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The Reorder of Things

The University and Its Pedagogies of Minority Difference

2012
Author:

Roderick A. Ferguson

The Reorder of Things

A critical account of how academia and global capital appropriated the revolutionary fervor of the 1960s and 1970s

In The Reorder of Things, Roderick A. Ferguson traces and assesses the rise of interdisciplines—departments of race, gender, and ethnicity; fields such as queer studies—in the 1960s and 1970s. Ferguson asserts that this rise was not simply a challenge to contemporary power as manifest in academia, the state, and global capitalism but was, rather, constitutive of it.

The Reorder of Things marks a bold and necessary intervention into our understandings of how (neoliberal) hegemony works at this moment—not simply to coopt, but to contain the very difference it makes into abstraction. This is a moment of fire when we are being called upon to kindle a different kind of radical collectivity. Roderick A. Ferguson is the ancient blacksmith forging a new alchemy, which we, too, can hammer out—but only if we dare.

M. Jacqui Alexander, author of Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory and the Sacred

In the 1960s and 1970s, minority and women students at colleges and universities across the United States organized protest movements to end racial and gender inequality on campus. African American, Chicano, Asian American, American Indian, women, and gay and lesbian activists demanded the creation of departments that reflected their histories and experiences, resulting in the formation of interdisciplinary studies programs that hoped to transform both the university and the wider society beyond the campus.

In The Reorder of Things, Roderick A. Ferguson traces and assesses the ways in which the rise of interdisciplines—departments of race, gender, and ethnicity; fields such as queer studies—were not simply a challenge to contemporary power as manifest in academia, the state, and global capitalism but were, rather, constitutive of it. Ferguson delineates precisely how minority culture and difference as affirmed by legacies of the student movements were appropriated and institutionalized by established networks of power.

Critically examining liberationist social movements and the cultural products that have been informed by them, including works by Adrian Piper, Toni Cade Bambara, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Zadie Smith, The Reorder of Things argues for the need to recognize the vulnerabilities of cultural studies to co-option by state power and to develop modes of debate and analysis that may be in the institution but are, unequivocally, not of it.

The Reorder of Things

Roderick A. Ferguson is professor of race and critical theory at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He is author of Aberrations in Black: Toward a Queer of Color Critique (Minnesota, 2003) and coeditor, with Grace Hong, of Strange Affinities: The Gender and Sexual Politics of Comparative Racialization.

The Reorder of Things

The Reorder of Things marks a bold and necessary intervention into our understandings of how (neoliberal) hegemony works at this moment—not simply to coopt, but to contain the very difference it makes into abstraction. This is a moment of fire when we are being called upon to kindle a different kind of radical collectivity. Roderick A. Ferguson is the ancient blacksmith forging a new alchemy, which we, too, can hammer out—but only if we dare.

M. Jacqui Alexander, author of Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory and the Sacred

Especially now, when the rhetoric of crisis is the norm in discussions of the present and the future of the university, The Reorder of Things is urgently needed. Its persistent attention to the genealogies of minority difference—of racial formation, class divisions, and gender and sex systems—definitively establishes the academy as both a flashpoint for the crystallization of what we commonly understand to be sociopolitical issues and a major part of the machinery of history. Ferguson incisively, elegantly shows us how to think differently—how to think in and through difference—and in the process, changes the horizons of knowledge itself.

Kandice Chuh, CUNY/The Graduate Center

With the recent resurgence of university student protests in the Chilean Winter and Quebec’s Maple Spring, Ferguson’s book has new urgency, compelling those inside these various movements to become critically aware of the history of contestation, of which they are implicitly or explicitly a part.

Signs

The Reorder of Things

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Affirmative Actions of Power
1. The Birth of the Interdisciplines
2. The Proliferation of Minority Difference
3. The Racial Genealogy of Excellence
4. The Reproduction of Things Academic
5. Immigration and the Drama of Affirmation
6. The Golden Era of Instructed Minorities
7. Administering Sexuality, or, The Will to Institutionality
Conclusion: An Alternative Currency of Difference

Notes
Index

The Reorder of Things

UMP blog - World-Making and World-Devastation in Adrian Piper's Self-Portrait 2000

Self-Portrait 2000 in many ways seemed to be akin to and critical of Las Meninas. In both portraits, the subjects are absent. Both pieces also signal the rise of a new subject, signaled by the recession of a prior authority: For Las Meninas, the Sovereign; for Self-Portrait 2000, presumably Western Man himself. Both artworks “depict” the conditions for their subjects’ representations. For Las Meninas, Man can only be represented and analyzed in the wake of the sovereign’s downfall. For Self-Portrait 2000, Piper, a minority, could only be represented in the academy because of the social movements of the fifties and sixties that changed U.S. society, movements that—more pointedly—tried to put “the Man” in his place. Both are meditations on what happens when the subject becomes the object of observation and in the case of Self-Portrait 2000, of destruction as well. This aspect of Piper’s piece is what compelled me to open the book with it.

Read the full article.