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On Ferguson

A lot of people have been noting how “extraordinary and abnormal” the police response in Ferguson has been, a response to legitimate community commands about a police shooting. People talk about the police response - with all their tanks, APCs, body armor, etc. - as looking like something more out of Gaza or Egypt ie. something that only happens “over there” (until America chooses to intervene that is). Of course, such a response is only possible if one is completely ignorant of the history of white supremacist America. Since the founding of Jamestown the history of America is one of the exploitation, containment, and racialization of people. In just the example of the police, the history of government police forces goes back to the organized gangs that hunted escaped slaves, while the first SWAT teams were used during the LA Watts riots/uprisings.

These comments are also based on an ignorance of much more recent history. Police violence has continued apace in the Obama era: stand your ground laws, stop and frisk in NYC, increased immigration deportation, the militarization of the police including drones. When I see images out of Ferguson I am most reminded of the excessive police violence used against Occupy Wall Street and other encampments, a violence that was so quickly glossed over and hidden by the mainstream media. Occupiers already got a glimpse of militarized police first hand, with tear gas, sound cannons, and SWAT teams all used in the clearing of Occupy camps.

I have been thinking of something I wrote already two years ago about Occupy:

In the moments when OWS actually tried to negotiate with the NYPD and individual police officers, the message they were often trying to convey was that members of the police are themselves part of the 99% and have an interest in combating the same economic injustices that OWS does. I think, however, that from the perspective of the NYPD, OWS was never viewed more than a problem of public order. Understanding the NYPD’s hostility to OWS does not require grand conspiracies of collusion between government and the 1%—not to deny that at a certain level such collusion does happen—but that the NYPD views its own mission as one of maintaining public order.

It is a common mistake among white people to think that the first purpose of the police is for their safety. This is a wrong idea. As a system the police aim chiefly to maintain the integrity and order of the state and, also incredibly important, to reproduce their own powers and prerogatives. This means police will always fight meaningful attempts at citizen control or oversight, unless things escalate to the point where the state itself becomes threatened. In this sense then the police in Ferguson are doing exactly what they are trained to do. They’re only mistake is that they let the media get out of hand so that a lot more (white) people than usual are seeing what happens when the police actually do their job.

There is a lot of liberal chiding going on about the Ferguson police being too armed, too militarized. This is of course true, but that does not mean the solution is for police to just have their “normal” weapons (didn’t the officer who shot Mike Brown just have his gun?). As the battle for justice for Mike Brown continues, as it must, it’s important to keep in mind that, for all the spectacle, there is nothing unusual about what the police have done so far. Indeed, it is the normality of it that should trouble all of us most of all.

A China Reading List

Here’s a list of the reading I did while living in China. It’s hardly the most well-rounding but if you did all of it you would have a pretty good view of where China has come from in the last hundred years and where it is now. Ironically, in my cursory survey of contemporary scholarship I would say a real look at the opinions and lives of young urbanites is most lacking (Westerners are too obsessed with the rags to riches/state obstruction stories of the countryside).


Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China - Evan Osnos
China Airborne - James Fallows
Forgotten Ally: China’s World World II, 1937-1945 - Rana Mitter
Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse - Shelley Rigger
A Bitter Revolution: China’s Struggle with the Modern World - Rana Mitter
The Four Books: The Basic Teachings of Confucian Tradition - Daniel K. Gardner
Heart of Buddha, Heart of China: The Life of Tanxu, a Twentieth Century Monk - James Carter
The End of the Revolution: China and the Limits of Modernity - Wang Hui
Buddhism in Chinese History - Arthur F. Wright
The World of Thought in Ancient China - Benjamin I. Schwartz
Dao De Jing: A Philosophical Translation - Roger T. Ames
Red Lights: The Lives of Sex Workers in Postsocialist China - Tiantian Zheng
The Uyghurs: Strangers in Their Own Land - Gardner Bovingdon
Confucius’ Analects With Selections from Traditional Commentaries - Hackett Publishing
China’s New Confucianism: Politics and Everyday Life in a Changing Society - Daniel A. Bell
Lost Modernities: China, Vietnam, Korea and the Hazards of World History - Alexander Barton Woodside
The Intellectual Foundations of China - Frederick W. Mote
From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia - Pankaj Mishra
The Struggle for Modern Tibet: The Autobiography of Tashi Tsering - Tashi Tsering
Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present - Peter Hessler
Out of Mao’s Shadow: The Struggle for the Soul of a New China - Philip P. Pan
Tibet: A History - Sam Van Schaik
A History of China - Wolfram Eberhard
Where China Meets India: Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia - Thant Myint-U
Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century - Orville Schell


