[eDebate] Right, *Russia* is at the core of everything

Brent Culpepper brentonculpepper
Fri Apr 25 16:00:09 CDT 2008


"How many debaters go on to graduate studies in area studies, poli sci, or
law, and how many pursue studies in racism?"

Not taken as an attack.  I would caution not to think these areas of study
don't have concentrations/classes/contributions to the study of race.  Often
those who go on to study political racism (voting rights, social movement,
representation) do so through one of these graduate/professional programs.





On Fri, Apr 25, 2008 at 3:49 PM, Tom Meagher <meagher.tom at gmail.com> wrote:

> I really should not be posting to eDebate but can't help myself.
>
> I debated in high school, and this is the sixth spring in a row I've
> considered returning to debate in some capacity. I miss it. I miss it
> painfully, as so many former debaters do. But each time I think about coming
> back, I actually have to do the research - talk to old friends, check out
> case lists, eDebate, et cetera, and see what debaters are talking about.
>
> So yeah, ridiculous though it may be, I've been following eDebate a little
> over the last month, watched CEDA finals, scoured case lists. I'll set as
> many of my opinions aside as possible to focus on the one issue that is
> abundantly clear:
>
> The debate community does a terrible job of researching racism.
>
> I understood why when I would make debates about issues related to racism
> in high school rounds in 2000-2002 the other team only had cards from law
> reviews. Lexis-nexis + a lot of lawyers and people on the legal track in the
> community. Same reason most of the cards I cut were from law reviews,
> especially since it was pretty hard for me to access research libraries at
> the time. But then I went to college, and discovered its limitless research
> potential. I spent the summer after high school excitedly using a research
> university's resources for the first time, and quickly discovered that I
> didn't care much about the treaties topic, especially when my research
> assignment was CO2 Good.
>
> And then TWO of the coaches on my top-ranked college squad told me to
> abandon my plans to make Ethnic Studies my major. And after 50 hours a week
> of CO2 Good for the next five weeks, I decided I'd rather not owe the squad
> anything more, and quit before going to a tournament. Debate was just not
> good for my academic pursuits, and as I stayed close to it as a dedicated
> high school coach for two years, this became even clearer. I'm not saying I
> could not have found a good setup in debate. There was a year in there where
> I'd convinced myself my life would have been pretty good if I'd reached out
> to Fullerton and gone there. But it's basically undeniable that I learned a
> hell of a lot more about racism, colonialism, and a myriad of other issues
> by being a hard-working student and independent researcher in an Ethnic
> Studies department. And I'll go toe-to-toe with any member of this community
> on the value of that education, so if you want to defend your legal studies,
> area studies, political science or postmodern literary or philosophical
> studies against me in front of any damn critic in this community, I'm game.
>
> I look at Calum's arguments for the Russia topic. Russia is foundational.
> Great argument. But can you even produce a decent argument that the history
> of European colonialism since 1455 is not at the core of US-Russia
> relations, and was not the engine of the entire Cold War? Perhaps you'd like
> to engage that debate, but have you actually researched it? Not to mention
> that global coloniality has dictated the course of agriculture, health care,
> education, arms control, genetic engineering, and, of course, reparations.
>
> I'm tempted to make these arguments here. But really, I'd much rather that
> the debaters following this topic discussion ask themselves whether they've
> done any substantial research on the topic of coloniality. And by
> substaintial research, I do not mean asking the scholars wedded to the
> disciplines that have emerged as technologies of coloniality what they think
> of racism. As long as debaters are almost entirely reading from legal
> studies, poli sci, area studies and IR, and Eurocentric philosophy
> (including the 'post-colonial studies' that largely divorces itself from
> centuries of decolonial scholarship and theory in order to appropriate
> Continental Philosophy), they are not going to be able to adequately address
> questions of racism. Period. If you want to take this as cause to research,
> go ahead. If you want to backchannel me for research suggestions, I pledge
> to go out of my way to assist and provide extensive bibliographies and
> support. But I'm not going to post a list of articles to serve as a
> strawperson (given the origins of the term, strawman really is a more
> accurate term, but that's a different though related discussion) for the
> right-wing vanguard. Feel free to try to change my mind.
>
> I am genuinely curious if Calum is willing to make the (correct) argument
> that the Soviet Union profoundly affected the US's racial politics and
> practices without also acknowledging that the US's racial politics and the
> period of global coloniality going back to 1455 are the only historical
> phenomenon that could possibly have caused the Cold War. Are the multitude
> of debaters who make 'capitalism' arguments unaware of a) the historical
> period that created the phenomenon of capitalism, b) the global division of
> labor that served as a prerequisite for it, and c) the intellectual history
> of discourse on capitalism? I think the answer to these question is that
> they are not by and large unaware, but they have been exposed primarily to
