Postmodernism and its effect on politics and prose

Jasbir Puar, an associate professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, has managed to both be an LGBT activist and queer studies professor and at the same time demonize Israel at the expense of Palestine. She does this, of course, by claiming that gay rights in Israel (there are none in Palestine) is an example of Israeli “pinkwashing” or “golden handcuffs“. This is a classic example of how the anti-Israel faction of the Left is adept at turning virtues into vices, for Puar ignores the abrogation of gay rights by Palestine–so violent is her hatred of Israel.

She’s also claimed, falsely, that Israelis systematically poison the Palestinian populace with chemicals and radiation, do medical experiments on Palestinian children, and harvest the organs of dead Palestinians. This woman has a dicey relationship with the truth.

I spent an unpleasant hour after a nap reading, or rather straining to read, Puar’s prose, and suddenly realized that her writing, and in all likelihood her politics, are heavily influenced by postmodernism. The first, politics, by a blatant disregard of truth in favor of “privileging” one’s hatred and ideology, and the second, her writing, by its tedious and almost unbearable opacity.  Working my way through an interview with Puar, which I strongly suspect was a written and not live one, I came across this three-sentence paragraph, which rivals Judith Butler’s famous sentence that won the Bad Writing Contest in 1998. (It has not escaped my notice that Butler also does gender studies and queer theory, and that Puar got her Ph.D. in those same fields where Butler teaches: at Berkeley.)

Here, my friends, is a single paragraph showing the wages of postmodernism in both thought and expression. I did not enact the emotional labor to untangle its meaning, but if you read what she’s written, it’s pretty much all like this. If you wish, you can tell me what it means.

 In Terrorist Assemblages I propose a rapproachment of Foucauldian biopolitics and Achille Mbembe’s critique of it through what I call a ‘bio-necro collaboration’, one that conceptually acknowledges biopower’s direct activity to death, while remaining bound to the optimalization of life, and necropolitics’ nonchalance towards death even as it seeks out killing as a primary aim. I allege that it is precisely within the interstices of life and death that we find the differences between queer subjects who are being folded (back) into life and the racialized queernesses that emerge through the naming of populations, thus fueling the oscillation between the disciplining of subjects and control of populations. The result of the successes of queer incorporation into the domains of consumer markets and social recognition in the post-civil rights, late twentieth-century era, these various entries by queers into the biopolitics optimalization of life mark a shift, as homosexual bodies have been historically understood as endlessly cathected to death, from being figures of death (i.e., the AIDS pandemic) to becoming tied to ideas of life and productivity (i.e., gay marriage and reproductive kinship).

I don’t care what you say: there is NO EXCUSE for writing this badly, and yet this is considered good writing by postmodernists, for whom clarity is a vice.

116 Comments

  1. BJ
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    That paragraph is a phenomenal example of arrogance posing as intelligence. She thinks that the more difficult it is to decipher her word salad, the more intelligent she must sound. I can assure her reality is the exact opposite of whatever she thinks it is in nearly everything she says, thinks, and writes.

    “She’s also claimed, falsely, that Israelis systematically poison the Palestinian populace with chemicals and radiation, do medical experiments on Palestinian children, and harvest the organs of dead Palestinians. This woman has a dicey relationship with the truth.”

    Can you imagine if there was a home country for black people, or gay people, or some group that wasn’t Jewish (or white), and a professor propagated such hateful and obviously malicious conspiracy theories? Do you think they would hold a job teaching for very long? Would they escape all-out demonization, harassment, and death threats from the regressive left where Puar does her doody?

    • Carey Haug
      Posted October 20, 2017 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      You actually read that? I couldn’t get through the first sentence.

      • BJ
        Posted October 20, 2017 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        I had to. It was like watching a train derail.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted October 21, 2017 at 3:10 am | Permalink

          Trains derail rather more quickly than that.

          cr

  2. J. Quinton
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    This reminds me of Sophisticated Theology (TM).

  3. Joe Kosiner
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    I read through this tripe at least three times and still cannot figure out what she is trying to communicate. Also, the idea that the State of Israel is poisoning Palestinians and the other attendant falsehoods is pure, unadulterated hatred and antisemitic at its core.

  4. Desnes Diev
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    “Those who know that they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound to the crowd strive for obscurity. For the crowd believes that if it cannot see to the bottom of something it must be profound. It is so timid and dislikes going into the water.”
    Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay (sic) Science

    • Harrison
      Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      Everyone who hasn’t seen it before should watch Richard Alley’s congressional hearing in which he is asked to explain man-made climate change in 15 seconds, and improvises an explanation using his own head and the bald patch thereupon.

      That’s the extreme degree of effort an actual expert in real science will go to to make the complex understandable. PoMo’s obscurantism is that much more deplorable by comparison.

