Open Call for ROYAL TRASH

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DEADLINE: SATURDAY 18 MARCH 2017
OPEN CALL FOR DEEP TRASH: ROYAL TRASH

More information here.

“We are now accepting proposals for a new episode of Deep Trash, the unique multi-disciplinary exhibition and performance club night in London.

Calling for performances, videos and artworks to be shown on Saturday 29 April 2017 at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, London. We accept proposals by artists of any artistic background and nationality. We are also keen to hear from writers and academics responding to the call either in written form (theory and cross-genre) or through a performative lecture.

For the next 3 episodes of Deep Trash, we are delighted to have the support of the Department of Drama at Queen Mary University (London) – one of the leading research centres for performance and drama across the UK – who will host our symposium on Thursday 27 April 2017 entitled ‘Power, Subcultures & Queer Stages’ with a keynote talk by Dr. Shaun Cole, fashion historian, curator and writer. Our headline artist for the live art night will be the one and only “Un-Royal Variety” Star Jonny Woo.

This call mainly looks at the relations & tensions between subcultures & high society, state & monarchy, class & sexual expressions, empires and colonialism. We welcome proposals at the intersections of queer, feminist, postcolonial discourses or artistic frameworks.

This event’s applications may include, respond to, be affected by, but not restricted to:

– (Un)making the Empire: examining the social construction of Whiteness.
– A cabinet of curiosities: colonialist and patriarchal spectacles re-imagined.
– Contemporary takes on Victorian literature & class discourses.
– Kings and Queens: royalty and drag culture.
– Royal Scandals: revival and re-appropriation of Royal chronicles.
– Dancefloors, podiums & other queer stages: sub- and counter-cultures at the club.
– ‘Jubilee’: Punk & Anarchy as a resistance to monarchy.
– Aristocrazy: middle/upper class Bohemia and extravagance.
– Camp: style, subcultures and sexual politics.
– ‘I want a Dyke for President’: counter-actions, anti-heroes and alternative role models
– Rulers & Responsibility: eco-feminist critiques of Earth Crimes.
– The Golden Cage: female domesticity and oppression in the house, the castle or the Harem.
– Vajazzles, Golden Showers, Royal Albert and Pearl Necklaces: Royal Slang & Sexual PracticesOrientalism and Occidentalism: Art as social distortion.
– ‘Let them eat cake’: inequalities between the people and the monarchy.
– Waacking and Voguing: the relation of dance and dance spaces to the queer community.
– Oligarchy, kleptocracy and plutocracy: critiques of wealth and state corruption.
– Non-noble entities of wealth and power, such as mafia, “nouveau riches”, yuppies, socialites and media personalities.
– Sex and power in Dynasty and contemporary soap operas.
– An Un-Royal Variety: subverting the canon of mainstream culture.

To apply please follow the link: http://www.cuntemporary.org/open-call-deep-trash-royal-trash

The programme is supported using public funding by Arts Council England.”

For further information:
CUNTemporary
Arts | Feminism | Queer
email: info@cuntemporary.org
web: http://www.cuntemporary.org

“Hidden Figures” and the pursuit of excellence through diversity

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A couple of weeks ago, I watched the film Hidden Figures, after a friend (thanks, Donnamarie!) recommended it to me. As a black British woman, she was blown away by this piece of history – three African American women who contributed, as NASA employees, to putting an American into the Earth’s orbit. What we both liked about the film was not just the uncovering of the phenomenal achievements of these women against the obstacle of white supremacy and misogyny, but how much the story still relates to current times, both in terms of issues and the kind of rhetoric that is used.

For example, in the film, there is a scene at a barbecue where NASA employee Mary Jackson (played by Janelle Monaé) talks to her husband about going to court for taking classes to become an engineer. Jackson is generally encouraged by her friends and the Jewish scientist she is working with, because her potential success might open up paths for future generations. Her husband, however, initially cautions her against entering a system that is effectively designed to take its fuel from her while burning her in the process. This tension is still very much present in contemporary debates, for instance, the one surrounding ‘why is my curriculum white?’: should we, as non-white students and academics, join the academy and attempt to make it less racist, or should we try and create something outside of a system that is racist in its foundation? This conflict has, for instance, been sharply dissected in the work of Kehinde Andrews.