> paradigms that preclude an actual examination.
>
> Watching the final round of CEDA online was encouraging and disheartening.
> Please allow me to make an observation about the two main authors used in
> this debate as a comment on phenomena in the debate community. Please, try
> to see what I am saying as a response to the state of the debate community
> and not as a response to the individual teams or squads, who are both
> extremely talented and hardworking and had their reasons for choosing these
> arguments.
>
> Let me first address Towson use of Charles Mills' arguments from the Racial
> Contract. This is indeed a valuable piece of scholarship, and it has
> inspired much discussion. Let me relate the main argument against it that I
> am familiar with. Mills self-consciously adapted his arguments - which of
> course draws heavily from the lineage of decolonial theory and, especially
> for Mills, Caribbean thought - for Eurocentric audiences. Focusing on the
> concept of the Social Contract was a move related to legitimacy, and a close
> reading of the texts makes clear how his arguments are filtered and somewhat
> altered by his attempt to secure relevance to particular intellectual
> communities. Towson focuses on Mills' concept of the White Aesthetic, which
> for strategic purposes makes a great deal of sense. But "the White
> Aesthetic" is only a particular formulation of a concept that is widespread
> in decolonial theory, which is that the categories of thought, intellectual
> traditions, political insitutions, and even basic human ability to perceive
> the world with the senses are profoundly impacted by the completely
> unprecedented phenomenon of global coloniality (this phenomenon emerged in
> 1455 with the papal decree and Portugal's initial foray into African
> slavery, became the first truly global human phenomenon in 1492, and has
> shaped every element of history and nearly every element of human reality
> since). I take no issue with Towson's choice of Mills, and I haven't seen
> their previous debates so I can't offer commentary, but I must ask if it is
> significant that Towson's inclusion of a mainstreamed piece of decolonizing
> scholarship coincided with their ascension in results. Would they have been
> as successful if, for instance, they had based their arguments on a text
> that is denser and more uncompromising but ultimately more true to reality
> and the lived experiences of the underside of modernity? Could they have
> gotten anywhere with 'cards' from a text that was much more groundbreaking
> and influential than Mills' but that does not attempt to address itself to a
> contemporary U.S. white experience (I have in mind, as one example,
> Discourse on Colonialism by the recently deceased Aime Cesaire, which makes
> Mills' main points and many, many more in a much more concise fashion, but
> one surely deemed too out of touch and too easily dismissed for petty
> misunderstandings of meaning to resonate with the bulk of debate judges)?
> None of this, it should be clear, is a knock on Towson. I really
> congratulate you on actually accomplishing something that I chickened out on
> even trying multiple times.
>
> Now, let me bring up something that no one I've talked to seems to be aware
> of (maybe I'm talking to the wrong people). Kansas read alternative evidence
> for its 'love' argument from Sandoval 2000. This is Chela Sandoval, the head
> of UCSB's Chicana/o Studies program, from her hugely influential work
> Methodology of the Oppressed. This text offers a very thorough methodology,
> as the title promises (though I must note that her original title, Theory
> Uprising, better captures what the work is about but was rejected by the
> publisher). READ THIS BOOK. ABSOLUTELY. It is a masterpiece, and especially
> given debate's fascination with Continental Philosophy and her very tolerant
> treatment of it (which has, unfortunately, caused Sandoval's text to be
> misappropriated as a defense of Foucault, Barthes, et cetera when it is
> instead an appreciation of their relation to feminist and decolonial thought
> that offers an explicit challenge to them), it figures to resonate with many
> in the community and hopefully open them up to new areas of study.
>
> So you would expect me to be excited upon hearing this evidence. Except...
> uh, I heard the rest of the 1NC. And it is completely improbable and
> arguably close to impossible for a K alt to be taken more out of context.
> Kansas read a piece of eveidence from the FIRST TWO PAGES of the book, and
> their extension evidence was from Angela Davis' foreword. Did the person
> cutting the book just give up after getting those two cards? Because the
> entire book is about the VITAL NECESSITY of REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS and
> OPPOSITIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS. The two main tenets of Towson's aff that Kansas
> was critiquing! Sandoval's entire book outlines what she means by "love,"
> and to synopsize (again, read the book, pretty please with the topping of
> your choice), love is a process, a decolonizing movement that actively
> requires a specific methodology (i.e., the "methodology of the oppressed")
> which itself cannot "solve" without AFFIRMING REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS AND
> OPPOSITIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS. This is even in the paragraph that Kansas used
> in this debate (OK, oppositional consciousness is; for revolutionary
> politics, you could have looked at the table of contents or even just
> flipped forward to the concluding sentence of the book).
>
> Love, for Sandoval, does NOT mean, as Kansas stated, "everybody love
> everybody." Unfortunately, Towson was not familiar with that particular
