A Conversation with James Mollison of Loyolla Marymount

This edition of Critical Issues in Debate features one of the most prolific K debaters of the last decade. During this past season James Mollison, along with his partner Jack Ewing, earned the 3rd overall ranking at the end of the year, won tournaments, beat all the best, and blew minds. Scott Odekirk, the host, had a chance to work closely with LMU EM throughout the season so this conversation touches on LMU’s unique preparation process, their approach toward nationals, their entry of the DSRB Interview into the Semis of the NDT, and the general motivations of James when it comes to elite level debate competition. This conversation lightly touches on some mature subjects and uses adult language. This is one of the best interviews in the history of deb(k)ate’s interview project.

Play with audio player below or download this podcast by clicking this link:  mollison may 2012

James and Scott will be working together at the Xylum Debate Institute this summer. XDI is a unique debate camp focused on alternative and non traditional pedagogy with an eye toward using the K to defeat the very best. XDI is now accepting applications for their first ever session during the second week in August. Apply today and mention this podcast on your application!

10 Responses to “A Conversation with James Mollison of Loyolla Marymount”

  1. Really good. Enjoyed listening to this.

  2. kevin kuswa Says:

    I love this interview—kudos to James and Ode for working this out and in. Damn good. Didn’t get a chance to hear James enough over the years so this talk is great. This is different than the other big recent interview with DSRB (and an answer to a few of the trajectories there)—which is wonderful, but predictable. This, in a purposeful double negative, is not about not disregarding the award-winning qualifications of the author and making our own scholarship. The talk-walk with James is much more roaming, rambling, walking the talk and meandering with style. Far less (if at all) about what people forget (which, yes, needs to be remembered, but we need distinct channels to avoid the rut). Just thinking that there is a lot of “this is it” (and you need to get “it”) out there as opposed to “let’s talk together and see/listen.” Not a jab—just a contrast. The object of debate thinks us more than we, the subject, can locate the flaws and patch them over. “Subjectivity is taken for granted” and “identity does not hold much water” are some quotations that struck this cord—“identity is prison/dead.” Then Ode comes in with a brilliant point about “newness” and always being on the curve, pushing the edge. Great continuation and what it’s all about. Why stagflate when it’s possible to always flourish? Yes, flexibility and “breaking the new” are not new, but refreshing.

    Both are hinting at what is being broken—the mirror breaks and the smoke dissipates to see what crystallizes and what crystal breaks (new). Smoke and mirrors also allow shattering later in the debate. Then James says “as it changes, it doesn’t.” The debate game does not change as much as it seems, but being committed to “reading” and reaching confidence with a literature base is crucial advice. A running theme is “what is scholarship?” and what type of scholarship counts. Great questions, unavoidable for debate, let alone kritik debate, and the academy as a whole. Production, consumption, and what counts as evidence are themes that have to be encountered, tackled, broached. One strong point is better than the endless proliferation of stuff, stuff simply demonstrating uncertainty. Collaboration / erasure / is friendship. Best part of the interview, makes the process matter and move along and fills collective thinking with meaning—Ode’s description of this as beauty is perfect, even if indescribable. Look folks, calcified debate IS making its own scholarship, but it is not reflective enough to see that, setting up the qritikal urge to create. Group think is group think regardless of what has been thought. Creation has to borrow from pre-discursive material, making sharing far more important than the specific location of opposition. That is a core message from this interview—sometimes it is possible to find animosity within one’s self first.

    Thanks you guys, you keep things going during the always trying time of the end of the semester.

  3. Carlos Says:

    awesome interview! you should totally upload more loyola videos and interview more K debaters rather than coaches

  4. This was very interesting/illuminating for me.

  5. Michael Antonucci Says:


  6. ^^Nooch got it haha

  7. What is this hotels k thing? It seems interesting. Anyone know where i can get cites?

  8. Do you all have any suggestions on books to read? I’ve debated in high school and plan to in college but was interested in becoming more familiar with some of the critical literature.

    • kevin kuswa Says:

      John, good question. If you are debating in college this year, you should read something related to energy and the environment. There are lots of good books explaining “Deep Ecology” or “Anthropocentrism.” I would suggest a textbook on environmental philosophy. If you are interested in general critical theory, there are a lot of good places to start. Foucault’s collection of essays called _Power/Knowledge_ or Foucault’s _Discipline and Punish_ are great primary sources. Let us know how it goes and keep the list posted.

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