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A key moment in the film, for me, was the scene where the white boss of Katherine Goble (later Katherine Johnson, played by Taraji P. Henson), an incredibly talented black mathematician, asks: “why are we not as good as the Russians?”. While asking this question he is surrounded by all the talent that could help them achieve the same or better results, but is completely oblivious to it. Neither Goble nor the brilliant supervisor and programmer Dorothy Vaughan (played by Octavia Spencer), nor Mary Jackson – or any of the other African American “computers” – are even recognised as humans. They are even denied access to the very means – programming books, computers, classes, scholarships and even toilets and coffee – that would enable them to contribute. Everything about that moments feels totally nonsensical: the space race feels like an idiotic alpha male competition that somehow made it to the international scale, the absurd extent of racism and the resources put behind it adds another layer of incomprehension, and, overall, the way the project is managed seems utterly in opposition to what is desired to be achieved. As another friend cynically put it: exploitation works best if everyone is exploited equally and made to want to be exploited.

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Having recently done some work in relation to the Race Equality Charter Mark, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the current rhetoric of “excellence” in diversity committees. There, the argument that is often made is that diversity is needed to achieve excellence. At the same time, it is plainly obvious that while this rhetoric is rolled out at every opportunity, the most brilliant people are still being systematically pushed out, often by the same dynamics as shown in Hidden Figures (all-male panels and decision-making boards, moving the ‘finish line”, lack of support, ignorance towards other embodiments of excellence). What Hidden Figures highlights against this background is that real excellence is not actually desired, because it would mean disturbing the way things work and disturbing the narrow logic of competition to which we have become accultured. To me, it is no coincidence that nearly all of my living intellectual heroes are working outside of the academy, in sports stores, FE colleges, manual jobs, where they have no institutional support. The few who manage to remain in academia, often as tokens of ‘diversity’, often have to make do with insecure contracts, are pressured into leaving or are simply not promoted. Many are moving abroad, through the added injustices of Brexit and other destructive immigration regulations.

A recent article in the Timed Higher Education touched on this issue, sadly without getting to the bottom of it. The author lamented that “young academics’ research is elegant but not interesting”, because they are afraid to speak out and end up self-censoring. Instead, according to the author, it was the senior academics who seemed to present more daring arguments. What is missing from this analysis, again, are the ‘hidden figures’: the people whose work is too challenging for hiring panels, for funding bodies, or whose work is being appropriated by professors without credit. ‘Excellence’ is rarely found at academic conferences, but in the growing para-academic spaces that frequently overlap with activist and artist circles. As Jack Stilgoe put it in a related rant in The Guardian: ‘excellence tells us nothing about how important the science is and everything about who decides’ (for a more elaborate analysis, see this article by Moore et al).

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The film also nicely showed how efforts to progress are being undermined by supposedly natural allies, in this case, white women. Not only did Kirsten Dunst’s supervisor character “Mrs Mitchell” participate in the oppression of her black co-workers, but she effectively sabotaged herself. Another layer of failed alliances was added through the reviews of the film where at least one woman performed the same move as the white female supervisor by devaluing the race dimension. And, like her, she would probably have to reacted to the criticism in a similar manner:

Mitchell: “Despite what you may think, I have nothing against y’all.”
Vaughan: “I know you probably believe that.”

This line is brilliant, because it so poignantly summaries the kind of rationalising that people perform to justify violence. The allies who supported the women in the end were men – the women’s husbands, the Jewish scientist and the boss who desperately needed the black women’s skills (partly also in order not to lose his own job, or, as one reviewer put it, he is ‘too busy to hate‘).

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What makes this film so successful (quite a few people I have spoken to since have reported standing ovations from black audiences), Donnamarie suggested, is the fact that is provides so many different angles on the subject. Everyone can find a way into discussing it, whether through race, gender, family and workplace dynamics, science etc. This certainly worked at the café where we talked, and there have, of course, been many articles in the media, from the NASA website to black community newspapers. While progress might not proceed in linear ways, a film like Hidden Figures illustrates that the lucky constellations that bring progress do not just depend on co-incidence, but also determination. The film’s clear parallels with today give a prompt to all possible audiences of this film to not repeat history, but continue the work of creating a better one. As “Mary Jackson” put it at the start of the film, when the three black women manage to turn a potentially dangerous traffic control by a white male police officer into a police escort to take them faster to work: “I’ll tell you where to begin”.