    • Dean Reimer
      Posted October 20, 2017 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

      “Baffle them with bullshit” is the colloquial version of Nietzche’s quote. It describes PoMo writing well, because despite all the big words they aren’t actually saying anything. Ask them to summarize their thoughts in clear language and they’d be at a loss.

      • Doug
        Posted October 20, 2017 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

        “If you’re anxious for to shine
        In the high aesthetic line as a man of culture rare,
        You must get up all the germs of the transcendental terms and plant them ev’rywhere.
        You must lie upon the daisies and discourse in novel phrases of your complicated state of mind;
        The meaning doesn’t matter if it’s only idle chatter of a transcendental kind.

        And everyone will say,
        As you walk your mystic way,
        ‘If this young man expresses himself in terms too deep for me,
        Why, what a very singularly deep young man
        This deep young man must be!'”

        Or woman, as the case may be.

        -Gilbert & Sullivan

      • Harrison
        Posted October 21, 2017 at 7:26 am | Permalink

        I disagree that they’d be at a loss. PoMo frauds know exactly what to say when someone asks them to explain their BS, and it’s usually some variant of “it’s not my job to educate you” or “Google it” or “read these five massive tomes by other professional hucksters before you get back to me.”

    • Posted October 23, 2017 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      Which is *really* ironic, since a lot of pomos trace (somewhat wrongly, but that aside) a lot of their “intellectual” pedigree through Nietzsche.

  5. Posted October 20, 2017 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    I just had to go look up ‘biopower’ It means power over peoples bodies but I suppose it’s meant to invoke images and connections.

    I love how anyone who says anything in this field immediately had their name adjectivfied. (is that the right word?)

    Writing this stuff seems to me to be an exercise in constructing elaborate sets of words using a sort of stream of consciousness.

    It might be fun. I’m tempted to try my hand at this Butlerian (and hence Puaristian) crap.

    • BJ
      Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      Oh, it’s the furthest thing from stream of consciousness. This kind of writing is the most self-conscious, self-satisfied crap around. I’m sure she spends hours tweaking it to achieve maximum opacity and pomposity.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted October 21, 2017 at 5:33 am | Permalink

        I agree. It’s all pretentious bullcrap imo.

    • phil
      Posted October 21, 2017 at 2:19 am | Permalink

      You might find this helpful: http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo/

      It even has its own Wikipedia page, where I found this little gem:

      “…the reverse Turing test: a human can be declared unintelligent if his or her writing cannot be told apart from a generated one.”

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 21, 2017 at 3:56 am | Permalink

        “You might find this helpful: http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo/

        Dammit! Poe’s Law incarnate.

        I was thinking “What a load of total pomo bollocks” but never doubting its genuineness till I skipped to the bottom and read:
        “The essay you have just seen is completely meaningless and was randomly generated by the Postmodernism Generator.”
        Waaah!

        Also, “This installation of the Generator has delivered 17,131,680 essays since 25/Feb/2000 18:43:09 PST, when it became operational.”

        17 million? Is it possible that most of Pomo theory has been produced by the Generator, cunningly co-opted by pomo practitioners in the sure and certain knowledge that nobody else in the field could call them out on it? Nah, it’s a lovely theory but they don’t have the wit.

        cr

        • Richard
          Posted October 21, 2017 at 4:30 am | Permalink

          There is a similar tool which generates man (manual) pages for the ‘git’ source control system: https://git-man-page-generator.lokaltog.net/

          For those fortunate to be unfamiliar with git, it is a very powerful (and hideously complex) system which takes a long time to master; and the fake man pages are a hilariously incomprehensible parody of the system’s real pages. Here is an extract for the “git-motivate-tip” command:

          “git-motivate-tip motivates some staged tips outside any forward-ported non-diffed unstaged tips, and the –consolidate-head flag can be used to pack a branch for the subtree that is branched by a passive file.

          STRIKE_REMOTE_REF is reset to stash the history of any branches for the ref. After a git-grope-index (repacked by git-justify-index and git-sidestep-base) returns an index, cleanly staged submodules are rev-listed for the git-hurl-base command, and objects that were rev-parsed during reverting are left in a reverted state, so the same set of remotes would sometimes be forward-ported in a passive area. It is sometimes possible that a diffed failure should prevent staged describing of various added histories.

          Any specified commits checked out by paths in the non-imported applied commit, but that are in RISK_ORIGIN, are configured in a staged object, as COMPILE_STAGE is removed to archive the stash of all logs opposite of the change. After bundling subtrees to many tags, you can index the upstream of the tips, and any remoting of a change that remotes an archive some time after can be allotted with git-whirl-remote. When APPROACH_REMOTE is not relinked, to relink a staged and patch the working commits, use the command git-integrate-object –tuck-archive, and after format-patching stages to many branches, you can archive the base of the refs.

          After checking out heads to many commits, you can fast-export the history of the commits. git-pirate-area takes arguments appropriate to the git-answer-base command to verify what is fast-imported and how, so any performing of a file that parses a history soon after can be branched with git-project-origin.

