Readings in Activist Scholarship: Jean Baudrillard
School of Consciousness and Transformation ANTH 6373 1.00
We are living at a critical moment in history when small actions can play a huge role in moving the human community toward emancipation and away from destructive competition and environmental degradation. The work of scholars and teachers—both within and outside of academia—is vital to global efforts for social change. Activist scholarship presents unique challenges and opportunities, inviting us to engage with transformative ideas and emancipatory perspectives. Readings in Activist Scholarship courses aim to introduce students to some of the most exciting, relevant, and surprising topics and thinkers of our time. These conversations can help us to understand better our particular roles as activists and scholars, as well as strengthen our collective capacity to build movements for social transformation. Among the contemporary French intellectuals, Jean Baudrillard is less widely read than Foucault or Derrida. Some have placed him as an American intellectual because he uses the terminology of modern physics, which seduces some Americans, New Age thinkers, and artists. Baudrillard is a controversial thinker who has been quoted by both the political right and left to support their ideas. He has challenged Western intellectuals about the Gulf War and about the events of 9/11 by contending that that these events were pure simulacra, or virtual reality. He is also a critic of Marxism, specifically historical materialism, which he finds too narrow. He proposes instead to look at the notion of alienation in global and cultural perspectives. To do this, he relies on the anthropology of Marcel Mauss, Georges Bataille, and Marshall Shallins. Using analogies from modern physics, Baudrillard believes that we are not able to see the real events of history as they “are;” rather we see the effects of mediating ideologies on events. This class will be conducted as a seminar, where students’ readings, interpretations, and discussions of Baudrillard's texts will form the major pedagogical approach to understanding his work.