Archive for the camp Category

Transportation Infrastructure Investments and Maternal Mobility

Posted in camp, High School, Know Your History, lectures with tags , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2012 by kevin kuswa


The Birth of Transportation Infrastructure Investments and Maternal Mobility

It sounds like the articles about Fordism are helping to contextualize the high school debate topic on transportation infrastructure (or at least the posts are being “viewed”) so it makes sense to share a few additional pieces on the page.  I have decided to combine two essays on the links between Motherhood and auto-mobility in this post and will follow that up with a separate post on the figure of the fatal driver.  Much of this work appeared on the Shared Sacrifice website in 2009 and originated as part of a 2001 dissertation on American Highway Shifts written at the University of Texas at Austin and directed by Ron Greene.

By way of a preface, when thinking about the upcoming topic, Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its transportation infrastructure investment in the United States, there will be a tendency to jump to the exotic at the expense of what is right there in front of us every single day.  Certainly airports, space stations, and even computing clouds are a big part of our transportation infrastructure and offer countless avenues for debate, but America is a highway nation and will continue to exist in that domain for a long period of time.  We drive places and use roads—virtually every day and often multiple times a day.  When we are talking about transportation investments, we have to start with roads and the vehicles that traverse them—how can we bypass the interlocking network of car-paths defining a vast majority of our capacity to move and experience place?  We cannot and should not.

In that spirit, this piece turns from the geopolitical importance of Fordism to the homestead of maternal mobility in an attempt to mark that patriarchal division of transportation and critique the domestication of transportation from a historical perspective in much the same way we learned that the personal is political.  Comments and questions welcome as always.  Enjoy.


Driving Ourselves and the Rise of Maternal Auto/mobility


Wright’s (1939) The Car Belongs to Mother


Kevin Douglas Kuswa, PhD

July, 2009



1. Driving Subjectivities and the Emergence of the Mobile Mother


What concrete traits make up our identities as we participate in the highway machine?  What are the effects of America’s addiction to cars and speed?  What do cars and speed mean for American individualism?  What does the emerging notion of the driver do to our communities, our families, or our bodies?  How does the motor vehicle take over our lives so quickly and so pervasively?  What types of people fall into (and out of) place through the discourse of the driver’s seat?  And, interlocking all of these questions: What makes a machine distinct from a horse or even from the human body?  Is the driver distinct from the machine being driven?  Driving no longer involved building or assembling.  Marking this transition, Dunbar (1915) positioned the human race on the cusp of a technological revolution in transportation—the edge of an era where a majority of Americans would ride in cars every day, yet not have a solid idea what made the vehicle move (nor want such knowledge).  Human “auto” agency became possible, but always contained by the mechanism of circulation and the availability of roads.


“The average mind already shrinks from efforts to assimilate what eyes behold and hands use, and so, hereafter, we must accept much of what is done for us without understanding, content to let a few work in regions not for us, while we casually employ what they bestow.  Those who hereafter become benefactors of the race through invention and discovery in the fields of physical and mechanical science are destined to find their large reward within their own thoughts….Thus it has always been, and much more often will it be so in the future.  It is not because we are thoughtless, or ungrateful.  It is because we have so many other things to think about, and to do.”  (Dunbar, 1915, p1366)


In Dunbar’s frame, the reward for average Americans outside the invention loop was the opportunity to drive these new technologies.  Of course, much of the driver’s circulation was imaginary and hopeful, for only 15 to 20 percent of Americans had the luxury of using the cars and highways that other specialists had crafted.  Even among the individuals using the highways and driving vehicles, automobile ownership was more of a privilege than a given.

For those Americans starting to take on roles as drivers, the beginnings of their pervasiveness can be charted in the appearance of road-user coalitions.  An intersection of different types of drivers (commercial and personal), these road-user groups included private truckers, oil and gas distributors, for-hire shippers, and members of automobile owners associations.  The road-users adamantly opposed federal gas and vehicle taxes, even though they favored additional federal spending on road construction and repairs.  Their arguments included a petition (submitted to Congress in 1947) stating that road-related taxation was unjust “because the burden is determined by the distance the taxpayer must drive” to work (Rose, 1990, p34).  The intense lobbying effort did not take hold until the mid-50s.  Despite the efforts of the National Highway Users Conference in 1949, President Truman extended the federal tax on gasoline.  A few taxes could not restrain the proliferation of the driver, however, for as early as 1915 it was reported that, “American opinion was demanding one car for every American family” (Pettifer & Turner, p101).  It is not surprising that America’s opinions did not correspond to the constraints of economic inequality, prohibiting most individuals from affording a reliable automobile.  Nevertheless, with a brief pause during the Depression, both the demand and the means to acquire automobiles would increase continuously in the U.S. during the course of the 20th Century.

Some of the interaction between the automobile and the family comes to light in the notion of the mobile Mother (or maternal driver).  Here, we should note that many familial aspirations were not satisfied, reinforcing class divisions.  As many as 41 percent of families “still lacked personal automobility in the form of the family car as late as 1950” in the U.S. (Flink, 1988, p131).  In particular, segregation in cities like Atlanta and Chicago testified to Flink’s (1988, p135) contention that “blacks were not to share proportionately in the extension of the ‘American dream’ of the automobile commute to a suburban home.”  Racial and class divisions marked the driver as a manifestation of white privilege.  Discussing various types of drivers in relation to the car as a cultural object, Meaghan Morris (1993, p288) argues that we should “consider cars as mobile, encapsulating vehicles of critical thinking about gender, race, and familial space, articulating a conflict between a ‘society’ and an ‘environment’ that is nonetheless mutually, historically, and perhaps catastrophically, entailed.”  The subject of the car, the driver, arises as central to human struggles over space and identity.

From the road-user coalitions, the figure of the driver shot off in multiple directions.  Moving to a more abstract plane, the state and the market began to articulate the driver as a political or economic unit.  The political unit solidified itself through a driver’s license, access to a means of transit, and an obligation to follow the laws of the road.  The economic unit solidified itself through the purchase of an automobile and its fuel, a contribution to the economy’s circulation of goods and services, and as a relatively large source of disposable income.  A surge in anti-diversion legislation during the period marked a struggle constituting the driver as an economic unit capable of being taxed in a comprehensive way.  Diversion would allow drivers to become a source of revenue for other programs sponsored by the government through a legislative siphoning of highway revenues for competing social needs such as education, defense spending, health care, etc.  Highway proponents, naturally, demonized these leaks and passed anti-diversion legislation.[1]  Eventually solidified by Constitutional amendments in 21 states that earmarked gas tax revenue for further road construction, state highway trust funds secured a self-propelling transportation infrastructure based on the car.

On a less abstract plane, road-users emerged as truckers with specific economic interests tied to the process of driving, as well as private individuals running errands or recreating.  Through the advent of motorized vehicles, the body took on new roles and was produced in new and varied ways.  The driver was molded into a specific subject capable of distinct modes of circulation.  This body was expected to operate the speed and acceleration of a motorized vehicle by strapping to a chair, manipulating a combination of levers and pedals, and following certain speed limits and other road norms to ensure safety and reach the desired destination.  Despite these new demands on the body of the driver, the physical requirements of driving were less strenuous than previous forms of transit, per mile traveled.  This new efficiency prompted James Flink (1988, p162) to comment: “Because driving an automobile requires skill rather than physical strength, women could control one far easier than they could a spirited team (of horses).”  Indeed, the car was not a privilege reserved to men as much as it was an extension of the domestic duties performed by many women.  Ruth Schwartz Cowan (1983, p85) explained the significance of the car and the driver to the 20th Century figure of the Mother:

“By mid-century, the automobile had become, to the American housewife of the middle classes, what the cast-iron stove in the kitchen would have been to her counterpart of 1850—the vehicle through which she did much of her most significant work, and the work locale where she could be most often found.”

Yet, how can we talk about specific people and identities if we conceive of each and every driver as representative of some other homogenous group?  How can we talk about women drivers, for instance, and specific women drivers in the suburb connected to their surroundings and neighbors by the on-going process of chauffeuring?



2. Women Drivers: The Car Belongs to Mother


In Pettifer and Turner’s (1984) history of drivers in America, Automania, depictions of the woman driver are scant and generalized, often bordering on exploitative.  Not only are they commenting on a car culture that objectified women as either housewives running errands or desperate singles latching on to the man with the flashiest car, Pettifer and Turner are also complicit in such objectification by positioning women as largely absent or passive in the automobile arena.  Other than the chapter on “The Car and Courtship” (Pettifer & Turner, 1984, p181-201), women are mentioned fewer than twenty times, and even then are described as submissive, domesticated, incapable of dealing with adversity, or sexually explicit hood ornaments.  Especially in Pettifer and Turner’s account of the years prior to the Depression, women are usually portrayed as simple passengers or on-lookers.