          It is a small chance that a pruned error should prevent temporary cleaning of a few stashed histories. INSTALL_INDEX is reflogged to cherry-pick the area of all trees to the ref, but the –outline-hitch-tip argument can be used to bisect a submodule for the path that is cloned by an automatic change. If ISOLATE_INDEX is not blamed, the ref to be pruned can be defined in several ways, because a few checked remotes cherry-picked by paths in the upstream index, but that in a few cases are not in , are stripped in a staged stage.”

          By way of comparison, this is (part of) the man page for the (real) ‘git-rebase’ command:

          “If is specified, git rebase will perform an automatic git checkout before doing anything else. Otherwise it remains on the current branch.

          If is not specified, the upstream configured in branch..remote and branch..merge options will be used (see git-config(1) for details) and the –fork-point option is assumed. If you are currently not on any branch or if the current branch does not have a configured upstream, the rebase will abort.

          All changes made by commits in the current branch but that are not in are saved to a temporary area. This is the same set of commits that would be shown by git log ..HEAD; or by git log ‘fork_point’..HEAD, if –fork-point is active (see the description on –fork-point below); or by git log HEAD, if the –root option is specified.

          The current branch is reset to , or if the –onto option was supplied. This has the exact same effect as git reset –hard (or ). ORIG_HEAD is set to point at the tip of the branch before the reset.

          The commits that were previously saved into the temporary area are then reapplied to the current branch, one by one, in order. Note that any commits in HEAD which introduce the same textual changes as a commit in HEAD.. are omitted (i.e., a patch already accepted upstream with a different commit message or timestamp will be skipped).

          It is possible that a merge failure will prevent this process from being completely automatic. You will have to resolve any such merge failure and run git rebase –continue. Another option is to bypass the commit that caused the merge failure with git rebase –skip. To check out the original and remove the .git/rebase-apply working files, use the command git rebase –abort instead.”

          Do I miss working with this? No.

          🙂

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted October 21, 2017 at 6:49 am | Permalink

            With respect, I am familiar with the somewhat cryptic format of *nix manpages, and I often find them rather opaque. However, in stark contrast to pomo, their jargon does describe components of a fully defined and functional system on which half the world’s computers run.

            Just a suggestion – a link to that somewhat esoteric and lengthy extract you gave might have been sufficient. I absolutely do not speak for Professor Ceiling Cat but he has been known to request that comments not be too long.

            Cheers

            cr

            • Posted October 23, 2017 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

              And at least a computer system (however badly documented) can be manipulated to see what it does.

  6. Steve Pollard
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    OK, I’ll have a go.

    The first sentence seems to be saying that normal people enjoy life, whereas (some) terrorists enjoy the idea of their own deaths, as well as enjoying killing normal people.

    The second and third sentences seem to be complaining that gay people are being assimilated into society as a whole, whereas once they were associated with death and therefore ostracised (NB: she asserts this without evidence).

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, hit Send by accident. I meant to agree that her earlier stuff quoted by PCC(E) on Israel is truly disgraceful.

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

        No, I think it’s bollocks.

        Sorry to have a third bite at the cherry, but in addition there seems to be no connection between the first sentence and the rest of the gibberish.

        • David Harper
          Posted October 21, 2017 at 7:29 am | Permalink

          Thank PCC(E) for that. I was worried that you might have fallen down the PoMo rabbit hole 🙂

    • Jeff Rankin
      Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      That makes sense. Er – well, inasmuch as I understand the words you’re using, and the order in which you’re using them.

      Is it real or not, I don’t know.

    • Posted October 20, 2017 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

      Pomo rants are often constructed around an intelligible kernel. The kernel is often something obvious and/or banal. The convoluted rant is used in the hopes of convincing readers the author is doing good and important thinking.

      I want to know what the interstices between life and death are.

      • Posted October 21, 2017 at 7:07 am | Permalink

        Me too! She’s clearly not referring to the moment of death, or to a near-death experience.

      • Posted October 23, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        Often times I’ve read a fascinating abstract on an important topic that then goes off the rails by the convolution.

        For example, I think doing a “phenomenology” is a way to get data. The “best” phenomenology seems to realize this (and this is how the term is used in more advanced fields like physics). But the idea that one could somehow produce an “atheoretic description” or the like is ridiculous (as Husserl basically realized, but a large number of his followers haven’t). So the “empty space” is filled with bafflegab.

  7. Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  8. A.L.S
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    “This is as clear as broad daylight in a California summer,” says the legally blind recipient of a lobotomy who just digested hallucinogenic mushrooms. If only we could brush off this PM nonsense as some isolated remnants of the 80s in the periphery of the academy and society. Unfortunately, far too many people are like John Marks (of I am not a scientist and I am not an ape fame)and behave an awful lot like lemmings. This is the type of writing that some anthropologists (chiefly in the socio-cultural wings of their departments)drill into their students. It makes it all the more curious that they turn around to lament about their failed attempts at presenting themselves as authorities to researchers outside their fields and the general public.