CFPs: I/Mages of Tomorrow & Techno Resistance and Black Futures

Just received these calls (thanks, Anja and Holly), which may be of interest to readers. More info on I/Mages of Tomorrow here and on Techno Resistance and Black Futures here.

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“I/Mages of tomorrow invites activists, artists, academics, film-makers, community organisers, scientists and tech-creators to consider what can be achieved when we come together as people of colour, as black and brown bodies, as queer, trans and non-binary voices and do not only talk about whiteness, patriarchy, islamaphobia, racism, or homophobia. Blackness will be explored not only in the diasporic context in which it operates almost always in the position of minority, but from the perspective of majority narratives from geopolitical and geographical locations in which whiteness is not the normalised, de-politicised default.

We welcome submissions addressing critical whiteness by white and white-migrant bodies speaking out on privilege, solidarity, silence, giving space and calling out. This anti-conference conference will be an immersion in the impossible materialised, a beautiful and empowering attempt at community, healing, creation, a challenging and unsettling exploration of our capacity to invoke dreams and to enact them into reality.

I/Mages of tomorrow prioritises black and brown, queer and trans, people of colour voices and we especially encourage those submissions. “

Techno Resistance and black futures conference

#blacktechfutures

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“We’re delighted to announce Techno Resistance and Black Futures conference taking place at Goldsmiths, University of London on 27th May, 2017.

In his 1994 essay ‘Black to the Future: Interviews with Samuel Delaney, Greg Tate and Tricia Rose,’ Mark Dery describes the black body as inhabiting a perverse space of cultural intolerance. In a very real sense, Dery describes the black body as occupying a place in history where the Diaspora is more reminiscent of the strangeness of alien abduction, rather than that of a self-determinant peoples.

Still, according to Dery, subjugation of the black body is situated in the techno-scientific, where the subject is articulated as real only in as much as it is made visible in contact with the most (dis)functional modes of technological progress: today in terms of the tip of a police bullet, the subject of the body cam or racial profiling, the efficiency of redlined pricing and other technologies that disproportionately reduce the free mobility of black people. For technology has been, and remains today, an insufficient means of liberation for the black body.

Paradoxically, since the projects of the Enlightenment and the technological dystopia called modernity, the technical has also functioned as the black body’s precise mode of individual and collective departure. Technological speculation, as a technique of relation borrowing from Brian Massumi (2008) or what Alanna Thain (2008) describes as ‘a lived reality of relation too often obscured by a retroactive distancing between mind/ body, self/ other, subject/ object, artist/ artwork, discovery/ invention,’ offers the black body a method by which the alienness of terrestrial belonging can be re-scripted, re-coded and re-organised into alternative modes of being and becoming. Here we reference Denise da Silva’s adoption of mathematical reasoning to devise procedures that unleash ‘blackness’ to confront life or Stefano Harney and Fred Moten’s proposed methodology of the undercommon which prompts black people to adopt a right of indifference to representation in the break of artistic production.

One goal is to understand how the black body operates at the intersections of history, speculation and technique. Another is to move beyond a methodological immediacy that reflects historical and present modes of sufferings and displacements. The overall aim, however, is to imagine new relational frameworks that seek to understand how the imposition of circumstance can emerge as a politics of self-determinate belonging.

It is here, at the junction of encounter and context, that Félix Guattari views the racialised group as assigning meaning. This meaning is a force that ‘constitutes the seeds of the production of subjectivity’, as ‘we are not in the presence of a passively representative image, but a vector of subjectivation’ (Guattari, et. al., 1995: 29−30). It is through the meaning of backness that the black, brown and racialised individual creates a cohesion of (mis)representation, expounded by aesthetic markers, dynamic vibrations and cultural kineticisms often expressed as a sense of belonging.

