August 04, 2005

Any one or with no name John Reeve and Charles R have raised great points on anonymity in their comments on lost. John inquires into the anonymity of the author of the infamous anti-blog article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Charles R suggests a kind of groupness or collectivity informing remarks by 'anonymous.' I think these ideas might be thought together. And I think that Zizek's account of public law and its superego supplement explains why. Here is the tension: the academic double blind review is supposed to insure the rule of reason. It's supposed to insure that decisions on publication are made on the basis of the quality of the work alone and are not a matter of personal support or vindictiveness. Anonymity, then, is supposed to liberate reason from particularity, purifying the review process. Similarly, in the blogosphere, some prefer not to disclose their names on their blogs or on their comments. By remaining anonymous, they again seem to achieve a kind of freedom, a freedom to think beyond the confines of particularity and free from potential retaliation. Anonymity again works to purify, to eliminate a kind of stain that hinders free thought. The collective element allegedly underlying the academic review process is reason. What makes it collective is the sense that anyone not biased by particularity would agree with the decision, would access the same bank or flow of reason. The supposition of free exchange in the blogosphere is somewhat less idealized insofar as specific comments don't have the same status as...
Cause Infinite Thought adds the following to her summary of current British television programming: It's a beautiful example of our current preoccupations: intensely sober young people willing to die for a cause; intensely drunk young people willing to die (if only of shame) to be on TV; and in the wings, comedic reminders of how we like to watch our celebrity countrymen die horribly and publicly of alcohol-related diseases, followed by a Koranic slanging match. The Aufklärung is so an unfinished project! Isn't it striking how difficult it is actually to manifest political conviction and resolve in the US? Academics have to qualify, recognize contingency and alternatives. Leftists have to be careful not already to have excluded someone or to be totalizing some position or speaking for someone. Nearly everything has to be said citationally, referentially. To speak without scare quotes seems the privilege of the religious right. Why can't there be leftist fundamentalist commitment? Or what is the hesitance that makes it hard to formulate seriously? (Sometimes I wonder if it has something to do with hair--fundamentalist radicals seem to forbid folks to shave or cut their hair; hippies, ZZ-top, Taliban, have a similar hair thing going on.) In the US, causes that seem uniformally embraced are weight loss, home improvement, quality time with children, getting more exercise, insuring one's sexual vitality. Spirituality is supposed to be limited (not too much of an impact on the day job). The only commitments that seem to matter, then, are those that don't...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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