Monday, December 22, 2008

Call for Papers: "The Complex" - Princeton University American Studies Graduate Student Conference

The Complex
Princeton University
Program in American Studies Graduate Student Conference
May 2, 2009

The Idea is thus defined as a structure. A structure or an idea is a "complex theme," an internal multiplicity—in other words, a system of multiple, non-localisable connections between different elements which is incarnated in real relations and actual terms.
Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition

We got our thing, but it's just part of the big thing.
Zenobia, "Corner Boys," The Wire Season Four

What are the various "complexes" that inform American Studies, and how can American Studies help us understand the strategies and subjects of "the complex"? From entrenched systems of power to the vagaries of psychological fixation, this conference will foster a conversation on the structures, exchanges, and perceptions (or misperceptions) that continue to shape and reshape American Studies. It will also open a space in which the topics, methodologies, and preoccupations of American Studies can begin to interrogate the "complex" as a mode of cultural formation and connectivity (or the lack thereof). Taking interdisciplinarity itself as a topic for discussion, this conference will use the "complex" to explore the possibilities and limitations of both physical and conceptual boundaries.

Keynote Speaker: Asst. Prof. Mark Goble, English Department, University of California, Berkeley

Please submit a 500-word abstract and your c.v. to Lindsay Reckson and Nika Elder at by January 15th, 2009. Papers will be due two weeks prior to the conference for circulation, and should be no longer than 15 minutes.

Possible iterations of the complex might include (but are not limited to):
Freudian and Jungian Complexes; the Military-Industrial Complex; the Panopticon; Markets & Circulation; Globalization; Infrastructure; Conspiracy Theory and Surveillance; Stage Sets and Crime Scenes; Publics and Counter-publics; the Academy, the Church, the Factory; Networking & Collaboration; Canons; Semiotics; Obscurantism; Discourse Networks; Circuits; Interfaces; Cyborgs; Media Theory; the Wire; Systems Theory; Grids; Maps and Blueprints; Collections

Thursday, December 18, 2008

In Solidarity with the Students @ The New School

Last night a group of students barricaded themselves in the New School demanding “Books Not Bureaucracy” and the removal of New School President Bob Kerrey. Their protest could not come at a more appropriate time as Gov. Patterson proposes tax increases that would make young New Yorker's (particularly grad students and undergrads on financial aid) now meager standards of living pretty much unlivable. The effects of this financial crisis on young people cannot be cast aside and the students at New School are making their voices heard. In Solidarity!

From New York City:

We have just occupied New School University.

We liberate this space for ourselves, and all those who want to join us, for our general autonomous use. We take the university in explicit solidarity with those occupying the universities and streets in Greece, Italy, France and Spain.

This occupation begins as a response to specific conditions at the New School, the corporatization of the university and the impoverishment of education in general. However, it is not just this university but also New York City that is in crisis: in the next several months, thousands of us will be losing our jobs, while housing remains unaffordable and unavailable to many and the cost of living skyrockets.

So we stress that the general nature of these intolerable conditions exists across the spectrum of capitalist existence, in our universities and our cities, in all of our social relations. For this reason, what begins tonight at the New School cannot, and should not, be contained here.

Thus: with this occupation, we inaugurate a wave of occupations in New York City and the United States, a coming wave of occupations, blockades, and strikes in this time of crisis.

Be assured, this is only the beginning,

With solidarity and love from New York to Greece,
To Italy, France and Spain,
To the coming insurrection.

-The occupied New School

Check out NYT coverage of the Occupation: "Protest at the New School Seeks Kerrey’s Ouster"

Also see Gov. Patterson's tax and fee hikes on the young: "Fees, taxes, outlook would make NY tough on young"

Friday, December 12, 2008

Channeling Arafat

I know, I know, Busta has pulled the song and video...BUT the fact that Arafat ghosts the video is still pretty damn interesting!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Pop Champagne

Is it just me or is the Pop Champagne video the queerest, most phallocentric hip-hop video in a minute. I don't know that scene with Jim Jones pouring out the champagne and that dude cupping his hands to drink the champagne pretty queer, but that scene where Jones shakes the last of the champagne in his mouth looks like a money shot scene. Wild.

Jizz in my Pants

I'm writing papers so I'm taking it con cojelo easy for the next week or two. In the mean time enjoy "Jizz in my Pants" which was too good not to post and made me crack up at 4am.