Techno Resistance and Black Futures takes this point of departure as method of intervention and critique (in literature, philosophy, sonic resonances, short film, science fiction, social platforms, gaming, cosplay, graphic arts and other digital and geek ecologies) that put forward the potential for alternative modes of living for the racialised body. In other words, it asks how the black, brown and ‘othered’ body can move beyond the study of symbolic, transcendental or physiological human attributes, or critique that exposes the violences of power (in their colonial, imperial and capitalist articulations) toward conditions of relation that activate new modes of being and becoming, and ultimately the liberation of black potential?”

Organised by: Ramon Amaro, Digital Culture Unit, Centre for Cultural Studies

‘Blow up my town’ @ Market Gallery, Glasgow

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Image: Bhanu Kapil, Performance for Ban at Pratt Institute, New York, April, 2013

An interesting discussion is taking place in Glasgow on Sunday 22 January 2017. Entitled “Blow up my town: Perspectives on self-abolition, the body, and transgression”, it is a one-off “reading/group/discussion” that takes inspiration from artists and writers such as Chantal Akerman, Bhanu Kapil, Jack Halberstam, Nathaniel Mackey, Pipilotti Rist and Marina Vishmidt. They seem to be fully booked, but the website already has some interesting materials that may be interesting to readers. I’ve been told that the website will continue as a resource – and hopefully as a platform for future events!

RGS-IBG 2017 RACE Working Group Call for Sessions

The Race, Culture and Equality (RACE) Working Group would like to invite proposals for sessions to be sponsored by RACE at the RGS-IBG annual conference 2017 titled ‘Decolonizing geographical knowledges: opening up geography to the world’. A key objective of the RACE Working Group of the RGS-IBG is to promote scholarship on topics of racial inequality, colonization, decolonization and whiteness, and to encourage dialogue on race that advances academic knowledge and progressive practices. The RACE Working Group therefore welcomes proposals on these topics more generally, but we strongly encourage proposals that critically and creatively engage with these topics in relation to the conference theme specifically, for example; by exploring the limitations, contradictions and injustices of organising a conference on the topic of decolonization in western neoliberal academic settings; and/or by examining the contemporary co-option of decolonial thinking in a range of settings. We are also interested in sponsoring sessions and activities by activists and scholar-activists, as well as artists and scholar-artists, that propose and explore practical initiatives for dismantling colonial processes within the discipline, within the university system, and within the RGS-IBG.

Please email proposals to raceworkinggroup@gmail.com by 22 January 2017. Submissions should include a title, an abstract (max 250 words), the format of the session or activity, the number of timeslots requested (if applicable), and name(s) and affiliation(s) of the organizers. The guidelines for organising sessions can be found here http://tinyurl.com/pdrjfek. We will endeavor to respond to organizers by the end of January 2017.

  1. For more on decolonization, please see Tuck, E. and Yang, K. W. (2012) Decolonization is not a metaphor, Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1(1), p. 1-40.

Race and the Academy events at Warwick

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Image source: Warwick Anti-Racism Society

Two events coming up at Warwick (where I currently work) that may be of interest to readers. They are organised by the Warwick Anti-Racism Society.

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Antinormalisation: Academic Action in the Political Present

The Role of the Academic in the Current Political Context: Working Against Normalisation

University of Warwick OC1.01 The Oculus
5-7pm

Recent political events have taken a dangerous turn: white supremacist actors are taking up prominent positions within formal politics, while far-right groups in society are becoming increasingly emboldened, vocal, and violent.

Within academia itself, however, established technologies of exclusion — including Prevent, migration monitoring, and the exploitation of racialised labour — have already been normalised by our institutions. How might these existing structures articulate in oppressive ways with a broader renewed politics of exclusion?

In this critical context, this event draws together members of the Warwick community in order to discuss, and commit to, ways of counteracting the normalisation of white supremacist and fascist politics. We will use the session to work towards a collective statement of purpose setting out a series of common commitments to building solidarity with students and protecting our intellectual environment in the present context.

Gurminder K. Bhambra, Shirin Rai, Pablo Mukherjee, Goldie Osuri, Lara Choksey, Adam Elliott-Cooper, Kathryn Medien, Nicola Pratt, and other members of the Warwick community will make interventions in order to build the conversation.