Crossings - Chuang Hua
The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China - Lu Xun
Lust, Caution and Other Stories - Eileen Chang
Love in a Fallen City - Eileen Chang
Last Words from Montmartre - Qiu Miaojin
An Empty Room - Mu Xin

After The Fall



Written by Quinn Lester, reviewed by John Thomason

[Content warning: sexual assault, murder, violence against women]

If you’ve been on the internet at all this year then you may have noticed that a lot of people like talking about television, and in particular two TV shows have dominated discussion so far this year: True Detective and Game of Thrones. In terms of genre these two shows are very different. True Detective is a dark police thriller about murdered women, cults, and the presence of evil in the world. Game of Thrones is similarly dark but is set in a gritty fantasy world where rival families fight it out for domination beneath the shadow of a returning ancient evil. Just describing these shows it becomes obvious, that despite their cosmetic differences, both are dedicated to a bleak view of the world and investigating the violence of everyday life. Both shows also happen to be sexist, misogynistic, and delight in showing the torture and killing of women. Even before the show featured a graphic rape scene last week, Sady Doyle has written about the patriarchal view Game of Thrones has of women and the way they are reduced to be props for the desires, and violent impulses, of the men in the show. Many also wrote about True Detective’s troubling portrayal of women suffering abuse, even from a main character who is never really punished for his actions. In writing about the show Emily Nussbaum pointed how a lot of TV these days tries to be “serious” not through its actual story but by showing violence towards women. The more women suffer the more “serious” people seem to find a show. It was first from Nussbaum that I heard about the British-Irish series The Fall that aired last year but has not gotten the attention it deserves. It is a show that is actually serious, in both its content and themes, but instead of featuring patriarchal violence is about investigating the conditions that allow that violence to happen.

The Fall stars Gillian Anderson as Police Superintendent Stella Gibson who has been brought to Belfast to help hunt for a mysterious serial killer Paul Spector, played by Jamie Dornan. Set in a post-truce Northern Ireland there is the palpable lingering of violence in the air, of old wounds that have not yet begun to heal. The show tackles this most directly in questions about the effectiveness of the police force and how well it has overcome political fissures, but in general the mood is of a fallen world where violence can strike at any moment, whether that be from serial killers, corrupt police officers, or abusive husbands. At first glance many of the female characters we meet are independent women making their way in the world but it does not take long to see the ways the world is set up against them: Paul targets successful professional women for his crimes, female police officers are casually mocked by their own co-workers, and the self-evidently brilliant Gibson has to fight for every ounce of credibility she gets.

The Fall does many things right that so many shows still get wrong. It has compelling, three-dimensional female characters that also have serious relationships and conversations with other women. Patriarchy, sexual assault, and rape culture are all discussed in serious and responsible ways while also being seamlessly integrated into the concerns of the narrative. While half of the show’s time is spent on the male serial killer Paul it also consistently gives us Gibson’s perspective of the world and the challenges she faces. The real strength of the show, however, and what comes closest to offering a feminist version of the serial killer procedural is that it does not just focus on the crimes themselves. To put it bluntly the actual subject of the show is patriarchy and the gradations of violence that occur in a patriarchal world.

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Review I wrote of the incredible show The Fall, though I didn’t get to write enough about how fabulous Gillian Anderson is.

For my own reference I attempted to compile the most complete list of published books on speculative realism, object-oriented ontology, new materialisms, and associated work and I figured I would share it. I also include in this list works from feminist materialisms, because they are important for providing a fuller genealogy for contemporary research, and those authors that are harder to classify together but generally write on nihilism, pessimism, and eliminationism. For the moment I’ve left off Francois Laruelle, who is still very confusing to me, and accelerationist authors like Nick Land and McKenzie Wark. The tags are my own and don’t necessarily reflect how the authors self-identify.

