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Essays

Chávez Ravine, Racism & Epistemic Loyalty

(I grew up in Los Angeles, but I believe there is a lot that I still do not know about Los Angeles. There remains so much that I must learn about this incredible city.)

“I want to let you know at the start that I am a very big fan of the Dodgers and Vin Scully, but how dare any of you call Chávez Ravine a wasteland or a dump. Every time anyone talks about Chávez Ravine before the Dodgers came along they seem to forget that many families made their homes there! No one wants to acknowledge the fact that people lived there.” – Natalie Ramirez

     In 1948, a photographer named Don Normark fell upon a small Latin-American community in Southern California. He had been looking for a good vantage point of Los Angeles in order to get a postcard view of the city. Instead, he found the small village of Chávez Ravine. Tucked away in the midst of the sprawling expanse of the city, the little town was primarily Mexican American in population and, as Normark states, “The people seemed like refugees—people superior to the circumstances they were living in.”[1] He returned several times after that to take photographs, documenting all that he could and looking for a way to tell the story of the little village. Unbeknownst to Normark, in just a few short years the town and the families within it would be caught up in a political drama that would force them from their homes and replace them with what we now know as Dodger Stadium. Read more “Chávez Ravine, Racism & Epistemic Loyalty”

Essays

Don’t Try: Intersecting Bataille & Bukowski

 

“When you get the shit kicked out of you long enough and long enough and long enough, you have a tendency to say what you really mean. In other words, you have all the pretense beat out of you.”
—Charles Bukowski

“Everything that exists destroying itself, consuming itself and dying, each instant producing itself only in the annihilation of the preceding one, and itself existing only as mortally wounded.”
—Georges Bataille

     In the second chapter of the conversational piece entitled Dialogues, Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet discuss the conflicting aspects and approaches of French literature in comparison to Anglo-American literature. Within this critique they bring up several arguments as to why it is that French literature eventually succumbs to the revolutionizing and nomadic new weapon that is Anglo-American literature.[1] Among these concerns, the most pressing are as follows: First, French literature is entirely too human and too historical, being more concerned with the past and the future instead of the present. Even with revolution it is a ‘future of the revolution.’ Second, in comparison to Anglo-American literature, French literature always begins from the perspective of tabula rasa, finding and working its way via roots to pinnacles and alphas to omegas, always arborescent. In contrast, English literature finds its zero in the middle, much in the same way that grass grows and promulgates. With grass there is no specific root by which to hone in on a foundational idea or identity. English literature finds itself on a path, or flight, of delirium. It goes off the rails in order to find itself bottlenecked or in an uncomfortable position, which in turn can lead to it finding and traversing what Deleuze refers to as lines of flight. Opposing the idea of tabula rasa, these lines have no beginning or end which are interesting because each of these are points.[2] Therefore, these interruptions or breaks, according to Deleuze and Parnet, are what primarily positions Anglo-American literature against that of French literature in terms of becoming and also that of resisting dominant ideologies and theories. Read more “Don’t Try: Intersecting Bataille & Bukowski”

Essays

Decolonizing Literature and Ethical Transvaluation in Ulysses

(Disclaimer: James Joyce has been just about exhausted in terms of literary criticism. What I say here is nothing new. I try to mix it up a bit, but ultimately someone has said what I’ve said here much better and in fewer words. It is what it is. All I can say at this point is that Joyce would fart in your face, laugh, and then loudly chomp on the innards of the fowl at you. He was that kind of guy.)

     In the early pages of his book Weapons of the Weak, James C. Scott calls upon the metaphor of a coral reef to describe the way that the numerous activities of insubordination and evasion on the everyday level of lower class life work towards creating what he refers to as political and economic “barrier reefs.” Continuing with this metaphor, he goes on to state that “whenever […] the ship of the state runs aground on such reefs, attention is usually directed to the shipwreck itself and not to the vast aggregation of petty acts that made it possible” (Scott, xvii). To illuminate this idea a step further, Colin Gordin in an afterword on Michel Foucault, explains that the presence of those who do not necessarily appear to be actively rebelling is rather an inflection of the myriad different ways that people can and do resist on the local level. It is instead their “minute, individual, autonomous tactics and strategies which counter […] the visible facts of overall domination” (Foucault, 257) and whose desires and choices resist any fundamental means of dividing and placing them into a specific political schema.[1] Read more “Decolonizing Literature and Ethical Transvaluation in Ulysses”