There will be a planning meeting open to students and staff immediately following this event, from 7-8pm, in the same room (OC1.01). We’ll discuss the following:

1. A BME staff-student network
2. A Race Equality pressure group with staff from across the university
3. Responding to racist incidents on campus.

Abstract

Political shifts around the world are becoming increasingly indicative of the onset of a global fascist era. In the US, the election of Donald Trump has come to pass after a campaign period in which he referenced his own sexual violence, labelled Mexicans as ‘rapists’, and pledged to collate a register of, deny entry to, and deport Muslims on the basis of their faith. Prominent white supremacists have already been appointed to the White House, while far-right groups, fortified by their access to mainstream politics, have become more prominent and outspoken.
Meanwhile, the UK has witnessed the recent political murder of MP and anti-racist campaigner Jo Cox by a white supremacist connected to far-right networks, while the post-Brexit context has been marked by widespread racist and xenophobic violence and abuse brought to bear against persons racialised as ‘non-native’.
Further, regimes in Turkey, India, and the Philippines are intensifying racial, ethnic or religious forms of exclusion and increasingly using violence and other means of oppression against their own people.
In parallel to, and in support of, fascist politics at the formal level, neo-nazi (so-called ‘alt-right’) supremacist movements are gathering strength globally and becoming more active online, on our campuses, and in other social spaces.

As members of the Warwick community, we do not take these grave social and political changes lightly and we are particularly concerned about the impact of fascistic actions and discourses on our own students. This event is therefore intended to provide a platform for us to confront our own responsibilities, both as citizens and academics, in this political moment. It will also be an opportunity to consider the technologies of exclusion which have already been normalised in our institutions — from the Prevent strategy to the monitoring of migrants — and to consider how these might be further countered.

During this session we will address the following questions:

What is the role of the academic, and the university more broadly, in an age of resurgent white supremacy?
In what ways can we show support and solidarity to our students of colour, migrants, and other targeted minorities as racist discourses and actions become ever more prominent in the public domain?
How can we collectively stand together to reject the fascist, racist, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic politics and sentiment which is gathering pace?
What can we do to resist the normalisation of the politics of exclusion?
How can we reconsider concepts such as no-platforming, non-cooperation, anti-normalisation, academic freedom, and freedom of speech in the urgent context of the rise of deadly political ideologies?
How can we construct spaces of sanctuary within our own flawed institution for students who feel as though they are in danger?
How can we counter those technologies of exclusion which have already been normalised?

This event is organised by Lisa Tilley (PAIS)

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Racism on Campus: The BME Attainment Gap in Higher Education

The Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Attainment Gap in UK Higher Education: A Student-Staff Roundtable

Wednesday 18th January
OC1.06 (Oculus Building)
4-6pm

This event invites students and staff to participate in a roundtable on the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) attainment gap in UK Higher Education. National data suggests that BME students routinely get lower grades than their white peers even when they enter on the same grades. Why does this occur? What are the barriers that BME students face in attaining higher grades? What practices at universities could support a fair, equitable system? Is blind-marking an effective insurance against institutional bias? What are the processes available to students who experience institutional discrimination?

This event will provide a forum for students and staff to learn about the BME attainment gap and to discuss ways of addressing it.

With Robbie Shilliam (QMUL) and Paul Warmington (Warwick), chaired by Gurminder Bhambra (Warwick).

This is the second event in the ‘Racism on Campus’ roundtable series, and is co-hosted by Warwick Anti-Racism Society. All welcome.

‘Is it a race thing or a lady thing?’ – the new Ghostbusters and the Academy

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Image: A female theorist dealing with another load of crap

When I first saw the announcement and trailer for the new Ghostbusters film, I thought I would hate it. Promoted as a film that would get girls interested in science, it seemed to reflect the usual blindness of institutional feminism to race and class. As the script itself puts it: ‘three scientists – plus Patty’. After the academic qualifications of Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) were written back out of the script of the 1984 film – no one knew he was actually a black superscientist – you would hope that the new film would be different, but it is not. On the other hand, it is not the trainwreck that I expected it to be – on the contrary.

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Image: ‘Guilty as charged!’

