Jane Caputi – Call Your “Mutha’”: A Deliberately Dirty-Minded Manifesto for the Earth Mother in the Anthropocene

9780190902711 Blog (and Book) by Jane Caputi

Reading up on the Anthropocene for Call Your “Mutha’”: A Deliberately Dirty-Minded Manifesto for the Earth Mother in the Anthropocene, I encountered repeated pat phrases about humans (really Man in Wynter’s sense) now being “the dominant force of change on the planet.” Nobel prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen even averred: “It’s no longer us against “Nature.” Instead, it’s we who decide what nature is and what it will be.”

The COVID-19 virus is laughing all the way to the emergency room. Nature/Earth, the formidable and indomitable force whom I understand as the “Mutha’” is the actual decider. She/They is disrespected, foundationally, in the Anthropocenic world that Man is trying to (re)make in his own image. Climate change, extinctions, pandemics; these are neither the wrath of a mythic punitive deity or a rape-avenging femme fatale. All those empty shelves in the grocery story serve as a vivid metaphor for what really going on — the withdrawal of the “Mutha’” – the force/source upon whom all of us depend for absolutely everything.


What’s a SLIM?  I had trouble remembering it from yesterday’s post to today.  Does the “I” stand for intersectional, I asked my SLIM husband (who is slim, btw, so perhaps my muse)?  Or is it interdependent?  It’s different from a SLAM or SCAM, the former being better than the latter, since with a liberal there’s at least some chance he’ll get the message someday, whereas a conservative is just hopeless.

Being an added plus or “and” person (improvising extemporaneously, though happy to re- and even re-re-improvise), I realize it’s gotta be “interdependent.”  After all, we live in an interdependent world, with no left or right, no true or untrue, or even lies, since everything is, after all, persuadable, so we can’t pick sides.  Take a look at the billion dollars that Dad, otherwise known as President Donald J. Trump to all of us but Jared Kushner, earmarked after allegedly learning the ropes from Jared (or is it the other way around?).

It’s a topsy-turvy world.  The president who spent arguably the least of his own money and still opted out of public funding for the presidency has now earmarked the most (of other people’s money) to convince his followers (his fist-throwing, enter-the-fray followers) to keep up the false narrative.  

All this is to say, it’s not topsy-turvy but tricky, and tricky means we’ve all gotta learn how to be interdependent, not intersectional (which has too much to do with ID-entity or the being of our being or existence), when we’re all simply socially situated in a society that includes the polity and the market.  So here’s two cheers for the interdependents who can trust each other for good, and not for bad, let alone being led down a path full of tricks, or even worse a telos.  #

Identities and Intersections, and Max Tomba’s Glorious “Insurgent Universalities” in Heretical Thought

To call a man feminine is interpreted as insulting. Now, this is different than someone saying “act like a man.” That’s even more insulting. Even worse, you’re “thinking like a woman.” So, David, I can easily concede that my phrase “SLAMs and SCAMs” is blunt, bordering on insulting. Yet that still begs the question of how do we make analyzing, scrutinizing, thinking, critiquing in ways all attributed to women, or feminism, or at least women being woke by feminism, universal? Or rather a language that boys, girls, women, and men will use? What is the vocabulary when we would like to observe and add our kudos to a boy or a man, or anyone of privileged status who acted like a person who made an ethic of care universal? Or that same person who made a “non-manalyzing” scholarly observation?

To be sure, blunt phrases like SCAMs and SLAMs can be off-putting. And perhaps I dampen the dialogue when I list privilege of straight conservative Anglo-Saxon men and straight liberal Anglo-Saxon men (SCAMs and SLAMs), aside from a predilection to try to shock or shake people into thought. These acronyms serve two purposes. Do-gooder liberal men are just as bad as, if not worse than, conservatives in exerting their privilege and reducing access to all those not sharing their privileged identity. Why? We know that by virtue of being, acting, doing what SCAMs do they are predators and probably at least complicit in rape culture. I’m challenging someone to give me a different vocabulary — and it’s more likely to come from SLAMs than SCAMs (unless they see the light).

When women scholars’ scholarship is heeded universally, admired by both men and women, often this proves disappointing too. This time it’s not about hope, but disappointment that so many women join the men in patriarchal thought. In many cases, though certainly not all, women and men use the male-dominated language of scholarship (i.e. “manalyzing”). There is no s/he said. (No need for the He said/She said, since after all it should always be the intersubjective and simple s/he said. All people fight within themselves. No one has a static gender, race, ethnicity, let alone body.

Nor do I like the scholarship that simply says “Well, what about the feminist perspective?” What? First there is no “feminist perspective,” as this scholar got it so wrong last night at the GC in criticizing Max Tomba’s exciting book Insurgent Universality in the Oxford University Press, Heretical Thought Series, which I solo edit. There are feminism(s), as another fascinating scholar of sociology at Hunter and the GC explains, Lynn Chancer, titled her latest book

Identity-speak should be no more exclusionary than Harvard’s “Gov Speak,” the language the Harvard Government Department got criticized for uttering years back that was tantamount to the exclusion of all but SLAMs and SCAMs. Sure, it is easy to say we do not speak who we are. One would be hard pressed to find an essentialist, these days in the academy, at least. At the same time, it’s hard to find a non-essentialist — or a scholar — be they man or woman, who does not “manalyze.” Manalyzing is practiced equally by male and female scholars. It’s a criticism of the academy not having a scholarly language enough to stop universalizing critique with the universality of men analyzing.

