Author Archives: kloncke

(Pre-)Friday Frivolity: Camp and Contraception

Tomorrow I head to New Jersey for a camping trip with my student co-op.  (I know what you’re thinking. Camping in Jersey?  What, you’re gonna roast marshmallows over a roaring smokestack?  But don’t cry for me, friends: we’re going to the pine barrens, where I’m told there is a creek and a historic bluegrass music hall.)

Before peacing out, I wanted to leave you with this delightful video.

Hat tip to my fellow co-opper, AMZB.

Have a great weekend, y’all, and be safe!


Friday Frivolity: Tactical Brilliance

Ever wondered what a queer punk anti-racist fundraiser might look like?

punk girl hair

Below the fold, an email from folks in Chicago who put their heads together, so to speak, to support the Day of Expungement in New Orleans. Co-sponsored by Safe Streets/Strong Communities, Critical Resistance, and the Orleans Public Defenders, Expungement Day was part of an ongoing movement to counter the racist criminal justice system and help communities flourish.

Recently I’ve been re-reading Saul Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals (using it to analyze Bram Stoker’s Dracula for my English class — good times), alinsky rules for radicalsand I’ve gotta say, despite the flaws in his philosophy, the book is beautifully written, and there are some real gems in there. The creativity and good humor of this Chicago fundraiser exemplify the spirit of his sixth rule of power tactics: “A good tactic is one that your people enjoy. If your people are not having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic” (128). An important sentiment to keep in mind, I think, especially when student organizing so often reverts to the same old speak-outs and die-ins, marches and petitions. I mean, Alinsky and his crew once bought up all the tickets to an enemy-owned symphony, hosted a potluck feast of baked beans beforehand, and then farted their way through the whole concert. Now that’s a tactic.

Anyhow, read, enjoy, and see y’all next week!

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Doing Time, Double-Time

prisonerWhile I was glad to see another piece on criminal justice making the front page of the Times (lord knows the subject has been conspicuously absent from the presidential debates), the article weirdly omitted some key issues surrounding astronomical imprisonment levels in the U.S.

First, one of the reasons that our crazy conviction rates and harsher sentences matter, beyond interest in international comparisons, is that they correspond to massive disenfranchisement levels, another of our ignominious distinctions among Western countries.

Second, the piece discusses rates of imprisonment without questioning the value of prisons themselves — making no mention whatsoever of the nation’s prison abolition movement. I mean, I know it’s the New York Times, but still. Look at the other perspectives included:

“The simple truth is that imprisonment works,” wrote Kent Scheidegger and Michael Rushford of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in The Stanford Law and Policy Review. “Locking up criminals for longer periods reduces the level of crime. The benefits of doing so far offset the costs.”

If you’re gonna quote some dude saying that prisons are a dandy solution to crime, then you could at least find someone who thinks that maybe prisons aren’t totally awesome.  And who doesn’t view the whole world and its human populations in terms of a series of cost-benefit analyses.

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The Long-Awaited Premiere…Video Blogging!

Lefty political bloggers, as a species, have earned something of a reputation for being both confrontational and cowardly. There’s nothing inherently wrong with assertiveness, of course, or even outrage: see, for instance, the fabulous Angry Black Bitch. And, to a certain extent, discord (as opposed to, say, politeness) is healthy for democratic online communities. But although computer screens can embolden introverts and make for rousing debates, belligerence and impersonal exchanges in comment threads can leave even committed blogophiles feeling…disconnected.

We at Cambridge Common believe that online political dialogue can be especially edifying when rooted in offline community. CC has wonderful readers across the nation (and a few beyond), but ultimately, we are a place-based blog: Harvard is where we build. Online, we write, but we’re always looking to do more, to experiment and engage. So, in order to share wisdom with each other, and to give y’all a peek into our crazy heads, we now present our foray into video blogging (or “vlogging”): Common Conversations.

The premise is simple. Each week, a few Cambridge Commoners will get together, pick some subject that confuses, inspires, or enrages us, and talk about it together, on camera. Weekdays, we’ll post the video in segments so you can follow the conversation. Use the comments section to talk back and add your thoughts!

And now, without further ado, diving into a notoriously juicy political topic, here’s Part 1 of our very first episode of Common Conversations: Birth Control. Enjoy!

