Controversy surrounding an alleged ‘art’ student, who shall remain anonymous, at least in my little world, suddenly took me back to my own university days. There was much controversy, blah blah blah, then a ‘manifesto’ – just like real artists have (at least back in the 20s) – that seemed to be cribbed directly from my old student reading material.
I studied Communications which unfortunately also involved Cultural Studies and Critical Theory. This stuff would be perfectly familiar to any one who took Feminist studies, anthropology and probably most senior-level arts classes too.
I say unfortunately in the sense that it was often a rather tedious challenge to get through a lot of obfuscation and unnecessary abstraction to the the actual ideas, some of which could be pretty insightful and interesting. For example, the concept of ‘hegemony’ the way it is used in Cultural Studies/critical theory is quite good, but rarely do people outside that realm have any idea what you’re talking about if you use the term.
However there’s a tendency for certain academics, and even more so their students, to hide weak ideas (or none) behind confusing and important seeming words in order to come across as intellectual. It really is so bad that Physics Professor Alan Sokal submitted an utterly fake paper to a then non-peer reviewed journal that was subsequently published.
Years later I had a room-mate who was growing frustrated with his International Relations courses – largely stumbling through the all the extraneous verbiage. Unfortunately for him, he lacked the filter in his brain that could just shut this stuff out. Most of it is neo-marxist tripe of one sort or another, some of which has some merits, but some of which is often just a hodgepodge of postmodern terminology that when actually ‘deconstructed’ can be nearly void of any actual meaning, or coherent train of thought beyond vague and dubious claims of western Imperialism.
So in the honour of my former struggling-student roommate and the spoiled Yalie, I’ve decided to invent the “cultural studies drinking game” (or if you prefer, the “critical theory drinking game”), which after 30 seconds of Googling, I’ve confirmed has not already been invented by someone else and is therefore mine.
Fiction – when referring to anything other than a book that is not non-fiction: pretend to take one shot
Myth – unless debunking a widely held belief such as changing lightbulbs will stop global warming: one swig of beer.
Ambiguity – one shot. Maybe
Adding ‘ity’ or ‘ities’ to any adjective in an attempt to turn it into a noun: e.g. ‘domestic’ vs ‘domesticity’ : two shots.
Adding any other extra syllables to any common word to make it sound more ‘academic’ – one shot per each syllable.
Relation to power or ruling class – everyone takes a shot.
Social construction – see ambiguity
Oppressive State Apparatus/Instrument of State Apparatus – throw your shot glass at the person sitting opposite
Appropriation – take the drink of the person to your right. If used in the same phrase as “class relation”, then three shots.
Discourse – everyone yells ‘chug chug chug!’ while you swallow the remainder of whatever is in your glass.
Consciousness – you’ve now lost consciousness from drinking too much. And you’ve only read two paragraphs. Game over.