Use: A Users’ Manual

Following cultural critic Sara Ahmed’s insight that “use is a small word with a big history,” we approach the various ways that “use” enters into and exercises power within our lexicon and politics. From our interaction with digital platforms as “users,” to the Marxian notion of use-value, to the labeling of both addicts and emotional abusers as “users” of a different kind, the language of use pops up in far-flung and unexpected spheres. How do we delineate the useful and the useless, the usual and the unusual? How do the boundaries of the useful and useless map onto classifications of race, gender, sexuality, and population? In discussing the “proper” use of things and people, we ask what it means to misuse, abuse, overuse, and underuse, and offer a user manual to use and abuse.

The Working Group on Globalization and Culture http://wggc.yale.edu/ is an interdisciplinary cultural studies laboratory that has been practicing collective research at Yale University since 2003. Over the years, we have presented work at academic conferences as well as at the Left Forum, Occupy Boston, and the World Social Forum. Recent projects have been published as “Going into Debt,” online in Social Text’s Periscope, and as “Spaces and Times of Occupation” in Transforming Anthropology; a collective interview regarding “Matters of Life and Death” appeared in Revue Française d’Études Américaines. The current members—Salonee Bhaman, Michael Denning, Lucia Hulsether, Peter Raccuglia, Iliana Yamileth Rodriguez, Simon Torracinta, Damian Vergara Bracamontes, Clara Wilson-Hawken, and Yuhe Faye Wang—work in history, American studies, religious studies, literary criticism, Latinx studies, science and technology studies, popular music studies, and African-American studies.

All tickets are sliding scale. No one turned away for inability to pay

Our first MEP event at Union Docs

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Class, Race & Gender

Contemporary Capitalism and the Limits of Identity Politics
Six-week session with Dan Karan

The ongoing debate between those arguing for either a class- or identity-based politics has led to a tragic split between forces that ultimately need to come together if each is to realize its goals. But should this even be an “either or” question when considered from the vantage point of trying to build an effective anti-capitalist movement struggling for the liberation of those exploited and oppressed by capital?

What may be surprising to some is that this split is not new and in the U.S. has roots that go back to the nation’s founding if not before. And, in the 19th century, while the Civil War is often referred to as the “second American Revolution” it was really during Reconstruction, the period just after the Civil War, in which a “self-emancipatory” moment opened as former slaves, working class whites and women struggled to realize the promise of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” held out in Declaration of Independence. Yet divisions along class, race and gender lines sealed Reconstruction’s defeat. Why and how was this potentially revolutionary moment defeated and what should this history teach us about the strategies and tactics that the left needs to employ today?

To explore these issues of the intersection of class, race and gender in the US and the consequences of not being able to overcome the divisions that capitalism reinforces and exploits for its own purposes this class will read David Roediger’s recent book on Reconstruction: Seizing Freedom: Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All. This class will be the first in an ongoing series that explore questions of the relationship between class, race, gender and sexuality and how we overcome the divide between those exploited by capitalism and create a genuine anti-capitalist movement of liberation for all.

Dan Karan is a “red diaper baby” born into a communist household (his father worked as an organizer for the Communist Party and both his parents were members for roughly 25 years until leaving in 1956 along with many other comrades in response to Khrushchev’s “On the Cult of Personality and its Consequences” speech about Stalin). Dan’s political activism began at the age of 2 when his parents took him to the 1963 March on Washington. For the last 30 years he has worked for NYC nonprofit housing and community development organizations. He is a proud graduate school dropout who has been studying Marxist theory for more than 4 decades.

Dan Karan is a “red diaper baby” born into a communist household (his father worked as an organizer for the Communist Party and both his parents were members for roughly 25 years until leaving in 1956 along with many other comrades in response to Khrushchev’s “On the Cult of Personality and its Consequences” speech about Stalin). Dan’s political activism began at the age of 2 when his parents took him to the 1963 March on Washington. For the last 30 years he has worked for NYC nonprofit housing and community development organizations. He is a proud graduate school dropout who has been studying Marxist theory for more than 4 decades.

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Marx at 200: Capital, Class and More

A talk and discussion with Kevin B. Anderson

At Marx’s 200th anniversary, it is clear that the emancipation of labor from capitalist alienation and exploitation is a task that still confronts us. Marx’s concept of the worker is not limited to European white males, but includes Irish and Black super-exploited and therefore doubly revolutionary workers, as well as women of all races and nations. But his research and his concept of revolution go further, incorporating a wide range of agrarian noncapitalist societies of his time, from India to Russia and from Algeria to Indigenous peoples of the Americas, often emphasizing their gender relations. In his last, still partially unpublished writings, he turns his gaze eastward and southward. In these regions outside Western Europe, he finds important revolutionary possibilities among peasants and their ancient communistic social structures, even as these are being undermined by their formal subsumption under the rule of capital. In his last published text, he envisions an alliance between these non-working-class strata and the Western European working class.

Kevin B. Anderson is a Professor of Sociology, Political Science, and Feminist Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara. He has worked in social and political theory, especially Marx, Hegel, Marxist humanism, the Frankfurt School, Foucault, and the Orientalism debate. Among his most recent books are Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism (with Janet Afary, 2005) and Marx at the Margins: On Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Non-Western Societies (2010/2016), both published by University of Chicago Press. He is active in Los Angeles in the International Marxist-Humanist Organization and in the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice.

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