American Political Thought Squared or

Fred and I are launching our APT squared project, finally.  You’ll find it on LinkedIN, and then reposted on FaceBook and also this web page.  We’re still in construction.  Please be patient.  SubS+++tack will follow.

The one restriction is that anyone in CUNY or the CUNY wide community cannot participate.  They have access to my seminars so my teaching and mentoring since I’m housed in the Political Science Ph.D. Program, but having done the reverse allocation to help out my colleagues, I’m now affiliated with SPS, CCNY, CUNYBach, Lehman, Hunter and Hunter (sociology and WGS) as well as Disability Studies with SPS though I’m partial to the MA program at SPS — called Museum Studies, which is excellent.  This is Museum Studies, run by the very talented Jenna Coplin (who went to the GC).  This program is the most exciting for me.  Not only does it have that NYHS connection but it is run by Jenna and administered by Dean George Otte (another talented CUNY wide administrator).

I teach Contemporary Issues in Public History and hoped to teach Women in the Public Realm.  Public History is the same as Writing Politics, the specialization I started in 2004, and the main reason I decided to be EO after having been DEO of the Political Science Program from 2000-2009.

Nine years there, while it got me lots of head hunters, I never left my passion of research  or scholarship that reaches the NYROB reading few.  My passion has and remains scholarship, and how scholarship leads to outreach or my concept of education as liberation.

Not for nothing both the mission of both the Public Square, PUP and Heretical Thought, OUP, USA were about outreach.  Sadly, not everyone got what Writing Politics was.  That said, Jim Phelan of Narrative book series and Narrative journal did.  But then again, he was a student of Wayne Booth (University of Chicago, where my father went to high school :).

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Renewal, Pub. Date Tuesday, Sep 21, 2021

We look to our mothers to save us from injustice and distress | Opinion

We look to our mothers to save us from injustice and distress | Opinion

BY JANE CAPUTI, Special Contributor, Heretical Thought author of Call Your “Mutha'”: A Deliberately Dirty-Minded Manifesto for the Earth Mother in the Anthropocene

JUNE 23, 2020 03:08 PM , UPDATED JUNE 23, 2020 03:52 PM

In times of greatest extremity, people cry out for their mothers. George Floyd, while being tortured and then killed by a white policeman, called out “Mama.” Hearing this, many instantly wept in recognition, as this calling to the mother touched on the universal experience of infant helplessness, need for care and the hope for succor and intervention.

In her remarkable poem “Weather,” Claudia Rankine notes that the ongoing uprisings responding to systemic racism, police brutality and a gamut of related injustices are a continuing continuation of that crying out to a mother. This call is for the restoration of values of community, reciprocity, sharing, equity, caring, fairness, nourishment, love and continuance, which are very different from those of a father-first or patriarchal culture.

Patriarchal values include authority, dominance, punishment and violent enforcement. These manifest broadly in the national symbolic father figure, Donald Trump. The 45th president stands his ground as a proudly unmasked proponent of white and male supremacy. His followers cheer the rule of someone with “balls” — tough, straight, manly and white, evincing a will to hurt, and with a sure sense of his own impunity. Trump famously bragged that if he shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, he would get away with it. I doubt he was thinking of that “someone” as being anyone like himself or his family.

The same patriarchal values are manifestly operative in the death of George Floyd. The white policeman killed Floyd in full view of others. He must have known that a young woman was recording him. Nonetheless, he probably expected impunity as his birthright and because he was an official enforcer of the hierarchy.

By contrasting mother-associated values to those of the patriarchal father, I am not setting up a binary opposition. Nor am I asserting that all mothers evince these qualities and values. Rather, I am describing a realizable ideal whereby the mother is not only a birth giver, but someone of any sex and gender who takes it as their calling to love, teach, help, lead, feed, console, protect, guide, decide and create family and community. This understanding of mothers and mothering power is common to human heritage and evident in many cultures, including Pueblo Native peoples and Black and Latinx trans and queer communities.

Mothers and their children are specifically endangered in the system that long has disregarded Black lives. A recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted a disastrous effect of pollution and climate change on Black mothers and babies. Environmental racism enforces a reality where Black people live disproportionately in air-polluted areas. That, coupled with higher temperatures, puts pregnant women at risk of delivering premature, underweight or stillborn babies. Environmental injustices are the responsibility of the mostly white father figures who control world finance, corporations and militaries. Too often, it is just business as usual to exploit and poison peoples’ air, water, land, labor and natural resources. This, just as surely as a knee to the neck, chokes out life.

The assault against mothers extends outward to the planet, whose ancient and still telling name is Mother Earth. The conjoined philosophical, spiritual and practical meanings of that appellation is that all of us (human and non-human) issue from a common source, are connected, mutually interdependent and essentially equal — worthy of love, respect, care, safety and living in conditions that allow flourishing. This is the same message of all social justice movements.

The crisis of injustice — including racial, environmental, and sex- and gender-based — is all at once personal, community and planetary. As the righteous global uprisings demanding an end to systemic racism make clear, the time is now for a collective call to the mother. Mama. Call her. Act in her name.

Jane Caputi is the author of Call Your “Mutha’”: A Deliberately Dirty-Minded Manifesto for the Earth Mother in the Anthropocene, published by Oxford University Press, 2020 in the Heretical Thought series, edited by Ruth O’Brien

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.

