Monday, July 11, 2011

Mountains Beyond Mountains

In looking at topics for a thesis, I have been frustrated by the wax and wane of ideas; from looking at how cyberpunk and dystopia/modern literature posits the individual as in isolation while simultaneously allowing them to have and create or find meaningful relationships and communities; how modern web 2. technology has effected literature, writing, journalism, and educating by creating a new cultural standard for literacy, agency, and writing; to working with chicano culture and literature in a restaurant or professional setting to analyze how culture superstructures and the long term effects of cultural legacy in cultural collisions and classism/racism.

Through this wide range of ideas, a dominant undercurrent of influence has held sway. The works of Jarod Diamond and of Malcolm Gladwell have been strongly influential in changing how I perceive different settings. Against these post-structuralists theories, there is a counter-current of agency, a devotion to the existentialists philosophies/philosophers.

Does this then reposition me in the same place I found myself some four or so years ago, wondering what bridges are between these post-structuralists and existentialism?

"Guns, Germs, and Steel" is always in the back of my mind as a guiding ideology for understanding the broader place cultures have in history and modern society as a response to their environmental pressures. Recently, writing on Marx has rekindled too the class and socioeconomic awareness that underlies much of consumerism and American culture today. Gladwell, in his article in the New York, "The Revolution will not be Tweeted" made me skeptical of technology and coupled with a Marxist perspective allows me to view Cory's paper on Twitter in Education as increasing a class division. Gladwell's book "Outliers" helps position me in a better way to understand how this, cultural studies, directly effects the individual and can be determining (in a similar kind of argument that Diamond uses, which is why I consider both of these text to be post-structuralists ideologies.

But what room remains between these texts? How does an individuals statistical percentage, probability, challenge or confirm the concept of agency and the existential crisis?
I have three forays planned thus far; "Forms in the Abyss" has been sitting on my bookshelf for too many years, its purchase stemming from a similar vein of inquiry years ago, after being introduced to theory after my own previous obsession with existentialism in early college. Purporting to bridge the concepts between Sarte and Derrida, it promises to be a good jumping off point in looking for how both can speak to the same reality/experience and so address this returning curiosity of mine. However, heavily steeped in linguistics and semiotics/semiology, the text also appears way over my head. "Existentialism 2.0" may help familiarize myself with the philosophies current conceptualization, and finally reading "Curseo's Footprint" (another book collecting dust that has been unread in the 2 years that have passed since its lending) maybe help with the cultural perspective.

But I feel unprepared for the voyage and task ahead. The topics are not something that we have studied in any meaningful way in school. My bitterness at the educational institution increases daily as I look at what I have to do, what I have to pay, to finish, and how much of a waste it all is in so many ways. But I wouldn't embark on this without it, so, I jump, fiery rings and all...

All rivers lead to the sea" the saying, at least in intellectual pursuits, has always seemed to hold true for me. Idea pods upon idea, field leads to field, from general to specific and back again. One of my favorite illustrations is from SEED magazine,

What I take from this picture is the idea that all things, all information, is connected, the field we choose to explore is really a difference of scale, but each layer is connected to every other. So, if I try to explore several ideas, after enough time, maybe I can begin to see the connections between them in more detail, or at least have better questions...

So what can one do with all this, what are the initial questions?
When I drive, often my best ideas come to me, or at least I think they are my best because no one is there to disagree. I have taken to recording my rantings, so here are the questions I have a few minutes left to jot down (clarifications coming soon!);

cultural studies redefinies new fields and interdisciplinary work;
modern conflicts and paradigm shifts not taught in courses and cross-disciplinary not encouraged;
cultural studies of revolution? (kristena, feminism and civil rights movements- leaders through cultural studies lenses?)
restaurants as a illustration of opportunity based on cultural divisions and histories and influenced by racism/class-ism?
Correlation of studies on influencing qualities of application of 10,000 rule to literacy based on literature awards given internationally?

Two take aways from listening to those... I need to speak in a much more practiced way and I need to be clearer in my ideas, because I know what I'm saying and I can barley make sense of them. Explication coming soon...

Below is a running list of books I can pull from so far, I need to look for some chicano texts...

The Botany of Desire
Mountains Beyond Mountains
Sex at Dawn
The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted
Ender's Game
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
Love Medicine*
Wuthering Heights
100 Years of Solitude*
Cultures Consquences* [power-distance-index's]
Albion's Seed*
The Tipping Point*
Forms In The Abyss*
Existentialism 2.0*
Crusoe's Footprint*

*to read

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