Abolishing left patriarchy

I read this yesterday at a really wonderful conference, Whose crisis, whose university?, which began with questions about the university and its relationship to carcerality, prison abolition, and abolitionist history in general. My little text is drawn partly from a longer paper I’ve written about sonic patriarchy in a French university department.

My first thought about abolition is that it makes an immense difference just what we are trying to abolish. What, for instance, might it mean to “abolish left patriarchy” in academia? Etymologically, patriarchy is rule of the fathers, a regime of male power and patrilineal inheritance. One might thus see abolishing patriarchy as a destruction or cancellation of male power in general, or at least of propertarian gerontocracy and its self-assertions of grandiosity and naturalness.

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The American “Theory Boy” and his fetish

Here’s a little excerpt from the preface of my book about French radical philosophy, where I try to open up some questions about gender and object-desire in “French Theory,” as we once knew it in America. It’s not the ethnographic part of my project; it’s not even really about France. But it tries to think a bit about U.S. college culture around the turn of the 2000s, when I was a student and when—at my institution—French Theory was still somewhat in vogue.

The kind of theory I was taught in college had a big aura. It was a chic kind of theory, a French kind of theory, one entwined with hipster and bohemian aesthetics, with “female effacement” (Johnson 2014:27), with things postmodern or poststructuralist, with American whiteness, and with a barely repressed spirit of commodification and elite competition. In the American university context, this theoretical competition was readily entangled with clumsy masculine ambition and ersatz intersubjectivity, as one can see from a late-1990s satirical song about dating at Swarthmore College.

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