Monday, July 07, 2014

Checking in with the Group of 88

As I wind down the blog after the resolution of the Evans and Carrington lawsuits (I’ll have a closing post next Monday), I thought it might be useful to check in on some members of the Group of 88. An utter lack of accountability within the academy for those faculty members who abandoned due process (and, in some cases, appeared to violate Duke regulations) was apparent almost from the start in the case, and remains so today.

No fewer than nine Group members were hired away from Duke, often for more prestigious positions, despite (because of?) their activism in the Group. Cathy Davidson—author of the Group apologia that invented a spring 2006 that never existed—was the latest, having just joined the faculty at the CUNY Graduate Center. She joins Grant Farred (Cornell, which got a taste of the contempt for students he had demonstrated at Duke); Houston Baker (Vanderbilt); Charles Payne (University of Chicago); and Rom Coles (Northern Arizona, endowed chair) in moving onto greener pastures. Meanwhile, three signatories who were members of the University Writing Program received full-time, tenure-track positions—Jason Mahn at Augustana, Matthew Brim at the College of Staten Island, and Christine Beaule at the University of Hawai’i—while a fourth (Caroline Light) was appointed to an administrative-teaching position at Harvard’s women’s studies program.

Several other Group signatories advanced at Duke. Srinivas Aravamudan currently serves as Duke’s dean of the humanities. Lee Baker is dean of academic affairs at Trinity College. And Paula McClain is dean of the graduate school, and vice provost for graduate education. Clearly the role of their behavior in causing a multi-million dollar settlement was no barrier in the Group members’ standing at Duke.

Imagine if the lacrosse case had featured a race-baiting DA, on behalf of a white false accuser, going after African-American students to advance his political career. Does anyone believe that professors who abandoned due process to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the DA, affirming that something “happened” to the false accuser, would not have faced professional repercussions in the contemporary academy?

And then there’s the principal author of the Group statement, Wahneema Lubiano. Those waiting for her perpetually “forthcoming” books (Like Being Mugged by a Metaphor: “Deep Cover” and Other “Black” Fictions; and Messing with the Machine: Politics, Form, and African-American Fiction) continue to wait; 15 years after Lubiano advertised their coming appearances, the books remain nowhere to be found.

Lubiano, befitting someone who believes that she participates in what she calls “public intellectualism,” has sporadically shared her insights via twitter. In February, for instance, she revealed that she has spent her “entire adult life addressing the US public’s murderous imagination when it comes to the lives of black Americans.” As always, temperate analysis from the tenured professor.

Lubiano hasn’t tweeted in a few months. She doesn’t appear to be academically active, either. According to her departmental CV at Duke, the Group of 88 leader has a grand total of . . . one . . . academic publication in the past six years, an article entitled, “Affect and Rearticulating the Racial ‘Un-sayables.’” The four-page essay appeared in the journal Cultural Anthropology.

(Lubiano appears to be comfortable with this length; her previous publication, subtitled “An Interview with Wahneema Lubiano,” also spanned four pages.)

In the event, Lubiano’s recent publication builds off her work in teaching a first-year seminar at Duke, “Prison, the U.S., and the Citizen.” The course, according to the Group leader, explores “the inability of general public discussion—what my students are aware of in abundance but which they understand as ‘natural’—to accommodate elaborated and unelaborated discourses for cathected critical engagement, e.g., white supremacy and its connection to prison.” Lubiano lamented that, in the class, she often ran “up against the difficulty of moving our students from that hegemonic subjectivity to something more specifically critical.”

The Duke professor expressed her concern that “what I have in the classroom” could “best be described as a fierce (albeit inarticulate) obedient state subject who resists a critique of the state and of prison, a resistance that might be described as white supremacist common sense.” [emphasis added] Lubiano further contended that “because of [her students’] resistance to the basics of empathy with regard to mass incarceration, they’ve taken up the position of aestheticized white supremacist subject instead.” In other words: parents can spend $50,000 a year to have Duke faculty suggest that their son or daughter exhibits “white supremacist common sense.” You’d almost think that Lubiano is a fiction, invented by David Horowitz or another right-wing critic of the academy to discredit the entire higher-ed enterprise.

As a reminder: Lubiano was hired by Duke on the basis of two “forthcoming” books that, to date, have never appeared.


Jim In San Diego said...

"You’d almost think that Lubiano is a fiction, invented by David Horowitz or another right-wing critic of the academy to discredit the entire higher-ed enterprise."