Fire Up Those Word Processors

woman at laptopThere’s been a bunch of gender-related excitement on campus lately: Take Back The Night; an intergenerational feminist panel; an anti-feminist conference; and, Wednesday, an abysmally moronic editorial that, in a true feat of triteness, manages to concatenate Moynihanian logic, the model minority myth, and ‘post-sexism’ antifeminism (framed–how else?–through the Clinton-Obama race). In short: the good, the bad, and the Crimson.

Got some thoughts on these or other gender-related issues at Harvard? Pissed that Harvard won’t grant the Women Gender and Sexuality concentration institutional support? Heartened by the trans activist gains on campus of the past few years? Check out this essay contest through the Women’s Center, and get cracking on a personal narrative, exposé, or whatever floats your feminist boat.

The First Annual Women’s Center Writing Prize
Topic: Does Harvard – however you define it – care about gender?

Deadline: April 23, 2008.

The essay submissions are to be between 700 and 1,000 words long and can be journalistic, personal/anecdotal or creative. The pieces should be imaginative, pertinent and well-written.

ALL genders welcome to apply.

Winners will receive a cash prize of $350, prizes from the Coop and publication in the Women’s Center’s AMPLIFY! magazine.

To submit, please email your entry in a Word Document to Please include both your real name and a code name of your choice – your name will be removed before your writing is evaluated. Winners announced in early May.

Militarization: Coming Soon To A Campus Near You (Part I)

As already noted, though today’s reports of a political intelligence unit within HUPD are disturbing, they aren’t shocking. Considering recent patterns of militarization–from the ongoing “war on terror” farce and its criminalities, to federal strangleholds on civil liberties, to local Cambridge moves toward beefing up police weaponry–transforming Harvard’s campus into a conflict zone is no aberration, but a sign of the times.

What does it mean, though, to describe a campus as “militarizing?” Can we make such claims about our environments without coming off like weirdo conspiracy theorists? To provide some historical context, here’s a little background on more instances of police and military involvement on campus. The series will include documentation of one recent incident of police brutality right outside a Harvard dorm. Decide for yourself whether it’s troubling. Continue reading

Stanley Fish, Come On Now

besieged foucaultMy plan to resurge, triumphant, back into blogging after my thesis was over has, um, hit a few snags. Like my abysmal lagging in all my other classes. If they were children, I’d be charged with criminal neglect.

Nevertheless, some events simply can’t go unblogged. Today’s NYT article by Stanley Fish, French Theory In America, is one of those events. I may come back and re-post a longer, more thorough version of my thoughts later on this week, but for now, here are some observations, copied and slightly edited from an email conversation with a friend of mine, Henry Seton (’06).

It makes me sad that this is one of the only slivers of theoretical debate that reaches popular media. Yeah, I agree that he’s being unfair. According to him, demonstrating that something is socially constructed is meaningless as a critique, since everything is socially constructed. But when you’re talking about something like gender roles, which derive much of their strength, entrenchment, and as you say, sacrosanctity from arguments that they are ‘natural,’ biologically fixed, inevitable, and largely immune to cultural/historical influence, then of COURSE it’s an important critical step to expose their cultural contingency!

After establishing that, like you said, it’s up to you how to proceed. You can make arguments for social change based on ethics, morals, harms, progress, even (gasp) logic. And the same deconstructive process, as a tool, applies to something like, say, liberal autonomy, medical discourse, rhetoric on education, and all kinds of areas where there’s some foundational assumption of a ‘natural’ or time-tested truth that’s in fact subject to historical and cultural circumstances (though not necessarily completely determined by them, and not worthless as a result of them). Urgh.

So yeah, I think he showed that the emperor has no clothes, only the emperor is some caricature of Judith Butler that lives in his mind.

Welcome to the professional version of the typical swill used to malign us Women, Gender, and Sexuality majors here at school. Fish clearly has an excellent grasp on the theories and firsthand experience with their politicized deployment in an academic institutional context. But in trying to brand them as a bugbear of U.S. public intellectual discourse, he coughs up this diluted, pat, and, ironically, relativist argument. He’s picked an easy (because so widely mistrusted) target, and though his insights sound dandy, they sidestep a real discussion about how people have used, and continue to use, deconstructionist analysis in the service of political progress and social change.