Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ah, Spring Break

While students love Spring Break so that they can get drunk in some foreign country and pass out on the beach (which seems like a mere change of location to me), Professors love Spring Break because they can actually catch up on all of the work that they've been meaning to do for a really long time. For me this currently includes grading, updating attendance rosters, and some reading/writing for the diss.

TM emailed me back this morning with a really nice long letter. We have been discussing the politics of the Haprin's work and how that should or will play into my argument. This goes back to what I was talking about here in regards to having a solid theoretical foundation for the paper. Or as TM puts it to have a "theoretical lense" through which to view the work. (I like his phraseology better). Anyhow I was leaning in the direction of discussing Halprin through the work of Henri Lefebvre and Chantal Mouffe. This would give it (in my opinion) a very radical and political edge. Both Lefebvre and Chantal Mouffe are proponents of conflict and antagonism as a necessary form of democracy. This is of course way oversimplified, but with more nuance it could be useful in reading the politics of public space during the 1960s through violent upheavals and occupations. (Lefebvre is writing in France and greatly affected by the student protests of 1968).
TM suggests something else. He believes that utilizing Lefebvre and Mouffe here would in his words be, "too much and not enough." He doesn't think that this analysis would be rich enough - and that essentially it has been done before and we are all very familiar with it. He recommended looking at Michel Foucault (who I already recognize as a strong influence), but in particular his later work that he wrote in the 1970s about the "Care of the Self." I think what TM is getting at— and which of course I am trying to do — is to suggest a focus on the elements of the Halprin's work that is specific to their location in the Bay Area and their relationship to the environment, the body, and perhaps even therapy. In this sense this is what differentiates their work from the avant-garde movements on the East coast.

Okay so I have some work to go on from this — it is really amazing to be having this kind of conversation with someone of this intellectual caliber in my field. I love it that we understand each other and that there is a sense of shared purpose. In a sense, I think this is what is beginning to tire me from hanging out with graduate students— everyone is so consistently insecure that they have a hard time sharing enthusiasm. Profs don't really need to worry about this so much (especially if they have tenure). Though I have to say the grad students in Binghamton were very friendly and felt much less competitive than those in my own program.

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