According to their history, only a few woman–the rare exceptions–broke the mold to take the wheel in a “man’s world.”  Not a single woman driver enters their narrative during the first forty pages of the book.  At that point, Pettifer and Turner paraphrase Dorothy Levitt’s advice on fashion for “ladies” and what was required for proper “motoring dress,” encouraging women to plan well for their public excursions.  Their aim was to help women drivers avoid losing their femininity while remaining safe and prudent:


“In The Woman and the Car (1909) she advises the woman driver to aim for neatness and comfort and to avoid flamboyancy: ‘Under no circumstances wear lace or “fluffy” adjuncts to your toilette.’…. The prudent lady motorist should also carry an overall of butcher blue or brown linen to slip over her clothes for the time when greasy maintenance work had to be done; and a pair of wash leather gloves to help keep hands ladylike.  She adds that the woman driver traveling alone should carry a small revolver to defend herself on the highways and byways” (Pettifer & Turner, 1984, p45).


The details of the advice offered to women drivers imply that most drivers at the time were male, but it also demonstrates a growing concern for the needs of the woman driver.  James Flink reports that automobile manufacturers had women in mind when they replaced the hand-crank for starting the engine with a self-starter.  Introduced in 1912, the self-starter was advertised as the “ladies’ aid” and was followed by the closed car in 1919, “which obviated wearing special clothes while motoring and put middle-class women drivers in conventional gasoline automobiles in droves” (Flink, 1988, p162).

Even though Pettifer and Turner may erase women from the driving experience prior to 1956, their history does not write over the experiences of the tens of thousands of women who put themselves behind the wheel as the highway machine made its entrance.  In 1899, the same year the first U.S. driver’s license was issued to a woman from Chicago, women in society clubs decorated cars with flowers and drove them in a New Port, Rhode Island parade (McShane, 1997, p26).  In 1903, Oldsmobile began advertisements in the Ladies’ Home Journal and a group of women drivers formed their own auto club in New York City.[2]  From the very beginnings of the auto industry, advertisements had been directed toward women under the assumption that those women who did not drive the family car would at least be directly involved in its purchase.  In 1910, Laura Dent Crane published the first of a “six-volume Automobile Girls Series” called Automobile Girls along the Hudson.  By 1917, 23 percent of drivers in Los Angeles were women (McShane, 1997, p30-53).  Clearly, women were extending themselves into these automobile as drivers.  Flink (1988, p163) notes that “most of the comfort and convenience options added to cars—including vanity mirrors, plush upholstery, heaters, air conditioning, and automatic transmissions—were innovated with the ladies especially in mind.”

Following their prescription for the woman driver, Pettifer and Turner then mention the story of Alice Huyler Ramsey who became the first woman to drive across the country, journeying from Hell’s Gate on the Atlantic to the Golden Gate on the Pacific.  Making up one of their rare forays into the realm of women drivers, Pettifer and Turner (1984, p75) write: “Perhaps the most conclusive and remarkable proof of the taming of America’s great open spaces came in 1909 when 22-year-old Alice Ramsey, with three female companions, became the first woman to drive across America.”  Ramsey’s taming of America’s spaces is reminiscent of the ways that female objects are tamed through the automobile.  In another disturbing passage, Pettifer and Turner (1984, p93) participate in such objectification by leaving the following statement about the spokes model for the MG company unquestioned (and tacitly supported): “The MG Girl was an amalgam of so many of our automobile fantasies: the freedom of the road, the open car, the lure of speed, and the implicit sexual promise offered by the well-bred but thoroughly modern girl raring to go.”  Such objectifying (and widely circulating) advertisements are not enabling in the struggle against patriarchy.  Before engaging in a comprehensive critique of representations of women alongside the automobile, however, a more contoured example arrives in the form of the mobile Mother.

As an expression of women drivers negotiating subjectivity through the automobile, Priscilla Wright writes The Car Belongs to Mother in 1939, a book devoted to “the many problems which beset the woman driver” (Wright, 1939, piv).  Over the course of its eighty pages, this work travels through ten chapters, or arenas of advice, including “The Chauffeuring of Husbands,” “School Chauffeuring,” “The Right Service Station,” and “The New Car.”  Directed toward a specific audience (married women sharing a car in the suburbs with their husbands), the book diagrams a number of characteristics of a specific highway subjectivity: the suburban, married, woman chauffeur.  She has a clear sense of belonging to the automobile and has adapted it, in an unashamedly feminine way, to the rigors of everyday life.  Maybe Priscilla Wright is simply articulating her own identity–maybe she is only writing a loosely guarded autobiography.  Regardless of her intent, though, this book as a guidebook for women who operate cars on a daily basis positions and creates the subjectivity of mobile motherhood.  Fluctuating between the triumphs of liberation and the torture of needless repetition, Priscilla’s Wright’s (1939, pxiv) mobile Mother is many people wrapped together.


“Man sees the automobile, invented by him, improved by him, fashioned for his pride and pleasure, become, as he believes, the plaything of Woman….She deals, rather, with the problems of the matron–and her name is truly legion–who, with the one family car at her disposal, transports her husband to and from trains, her children to school, herself to market, club members to their homes on unaccepted streets and relatives on their various whims and vagaries.  Truly this woman is a gallant creature, a creature of wit and resourcefulness, of nerve and verve.  May she receive consolation and help from these humble pages and may Man, after reading them, meet her more respectfully upon the road and reverently exclaim, ‘God wot.  A woman driving!’”


The multiple subject positions of our present era were abundant before the close of the 1950s and far before the complete arrival of the highway machine.  Attaching the mobile Mother to many of these pre-highway subjects, the stereotyping and essentialism in Wright’s statement constrains women to preconstructed lines within a patriarchal society.  Stereotyping occurs when Wright establishes the woman as the domestic servant for her husband, the woman who may be able to operate the automobile but could never invent or build such a thing.  Essentialism occurs when Wright reduces the essence of the married woman to a submissive and supporting figure who manages the domestic sphere.  On the other hand, there are marks of resistance available in Wright’s perspective that can contribute to a map of radical feminism in opposition to trajectories that would either blame the processes of technology and science or remain in a liberal theory of equality.[3]  We return to these cracks of resistance after laying out more of Wright’s text.

Beginning with the concern that marriage is more about being a chauffeur than being in love, Wright (1939, p1) imagines a set of wedding vows that would include a promise to drive the children to school in foul weather and to pick up the husband’s clothes from the cleaners.  She only entertains this rebellious thought momentarily, for such a “disillusioning clause would mean fewer marriages, a lower birth rate, and a marked decline in suburban property values.”  Not about to risk such a dramatic restructuring of family life, Wright (1939, p1) consents: “Better that woman should continue to bend her back to the yoke, and keep her hand on the throttle.”  This axiom of automobile martyrdom does not hold for single women, working women, or married women who aren’t responsible for driving their husbands to the station—the “keep-to-the-throttle” message is “concerned wholly with the suburban husbands who live too far from the station to walk to it and who wouldn’t walk to it anyway” (Wright, 1939, p2).