    • phil
      Posted October 21, 2017 at 2:37 am | Permalink

      My favourite postmodernist is probably Steve Fuller. Why he is employed as a “philosopher-sociologist in the field of science and technology studies” is beyond me. He features on the wrong side in the Sokal Affair and the Kitzmiller trial, and when Norman Levitt died he posted a nasty obituary wherein he admitted to being an arsehole (IIRC). And of course Grayling’s tear down of one of his books (in “Origin of the specious” and “Bolus of nonsense”) are always entertaining reading. In fact I think I’ll go read them again now.

      You can read more about him here: http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2009/steve-fuller/

      • Posted October 22, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

        Hi Phil,

        I have just read the article published at http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2009/steve-fuller/, and found this paragraph rather disturbing:

        Fuller regards himself as a leader in the movement to “open up” science by nurturing and canonizing ways of “doing science” that differ radically from practices currently endorsed by the professional scientific consensus. This is a theme that plays well on the academic left, since it explicitly includes such notions as “citizen science” and “people’s science,” projects that Fuller gives leave to confront and reject the findings of established science…This bizarre project is propped up by Fuller’s dogma that one need not actually understand standard science to criticize it or to pose profoundly different alternatives. The specific content of standard science, its internal logic, the empirical results that buttress it, are not crucial elements in understanding “Science” as he maintains it should be understood. What, then, authorizes those who, like Fuller, do “social studies of science” to claim that supposedly superior understanding? “We study them [scientists] as people, not minor deities. We observe them in their workplaces, interpret their documents, and propose explanations for their activities that make sense of them, given other things we know about human beings.”

        A commenter by the name of “Immunologist” summarized it really well as follows:

        Mr. Fuller, or probably Dr. Fuller, has a very interesting point of view, one which I have heard expressed by other social scientists with “science envy.” Now, this is an ad hominim attack, but ad hominim arguments are fallacies only when they are used indiscriminately. In this case, it helps to explain – and perhaps even excuse – Fuller’s evolution into a full-on, self-aggrandizing, self-justifying academic of the post modernist school. I’ve read Higher Superstition. I’ve also read Sokol’s original hoax and what he’s written about it since. I read all of the Kitzmiller testimony, including Dr. Fuller’s. I could not help but notice that Dr. Fuller does not address the specific instances of the obvious and frankly hilarious misuse of mathematical concepts and physical science in what is frankly unintelligible gibberish written by the leading lights of academic post-modernism. Until academics like Dr. Fuller admit that faux-intellectualism in support of ideological agendas masquerading as profound insight is simply not good scholarship, I’m afraid I shall have to continue to use my own judgement, education, and life experiences to avoid just this sort of nonsense.

      • Posted October 23, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

        Fuller at least writes somewhat clearly, but IMO he’s a charlatan, a different sort of BS artist. For which, read S. Sarkar’s review of one of his books about biology in NDPR. As Sarkar points out (not in so many words, but basically): a mixture of pomo and creationism, what could possibly go wrong?

  9. Jeff Rankin
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    “I allege that it is precisely within the interstices of life and death that we find the differences between queer subjects who are being folded (back)…”

    Oh my god – it’s all so clear to me now! It’s in the interstices, not the termini. NOT THE TERMINI!

    • Craw
      Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      What about the interstitial termini?

      • Jeff Rankin
        Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        Clearly more research is in order.

  10. Laurance
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Uhhhh…is this a postmodern poe?

    • Posted October 20, 2017 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      no.

    • phil
      Posted October 21, 2017 at 2:38 am | Permalink

      Is that even possible? How would you tell?

      • Posted October 21, 2017 at 7:07 am | Permalink

        Because she’s an established and tenured scholar with a long history of writing this kind of stuff. I doubt that was all a big con.

        • Posted October 21, 2017 at 11:20 am | Permalink

          It is known that a totalitarian system can operate if there’s a small percentage of true believers and a large enough majority of weak-minded people who are so afraid of the true believers that they pretend to be believers themselves. I have wondered if it is possible to have a totalitarian system where none of its proponents actually believe in it.
          Wouldn’t it be funny if all of the pomo academics actually knew it was bullshit, but enthusiastically publish more nonsense and vigorously defend it to keep their cozy jobs? (And when their guilty conscience torments them, they go to a church and confess to a priest who no longer believes in God…)

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted October 21, 2017 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

            “Wouldn’t it be funny if all of the pomo academics actually knew it was bullshit, but enthusiastically publish more nonsense”

            At the risk of repeating myself, I’ll suggest that they get their papers written for them by the Postmodernism Generator. After all, the 17 million texts it’s produced so far must have gone somewhere…

            cr

        • Posted October 23, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

          Hm! I’ve encountered a few academics whose whole career, or whole career after some point seemed to be such … so one has to wonder if they are Poe-ing once they have tenure or the like.