Welcome to this years "Dick in a Box"

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Brooklyn Go Hard

Listen to Jay-Z ft. Santogold “Brooklyn Go Hard” (Produced By Kanye West)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Jim Jones: Obama is the new N-Word

Apparently Jim Jones was so inspired by Obama's win that he decided to clean up his language.
Jim confessed that the election inspired him to drop the word “nigga” from his vocabulary—where it was a nearly ubiquitous presence—and replace it with “Obama.” He gave me a few examples: “What up, my Obama?” “Yo, did you see them Obamas last night?” “Now that’s a real Obama.”
Now given that Toure was so on point about putting Soulja Boys young dumb ass on blast I was a little shocked by how much weight he gave to Jim Jones' decision...
If words have power, and the slang we use says something about the people we are, then Jimmy’s linguistic U-turn indicates a very powerful shift: away from self-describing as niggas (rebellious, angry, ignorant, hunted), and toward self-describing as Obamas (cool, intelligent, humble, powerful). Away from a self-appellation that reminds us of how America has wronged us, and toward a self-appellation suggesting that we are all reflections of, and extensions of, a shining example of black excellence.

Change is on the way.

I don't know who is buggin' more Jim Jones or Toure.

Check out: "What Up My Obama?"

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Prop 8 The Musical

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

If anyone has ever wondered what Alexandra Chasin's book Selling Out: The Gay and Lesbian Movement Goes to Market would look like set to music with really awesome comedians singing the tunes look no further.

The last line is brilliant "gay marriages are going to save the economy."

Welcome to the homonormative neoliberal moment mi gente...

*Tip of the fitted to Guanabee

A-rab $ Remixed and Refixed

I've been e-mailing a bit with Wayne Marshall about Busta Rhymes' "Arab Money" since it came out. We recently had an exchange over e-mail about the new remix that came out featuring Lil Wayne, Akon, Diddy, Swizz Beatz, T-Pain,and Ron Browz, (and I feel that the Vocoder should get a credit on the track too).

I brought up the point with him that many of the artists say "Arab Money" rather than the original "A-rab Money." (although as Wayne pointed out Wayne keeps the hard A towards the end). I wondered whether pressure from the Arab community was the cause of the change. I also wonder whether someone might have told Busta that A-rab is a derogatory term and not the correct pronunciation of Arab.

Wayne had asked in an E-mail whether there was actual Arabic being used on the hook tool to which I responded:

There is totally Arabic in the song BISMILLAH AL-RAHMAN AL-RAHEEM which is at the beginning of every verse. The phrase signifies “in the name of Allah, the most gracious, most merciful” it is the first verse of almost every chapter of the Qur’an and is typically associated with daily prayers. A few of the artists are Muslim and would know the significance of the phrase, so why include it in a song about stacking chips and getting ass? It’s kinda crazy! I’m actually posting on it tomorrow.

To my untrained ear it definitely sounded like the common phrase uttered in religious contexts, but I was a little off. Wayne asked some of his students who are fluent in Arabic whether it was actual Arabic and they disagreed saying that there were words that might come from Arabic but were mispronounced or out of context. They had an interesting take about the way that "Arab" and "Muslim" are conflated in the song which I really appreciated.



There may be some words in the “Arabic verse” that might come from Arabic, but its definitely not Arabic. i’d say they recite words that are directly taken from Islam (or Christianity, for the Arabic speaking Christians) like hamdulilla - thank god, or bismillah-(pronounced bishmililah in the song) in the name of god. So i’d say these words might be taken from Arabic, but they r not pronounced in an Arabic accent… it sounds much more like something of indian music to me.


I join what Lisa wrote, and I’ll just add the word ignorance….because the “Arabic” (dangerous, terrorist) stereotype goes together with Islam, but the truth is, and most people are not aware of the fact that most Muslims in the world are NOT EVEN ARABS! and thanks to Busta now, no one will go search and find this out so the Muslim Arab stereotype is here to stay along with “Arab Money”


i definitely agree with you guys. its a very sad example of how brainwashed a lot of artists are by the media, and then brainwash the people. they can’t really tell the different between Muslims vs Muslim Arabs vs Christian Arabs Muslims etc.. so we hear the terms “hamdulila’ ‘bismila’ ‘habibi’ i have to say that i have met a lot of people that associated me with this words.. so its very common stereotype..

And it’s important to remember, as Marisol notes, that guys like Busta, Akon, etc., are well acquainted with various Arabic words and phrases for various reasons: whether from their own participation in or acquaintance with (African-)American Islam (or Senegalese Islam in Akon’s case) — notably a lot of the comments on the YouTube videos debate which of these artists is actually Muslim — or the longstanding colloquial use among African-Americans of greetings like “salaam alaikum” (which Busta throws into the mix here).