Tsk, tsk, tsk....

Jim Peterson

Anonymous said...

I'm quite saddened to learn that you're planning to "wind down" DIW. Because I suspect that we've not heard the last of the Duke LAX Case (e.g., will there be an audio or video of WAC's keynote talk in NJ?), I hope that you'll resume posting when situations arise.

Anonymous said...

@Jim Peterson 2:11AM

Duly Noted.. ;)


Mary said...

Say it is NOT so! I follow your DIW with joy and a hunger for truth. Please reconsider, Professor. You are, as my kid would say, the "bomb"!

Anonymous said...

Wahneeeeema'ed.....a new term we now used to describe what happens when somebody from the race-gender-class crowd opens their mouth, spews verbal vomit and says absolutely bleepin' nothing.....

skwilli said...

In response to the "end" of the blog, I will paraphrase Senator Blutarsky. "Eight years of blog reading down the drain!" hee hee Thanks, KC.

A Duke Dad said...

@ 10:21 AM

You mentioned . " WAC's [sic] keynote talk in NJ . " (presumably, that is William D. Cohan)

The website is a local Morristown, NJ site; the book festival, featuring Cohan, has its first comment on April 22; less than 24 hrs later, new comments were barred.

They did leave the first 7 comments; 5 were highly negative.

Jay Knott said...

It would be a great loss if this blog were closed down. In this post, KCJ describes the career advancement of the group of 88, professors who alleged some of their students were guilty of rape, solely because of their race and that of their accuser.

But surely this is the tip of the iceberg. Academia is saturated with political correctness. But it goes beyond academia. Much of the mainstream media recently launched a campaign to imply that the Duke lacrosse three are guilty of "something". Where else but on Durham Wonderland would we have found out about this?

May I suggest turning this blog into something broader? A critical analysis of the assumptions of the left about the power of white supremacy, patriarchy and so on, in American society as a whole. The Duke lacrosse case is a symptom of something. What is it?

Anonymous said...

In other words, anyone who shows any common sense is discredited as a "white supremacist" (or, presumably, an "Uncle Tom" if the person isn't white) by Lubiano.

Anonymous said...

The title of an old Kurosawa movie seems relevant here - "The Bad Sleep Well."

Anonymous said...

I'm in awe of Prof. Johnson's prodigious (and meaningful) output during the first years of the "case" and more recently the Cohan travesty. There are only 24 hours in a day, and I'm amazed at the quality and quantity. I do hope, instead of totally dropping the blog, he will revert it to some sort of a caretaker status with occasional relevant posts, like he did for the last few years until "The Price of Silence" came out.

I'm 99.9 % sure we haven't heard the last of Cohan and other people who will blithely ignore all the work Johnson, Taylor, and a host of others have done on this subject. Revisionist history! I still have a very hard time, not just with people like Cohan, but Ken Burns and others who comment without doing their homework. I have an equally hard time with the editors, publishers, academics, etc, who are derelict in their jobs, especially those with "name" credibility. Hello Scribner. Hello Wall Street Journal prior to Dorothy Rabinowitz correcting the record. Hello to others, you know who you are.

Anonymous said...

Wahneeeema just ended a few years as associate chair of Afro-American Studies and director of undergraduate studies at the same time. Now she is director of graduate studies for the Literature department. I'd say that she is certainly among those G88-ers who have been well rewarded, won't you agree?

Anonymous said...

And don't forget Mr. "Amerikkka," (Bonilla-Silva), who was promoted to chair of the Dept. of Sociology.

Duke Prof

Anonymous said...

I hope KC continues the blog as well, because Cohan may be only the first salvo in a barrage of attempts to rewrite history.

Anonymous said...

Why don't we just abolish the "studies" these people are supposedly holding professorships in?

Am I the only one who's noticed that these people's semi-coherent "arguments" always boil down to "We shouldn't have to abide by the rules and norms of modern civilization, because we're barbarians and making us do that is 'oppressing' us."? They reject logic, rationality, and justice in favor of a worldview right out of the Neolithic- a world where invisible and often malevolent entities (racism, etc.) control events, where objective reality is a myth, and where magic (altering reality via ritual, incantation, etc.)is real. Mentally, these self-proclaimed "progressives" hold a worldview that was dated when Socrates was around.

People whose worldview not only predates but precludes the sciences & humanities (and indeed all Western Civ.) AS CONCEPTS shouldn't get paid to supposedly teach them to the next generation.