David Waldstreicher politely and appropriately called me out on SLAMs and SCAMs being a bit blunt (i.e. rude).

“Manalyzing” in Stereo by Distinguished Professor David Waldstreicher, team teaching American Political Development 2020

As the historian in this manalyzing duo, of course I feel less responsible for the limits of the field of American Political Development, more excited about how it might help compensate for some of the foibles of historians….

Yes, the lesson of Trump is that it’s corruption all the way down, corruption as  a multigenerational (American Political) tradition, yet on a spiral that makes it somewhat different each time. The grandfather was all about railroad towns and hotels (brothels), and land, exploiting his fellow immigrants. The father about urban segregation and (un)creative destruction.  The grandson about the simulacrum of luxury, leveraged gloss, and televised publicity as ponzi scheme. Party politics had to be the endgame because it undergirded the possibilities of profiting from infrastructure all along.

Alas, as the trigenerational story suggests, the other continuity in the Trumpian spiral appears to be the reliance on whiteness, which is why Trump so repeatedly doubles down on it, why he seized as no one else on the notion that Obama could not have possibly been born in this country. The surprise at the daily untruth or tweet covers over the primal lie of his politics, and the willingness of 40+% of voters to accept it so as not to have to accede to the other party’s kinder gentler corruption. After all, the system constantly tells us, in a democracy, origins and history don’t matter. The question is always, which of two sides are we on?

It’s funny today to hear both the president and allies trumpeting party loyalty against (Bain capitalist) Romney, when Trump ran against party and the establishment. Only a long-term approach to American politics can capture how he has recapitulated the Jacksonian art of turning from antipartisan outsider to enforcer of more party loyalty than ever, in just a  few years. Partisanship relies on, feeds on, putative outsiders, sometimes  in order to contain the real insurgencies. Part of Trump’s appeal is to perform and capitalize on American ambivalence about the problems that result from the normal workings of the system. It is tempting to conclude, for the moment, that he fits all too well into institutional patterns even as he shatters norms. We’ll see — and we’ll study…..

Land, Localization of National Politics, or Should I Call the Feds for an Eviction?

American Political Development is history at its worst.  At least, that’s what some historians who reside in the United States and teach in American history might say about our field — it’s “presentist.” We throw in any American teleology, or pull any trajectory into reverse.  But is it reverse engineering?

As we start from the present and move backwards, digging and delving into all those institutional nooks and crannies, tracing, mapping, and locating the so-called origins of any public policy that spans the United States, from the laws establishing the defunct ICC to the EEOC, are we really being presentist, or are we “institutionalists”?  (The damn autocorrect makes me put this in quotes.)  It’s not a search for APD; it’s a search for the American nation-state, or at least that cozy social-welfare policy state, which today seems like magical thinking, or (heaven forbid) what the so-called conservatives call the “nanny state?”

In fact, though, it’s not the search for the American nation-state, nor the American states.  It’s closer to home than that. And aside from “manalyzing” with David Waldstreicher in the course we’re team-teaching this semester, I’d say Trump has managed to localize the nation-state — for me, that is.  It’s the localization of the State — the Sovereign, not the states.  

And it only makes sense, if you study corruption.  From Papi Trump (the German?), to Papa Trump (the Swede, haha), and now baby Trump (not Donald J., but the one with the comb-over hair), they all bribed politicians in the states, as well as serving the State, let alone all the neighboring municipalities in greater New York.  So it comes as no surprise that Penn Station would house all those lobbying the nation-state, foreigners and domestic lobbyist no matter.

After all, how did robber baron Cornelius Vanderbilt have so much money after receiving so much public land? The business of America has always been business. That said, we have to remember that Trump is a developer of “real” estate (i.e. physical property). There’s no other eviction that hurts so much as what a landlord can do by making one homeless. So why do so many liberals believe Congress could ever evict Trump out of the White House?

More later. But for now, David?

New Heretical Thought Titles

Massimiliano Tomba’s Insurgent Universality: An Alternative Legacy of Modernity was published this fall in the Oxford University Press Heretical Thought series, where I serve as the book series editor.

Max’s book He will be presenting a lecture on this book at the Graduate Center, Thursday, February 13 at 6 PM (double check). Everyone is invited, not only the Graduate Center Community. Max’s talk will be riveting, I’m sure.

“Aims to bridge European and non-European contexts in alternative trajectories of modernity and radical political experiments

Challenges the dominant conceptualization of juridical “universalism” and proposes a conception of insurgent universality that is rooted in alternative traditions of modernity

Provides a new historical-theoretical framework in which multiple temporal layers coexist and conflict with each other.”

Several years ago, Max served as a Fellow at the Committee on Globalization and Social Change at the Graduate Center. Max left his university professorship in Italy and recently moved to the well-known, and iconic, University of California, Santa Cruz, Historical Consciousness Department.

More Women in Congress?

Senator Kamala Harris (D., Calif.)

We’ll see if we get more female politicians today. A minimum of 20 percent women, an old law-school study said, is necessary in any institution to change the agenda. In the outgoing Congress, the House has 19 percent and the Senate has 23 percent. While more women than ever have run for office, the amount of violence (i.e. death threats, harassment) is enough to turn anyone away from reading the news. I’m beginning to hear women from Hollywood to Washington start to roar.