  11. tubby
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    That’s an amazing plate of jargon pasta.

    • Posted October 23, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      At least pasta can be tasty (with sauce). I’m not sure this is.

  12. Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    You know, clarity is somewhat improved if you dialectize it (http://www.rinkworks.com/dialect/).

    Here is the third sentence if spoken by the Muppet’s Swedish Chef (borkborkbork)

    “Zee resoolt ooff zee sooccesses ooff qooeer incurpureshun intu zee dumeeens ooff cunsoomer merkets und suceeel recugneeshun in zee pust-ceefil reeghts, lete-a tventeeet-centoory ira, zeese-a fereeuoos intreees by qooeers intu zee beeupulitics oopteemelizeshun ooff leeffe-a merk a sheefft, es humusexooel budeees hefe-a beee heesturicelly understuud es indlessly cezeected tu deet, frum beeeng feegoores ooff deet (i.i., zee EIDS pundemeec) tu becumeeng teeed tu idees ooff leeffe-a und prudoocteefity (i.i., gey merreeege-a und reprudoocteefe-a keenship).”

    That makes much more sense.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 20, 2017 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

      The Swedish Chef was awesome, 2nd only to Animal.

      • Posted October 20, 2017 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

        Jasbir Puar is much harder to understand than Animal. I think it is, in part, because Animal’s eyebrows are more mobile.

  13. Craw
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Not only is there no excuse for such writing, there is no excuse for disciplines or departments in which it is normal and considered fit for publication.

    These are bogus disciplines, their practitioners are frauds, and they should be done away with. If you aren’t writing about evidence or logic, begone with you.

    The world needs more Feynman.

    • Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      “If you aren’t writing about evidence or logic, begone with you.”

      So I guess music theory is out. Comparative lit too. Visual art….gone.

      Come on, Craw. You’re right there is no excuse for this kind of writing, but there is plenty of room in University for that which is not about evidence or logic.

      • Craw
        Posted October 20, 2017 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

        Mikey, she and her discipline are pretending to make truth claims.

      • Posted October 23, 2017 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        Comparitive literature makes truth claims, and so does music theory. Vincenzo Galilei’s book is perhaps old, but it does this all the time. (Appeals to perception: “you will hear it is correct.) Visual art proper, no, but people in art departments also seem to write about art, so …

  14. Craw
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    I was fine up to “cathected to”. The valence of cathect excludes direct objects.

    • Posted October 20, 2017 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      I had to look up “cathexeis.” It was, of course a term invented by a follower of Freud.

      • Posted October 20, 2017 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

        It sounds like something you’d insert into your urethra to collect urine.

      • Craw
        Posted October 20, 2017 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

        I had to look it up too, and of course it’s a bogus word. Yet as defined it really does not take a direct object. I think it’s hilarious that, even when she forages the bowels of bullshit looking for a verb she doesn’t even get it right.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 20, 2017 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

        I laid that word on you cats back when we were discussing your buddy Fred’s book on Freud(“anticathexis,” too, while I was at it 🙂 ).

      • Posted October 22, 2017 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

        There is no catharsis in cathexis.

    • Posted October 20, 2017 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      For me it was “optimalization.” I guess she felt like “optimization” just didn’t sound sophisticated enough without the extra syllable.

  15. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    I tried running the paragraph through several textual summarizers and they either threw away a sentence or achieved no compression.

    Which makes me think that either the paragraph cannot be simplified because it is already ‘noise’ or that that the language is actually a meta-language i.e. referring to the conventions of its genre; self-referential.

    Now the problem with meta-stuff often being self-referential is that it is even harder to test against the non-meta world. And every time somebody generates a phrase (like ‘bio-necro collaboration’) a lot of vagueness gets waved through without examination.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 20, 2017 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      ” And every time somebody generates a phrase (like ‘bio-necro collaboration’) a lot of vagueness gets waved through without examination.

      That is precisely the intent.

    • Richard
      Posted October 21, 2017 at 3:07 am | Permalink

      It would be interesting to perform a Zipf’s Law analysis on a sufficiently large sample of this drivel.

      • Richard
        Posted October 21, 2017 at 3:10 am | Permalink

        Posted too soon.

        Would the “signal distribution” in the text indicate intelligent communication, or more likely just babble?

  16. Stephen Barnard
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    That could have been written by a satirical postmodernist bot.

  17. Posted October 20, 2017 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    ..the mooning moose in Readers’ WILDLIFE photos makes perfect sense…
    posterior
    I have no idea what this is about.

  18. Jay Baldwin
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    I took a course in graduate school titled simply, Postmodernism. I won’t describe it beyond saying I got an A in the course based on a paper I wrote. I re-read that paper recently (It’s on an old flash drive) and, I swear, I don’t understand a word of what I wrote. I suspect, neither did the professor who “graded” it.