As the mobile Mother drives the family to and from school, work, baseball practice, the cleaners, music lessons, the market, and the swimming pool, she both fulfills her role as an American housewife and circumvents it at the same time by taking charge through various regulation and management strategies.[4]  When the family purchases a new car, the husband attempts to take control of the vehicle by lecturing the rest of the family on its care and use.  Even though the mother will eventually discover the peculiarities of their new vehicle, the husband attempts to assert his dominance by lecturing from the pamphlets and instruction books, “and the wife has to listen, perforce” (Wright, 1939, p61).  Not only does she have to listen, she has to remain passive and submissive to give her husband the illusion of control.  The wife must muster all of her courage as a strategy of self-protection: “During this period, indeed, she can do nothing but call on all her inner resources of courage and strength and remind herself that, like the dew of the morning, it soon will pass, although it may take longer” (Wright, 1939, p61).  The point is not to interpret the mindset of the infantalized wife, but to map the way relations among family members operate through the functions of the car.  The roles of the mobile Mother seem to shift back and forth in tandem with the car–the car is personified at times as the quiet but dependable servant of the family and the mother is empowered at times as the gatekeeper of transit.[5]

Wright continues to both criticize and praise the mobile Mother’s position as domestic facilitator in her chapter on “School Chauffeuring.”  She (Wright, 1939, p13) claims, with a sardonic edge, that “school chauffeuring is one of the most vicious practices of the present day” because of its ability to undermine a mother’s stamina and vitality.  Even though the typical chauffeur takes on stereotypes of the “old man behind the wheel” or the “butler-driver,” Wright’s figure of the chauffeur revolves around the housewife.  For the mobile Mother, the “schoolhouse is never near the house you bought” and “modern children are appallingly puny” (Wright, 1939, p13), requiring the driver to pull up directly in front of each child’s home and escort them to and from the car.  “In spite of being stuffed with vitamins and spotlighted with violet rays, the child of today is utterly unable to stand up to a raindrop, a snowflake, or a drop in Fahrenheit” (p13).  Wright does not elaborate on the “appalling” traits of “modern children” except to complain that the health of the neighborhood kids is always precarious and capable of disrupting any schedule.  The consuming task of chauffeuring “has its bright side,” though, for Wright (1939, p16) admits that “many firm friendships are formed among the chauffeurs, who otherwise might not know one another.”  Despite the enclosed nature of the car’s sense of individualism (freedom in a box), these women drivers were able to “exchange news and recipes as they parked conveniently abreast or at casual angles in the schoolyard and in the street in front” (Wright, 1939, p16).

The maneuvering of the automobile necessary for chauffeuring demonstrates a certain mastery of surrounding technology.  As much more than a coping strategy, agency abounds in the image “of two women jockeying their cars so that, without shutting of the motors or putting on the breaks, they can draw alongside each other in the middle of the road and pass through the open windows boxes containing costumes for school plays or cakes for food sales” (Wright, 1939, p17).  Does this manipulation of space by the mobile Mother resist what Donna Haraway (1991, p19) calls technological applications of the “political principle of domination”?  Haraway explains this argument by mapping machinery and its scientific base as complicit in domination:


“The political principle of domination has been transformed here into the legitimating scientific principle of dominance as a natural property with a physical-chemical base.  Manipulations, concepts, organizing principles–the entire range of the tools of science–must be seen to be penetrated by the principle of domination.[6]



Yet, Haraway realizes later that science and technology cannot be demonized–at least not without also admitting to their productive potential.  As an escape from the specifics of certain oppressive arrangements, machines and their functions must be reclaimed and re-articulated.  Put differently, technologies have effects that can be productive and emancipatory, as well as destructive and restrictive.



3.  Does the Mobile Mother Belong to the Car?


In one way, Priscilla Wright (1939) and her interrogation of the relationship between the car and the Mother has generated a genealogy of leaving the house and all that it entails.  Indeed, her work could be positioned to operate alongside the notion of an emancipatory potential for selectively deployed technologies.  In her move following the articulation of the chauffeur’s social space, Wright embraces a Spivak-style of “strategic essentialism” by critiquing the father’s presence in the sphere of the schoolyard.  She does this by isolating the male essence (or masculine traits) implicit in the Father’s arrival at the school and then criticizing his general lack of understanding and effectiveness in such an environment.  The schoolyard and its parking lot are almost a “private public” open to mothers and their children but not to fathers and their brash style.  It is valuable to chart Wright’s essentialism (of women as masters of the domestic economy and men as incapable of successfully raising or tending to the children) as partially resistant to the male norm.  Such transgression may only take place in the school parking lot, but in that arena Wright (1939, p17) associates the father with an unwelcome intruder capable of disrupting the balance of the local environment:


“Yet leave the girls to themselves and everything goes off like clockwork, not a fender or bumper scratched and the schoolyard cleaned with swiftness and skill.  Let one man come into the yard, however, and there is sure to be trouble….Let one lone father, home for the day and eager to help, drive in, and pandemonium reigns.  He utterly fails to grasp the spirit of informality and camaraderie that prevails.  When he sees what is to him a jigsaw puzzle of cars, he immediately becomes outraged and panic stricken, and in two minutes has turned a peaceful social schoolyard into a madhouse of honking horns and locked bumpers.”


The challenge that Wright offers here may not translate into critical radicalism in relation to the patriarchy.  Wright’s protective defense of the schoolyard may indirectly extend her domestication into certain public places such as the mall, the church or the school.  When a woman’s activity is acknowledged, “it is commonly held to be less sophisticated, and in many cases less authentically political, than the involvements of men” (Stilanen & Stanworth, 1984, p11).  Thus, the activities of a mobile Mother like Wright’s protagonist are “explained as a direct product of a woman’s social role as wife and mother and her mythical status as purity personified.  This distortion involves an assumption that women’s present weak political position is necessary and functional” (Bourque & Grossholtz, 1984, p105).  The devaluing of housework as well as women’s labor outside of the home lends credence to the view that the limited public spaces available to women were feminized, privatized, or otherwise subordinated to the “real” public sphere governed by men.

The Mother driver should be at the service of the husband’s friends and relatives (Wright, 1939, p31), wary of male pedestrians (p42), respectful of her husband’s superiority when repairing the automobile is in order (p44), and ready to “stand by the car, looking as helpless as possible” (p55) if something goes wrong some distance from a garage.  For Wright (1939, p55), “women should never attempt any repair work themselves.”  It is the driving that the mobile Mother must perform effectively, not the mechanical tinkering required to keep the automobile in operation.  Wright (1939, p79) concludes with a plea to the mother to maintain her mobility: “Tireless, courageous, venturesome…on she goes!  Will she stop?  Not if she knows!” (Wright, 1939).  Even though the Seneca Falls convention had declared that “Women are citizens; their relationship to the state should be direct and unmediated by husband or children” (Evans, 1989, p95), the expansion of domesticity extended the mediated role performed by many mother.  In this case, women’s roles were mediated by the automobile as much as the husband or the children.  “Domesticity had emerged from the era of association as a much expanded version of republican motherhood” (Evans, 1989, p95), and women were still “responsible for children, the home, and morality.”

How does the figure of the Mother intersect with the mobility afforded by the automobile to produce a certain trajectory of motherhood attached to many middle class married women?  Following the schizophrenic protrusions of the figure of the driver (negotiating poles of intimacy and distance in relation to the automobile), we must acknowledge that metaphors can work in complementary and competing directions—the affirmation and confrontation implied by motherhood is a great example.  Mothers can be both passively nurturing and violently protective.  Of course the woman driver takes many paths, and Wright’s driver is usually more nurturing than violent, but each subject position flows through mixed and contradictory personas.  Priscilla Wright walks both sides of the fence when she attaches the newly available automobile to her own sense of worth and freedom, while simultaneously constructing the vehicle as a disciplinary mechanism that locks her into a specific role of domestication.  As Evelyn Nakano Glenn (1994, p5) posits in her article on the social constructions of mothering, to “emphasize the social base of mothering is to attend to the variation rather than searching for the universal, and to shift what has been on the margins to the center.” Just as Glenn articulates the duality of the Mother and her fierce compassion, so too does Wright articulate the duality of the mobile Mother: driving to both escape and uphold the family.

Motherhood in the 1920s and beyond was not all tied up in the automobile or driving, but many middle and upper class women transformed their notions of mothering through the (im)mobility offered by the car.  By the time The Car Belongs to Mother (1939) was published, many advances in women’s rights had been achieved such as better labor laws, the opening up of previously closed public spaces, and the Constitutional right to vote signed on August 26, 1920.  Yet, even after the large-scale mobilization of the women’s rights movement, countervailing trends such as the “feminine mystique”[7] resulted in a celebration and strengthening of domesticity “during the 1950s when married women were in fact taking jobs in record numbers” (Margolis, 1984, p4).  Maxine Margolis, an Anthropologist coming to the question of motherhood with the analytical tools of cultural materialism, argues that the dichotomy between public culture and private culture warrants a critical history of the meaning of motherhood in America.  Margolis (1984, p6) focuses on “middle class American women as mothers, housewives, and workers” in an attempt to add to a critical and cultural perspective to previously rigid ideologies of motherhood.

