Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Some More Tuesday Links

with 4 comments

* I wrote a short blog post for HASTAC compiling some recent thoughts and links on “openness” in the university system, which are likely no surprise to anyone who follows this blog but which I include here for the sake of completeness regardless.

* It’s cute that Josh Marshall thinks Bachmann just making sh!t up means her run at the GOP nomination is over. Of course, what this actually means is that it’s now an open question whether Gardasil causes mental retardation in young girls.

* Elizabeth Warren announces for Senate tomorrow.

* Here comes Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project.

* The Trash|Track Project asks: Why do we know so much about the supply chain and so little about the removal chain? Via Melody.

* And via On Gender-Identity Disorder and the DSM.

The DSM work group assigned to gender identity disorder, a panel of specialized field experts, has already bowed to some external pressures. It has made clear that it intends to change the name of the diagnosis from “disorder” to “dysphoria”—which describes a passing mood rather than a fixed state. The work group has also made public its plans to not only preserve the core GID diagnosis, but to retain an even more controversial entry: GID in children.

… The second argument in favor of keeping GID in the diagnostic manual is where things get ethically murky. The removal of the diagnosis may also remove insurance coverage for transsexual adults who are being treated with hormonal or surgical reassignment. As of now, a diagnosis of mental illness is the only mechanism that transsexuals have for medical insurance to cover mastectomies, testosterone injections, and genital reconstruction surgeries (though very few insurance companies cover any sort of gender reassignment, because it is most often considered “cosmetic”).

Megan Smith, a Nebraska-based psychotherapist and an advocate for the removal of GID from the DSM, claims that the insurance argument is the one she most often encounters. Smith believes keeping the diagnosis for the sake of insurance coverage is “unethical and unscientific.” Smith argues, “I don’t believe it’s our obligation as mental health professionals to change psychiatric evaluations in order to play ball with insurance companies.”

4 Responses

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  1. hey, good post on opening the university. i suppose it’s not really news, but that chris newfield piece you link to is great on details. my only quibble is with this:

    “But it seems to me the crucial first step will have to be the reinvigoration of a sense of a collective knowledge project, shared in common, that was once the cornerstone of the public university in the United States.”

    that’s definitely what i’d like to see, but was it ever really the cornerstone of U.S. public universities? my memory of u.s. university history is a bit rusty, but i think it was veysey who pointed out that the move to ‘democratize’ the university was always based on utility in the vocational sense, i.e. marketable or at least state-sponsored middle class professional skills, and on that point you got the debate over the value of a general liberal arts education. class advancement and (for the elite private institutions) class maintenance was also always part of its function. it seems to me the specifically ideological crisis over the university at the moment has to do with the simultaneous liquidation of the ‘middle class’ and decentralization of the labor process. combine that with the decentralization of cultural capital, and you have a situation where there’s an increasing mismatch between a job market of piecemeal work, ever-fluctuating demand, the need for constant retraining, and the ‘edu-factory’/liberal arts utopia model, based on the dream of an ever-expanding elite. the liberal arts part is turning into more of a brand-saturated, grade-inflated, mortgage-sponsored vacation and the edu-factory part is losing its ability to guarantee its product: middle-class citizens. i agree with newfield that these models won’t survive, but i don’t think you can argue that they ‘should’ either — we simply don’t have a sustainable economy and we never have. the “dominant paradigms to come” will probably have little to do with those of the past.


    September 13, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    • I think I definitely got a little highfalutin there, yeah. Of course another part of the equation would be federal research funding, which was usually defense-centered in ways that make the glib version in that post pretty problematic.

      That said there is a sense in which the university operates/operated as a space (at least partially) outside the usual flows of capital, and that’s the version of the university I’m saying we should fight for, even if it isn’t/was never the whole story. The increasingly total privatization of the university system is bad for reasons beyond the breakdown in the production of middle-class subjects that you’re talking about; it’s bad for knowledge production more generally.


      September 13, 2011 at 11:16 pm

      • well this is the big dilemma all of us invested in the university as a space insulated from market pressure have to confront somehow. the very things we like about it were justified (or at least tolerated) because the university is such an essential part of capitalism, not just liberal democracy. it has been absolutely central to the reproduction of capital, class, and privilege, and still is, even though the whole system is broken. so in that way it’s quite different from, say, an intentional community or utopian village (or an anarchist hacker message board), which is actually based on delinking from capital. the 20th century university was never a little corner to retreat to, it was just permitted to look and feel that way because of its centrality (whether to an elite or some idea of the public). now, the liberal defense of the public university is (like everything else liberals like) undercut by the ongoing liquidation of the nation state as a significant and semi-autonomous institution, and the left/communist argument you make (‘the best parts of the university are the ones free of capital’s demands’), it seems to me, implies the kind of political confrontation that most academics aren’t prepared to make, and probably chose an academic career path partly to avoid. i think free universities along the lines of the projects you cite are possible and desirable, but i can’t imagine how they could be made consequential.


        September 14, 2011 at 12:43 pm

      • Right — I think that’s all the other side of this. I think (at HASTAC in particular) I tend to err towards a flatter, more utopian depiction precisely because (as you say) I’m trying to politicize a space that doesn’t really want to be politicized.

        I think free university projects can only work in the context of a larger university system that is at least semi-autonomous of neoliberal capital. That’s what I was trying to argue towards in moving quickly past those admirable but insufficient projects towards what I see as the real fight, the struggle for funds and against cuts. The university has to be funded if anything else is going to happen here, and the largess of a handful of very rich private universities isn’t enough.


        September 14, 2011 at 1:49 pm

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