  19. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Her words do not so much flow into sentences as clang up against each other, like empty boxcars in a railway switching yard.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 20, 2017 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

      Your construction reminds me of Karl Malden as General Bradley relating a conversation he had with a soldier abot the effectiveness of their APC’s armor.

    • claudia baker
      Posted October 20, 2017 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

      I agree. It’s jarring to read and impossible to understand. What crap. I am thinking of going back to university to do a PhD in history. Now, I’m scared. Is this the kind of thing I will have to deal with? Jeebus!

      • Posted October 23, 2017 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

        History is very divided, it seems to me from the outside. Some aspects of cultural and intellectual history are affected. There’s a split in the history of science, it seems. We’ve got Steve Fuller (who is a sociologist by background) on the one hand, and on the other hand we’ve got Sarkar, who I already mentioned as well (a philosopher, technically) who has written (IMO) sensibly on the history of biology and of physics.

        (Disclaimer: I did a logic course back as an undergraduate with Sarkar.)

  20. Posted October 20, 2017 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    The trouble is you are reading in the wrong font.

    It makes perfect sense in the original wingdings.

  21. Posted October 20, 2017 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    “optimalization”? I had to laugh at that one as it’s such a great example of how such writers purposely add as much junk as possible to sound sophisticated, even down to a few extra letters. Why not “optimalitization”? Next time!

    • Posted October 22, 2017 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      There are some good discussions on this matter at https://ell.stackexchange.com/questions/135992/optimalization-or-optimization

      Optimum is the base word, and optimize and optimal are verb and adjective forms, respectively (optimally being the adverb form).
      It’s redundant to “verb-ify” the adjective form of a base word, if there is already a verb form.
      English has a number of patterns for turning base words into other parts of speech and probably at some point every possible permutation of base word and suffix has been tried and used somewhere. This doesn’t mean you should start using uncommon combinations without very good reason and command of the language, though.
      In particular, people who are trying to “sound smart” but aren’t actually smart will tend to use words with a more than necessary number of syllables. For example, using the word utilize in resumes when use or other simpler words would work. Optimalize sounds like you’re trying to do this. Avoid it even if some dictionary somewhere lists it as valid word, unless you are in a context where optimal has taken on a special meaning (I can’t think of one).

      • Stephen Barnard
        Posted October 22, 2017 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

        She’s evidently an antioptimalizationist :-), which, when you think about it, fits in nicely with the postmodernist world view. How can one “optimalize” something that has no objective correlate?

        • Posted October 22, 2017 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

          She’s a deliberate antioptimalization obscurantist with searingly unnecessary abstruseness!

  22. Posted October 20, 2017 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Postmodernist rhetoric is designed to be a dismissal of reason as a way of viewing the world. It’s meant to obfuscate, be impenetrable, to ‘jam up’ logical discussion.
    Say something reasonable? Postmodernist rhetoric will deconstruct it to nonsense.
    An amusing game for tired, talentless minds.

    rz

  23. DrBrydon
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    I have noticed that these things are often fact null. There is nothing new being added to scholarship, but merely the re-use of other scholars’ philosophical formulations to lend legitimacy to something. And here I use ‘something’ not to be indistinct, but because it is never clear what is being asserted. The use of authority I consider a trope of this type of writing.

    If I were associated with a university, I would ask exactly what this “discipline” does, for like the lilies of the field, it toils not neither does it spin.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 21, 2017 at 3:42 am | Permalink

      With respect, bad analogy. The point of the original parable was that the lilies, though functionally useless**, were nevertheless elegant and beautiful. Which pomo manifestly ain’t.

      (**This was of course in pre-botanic times).

      cr

  24. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    I would recommend that you submit one of her sentences to the bad writing contest. It would definitely be a contender.

  25. Jake Sevins
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    When I was a kid I saw an article that listed some really silly titles from the social sciences that used big complicated words for very simple ideas. It seems that gender studies has followed the trend and taken it to an absurd level.

    • Richard
      Posted October 21, 2017 at 2:58 am | Permalink

      I remember such an article in New Scientist many years ago. The author described the titles as a collection of trashy words intended purely to impress the reader.

  26. danstarfish
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    I think pinkwashing is such a contrived complaint. Somehow it is supposed to be sinister that Israel did PR to promote gay tourism.

    I am happy that Israel treats its gay citizens decently. If I were to criticize them it would be for letting the religious authorities control marriage regulations in their country.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted October 20, 2017 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

      The only way you can deny that Israel treats gays better than Palestine is to claim it’s a sham.

  27. Blue
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    In my view: Takes the thread and
    from the lovely Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson,
    18 October y2017, thus:

    “I stlll think there should be a
    dinosaur named Thesaurus. And I imagine
    Thesaurus Rex ‘d be badass with wordplay.”

    Isn’t that one just darling ?!