Critiques of the “proper role of women” were becoming more common in the 1950s, but the women who did enter the workforce were usually taking low-paying and dead-end jobs.  Well into the later years of the 20th Century (and extending into today), women were under-represented and underpaid in the workforce.  At the same time, women have “continued to bear primary responsibility for child care and housework” (Margolis, 1984, p5).  Despite the flaws in an analysis or cultural history that relies exclusively on prescriptive writings, Margolis (1984, p10) deploys them to uncover “ideologies about women’s place in the scheme of things, a place that varied over time according to the exigencies of the material order.”[8]  These prescriptive histories, including Wright’s text, are drawn from books, manuals, pamphlets, or other literature designed to provide advice or guidelines for a particular group at a given time and place.  Margolis recognizes from the outset that most prescriptive histories are already targeted toward white wealthy consumers living predominantly in urban areas.  Given these and other limitations, it may be the case that such prescriptive writings “were indeed addressed to the white middle class woman, and as such they do not and cannot provide us with a guide to contemporary views of poor, nonwhite, or immigrant women” (Margolis, 1984, p8).  Nevertheless, specific changes within the rubric of the white, middle class, married woman may be evident in these historical directives.

Ideological trends follow alongside prescriptive histories, and Margolis (1984, p9) has documented how “both the tone and content of books dealing with motherhood, housekeeping, and women as workers did change over time.”  Indeed, the very gap between a prescriptive history and its historical context may point to the ways an ideology contributes to the production of subjectivity.  The “as if” connecting ideologies to lived experience (Greene, 1998a) permits the mother to define herself as if the proper development of her children is her primary responsibility.  Once the concept of motherhood articulates a link between the mother and the child as the central responsibility of the mother, it follows that something like the automobile would extend that responsibility rather than providing an escape from it.  Coming back to the automobile later, it is first significant to note the prevailing intersection between a woman, a mother, and her child:


“The ideology that full-time mothering was essential to the proper development of the child met with little or no dissent in the prescriptive writings of the years 1900 to 1940.  Even during the depression when economic necessity forced more married women than ever before to take jobs, the experts’ relentless insistence on the centrality of the mother’s role did not abate….While motherhood after the turn of the century was still a woman’s central occupation, it was no longer her only one.” (Margolis, 1984, p44)


Margolis uses the historian Mary Ryan to back up her argument that the role of the mother did not substantially change in the 1900s; rather, the major change was the addition of other roles and responsibilities to the previous duties of the mother.  Mary Ryan (1975, p243) observed that women had become “social housekeepers” even though few challenged the “notion that child rearing was a woman’s principal responsibility.”  The major difference, mirroring the schizophrenia of the driver, was that the mother was now expected to play even more roles.  The automobile only furthered the potential for more tasks to be undertaken by the mobile Mother.  Margolis (1984, p44) contends that the crucial change after the turn of the century “was that now other activities could be added to child care.”

An important question here is whether or not the inclusion of women drivers into the fold of driver through mobile motherhood can offer an emancipatory alternative to patriarchal norms of automobile ownership.  In other words, once the subject position of the driver is opened up to women, how does the automobile become a means of expression?  How does the automobile reinforce and legitimize patriarchal formations of the family and the individual?  How do women drivers challenge and extend notions of feminism, rhetoric, and identity?  As a small start toward putting these questions on the map of the highway machine, this section positions Wright’s 1939 treatise within a staunchly entrenched patriarchy operating through technology, science, politics, and the military.  Nevertheless, machines also provide escape-routes to male-centered oppression, for it is not mechanization that relegates women to roles of inferiority; rather, it is the deployment of particular types of mechanization.

This diagram points to an arrangement of motherhood that allowed the automobile as a technology of mobility to be deployed as another ensnaring mechanism that perpetuates the mother’s subservience to her children and her husband.  Before and after World War II, in Margolis’ account, the strict and regimented childcare suggested by Watson and the behavioralists fell to the wayside in the favor of a hands-off approach called the “permissive” school of child rearing.  Foreshadowing Lauren Berlant’s (1997) critique of fetal rights and infantile citizenship as a means to disembody and regulate women, Margolis contends that what was permissive for the child was also obligating and domesticating for mothers.  In the new paradigm, Margolis (1984, p62-3) declares that the child was “to lead and the mother would follow,” the child was to have “free rein,” and the child was to be nurtured with an “emphasis on individuality and a tendency toward self-indulgence.”  Moreover, the child-care advice published in the 1940s and 50s did not speak to the growing number of non-married women, single mothers, working mothers, and many other women in unique circumstances.  This “disjunction” (Margolis, 1984, p65) grew throughout the second half of the century as the 1960s saw “more and more mothers of school age children holding jobs.”

In many ways the permissive school of mothering common during Priscilla Wright’s era was simply a confirmation of the place of the child at the center of the family.  Families that did not conform to this norm were not incorporated into the scope of Wright’s work and similar documents operating within the permissive child rearing perspective.  An additional problem inherent in relying on prescriptive histories bears itself out in the gap between the familial norm imagined by Priscilla Wright and historical challenges to the universal nature of that norm.  The problem can be mapped through the processes that would connect Wright’s excluded audience to the same group of people excluded by the creation of suburbia around policies promoting white privilege.  In other words, when Helen Leavitt (1970) writes her book attacking the Interstate Highway, Superhighway-Superhoax, she is talking to many of the people ignored by Wright three decades years earlier.  Wright’s work, regardless of her intent, ignored a number of women because they were not part of a middle class family “emboldened” by the power and luxury of the automobile and reliable highways.

Speaking to the flip side of Leavitt’s equation, Wright’s audience was primarily made up of white, middle class, married women who had not submitted to rising inflation or the growing demand for female labor outside of the home.  This group was largely the same demographic who would help to populate the suburbs over the remainder of the 20th Century.  On the other hand, the positioning of Wright’s book within the history of motherhood in the United States is not a form of criticism that would hinge on uncovering the voices neglected by any particular text.  Such interpretation (ideological criticism in Margolis’ frame) is a project distinct from, and subsumed by, this inquiry.  The impact of the mobile Mother, within machinic rhetoric, is that the map of subjectivity generated by the highway machine in the U.S. implicates a specific intersection between the woman driver and the motherhood of many predominantly white, married, middle and upper class women.

Transformations and transitions in subjectivity, of course, operate through arrangements that include imaginary projections such as an applied audience.  Competing audiences help to draw these specific arrangements, even though they are supplemental to the contexts provided by abstract diagrams (the highway machine) and concrete machines (Priscilla Wright’s automobile).  The imagined audience of a situated text is different from the “actual” reception of the text, a utopian notion of reception that should not distract criticism from diagramming the “second persona” in its contingency and context.  Questions concerning audiences can be worthwhile tracks.  Borrowing from Edwin Black (1970, p112), it is important to recognize “the possibility, and in some cases the probability, that the author implied by the discourse is an artificial creation: a persona, but not necessarily a person.”  This persona may not be embodied, according to Black (1970, p117), but s/he certainly represents a figure implied by the projection of a given discourse—a “model of what the rhetor” would generate as an identity for the audience at that moment.  Going slightly further, Philip Wander (1984) opens up the possibility and probability of an excluded audience and the need to speak for (or with) this marginalized “third persona.”[9]

An example of the second persona in Wright’s work is the mobile Mother and all that she entails for women, motherhood, and highway subjectivities.  In addition, Margolis marks the third persona (or at least one of them) in Wright’s book by accounting for a discrepancy between the mothers imagined by a given prescriptive history and the material factors constituting motherhood at the time.  Thus, the impact of this map is that the subject of the mobile Mother—as she emerges alongside the highway machine and within The Car Belongs to Mother—acts to challenge the assumption that the typical driver is always male as well as the assumption that women do not negotiate their subjectivity as drivers in complex and contradictory ways.  The impact of this map is also that the subject of the mobile Mother provides its challenge in ways that are partially defeating.  The mobile Mother is complicit in notions of motherhood that exclude many women as well as notions of motherhood that conflate the identity and expression of the mother with the well-being and development of her children.


4. Returning Home  


Donna Haraway adds a few dimensions to the subjectivity of mobile Motherhood, especially as transformations in the domestic economy and the meaning of motherhood flow forth from industrialism.  When we map the mother as a particular subject generated by the arrival of automobile transportation, one aim is to attach the domestic chauffeur to a dominant narrative perpetuated by heterosexism and patriarchal culture.  The way transportation emerges in this country helps to produce a constraining subjectivity in that the mother is subordinate to the family automobile and dehumanized as the vehicle’s insufficient caretaker.  Wright demonstrates, however, that the mobile Mother also expresses herself in a complex narrative of frustration and empowerment.  The re-telling of the mother’s schizophrenic negotiation (or doubling) of the automobile is another challenge to “perceptions of clear distinctions between subject and object” (Haraway, 1997, p267).  Haraway  (1997, p269) goes further by interrogating the misplaced distance between science and feminism:


“Attention to the agencies and knowledges crafted from the vantage point of nonstandard positions (positions that don’t fit but within which one must live), including the heterogeneous locations of women, and questions about for whom and for what the semiotic-material apparatuses of scientific knowledge production get built and sustained are at the heart of feminist science studies.  Interrogating critical silences, excavating the reasons questions cannot make headway and seem ridiculous, getting at the denied and disavowed in the heart of what seems neutral and rational: these notions are all fundamental to feminist approaches to technoscience.”


