: What, if any, is significant for us today in the thwarted attempt by 1960s radicals to re-found emancipatory politics?

Lead-Up Events:

Teach-In Poetry Unfulfilled: The Beats and the New Left
Tuesday, November 2 @5:00pm
Rosenwald 405, 1101 E. 58th St.

What Was "New" in the New Left?
Presented by Ian Morrison
Sunday, November 7th @ 7:00pm
Wilder House, 5811 S. Kenwood Ave.

All events are free and open to the public.
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Postmodernism challenged the institutionalized modernism of the mid-20th century, offering more radical forms of social discontents and cultural practice. It meant unmasking the values of progress as involving ideologies of the political status-quo, the problems of which were manifest to a new generation in the 1960s. But, more recently, postmodernism itself has begun to age, and reveal its own concerns as those of the post-1960s situation of global capitalism rather than an emancipated End of History.

In 1980, Jurgen Habermas, on the occasion of receiving the Adorno prize in Frankfurt, predicted the exhaustion of postmodernism, characterizing its conservative tendencies. Habermas called this situation the “incomplete project” of modernity, a set of unresolved problems that have meant the eventual return of history, if not the return of “modernism.” How does Habermas’s note of dissent, from the moment of highest vitality of postmodernism, help us situate the concerns of contemporary art in light of society and politics today?

Join Platypus for a teach-in and conversation on Habermas's 1980 essay "Modernity-An Incomplete Project".

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 @ 4:30PM

School of the Art Institute of Chicago
112 S. Michigan, Room 920

Recommended Reading:
Jurgen Habermas "Modernity – An Incomplete Project" (1980)

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Join Platypus for a teach-in and group discussion on the historical character of sexual identity and the character of freedom that capitalism presents.

Thursday, October 21 at 6pm

Harper Library, University of Chicago, 1116 E. 59th St.

Suggested Reading: John D'Emilio, "Capitalism and Gay Identity"

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This text was written collaboratively and originally published by the anti-Deutsch group, Initiative Sozialistisches Forum (Socialist Initiative Forum) as "Der Kommunismus und Israel" in the collection Furchtbare Antisemiten, ehrbare Antizionisten. Über Israel und die linksdeutsche Ideologie, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, 2002. Translated and reprinted with permission of the authors.