    Blue

  28. Posted October 20, 2017 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    I have not taken the trouble of searching for the source document from which this turgid mess was extracted. It may be that it was written for a “select” audience who are totally familiar with the specialized terminology. In which case, it’s written for a very narrow group of people. If it was intended to inform individuals with no specialized training in her discipline, she misses the boat completely by using arcane language unknown by her audience.
    Even the very intelligent people responding here are having to work too hard to find meaning. If she is writing for her personal benefit only, she wasted all the resources she invested and could have kept it to herself with no great loss.

  29. grasshopper
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Yes, we have no bananas.

  30. Posted October 20, 2017 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    I love it. There are two types of postmodern text, both discovered by Sokal and Bricmont (1997). Nobody ever provided a third.

    The first type proposes insights that sound incredible, but turn out to be manifest rubbish in one interpretation, or banality in another. This was dubbed, perhaps independently, as “Motte and Bailey Doctrines” by Nicholas Shakel (2005).

    The second type of postmodern text is simply word salad. The immensly respectful authors, who took great pains to review postmodern texts fairly describe one example like this:

    This paragraph— which in the French original is a single 193-word sentence, whose “poetry” is unfortunately not fully cap­tured by the translation — is the most perfect example of diar­rhea of the pen that we have ever encountered. And as far as we can see, it means precisely nothing

    I’d say the example provided above is a case of Type II. Also, this part is a hoot:

    “precisely within the interstices of life and death”

    Precisely! 😂

  31. Posted October 20, 2017 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    It is as if the author has some vague notion about the superficial appearance of being an academic but no real understanding of what it is to be an academic.

    Contrast this to some truly great intellects, who having made significant contributions to their field, were also outstanding in their ability to explain.

    Not just explain to their peers, but to explain in simple clear terms that anyone from any walk of life could understand sufficiently to come away enriched by the experience.

  32. AF Rider
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    Couldn’t agree more. What a load of babble

  33. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted October 21, 2017 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    An improvement is this passage from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”.

    `Very true,’ said the Duchess: `flamingoes and mustard both bite. And the moral of that is–“Birds of a feather flock together.”‘

    `Only mustard isn’t a bird,’ Alice remarked.

    `Right, as usual,’ said the Duchess: `what a clear way you have of putting things!’

    `It’s a mineral, I THINK,’ said Alice.

    `Of course it is,’ said the Duchess, who seemed ready to agree to everything that Alice said; `there’s a large mustard-mine near here. And the moral of that is–“The more there is of mine, the less there is of yours.”‘

    `Oh, I know!’ exclaimed Alice, who had not attended to this last remark, `it’s a vegetable. It doesn’t look like one, but it is.’

    `I quite agree with you,’ said the Duchess; `and the moral of that is–
    “Be what you would seem to be”–or if you’d like it put more simply–“Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.”‘

  34. grasshopper
    Posted October 21, 2017 at 2:27 am | Permalink

    #27, Blue, love your Dr. deGrasse Tyson quote.

  35. Richard
    Posted October 21, 2017 at 2:50 am | Permalink

    One can actually get a PhD in this nonsense????

    I can only imagine what their dissertations must be like – 250 pages of meaningless waffle that could have come straight from that PoMo essay generator.

    • Richard Metzler
      Posted October 21, 2017 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Check out the twitter account “New Real Peer Review” – they’ll point you to some juicy examples.

  36. Stephen Mynett
    Posted October 21, 2017 at 2:52 am | Permalink

    I cannot comment on education in the USA but in the UK post modernism is one of the things used to be able to be democratic and make sure everyone can have a degree, it is simple and does not require much, or any academic ability. Because of this we have many chocolate teapot degrees from universities that should never have been granted university status.

    Politicians from both sides are guilty of supporting this without realising that not everyone can or wants an academic type education, especially with the number of graduates who are now unemployed.

    The UK used to have a great apprenticeship programme where people had the chance to earn, although often not enough, while becoming engineers, electricians etc, ie really useful careers that would lead to employment for them and make them of great use to society in general.

    Another tragedy is the way post modernism is taking over genuine subjects. Towards the end of my studies in linguistics I was dismayed by the offal that was being served up as supposed education. The likes of Chomsky, Halliday et al could be the last of the genuine linguists and that is a tragedy as it is a very interesting subject.

    • Blue
      Posted October 21, 2017 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      +1, Mr Mynett ! And. too, within my field.
      Which is of several of the biological
      sciences !

      Every day I, sadly, see evidence of our tax
      dollars being spent upon i) frivolous
      “academic” programs and ii) “to help”
      students “study” so mucked – up (now),
      utterly undisciplined and adulterated
      subjects. Topics that are “feel – good” ones
      but ‘ll actually within the Long View
      help to heal animals and humans .not. at all.

      This is actually, to me, angering.

      Blue

    • biz
      Posted October 21, 2017 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      It is similar in the US – way too many worthless degrees being given out. However, as much as PoMo is a cancer, in the US it is probably not leading to the majority of those worthless degrees in particular. Sure, there are the various ‘(fill-in-the-blank) studies’ programs, but most worthless degrees are probably still coming out of the old fashioned easy ‘party school’ majors like communications.