Graham Harman – Object-Oriented Ontology

Tool Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects (1993/2011)

Guerilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things (2011)

Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics (2009)

Towards Speculative Realism: Essays and Lectures (2010)

Circus Philosophicus (2010)

The Prince and the Wolf: Harman and Latour at the LSE (2011)

Quentin Meillasoux: Philosophy in the Making (2011)

The Quadruple Object (2011)

Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy (2012)

Bells and Whistles: More Speculative Realism (2013)

Levi Bryant – Onticology/Machine-Oriented Ontology

The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism, Edited with Nick Snricek and Graham Harman (2011)

The Democracy of Objects (2011)

Onto-Cartography: An Ontology of Machines and Media (2014)

Timothy Morton – OOO, Ecology

Ecology Without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics (2009)

The Ecological Thought (2012)

Realist Magic: Objects, Ontology, Causality (2013)

Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World (2013)

Ian Bogost – OOO, Game Studies

Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing (2012)

Quentin Meillassoux – Speculative Materialism

After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (2009)

The Number and The Siren: A Decipherment of Mallarme’s Coup De Des (2012)

Ray Brassier – Eliminative Materialism

Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction (2010)

Iain Hamilton Grant – Naturphilosophie

Philosophies of Nature After Schelling (2008)

Jane Bennett – Political Theory, Vitalism

Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (2009)

Reza Negarestani – Eliminative Materialism, Theory-Novel

Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials (2008)

Ben Woodard – Naturphilosphie, Nihilism, Pessimism

Slime Dynamics (2012)

On an Ungrounded Earth: Towards a New Geophilosophy (2013)

Steven Shaviro – Film Studies, Process Thought

Without Criteria: Kant, Deleuze, Whitehead, and Aesthetics (2009)

William Connolly – Political Theory, Pluralism

A World of Becoming (2012)

The Fragility of Things: Self-Organizing Processes, Neoliberal Fantasies, and Democratic Activism (2013)

Paul J. Ennis

Post-Continental Voices: Selected Interviews (2010)

Continental Realism (2011)

Adrian Johnston – Transcendental Materialism

Prolegomena to Any Future Materialism: The Outcome of Contemporary French Philosophy (2013)

Adventures in Transcendental Materialism: Dialogues with Contemporary Thinkers (2014)

John Protevi – Deleuze, Science Studies

Political Affect: Connecting the Social and the Somatic (2009)

Life, War, Earth: Deleuze and the Sciences (2013)

Eugene Thacker – Media Studies, Horror, Dark Vitalism

After Life (2010)

In the Dust of This Planet: Horror of Philosophy Vol. 1 (2011)

Thomas Ligotti – Horror, Nihilism, Anti-Natalism

The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror (2012)

Diana Coole and Samantha Frost – Political Theory, New Feminist Materialisms

New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics (2012)

Stacy Alaimo – New Feminist Materialisms

Ed. Material Feminisms (2013)

Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self (2010)

Bruno Latour – Actor Network Theory

We Have Never Been Modern (2012)

Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory (2007)

An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns (2013)

Adam S. Miller - Theology

Speculative Grace: Bruno Latour and Object-Oriented Theology

Dylan Trigg – Phenomenology, Horror

The Aesthetics of Decay: Nothingness, Nostalgia, and the Absence of Reason (2006)

The Memory of Place: A Phenomenology of the Uncanny (2013)

The Thing: A Phenomenology of Horror (2014)

Tom Sparrow – Phenomenology, Horror

Levinas Unhinged (2013)

The End of Phenomenology: Metaphysics and the New Realism (2014)

Peter Gratton

Speculative Realism: Problems and Prospects (2014)

w/ Paul J. Ennis, The Meillassoux Dictionary (2014)

Tristan Garcia

Form and Object: A Treatise on Things (2014)

Elizabeth Grosz – New Material Feminisms, Deleuze

Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism (1994)