> work, so they were not able to point out the obvious problem early in the
> debate. But then Kansas reads 1nr evidence from ANGELA DAVIS (which does not
> talk about 'love' but about Sandoval's Methodology of the Oppressed!) as an
> extension of their alt and then makes a multitude of nonsensical arguments
> that follow from this:
>
> "We are reading a multitude of authors, including African-American
> activists like Angela Davis which is a reason as to why your argument about
> white supremacy and epistemology of our arguments does not apply to us."
> (The obvious response being that grossly misinterpreting these authors and
> then using their identities as evidence that you are not subject to white
> supremacism is a move inextricable from white supremacism.)
>
> "What is the permutation? It is love and openness but with the infusion of
> revolutionary ethics in the 1ac ... it says that it is open but thrives on
> the rejection of the white aesthetic and potentially revolutionary partners.
> ... The perm is not open or loving." (When Sandoval's entire text is devoted
> to arguing that 'love' cannot exist without movements whose revolutionary
> ethics require that they explicitly reject particular 'aesthetics' and
> revolutionary partners! This is like if an aff running, I don't know, the
> Kyoto Protocol, faced a K that argued for the adoption of an environmental
> ethic using evidence only from someone who said that a) activists should
> lobby the US to ratify Kyoto and b) the US should ratify Kyoto, and then
> asserted throughout the 2nr that the perm could not be an environmental
> ethic because it included a policy.)
>
> "Revolutionary politics are something that she [Angela Davis] turned away
> from because they are not effective, because they were so rejective."
> (Riiiiiiiiight. And they said this after Towson called BS.)
>
> No knock on Kansas specifically. I understand how hard it can be to do this
> research, and I don't really blame anyone for seeing the text and being
> confused and just taking what could be found from its intro. I apologize in
> advance for bringing this up and calling you out, because I have much
> respect for all the debaters and coaches, and fondly remember Scott Harris
> being of amazing help to me at summer camp in 2000. Kansas got crossed up,
> and that happens. But I want to know: on an 11 person panel of major figures
> in debate, not one was able to identify that a major text in ethnic and
> gender studies which has been used at least by Fullerton was taken way, way,
> way out of context? And that none of the debaters I asked about this knew
> what the hell I was talking about? In a hugely publicized round? It's not a
> scandal that a team was able to win four ballots in the national
> championship from judges who voted for their alt card because it avoided
> criticisms that are directly antithetical to the alternative? Is anyone
> willing to take this as evidence that the debate community needs to
> massively upgrade the level of its research on racism?
>
> Andy Ellis and others have called for a topic that will put research on
> racism at the forefront, because debaters desperately need to improve their
> understanding and research of these issues. Calum Matheson makes the same
> argument for Russia. Put aside ground, mechanisms, etc., for a moment to
> consider whether the evidence is stronger for Andy's claim or Calum's. Do
> debaters, by and large, have a better basic understanding of Russia or
> coloniality? And even if Calum is ahead, if I win my 'coloniality influences
> everything about US-Russia relations' argument, shouldn't a research focus
> on coloniality come first?
>
> What's more is that the reparations topic actually does encourage new and
> better research in these areas than any previous topic. The civil rights
> topic, for instance, could be debated with a very high reliance on the legal
> literature, and was limited to a very small portion of the scope of racism
> and coloniality. Reparations actually requires a pretty thorough examination
> of a lot of things. And what's more, it requires a mechanism that has a very
> active solvency debate in concert with a limitless number of CP's with
> obvious grounding in the literature. If you do not think that there is good
> negative ground on a reparations topic, it is straight up because you are
> not familiar with enough relevant research. (I hope it is clear by now that
> the scope of relevant research is not the policy literature on reparations.)
> If you told me I had to go neg every round on the topic, I would be just
> fine, and you will not find people in the community who think that the
> oppressions the topic would address are more influential than I do.
>
> Please do not take this as an attack on anybody personally. I just wanted
> to present some of the evidence that this community has a very different
> depth and distribution of knowledge on race studies than it does for the
> main disciplines it draws upon, and even those who profess some level of
> expertise are often just very familiar with some limited and often
> specific-to-another-discipline scope. How many debaters go on to graduate
> studies in area studies, poli sci, or law, and how many pursue studies in
> racism? If you see that you may contribute to this disparity, are you okay
> with that because you think the other areas are more important? If so, is
> that a result of research or assumption/conditioning? And to the directors
> and coaches of the community: if, for pedagogical reasons, you are opposed
> to a race-focused topic, are you also incorporating or willing to
> incorporate a researched curriculum on race/coloniality in your debate
> program?
>
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