Many reviewers have complained that the ‘flipping’ of Ghostbusters is shallow and has failed to introduce a women’s perspective. I think the opposite is the case. In fact, the failure to recognise the female perspective is indicative of the ubiquitous white male blindness to processes of exclusion routinely faced by women and other ‘minorities’. Like the Ghostbusters’ assistant Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), white men are often oblivious to why the world works for them and why their gender or race isn’t an issue. This is especially obvious in this article in which a white male reviewer criticises the film for being apolitical and failing to produce an analysis of its time. In my view, the new Ghostbusters seems more political by going deeper into the mechanics and political embeddedness of academic exclusion than its predecessors.

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Image: ‘Let me in!’

As schemes from STEMnet science ambassadors to Athena Swan illustrate, there is a problem not only with recruiting women into science, but with retaining them. The higher you go up the career ladder, the fewer women you will encounter (in some science subjects, female students even outnumber male students, but this is not reflected in the faculty). It is the same story (but worse) for BME (black, minority ethnic) scholars, and there are also class and other biases. Even if you perform well in academia, the same factors that should have excluded you in the first instance, are likely to still work against you. This is brilliantly illustrated through the Ghostbusters characters.

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Image: Erin is denied tenure by the dean at Columbia

First we see Erin (Kirsten Wiig), a theoretical physicist whose tenure is delayed by increasingly ridiculous requirements that no male colleague would have to perform. Another reference, another grant, another book – something is always missing, while male colleagues with less impressive achievements effortlessly move past. We see how Erin is aware of this, anxious to meet these criteria down to her appearance, but, at the same time, angry at having to perform a disproportional amount of ‘ass-kissing’. What I also like about the Erin vignette is the attention to knowledge policing: what gets validated by Western academia and what doesn’t. Academia rewards particular standards, particular modes of thinking and producing. You need to be similar to others, to cite the canon, to orient your research towards the current funding. The film even shows how the refusal of other knowledges and experiences has shaped Erin’s private life. After her encounter with a ghost as a child, she was subjected to lengthy psychotherapy for rectification.

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Image: Patty tries to convince three white women that they have something in common

Patty (Leslie Jones) represents an extension of this theme by race and class. She is obviously very educated, but self-educated. US academia would have excluded her on the grounds of lack of funds and lack of appropriate background, most probably including schooling in non-prestigious institutions. If the film had been set in 1980s UK, she might have been an Open University student, but these sorts of opportunities have ceased to exist. Bored with her job and excited about expanding the boundaries of her knowledge, Patty decides to join the outcast women, with whom she feels a connection. The three white scientists at first do not feel or see a connection – Patty has to beg and bribe the group with her ‘benefits’ – but it gradually dawns on them that they have something in common. When she finally joins the team, Patty again takes to self-education. The scientists initially do not even consider that she might be interested in science – she is their equipment provider, ‘muscle’ and ‘native guide’ (not even historian) – but Patty observes, listens and starts to get active in the lab and in the field.

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Image: Abby has to realise that the margins are increasingly hard to find

In the original Ghostbusters film academia was the subject of critique for being oversaturated with time, space, funding and equipment. The new Ghostbusters film performs a reversal by its portrayal of the privatised, neoliberal academy: the university is now the space where you have to apply for funding, and you will only receive it if you can demonstrate ‘results’. If you want to do something long-term, creative and out of the ordinary, you have to stay out of sight and hide in the margins. This is shown through Abby’s (Melissa McCarthy) character who does exactly that, although she underestimates how much the margins are increasingly being closed down. When her institution is taken over by a crude cookie-cutter corporate type, the women and their research are immediately kicked out. Abby’s original plan was to save Erin from mainstream academia and show her the beauty of the margins, but they are now even further than initially anticipated. As even the most dubious institutions aim to get in with the top achievers, the margins have to move outside of any institution. You essentially have to sacrifice your career and expose yourself to the risk of your own enterprise.