  37. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 21, 2017 at 3:21 am | Permalink

    I’m surprised that nobody so far has linked to Richard Dawkins’ classic takedown Postmodernism Disrobed.

    So I will.
    http://www.physics.nyu.edu/sokal/dawkins.html

    That was written in 1998. Somewhat to my surprise I found that paragraph from Puar sounded eerily familiar, not in content, but in tone, to the examples quoted by Prof Dawkins. It seems pomo has hardly changed in the last 20 years.

    cr

  38. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted October 21, 2017 at 5:01 am | Permalink

    Clearly being critical of Postmodern text is a hate crime. I shall call this ‘bio digital discord imperialism’ and use it to effect a rapproachment between the works of Sokal and Puar.

    /sarcasm

    PS do I get my free PhD now or merely an online version I can print off?

    • Richard
      Posted October 21, 2017 at 6:35 am | Permalink

      Look in the next packet of cereal you buy…

      • DiscoveredJoys
        Posted October 21, 2017 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        🙂

  39. Matti K.
    Posted October 21, 2017 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    The post-modernist examples provided by Jerry and other critics are total gibberish to me. But so is the following, which I tried to comprehend when attempting to understand the details of newly observed gravitational waves:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudo-Riemannian_manifold

    I’m confident that complex mathematical structures can be shown to be true by people with enough training. Unfortunately, for a layman, they are at par with post-modernist statemets.

    Well, at least scientists and even mathematicians have attempted to give laymen simplified explanations on the matters they study. Has any postmodernist attempted to popularize postmodernist ideas? Is there a “Postmodernism for dummies”-edition?

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 21, 2017 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      There is just sufficient weight in that criticism (that is, that cosmology sounds as incomprehensible to the layman as does pomo) to require a response.

      I think the point is this – that concepts in cosmology (and any other advanced scientific fields) are very precisely defined and are subject to critical examination and testing to verify them. And this seems not to be the case with pomo.

      cr

      • BJ
        Posted October 22, 2017 at 8:06 am | Permalink

        +1

      • Posted October 23, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        Also, in the case of mathematics one can learn incrementally. When one tries this with pomo fields (and I have) one finds one cannot. For example, I started in the philosophy of science, so I expected to have some overlap with the sociology and history of science. Does not work in pomo cases *only*.

    • chris moffatt
      Posted October 22, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      Try to get hold of “Poststructuralism: a very short introduction” by Prof. Catherine Belsey (OUP 2002)). It attempts to be a comprehensible explanation for laymen. Compare and contrast, for intellectual content, “six easy pieces” and “six not so easy pieces” by Prof. Richard Feynman.

  40. Mike
    Posted October 21, 2017 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    between queer subjects who are being folded (back) into life and the racialized queernesses that emerge through the naming of populations, thus fueling the oscillation between the disciplining of subjects and control of populations.

    I gave up at that point!!

  41. Jeff Rankin
    Posted October 21, 2017 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    If you think pomo critiques like this are fun, Gad Saad occasionally does them on his youtube channel.

  42. Posted October 21, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Faux scholarship has a long history (e.g. Biblical archeology). Often an entire lexicon develops around this tripe, the learning of which then becomes an entrance gate through which new students must pass. What utter bilge! If there is an opinion in there, it is likely without any merit whatsoever. This is the Emperor’s New Clothes turned inside out. Nobody dare criticize it, not because of the royal patent, but the claim that the critic just doesn’t understand the nuances of a complex argument.

    On Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 3:30 PM, Why Evolution Is True wrote:

    > whyevolutionistrue posted: “Jasbir Puar, an associate professor of Women’s > and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, has managed to both be an LGBT > activist and queer studies professor and at the same time demonize Israel > at the expense of Palestine. She does this, of course, by cla” >

  43. nicky
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    Has Puar learned nothing from Sokal & Bricmont? If that cannot cure one, is there anything that can?

    In the Israel piece I love: “…the magic of the new intersectionality where any two concepts can be linked as long as the author hates both of them…”, perfect description.

  44. Posted October 22, 2017 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    She’s also claimed, falsely, that Israelis systematically poison the Palestinian populace with chemicals and radiation, do medical experiments on Palestinian children, and harvest the organs of dead Palestinians.

    In a conspiracy nut perfect storm, one can now blame International Jewry for chemtrails.

  45. chris moffatt
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    It doesn’t mean anything. It isn’t supposed to mean anything. It is not intended to document observations or clarify some principle or hypothesis. It is written for the sole purpose of being published in some obscure academic journal. It is just an expression of the fraud that the humanities have become.

  46. Posted October 22, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    ‘Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (Expanded Edition’) by Stephen R.C. Hicks nicely deconstructs Postmodernism to it’s neo-marxian origins.

    rz


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