Continuing to borrow from Haraway (1997, p267), the interrogation of knowledge and what counts as meaning “depends, paradigmatically, on undoing the founding border trace of modern science–that between the technical and the political.”  The border between the technical and the political collapses in two ways through the abstract diagram of the driver and the concrete diagram of the mobile Mother.  First, the initial move connecting the automobile to the subject of the driver conflates the technical advance of motorized travel with the political element of individuality and freedom afforded by the possibility of driving.  Second, the duality of the mobile Mother draws a series of angles that are both political and technical: the extension of domesticity into specific public spheres through the operation of a vehicle, the intensification of motherhood brought on by the opportunities and limitations of the automobile, and the exclusion of certain groups of women from the question of how technology is deployed to promote or suppress feminism within the home.



Works Cited


Berlant, Lauren (1997).  The Queen of America Goes to Washington City.  Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press.

Biesecker, Barbara (1992).  “Coming to Terms with Recent Attempts to Write Women Into the History of Rhetoric,” Philosophy and Rhetoric 25.

Black, Edwin (1970).  “The Second Persona.”  The Quarterly Journal of Speech, 56.  pp108-119.

Bourque, Susan & Grossholtz, Jean (1984).  “Politics an Unnatural Practice: Political Science Looks at Female Participation.”  In eds. Siltanen & Stanworth. Women and the Public Sphere.  London: Hutchinson, pp103-121.

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz (1983).  More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave.  New York: Basic Books.

Dow, Bonnie J. (1992).  “Femininity and Feminism in Murphy Brown,” Southern Communication Journal 57, pp143-155.

Dow, Bonnie J. (1997). “Feminism, Cultural Studies, and Rhetorical Studies,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 83, pp90-131.

Dunbar, Seymour (1915). A History of Travel in America.  Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.

Evans, Sara M. (1989).  Born for Liberty: A History of Women in America.  New York: The Free Press.

Flink, James J. (1988).  The Automobile Age. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Gaonkar, Dilip P. (1990). “Object and Method in Rhetorical Criticism: From Wichelns to Leff and McGee.”  Western Journal of Speech Communication, 54.  Summer, pp290-316.

Greene, Ronald Walter (1998a). “Another Materialist Rhetoric,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 15, 21-41.

Griffin, Cindy (1993).  “Women as Communicators: Mary Daly’s Hagography as Rhetoric,” Communication Monographs 60, pp159-177.

Griffin, Cindy (1994).  “Rhetorizing Alienation: Mary Wollstonecraft and the Rhetorical Construction of Women’s Oppression,” Quarterly J. of Speech 80, pp293-312.

Haraway, Donna J. (1997).  Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan ã_Meets_OncoMouseä.  New York: Routledge Press.

Leavitt, Helen (1970).  Superhighway–Superhoax.  New York: Ballantine Books.

Margolis, Maxine L. (1984).  Mothers and Such: Views of American Women and Why They Changed.  Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

McShane, Clay (1997). The Automobile: A Chronology of Its Antecedents, Development, and Impact.  Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.

Morris, Meaghan (1993).  “Fear and the Family Sedan.” In ed. B. Massumi, The Politics of Everyday Fear.  Minneapolis, MN: U. Minnesota Press, pp285-306.

Pettifer, Julian & Turner, Nigel (1984).  Automania: Man and the Motor Car.  London: Collins.

Rose, Mark (1990).  Interstate: Express Highway Politics 1939-1989.  Knoxville: University of Tenn. Press.

Ryan, Mary P. (1975).  Womanhood in America: From Colonial Times to the Present.  New York: New Viewpoints.

Siltanen, Janet & Stanworth, Michelle (1984). “General Introduction.”  In eds. Siltanen & Stanworth. Women and the Public Sphere.  London: Hutchinson, pp11-16.

Wander, Philip (1984).  “The Third Persona.” Central States Speech Journal, 34. pp1-18.

Wright, Priscilla Hovey (1939). The Car Belongs to Mother.  Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.


[1] In Indiana, for instance, highway lobbies went so far as to ask the legislature to return $14 million in previous diversions (Rose, 1990, p32).


[2]  In 1905, Mrs. C.C. Fitler drove to victory in an auto race attended by 20,000 spectators in Cape May, New Jersey.  In 1909, women were temporarily banned from racing by the American Automobile Association when another women, Joen Newton Cuneo, beat Ralph Dapalma in a New Orleans road race.  Also in 1909, Maxwell-Briscoe sponsored the first cross-country road trip by a woman driver, using the phrase “even a woman can drive” for publicity.


[3]  Bonnie Dow (1992, p155) grapples with these traits and asserts that “rhetoric needs to critically engage feminist theory.”  Her engagement produces the argument that we should study communication about women, not merely women who communicate.  Dow has a point, but it is Biesecker who pushes the edge by expanding the critique to include humanism and Western subjectivity.  According to Biesecker (1992, p147), we must consider the excess of the centered subject.  This move makes the feminine style more significant as an action (what are the effects of the feminine?).  It is actions that resist, not actors.  Cindy Griffin (1994, p306) notes that “patriarchy functions as a constitutive rhetoric that creates subjects as objects.”


[4] Again, this is not to say that the woman driver always assumed the identity of the domestic chauffeur, nor that the domestic chauffer always adopted the identity of Priscilla Wright’s lead character.  For Wright’s driver, for example, an inner conscience makes itself heard in order to convey an authenticity or wholeness in the mother that might be absent from the generalized driver.


[5] Some of the comparisons between the individual and the automobile blur together even further when the bodies of each face injury.  When the new family car finally escapes the overbearing scrutiny of the husband, the mother is compelled to protect its pristine condition.  Her concern over the automobile’s body is more than personifying, it is animating.  She cautiously takes the new car out on her own, fearful of a “third-degree scratch” that may be noticed: “Women can often conceal or disguise first- or second-degree scratches, but they can do little or nothing with a third-degree would or an actual disfiguring injury” (Wright, 1939, p69).


[6] Haraway joins Shulamith Firestone and others in her defense of selectively produced and applied technologies.


[7]  Betty Friedan’s landmark book, The Feminine Mystique (1963), marked the continued acceptance of domesticity and submissive roles by many married women, and Friedan’s critique of this passivity became “the first contemporary statement of female discontent and the founding document of the (contemporary) women’s movement” (Margolis, 1984, p5).


[8]  Margolis is more than aware of the shortcomings in an approach relying on prescriptive histories.  She (1984, p8)  raises many of these “unanswerable” questions herself: “Who bought these manuals and magazines?  Were they actually read?  And, if they were read, how seriously was their advice taken?  Did such advice affect the way middle class women saw themselves?”


[9]  Citing Black and Wander here helps to explain some of the issues surrounding the groups included and excluded from Wright’s audience.  Gaonkar (1990, p302-3) critiques the effects of Black’s and Wander’s frameworks, noting that Black’s emphasis on the critic as a “discloser” separates the critic from criticism and relegates the critical voice to the past, “a doctrinally dead discourse.”  Repeating the voices of the past in a pre-constructed moral framework is also a problem for Wander and his form of ideological criticism that threatens to erase the role of the specific intellectual in favor of training and becoming agitators.  The bottom line here is that rhetoric operates partially through an intersection of competing texts that are productive of, and created by, particular audiences.



Transportation Infrastructure Continued (Fordism Part II)

Posted in camp, High School, lectures with tags , , , on April 20, 2012 by kevin kuswa

Hi all,

Some requests came through for the second part of the Fordism work, originally published on Shared Sacrifice in Feb. 2009.  This part of the essay starts to link questions of transportation to the history of fossil fuels, oil, globalization, and eventually connects back to how we express ourselves through rhetoric.  Hopefully this helps to add some additional layers to the high school resolution–Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its transportation infrastructure investment in the United States.   Transportation design is not simply about the state operating through an apparatus of capture on mobility, it is also about the core of circulation and what that means.  Here’s the essay followed by the footnotes and the citations.  Enjoy.