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Image: Holtzmann: all bets (and safety lights) are off

Unlike Abby, Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) seems more clued up about the constantly moving margins. She is very socially observant and knows where boundaries are, why they are there and why they need crossing. She appears to be in a constant state of adaptation, which includes making do with equipment pieced together from dumpsters and generally making full use of the freedom not to have to conform. While Holtzmann certainly delivers, her work would be considered too extreme in a university context, as it disregards protocols on any level from health and safety guidelines to outward representation. With an attitude like ‘we nearly got killed – it was awesome!’, any institution would be in constant fear of litigation and of threats to its reputation. Holtzmann is not a dutiful workaholic loner, but a fun-loving, thrill-seeking boundary-pusher. Like Abby and Erin, however, Holtzmann has a PhD, which means that, at one point, she must have managed to pass through the university system. We later meet her mentor, Dr Rebecca Gorin (Sigourney Weaver), of whom we don’t know if she was her formal or informal supervisor. This also mirrors a frequent academic pattern of how some mavericks – and black or female academics – survive. They have someone who ‘gets’ them and has their back.

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Image: This is not the solution

Overall, the four women each have developed a different coping mechanism for being at odds with the system: self-education (Patty), self-experimentation (Holtzmann), refuge in margins (Abby) and self-censorship to fit into the mainstream (Erin). Their antagonist, Rowan (Neil Casey), has had similar experiences with the system, but his coping strategy is revenge. The women understand the source of his pain and madness, but they also understand that total obliteration is not benefitting anyone and even validates the authority and prestige of the system. While prestige through validation is seductive, one also ends up reproducing the problem instead of remaining open to alternatives, including more supportive forms of co-operation. Perhaps the Ghostbusters are also more used to facing default devaluation because of their gender, and have learnt not to individualise the issue. This awareness, of course, does not render them immune to the desire to be known. When Erin is about to make a deadly mistake solely to refute another white male expert who tries to discredit her, Abby sharply reminds her ‘who cares??’ Erin succumbs anyway, and almost ends up putting everyone in jail for an inexplicable murder – there is no win situation.

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Image: Now on Amazon – ghostwritten

In a twisted way, the situation mirrors the title of Erin’s and Abby’s book: the four women continue to be haunted by the ghosts of white male supremacy and ‘official culture’ literally and figuratively, whether it’s male antagonists, debunkers, saboteurs, or supposed male allies like Kevin (the latter ending up bonding with ‘debunker’ Heist over his hat). This is rendered very literal in the film’s takedown of the freshly supercharged Rowan, when he resists the women’s efforts of putting him away into the netherworld by clinging onto two skyscrapers: ‘Let’s loosen his grip’ (on Abby’s command, the Ghostbusters open fire on his crotch, not his hands) Patty: ‘That’s where you wanted us to shoot, right?’.

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Image: Patriarchy comes to haunt the Ghostbusters wherever they go

In a less obvious manner, the film reflects arguments that have been made about the status of the margins made by people such as bell hooks and Moten & Harney. The latter offer an extensive manual for dealing with academia and wider power structures in their publication ‘the undercommons’ (link to pdf): how to use spaces where you are not supposed to be. As in ‘the undercommons’, the female Ghostbusters represent “the subversive intellectual [who] came under false pretenses, with bad documents, out of love. Her labor is as necessary as it is unwelcome. The university needs what she bears but cannot bear what she brings”. Indeed, the film shows constant attempts at repressing the efforts of the Ghostbusters from official side, even though they show ‘results’ – better results. Yet solutions are not officially allowed to come out of the margins, as much as they are inofficially needed. The illusion that the current system works must be maintained at all costs: ‘the mayor thanks you, privately, but don’t tell anyone!’

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Image: Another gatekeeper says no

In conclusion, you could say that Ghostbusters represents science accurately: not just in the ‘techno-babble’, but also in its institutional make-up. If the makers of the film think that it will attract more girls into science, they might be right. The female scientists are not only nerdy, but clever, funny and cool. Whether young women – or other ‘marginal’ thinkers – will be able to enter academia and advance within it, is a different story. Under current institutional conditions, present exclusions and hierarchies are sharpening rather than loosening up. The film seems to be aware that, for these women to succeed in mainstream science, conditions would need to be very different. Even when the Ghostbusters are finally acknowledged and generously rewarded, they choose to claim and maintain their own place. The message might be very much akin to Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s strategy of the undercommons: if you do your research out of love, take what you can from the system and run.