Presentism versus Past-ism, by way of Civil War historian Gary Gallagher

By David Waldstreicher

Ruth began our blogging dialogue (blogalogue?) with a Ruthian swing for the provocative fences: “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.’”

Time for me to reciprocate. Sometimes history is political analysis at its worst: not presentist but past-ist. As in, every historical moment is unique, and all comparisons are ideological if not teleological. In some historians’ hands, the result of past-ism is to both kneecap political arguments they don’t like and preserve history for those who know “the facts.” Facts which, on scrutiny, turn out to be made significant by interpretation.

I have objected to this tendency recently in an essay in The Boston Review about the 1619 Project controversy. One of the historians with whom I take issue, Sean Wilentz, has been doing the same thing with respect to Trump: insisting that Trump is de novo, has no historical parallels, and certainly not Sean’s main man, Andrew Jackson. This has the added benefit of shifting any blame away from Wilentz’s own political favorites, the Clintons. In other words, sometimes the insistence on historical incomparability is itself a political gambit.

But today I’d like to illustrate the important (and really, unavoidable) use of historical comparisons to illuminate and argue about the present by pointing to a 500 word op-ed, “Think the US is more polarized than ever? You don’t know history,” published on Feb. 14 by the Civil War historian Gary Gallagher on The Conversation, and republished by the History News Network today: [many annoying links within his article stripped out below]. Here’s Gallagher:

” It has become common to say that the United States in 2020 is more divided politically and culturally than at any other point in our national past. As a historian who has written and taught about the Civil War era for several decades, I know that current divisions pale in comparison to those of the mid-19th century.       

Between Abraham Lincoln’s election in November 1860 and the surrender of Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army at Appomattox in April 1865, the nation literally broke apart. More than 3 million men took up arms, and hundreds of thousands of black and white civilians in the Confederacy became refugees. Four million enslaved African Americans were freed from bondage. After the war ended, the country soon entered a decade of virulent, and often violent, disagreement about how best to order a biracial society in the absence of slavery.

To compare anything that has transpired in the past few years to this cataclysmic upheaval represents a spectacular lack of understanding about American history. A few examples illustrate the profound difference between divisions during the Civil War era and those of the recent past.

Today, prominent actors often use awards ceremonies as a platform to express unhappiness with current political leaders. On April 14, 1865, a member of the most celebrated family of actors in the United States expressed his unhappiness with Abraham Lincoln by shooting him in the back of the head.

Today, Americans regularly hear and watch members of Congress direct rhetorical barbs at one another during congressional hearings and in other venues. On May 22, 1856, U.S. Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina caned Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts into bloody insensibility on the floor of the Senate chamber because Sumner had criticized one of Brooks’ kinsmen for embracing “the harlot, Slavery” as his “mistress.”

Recent elections have provoked posturing about how Texas or California might break away from the rest of the nation. But after a Republican president was elected in 1860, seven slaveholding states seceded between Dec. 20 and Feb. 1, 1861. Four of the remaining eight slaveholding states followed suit between April and June 1861. Americans were thus forced to face the reality that the political system established by the founding generation had failed to manage internal fractures and positioned the United States and the newly established Confederacy to engage in open warfare.

The scale and fury of the ensuing combat underscores the utter inappropriateness of claims that the United States is more divided now than ever before. Four years of civil war produced at least 620,000 military deaths – the equivalent of approximately 6.5 million dead in the United States of 2020.

The institution of slavery – and especially its potential spread from the South and border states into federal territories – was the key to this slaughter because it provoked the series of crises that eventually proved intractable. No political issue in 2020 approaches slavery in the mid-19th century in terms of potential divisiveness.”

Like the military historian he prides himself in being, Gallagher focuses on the horrifying, fratricidal violence of the Civil War, and rightly extends that back a few years to the caning of Sumner. He admits that the cause was slavery, the divide sectional. Surely we have nothing so violent, and no divisions so irrepressible, now. So comparisons of culture wars and party battles to real wars are irresponsible.

Gallager’s political motives seem benign enough. We could do with fewer pronouncements of doom and even fewer denunciations of each other. But what if it is Gallagher who is comparing apples and oranges – in his opening gambit, comparing a declared war to the cultural and political polarization, and violence, that led to a breakdown of the political system, secession, and armed conflict?  Why does he want to isolate the Civil War and its violence from the violence of slavery itself and violent resistance to it – the border wars and anti-abolitionist mobs that became so controversial?  I’m glad that Gallagher is (finally; he used to downplay it) centering slavery in his understanding of the nature as well as the causes of the Civil War. But by declaring historical analogies off limits, he makes it impossible for us to see and discuss long-term developments, continuities – and precisely the ones that the recent 1619 Project of the New York Times Magazine has highlighted. I won’t even go into how the entire Civil War generation, on every side, fought their political battles with reference to the American Revolution.

Note that the excruciatingly violent counterexamples Gallagher highlights are reactions against abolition: Rep. Brooks’ caning of Sen. Sumner and proslavery actor John Wilkes Booth’s murder of President Lincoln. If today’s polarization has anything to do with structural racism, if today’s battles are being fought in particular ways because,  as David Brion Davis argued in 2001 [] “the Confederacy’s ideological victory following the Civil War,” then it might not be such a bad idea to analyze today’s politics in light of the central event of U.S. history. How much progress has been made – will be made? How free are the free? These were the questions of the 1850s, the 1890s, and remain the questions for 2020.

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).