A Brief Genealogy of Fordism in Two Parts


Part Two: How the Flow and Constriction of Oil Stretch Into Globalization

Kevin Kuswa, 2009

America’s domestic energy situation–and the extent of U.S. dependence on imports–could be just as important, if not more important, in shaping the future political configurations in the Persian Gulf–and our future welfare–than direct security policies…The United States is, in effect, the Saudi Arabia of consumption.  It uses almost a third of all the oil consumed in the world every day.

Yergin, 1980, p16

On March 22, 1980, Harvard’s Center for International Affairs hosted a Symposium on the Dependence Dilemma as part of the International Energy Seminar.  Daniel Yergin, the Chairman of the Symposium, opened with a brief history of the energy crisis and an assessment of some of the consequences and possible solutions.  Yergin’s comments speak to the importance of oil, but more importantly to the flow of oil from producer states and the multinational oil companies to the consumers in the United States.  Yergin provides an opening for part two of this brief genealogy of Fordism, particularly through his explanation of the transportation sector in the United States and its dependence on oil.  In 1980, The United States consumed about one third of its oil in the form of gasoline and Yergin stresses that the consumption of gasoline in the U.S. exceeds the consumption of all petroleum-based products by any other single country.  Explained in another way: “One of every nine barrels of oil used in the world every day is burned as gasoline on American highways” (Yergin, 1980, p16).  Even assuming the desire to change, the transportation sector is heavily dependent on oil and gas relative to the rest of the economy and resistant to change.  Yergin’s (1980, p16) statement shores up the connection between American mobility and the flow of fuel: “The U.S. runs on gasoline; liquid fuels are the hub of the complex of issues known as the energy problem; yet transportation is also the consumption area where it is most difficult to substitute non-oil fuels.”

1. Capturing energy


In the first part of this paper, we left Fordism in the midst of a transformation, a crisis in the American industrial position relative to the nation-state and the global economy.  The process of “capture,” whereby a given institution or machinic arrangement attaches itself to the operations of a similar entity in a parasitic way, occurs through the trajectories of Fordism and the globalization of oil.  During the 1970s, the threats that oil represented, particularly in relation to American mobility, forced business interests and the government to take new forms and pursue new policies.  Partially a ramification of the surging highway, over-dependence on oil created new pressures on the economy and the state.  Again borrowing from Yergin (1980, p25), it had become obvious that the mobility afforded by the highway machine was increasingly reliant on oil from outside the United States: “We are a society that depends on a high degree of mobility.  Our over-dependence on an international energy system that is crisis-prone and accident-prone could create a crisis of mobility in this country in the 1980s.  Our over-dependence itself is a profound pressure on that system and, indeed, constitutes a threat to American security.”   The context of this crisis in mobility warrants elaboration.  Yergin links the highway to the motions of energy, but how did the events of 1973 intersect the operations of Fordism and transportation?  In a word, the condition of dependency linked the highway as a means of circulation to the constriction of access to inexpensive fuel.[1] (1)  The tightening oil market was tied to the rapidly expanding consumption of the U.S. transportation sector, but the movements were multidirectional: changes in energy policies and prices led to the retrenchment and containment of the highway machine as well.  Despite signs of retrenchment, however, the very size and daily operation of the interstate system ensured a constant need for millions and millions of barrels of oil.  All told, these competing motions in relation to the events of 1973 marked a final phase in the maturation of Fordism in this country.

The topic of dependency signaled two related motions: retrenchment and saturation.  Retrenchment began early in the 70s as the maintenance of the machine took priority over extension and new construction.  Particularly for the interstate, very few new miles were added after 1956 and most of the originally planned mileage was constructed by 1973.  As the highway consolidated and retrenched, Fordism was also reaching an impasse and a crisis of agency.  The motion of economic expansion and market saturation associated with oil and gas consumption hit a roadblock on October 17, 1973 when six Gulf oil states announced an increase in oil prices and a reduction in production.  Led by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, six members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) instituted an embargo on oil exports to the United States.  Speaking of the October 17th embargo, Benjamin Shwadran (1974, p79) noted at the time that “the producing countries have become dominant and powerful over the companies.”

If the link had not been established by 1973, politics and economics were intertwined together at that point through motions of stability and security surrounding oil.  Dramatic fluctuations in the oil market translated into dramatic upheavals and conflict between states and cultures.  The on-going conflict between Israel and the Arab states in the region has been well-documented, a conflict that intensified in 1973 and helped to precipitate the oil crisis.  The geopolitical importance of the region did not emerge exclusively out of religious struggles for territory and recognition, but much of the region’s fragility can be attributed to cultural tensions between groups of people such as those between “the original communities of mandated Palestine—the Arabs and the Jews” (El-Ayouty, 1974, p78).  Cultural discord occurs on many planes, not least of which is territory itself and the resources that can be extracted from it.  Moreover, land becomes more valuable when it is scarce, as does the oil beneath the land (Manoharan, 1974; Chomsky, 1993, p59).

The huge quantity of available oil in the Gulf combined with the voracious energy demands of the U.S. and other industrialized countries to heighten the need for stability.  The desire for a certain form of stability, regardless of the intent, did not ensure its presence–it may have even contributed to more tension and a more precarious situation as the region became more and more militarized.  The importance of oil in the Gulf established a link between domestic energy practices in the United States and the state-sponsored push for political, military and economic security abroad.  Oil and its finite nature created and magnified a crisis in the smooth operation of global markets, industrial manufacturing, and the expectations of many consumers.  Russell Stone (1977, p.xiv) commented on the severe price hikes of the fall of 1973: “The ensuing worldwide fuel shortage, regardless of price, lasted approximately five months.  Its memory and impact will last much longer throughout the world.”  The memory of the crisis notwithstanding, that five month period designated a transformation in a series of axes: capitalism, modernity, the state, Fordism, and the highway machine.  The Cold War had firmly implemented its logics of global security, a global relationship that easily transferred itself and took on new dimensions through the struggles over oil and land in the “Middle East.”[2] (2)

The energy crisis and its global ramifications, in part, centered on the region called the Middle East and the formation of OPEC.  Even though OPEC is often blamed for the events of 1973, OPEC’s existence may have actually delayed the political conditions necessary for an effective embargo and price hike.  OPEC itself was founded in 1960, but the contemplation of an organized pricing strategy may have begun earlier.  In 1952, the Arab League Political Committee “discussed petroleum as a weapon in the struggle with Israel” (Peretz, 1977, p21).[3](3)  The deployment of the “oil weapon” did not materialize until months after the Six-Day war of 1967 when, in January of 1968, a group of oil-producing countries in the Gulf decided to suppress oil sales to artificially raise the price.  Following the Six-Day war between Israel and a number of Arab states in the region, the “Arab petroleum ministers” decided to form “a unique Arab organization distinct from OPEC to develop their collective international political power” (Peretz, 1977, p21).  During the months immediately following the Six-Day war, the new sub-organization of OPEC refrained from instituting an oil embargo, choosing instead to collect short-term revenues for rebuilding efforts.  The need for short-term revenue was satisfied quickly, for this new oil alliance, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), initiated the use of oil resources for political purposes in January of 1968.

Dr. Don Peretz, Professor of Political Science at SUNY-Binghamton, claims that the “political use of Arab oil” in 1968 was ineffective and may have contributed to lower revenues for the states involved.  The membership of OAPEC was not large enough at the time—missing “radical” nations such as Iraq, Syria, and Egypt until 1972—and the move was primarily an economic ploy by the conservative regimes governing Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Libya to use anti-Israel sentiment in the aftermath of the Six Day war as an opportunity to increase the market value of oil.  The action in 1968 was not comprehensive enough to prevent consumers from locating alternative oil supplies in the United States, Venezuela, and Iran.  The Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ahmed Zaki Yamani stated later that year that the oil embargo “hurt the Arabs themselves more than anyone else, and the only ones to gain any benefit from it were the non-Arab producers” (Mikdashi, 1972, p85).  The Oil Minister’s comments pointed to a series of opposing interests that had converged in the oil arena: the pro-Arab vs. pro-Israel forces, the oil producers vs. the oil consumers, the Arab oil states vs. the non-Arab oil states, and the radical vs. the conservative oil regimes.  The ideological struggles for influence and resources are far from exhaustive in a diagram of the circulation of oil.