The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution, and The Untimely (2004)

Becoming Undone: Darwinian Reflections on Life, Politics, and Art (2011)

Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth (2012)

Donna Haraway – Cyborg Theory, New Feminist Materialisms

Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature

The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness (2003)

When Species Meet (2013)

Rosi Braidotti – Nomad Theory, Deleuze, New Feminist Materialisms

Transpositions: On Nomadic Ethics (2006)

Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory (2011)

Metamorphoses: Towards a Materialist Theory of Becoming (2013)

The Posthuman (2013)

Karen Barad – Agential Realism, New Feminist Materialisms

Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (2013)

Manuel DeLanda – Deleuze, Realism, Science Studies

A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (2000)

A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity (2006)

Philosophy and Simulation: The Emergence of Synthetic Reason (2011)

Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy (2013)

Isabelle Stengers – Process Thought

Thinking with Whitehead: A Free and Wild Creation of Concepts (2011)

Cosmopolitics I (2010)

Cosmopolitics II (2011)

Rick Dolphijn and Iris van der Tuin

New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies (2012)

For Every Norm You’ve Ever Cored



The problem with metafashion is that it’s difficult to discern what exactly it’s supposed to be saying. This is the hipster irony conundrum. Is that douchebag in the corner wearing a fedora out of a sincere appreciation of brimmed hatwear and the douche-y image that it projects or is he wearing it to douchily satirize the type of person who would sincerely wear a fedora? It’s unclear. The same problem is posed when normcore is understood as metafashion. Is it a protest against capitalist consumerism or a reinforcement of the normative forces of fashion as an arm of capitalism? Could it be both and, therefore, a form of lateral agency? Or is it just bullshit?

Normcore, New York Magazine proclaims, is a trend where young, urban 20-somethings dress down because they know that they’re, as the subtitle of the article proclaims, only one in 7 billion. A normcore wardrobe relies on simple t-shirts, sweat pants, and other clothes considered “mall clothes.” Think about your generic suburban mom or dad’s leisure clothes, and you’re close to normcore. Jerry Seinfeld has become normcore’s mascot, and Gap is doing business on normcore’s tails.

But spoiler alert: it’s bullshit. Cat Smith at The Style Con notes that clothing only allows you to “blend in” only when your body is already understood as normative. Race and class are central to the (il)legibility of normcore, even if Lauren Bans wants to make a joke of those implications by rickrolling people rather than providing analysis. Fashion is both statement and armor. Clothing sends signals about status and respectability. It is not a “waste” for the poor to spend money on luxury goods when we all know what luxury goods can symbolize. But even more, clothing can also be the difference someone giving you the benefit of the doubt and someone pulling a trigger — depending on how your body is perceived. All fashion has implications for our bodies and our survival. I wear a hoodie largely with impunity. Trayvon Martin and other young black men wear hoodies, and they get read as dangerous, violent, and bodies to be killed.

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On Uyghurs, Kunming, and the Xinjiang Question



Guest post by Quinn Lester, cross-posted on and adapted from Quinn’s blog

On March 1st eight Uyghurs, an ethnic minority located predominantly in Xinjiang province in northwest China, attacked a railway station in Kunming, the provincial capital of Yunnan province in the southwest, with knives and machetes. Ultimately 29 were killed, over a hundred wounded, and four of the assailants shot dead. This is the largest terrorist attack in recent Chinese history and the most prominent attack carried out by Uyghurs outside of Xinjiang, eclipsing fall’s suspected suicide bombing in Tiananmen Square. Who are the Uyghurs exactly and what would inspire such a violent attack in a place like Kunming, far from the coastal centers of power? Having lived in China for the last few months I have seen periodic references to the Uyghurs and their independence struggle against China, but for a better view I turned to Gardner Bovingdon’s 2010 book The Uyghurs: Strangers in Their Own Land. It is a good primer on the Uyghurs, their grievances against China, and the form their struggle has taken. I want to highlight below some of the interesting facts I garnered from this book and how they shed light on the Kunming attack.

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Thanks to my friends at StrangeSubject for reposting my post on the Uyghurs’ struggles in China

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