I am definitely grateful to Wayne and his students for taking the time to think about this song, especially since it is definitely gaining immense popularity. (Driving around last weekend I heard the song at least 5 times in an hour on Hot97 and Power105 combined)

I did want to point out some of the problematic ways that some of the artists evoke Orientalist imagery and women in subservient roles. Just a few quick examples...

T-Pain saying "I drop money bombs like the Taliban"

Swizz saying "she call me her habibi while she feeling me linguine/left right left right get that A-rab dance poppin' right"

Akon saying "I got that Arab money/ waking up to my concubines and my money"

I also find it fascinating that Dubai is becoming emblematic of the Arab world in hip-hop discourse (in the remix Diddy talks about buying Dubai and swimming with sharks, although I didn't quite understand the connection and Busta talks about Dubai and the UAE). I've had a few discussions with Michael Ralph about the song and he says that its curious that Dubai becomes the symbol since Dubai is very much a space predicated on the idea of fantasy, globalization, and neoliberalism. I wonder how that discourse is enabled by and in response to rhetoric about the Arab world being associated with danger and terrorism as Noam alluded to in his response above.

Please check out Wayne's whole post at


Monday, December 1, 2008

Why the New Reggaeton Anthology is Going to Rock Your Face Off!

Hey folks,

sorry about being M.I.A finals are so crazy right now!

In the mean time I want to give a shout out to the new Duke University Press anthology Reggaeton coming out in Feb. 2009. Its edited by Raquel Rivera, Wayne Marshall, and Deborah Pacini Hernandez.

From Duke UP:

A hybrid of reggae and rap, reggaeton is a music with Spanish-language lyrics and Latin-Caribbean aesthetics that has taken Latin America, the United States, and the world by storm. Superstars including Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, and Ivy Queen garner international attention, while aspiring performers use digital technologies to create and circulate their own tracks. Reggaeton is the first critical assessment of this wildly popular genre. Journalists, scholars, and artists delve into reggaeton’s local roots and its transnational dissemination; they parse the genre’s aesthetics, particularly as they differ from those of hip-hop; and they explore the debates about race, nation, gender, and sexuality generated by the music and its associated cultural practices, from dance to fashion.

The collection opens with an in-depth exploration of the social and sonic currents that coalesced into reggaeton in Puerto Rico during the 1990s. Contributors consider reggaeton in relation to that island, Panama, Jamaica, and New York; Cuban society, Miami’s hip-hop scene, and Dominican identity; and other genres including reggae en español, underground, and dancehall reggae. The reggaeton artist Tego Calderón provides a powerful indictment of racism in Latin America, while the hip-hop artist Welmo Romero Joseph discusses the development of reggaeton in Puerto Rico and his refusal to embrace the upstart genre. The collection features interviews with the DJ/rapper El General and the reggae performer Renato, as well as a translation of “Chamaco’s Corner,” the poem that served as the introduction to Daddy Yankee’s debut album. Among the volume’s striking images are photographs from Miguel Luciano’s series Pure Plantainum, a meditation on identity politics in the bling-bling era, and photos taken by the reggaeton videographer Kacho López during the making of the documentary Bling’d: Blood, Diamonds, and Hip-Hop.

Contributors. Geoff Baker, Tego Calderón, Carolina Caycedo, Jose Davila, Jan Fairley, Juan Flores, Gallego (José Raúl González), Félix Jiménez, Kacho López, Miguel Luciano, Wayne Marshall, Frances Negrón-Muntaner, Alfredo Nieves Moreno, Ifeoma C. K. Nwankwo, Deborah Pacini Hernandez, Raquel Z. Rivera, Welmo Romero Joseph, Christoph Twickel, Alexandra T. Vazquez

“I cannot overstate how critically important this volume is. It captures the synergies of a musical and cultural movement that few have seriously grappled with, even as the sounds and styles of reggaeton have dominated the air space of so many urban locales.”—Mark Anthony Neal, author of Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic

“This anthology introduces a chapter in hip hop history that brings it all back home, back to our transnational Afro-Spanish-speaking countries and diasporas and ‘hoods where young people are going through their hip-hop ecstasies and traumas, but in their own language and in their own unique and hitherto unknown style.”—Juan Flores, author of From Bomba to Hip-Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity, from the preface to Reggaeton

I saw a panel presentation with Félix Jiménez, Raquel Z. Rivera, Welmo Romero, and Alfredo Nieves Moreno at the PRSA 2008 and I can say with confidence that this book is going to change the game. You can pre-order the book from Duke UP and I suggest you do so if you are at all interested in popular music or reggaeton.

For more info check out Reggaetonica.