The circulation of oil and products had fully merged with the circulation of militarism and political influence, in no small part due to the consumptive tendencies set in motion by the growing highway infrastructure.  Reinforcing the breakdown of previously distinct arenas, Manoharan (1974, p83) noted that, “Oil itself is forged as a weapon to further political ends,” and The Economist (July 7, 1973) reported that the first concept to grasp about “the oil business is that it is more a political than an economic activity.”  Immediately preceding OPEC’s Oct. 17 announcement that an oil embargo had gone into effect, a few events took place which furthered the interplay between state-sponsored security and the energy market.  On October 6, 1973, as Israel prepared for Yom Kippur, President Sadat sent the Egyptian army across the Suez Canal and Syria attacked the Golan Heights in an attempt to win back land taken by Israel in the 1967 war.  Following Egypt’s raid on oil wells in the Sinai Peninsula and Israel’s attack on a Syrian oil refinery, Nixon contacted Brezhnev, the Soviet leader, to discuss the threat of war in the region (Manoharan, 1974, p76).  The United States and the Soviet Union attempted to broker peace through the United Nations, but their efforts were shallow and short-lived.  A cease-fire in one region precipitated the escalation of conflict in another.  By October 13th that year, Israel had surrendered to Egypt on the Sinai but the fighting between Israel and Syria over the Golan had re-ignited.  Meanwhile, Nixon began to lobby Congress for additional military aid to Israel.  The day after Nixon’s request, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria suspended all oil exports to the U.S. and many other nations soon followed suit.

Even before OPEC’s announcement, Iraq deployed oil as a weapon by nationalizing Exxon and Mobil on October 7th, not to mention cutting off pipelines to the Mediterranean and reducing the flow of oil by over one million barrels a day.  According to Manoharan (1974, p86), Kuwait, Qatar and several other countries followed the lead of Iraq and Saudi Arabia by cutting production by 10 percent.  Within a few months the overall flow of oil from the Gulf region was reduced by almost 15 percent.  On October 16th, foreshadowing OPEC’s announcement the following day, the posted price of oil from the Gulf went up 70 percent.  As these moves continued to constrict the supply of oil, the full impact reached the United States in the form of higher fuel prices, long gas lines, and rapid inflation across the economy.  The Petroleum Economist (January, 1974, p143) commented that, “Consumers of oil must certainly accept the fact that OPEC has now evolved into what is probably the toughest cartel the world has ever known” and that this cartel has “the power to restrict supplies and hold the consumer to ransom.”

To emphasize his claim that the U.S. had become hostage to “foreign oil,” Yergin offers a laundry-list of potential threats including drop-offs in domestic production, supply interruption, political alliances hostile to the United States, regime changes, and even Soviet collusion.  In sum, Yergin (1980, p18) proclaims: “This over-dependence puts the United States into a position where it could be drawn into the vortex of a crisis with little choice or little maneuverability.”  The vortex requires mapping, though, for the flow of oil involves many diverse channels.  To begin, who is being referred to when Yergin or someone like him talks about the “United States,” the American consumer,” or “our interests and security”?  What are these monolithic interests?  Is oil really a question of “us” vs. “them”?  Fordism takes on nationalistic tendencies in many ways during the second half of the century, not least of which was the dominance of the source of fuel over the highway infrastructure itself.

Milton Moskowitz, founder of Business & Society in 1968, asks the same questions in a short article published a few months after the October oil embargo.  Moskowitz claims to “have trouble these days with the pronoun ‘we’” in the context of the energy crisis.  Moskowitz’s (1974, p14) read on the depictions of the energy crisis at the time is that the “Arabs are clearly not part of ‘we’” because the crisis itself was “apparently touched off by the Arab world’s decision to play politics with the oil in the ground.”  And, in opposition to these Arabs, Moskowitz (1974, p140 senses a collective “we” on the other side of the crisis that includes “virtually everyone else—President Nixon, the home owner that heats with oil, Exxon, anyone who drives a car, British Petroleum, the ordinary investor, Texaco, the airlines….”  Moskowitz makes the point that the common interests contained in “we” are actually diverse and complex, made up of Texas drillers, domestic consumers, industrial producers, oil lobbyists, and so forth.  As Moskowitz (1974, p15) cynically remarks: “The energy crisis has affected a miraculous transformation….The oil industry program has become ‘our’ program.  What they want, ‘we’ must obviously want.  ‘We’ are all in the same boat, right?”

Taking Moskowitz’s critique of the all-purpose “we” into account, he helps to show how these exchanges are often personified, as are the interests of the corporations and the governments.  The Seven Sisters are but one example, the name given to the seven largest multinational oil companies.  Five of the companies started in the United States—Exxon, Texaco, Mobil, Gulf, and Standard Oil—and the other two from Europe—British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell.  All seven share sisterhood, though, because of their monopolistic control over the exploration, extraction, transportation, refining, and distribution of most of the world’s known oil reserves.  As multinational companies, their operations have diverged from the political interests of any individual government or set of consumers.  The personification of multinational corporations like the Seven Sisters leads back to the question concerning agency and interests.  Should individual consumers of oil, even American consumers, be considered a single entity?  What are the effects of dividing producer states into those who support the West and those who do not?  Does America have one set of interests in the energy crisis?

If certain companies have interests that are at odds with the governments they operate within, it becomes doubly important to scrutinize any representation of the energy crisis as an “us vs. them” scenario or a bipolar contest between those with oil and those who wish to purchase the oil.  Yergin relies on an oppositional frame, for instance, constituting “us” as a unified collection of reasonable Americans trying to maintain security for our energy needs.  Yergin reminded “us” that the two oil shocks that took place between 1973 and 1980 may have shattered our sense of invulnerability, but “we have hardly begun to take those steps that are so manifestly in our own interest, and indeed required in the name of elemental self-preservation” (Yergin, 1980, p25) such as pursuing conservation practices on a national level.  Representative Les Aspin (1974, p210), a democrat from Wisconsin, also depicted the crisis in such a bipolar way: “In the final analysis, Congress and the American people are left with only one choice if we are to solve the energy crisis: the excessive political power of the companies must be brought under control.”  Who does “we” refer to in Aspin’s remark?  What does the imaginary of this “we” do to frame the energy crisis in a certain way?  Indeed, who is having the oil crisis?  Who is hosting it?  And, most importantly, what are the effects of its deployment and exploitation?

2. Fordism and the State 


An important moment that becomes more pronounced during the events of 1973 involves the transformation from Fordism to globalization.  Because Fordism remained an industrial arrangement tied to the automobile as the basis for mass production, it reached an end-point (or transitional moment) as the post World War II military complex and federal control of highway funding combined to capture certain economic and military logics for the state.  Certainly a number of components of Fordism infiltrated other industries and managed to find a niche for themselves alongside the apparatus of the state.  The corporate quest for growing markets and a new manufacturing structure also intensified as labor and the production process became more integrated.  Many contradictory motions pushed corporate entities in diffuse and uncertain directions—a capitalism contingent on political maneuvering, state diplomacy, and a constantly shifting set of market parameters.  The Cold War and its ensuing global chess game for influence also fueled the expansion of the state and the reach of government institutions, whether those institutions exerted themselves in the name of democracy or communism.

By 1973, corporations are experiencing distinct transformations: they are breaking away from the state by creating new profit structures and diversifying across borders to take advantage of abundant labor and tax incentives wherever they may be located, and they are incorporating themselves into the state or subordinating their operations to the regulations and policies imposed by the state.  Barlett and Steele lay out both of these transformations in succinct fashion.  They talk about the expansion of the corporate scope by reducing the United States to one of the objects of the large energy conglomerates: “In this period, the United States became merely another customer of the American multinational oil companies which supply most of the free world’s oil” (Barlett & Steele, 1974, p332).  Barlett and Steele (1974, p333) also talk about the state’s use of the energy crisis to further political aims and attach themselves to business lobbies: “The Administration has consistently overdramatized the extent of the shortage and helped create much of the panic seen today at the gas pump.”  It was ultimately the war and the oil embargo of 1973 that catapulted both of these capturing motions to the forefront.  Once again, the motions of Fordism helped to generate a multi-dimensional effect.

The oil effects of the highway machine were analogous to the duality of the freedom of driving and the immobility (including mortality) of the car crash.  The crash on the oil front, however, was global and all-encompassing.  With vehicles and their passengers, the repetition and seriality of the car crash are its biggest threat—the inevitability of a certain percentage of accidents occurring on the highway each and every day.  With the oil crash, on the other hand, the regularity of price and supply shocks was not as significant as the sudden rupture in October of 1973.  As landmines are to an atomic bomb, so is the car crash to the oil crisis.  All four are crippling and destructive, but landmines and car accidents are insidious and relentless while atomic bombs and large oil shocks are quick and total.  The speed and scope of the energy crisis forced swift responses from the state and corporations.  Having captured militarism in the name of nationalism (and atomic weaponry), the state deployed its military to protect its security.  Having captured the state in the name of economic growth, corporate interests capitalized on the crisis by dodging taxation schemes and passing on higher prices to addicted consumers.

Clay Steinman and Robert Entman add contours to corporate lines of flight that have attached themselves to the flow of oil.  Steinman and Entman, political science scholars, published a short article in the January 26, 1974 edition of The Nation that outlines the oil hegemony of the multinational corporations entitled “The Sovereign State of Oil.”  Referencing the advent of joint ventures throughout the 1960s and 70s, Steinman and Entman (1974, p111) contend that joint ventures have allowed interlocking directorates, exchanges of information, production planning, “and perhaps a general forum in which a climate of unanimity with respect to such problems as scarcity, prices, political associations and other pertinent affairs can be developed.”  Calling these monolithic oil companies the “energy conglomerates,” Steinman and Entman (1974, p111), “have awesome power, whether it be the power to create shortages for their own private ends or the power to alleviate them through their own private efforts.”  A certain move foreshadowed and permitted the hegemony of the energy conglomerates: curtailing domestic refining efforts and aligning themselves with political interests and institutions responsible for energy policy.

The slowing down of domestic refining and the expansion of refining efforts outside the United States contributed to the dominance of the energy conglomerates as a whole.  American companies had already become multinational, allowing shifts to take place in response to U.S. regulations and trade policies.  Steinman and Entman (1974, p112) cite this flexibility as a source of power and resilience for the energy conglomerates: “The crisscross concentration of cooperative power in the oil industry seems undeniable.”  The point here, and the necessity of tracing this articulation of the sovereignty of oil, is that the motion of capture is never uni-directional.  The two poles of public and private (or statist and corporate) constantly work together.  The circulation that has arisen through the energy crisis revolves around the interactions between a regulatory government wielding a military for enforcement and the capital concentration inherent in the large oil companies.  From one angle, that presented by Steinman and Entman (1974, p114), the need for secure energy supplies (to fuel the highway machine, the economy, and the military in the United States) made Congress a mere foot soldier in the service of the oil companies:



“Thus the independent power that seems to have accrued in America to capital concentration and technological expertise may have rendered independent, regulatory government a civics-book illusion.  Congress holds hearings, but otherwise it seems ineffectual in the energy arena.  The Administration is closely allied with oil interests, and no previous administration could accurately be called anti-oil.  Judicial remedies seem unlikely.”

This motion encouraged the movement of refining operations outside of the United States to circumvent the embargo.  From the opposite angle, political pressures were responsible for state actions that defied and contained the free reign of the oil companies.

Positioning and posturing between Israel, the United States, the Soviet Union, the Palestinians, and the Arab countries adjacent to Israel put new spins on the circulation of oil.  The Palestinian quest for legitimacy gave the United States the opportunity to both express support for Israel and to broker negotiations between the two sides.  And, by 1974, the United States started to “mobilize all its resources to find alternatives to Middle East oil” (Shwadran, 1974, p81).  It took time to develop viable alternatives, but the United States purchased oil from many sources as well as having access to fairly large domestic wells.  The U.S. government aligned with corporate forces in the energy arena in a more concerted attempt to find new sources of oil as well as encouraging the expansion of coal-based generation for electricity and providing minor subsidies for energy sources other than fossil fuels (solar, geothermal).

From 1956 to 1973, the highway and Fordism rolled along while the government focused on construction of state-of-the-art roads at the expense of a flexible energy sector.  Even though the energy crisis had been forecast for years (Shwadran, 1974, p81), no directed state action was taken: “The United States government was perhaps lulled into inaction and false security by the international oil companies and by its own ideological unwillingness to interfere with private enterprise.”  Soon after 1973, Nixon tapped the Highway Trust Fund for mass transit and conservation became a national goal, exemplified by the speed limit reduction and the removal of daylight savings.  The events of 1956 and 1973 are merely guideposts, for the practice of genealogy does not obsess over origins and conclusions as much as it brings together certain events and arrangements.  As Foucault (1984, p81) writes, “Genealogy does not resemble the evolution of a species and does not map the destiny of a people.”[4] (4)

3. From Fordism to globalization

Henry Ford’s purposes, desires and hopes relied on a new industrialized city that would bring workers to the factories and prime the economy for individual ownership of automobiles.  In 1908, the Model T had to cater to the demands of a rural population, but Ford secretly “looked forward to the demise of the family farm” (Flink, 1988, p114) and the fundamental principles of Fordism depended on a steady demand from the largest sector of the American population: the lower and middle classes in urban areas.  An ever-expanding assembly-line that emphasized uniformity and affordable production needed a broad-based market of consumers with disposable income.  In many ways, the circle completes itself as it struggles through energy supply to land back in the US, but with global tendencies—an ever-expanding structure of Empire.  The year 1973 marked the first major oil shock, the completion of over 80 percent of the Interstate (and the initiation of 16 percent more, leaving only a few hundred miles to be completed in the 1980s and 90s), the imposition of a 55-mph speed limit across the nation’s expressways, and the first diversion of funds from the Highway Trust Fund into intra-urban transit by Richard Nixon on August 13th (Flink, 1988, p372).  Nevertheless, Fordist market expansion carried with it new and intricate connections to the state: “Unlimited accommodation to mass personal automobility ended as government came to recognize automotive safety, pollution, and energy consumption as major social problems and consequently to regulate the automobile industry and to invest in mass transit” Flink (1988, p408).

U.S. dependence on oil combined with U.S. aid to Israel in the Yom Kippur War to encourage many of the Persian Gulf states to restrict and even prohibit the flow of oil to the U.S. (McShane, 1997, p136).  The 1970s and 80s balanced concerns over energy security and automobile safety with new machinic arrangements stretching into the 90s and beyond.[5] (5) Oil and gas became crucial commodities to the stability of global capitalism, fed by both the demand for more and more fossil fuels in the U.S. and the willingness of the American military machine to defend the corridors and pipelines of the market’s precious “black gold.”   The key transformation from Fordism to globalization is global production and consumption.

In addition to connecting the transportation sector in the United States to the inelasticity of the global oil market, Yergin also attaches the security of the U.S. and its foreign policy as a whole to over-dependence on imported oil.  Once more we borrow from Yergin (1980, p15) and an argument enmeshed in the knowledge formation between energy security and international relations:

“The United States finds itself increasingly challenged in the world today.  Its foreign policy is constrained, its influence and security position eroding, its economy vulnerable, its alliance relations under pressure.  Among the important reasons–perhaps even the most important–is the over-dependence on insecure imported oil.  The reverberations of this over-dependence are directly felt in American foreign policy and throughout the economic and political system.  Thus, there is a fundamental relation between America’s problems in the world, and how 140 million vehicles are used on the nation’s roads and highways.”

The turn that occurs here, and one that penetrates the subjects, places, and motions of the highway during this period, is conservation.  Cars become smaller and more fuel efficient as alternative modes of transportation become more attractive.  From Yergin’s quotation and the explicit link between the operation of cars in the United States and a global regime of security designed to protect the flow of oil, the issue of globalization attaches itself to circulation.  The circulation of energy resources, particularly the global nature of the oil market, resulted in an association between capitalism and the modernization of a global economy.  It is important to note that we have two notions of globalization at work here: the globalization of rhetoric and the globalization of capital and state-protected markets.  Although not intended by either use of the term, the two relate to one another in some interesting ways.

One sense of globalization refers to the expansion of rhetoric’s scope or object of analysis to a global or universal level.  Appearing as the counterpart to the trap of representation where rhetoric is limited to a descriptive or peripheral role in relation to a pre-conceived ideology, reality, or similar non-rhetorical structure; globalization marks rhetoric as all-encompassing and beyond explanatory or analytical value.  Positioned opposite to the quandary of representation and the dependence of rhetoric on that which it represents, the globalization of rhetoric gives such range to itself that it cannot account for its outside or the elements that might be external to a regime of signs.  In other words, the globalization turn accounts for the circulation of rhetoric in such a way that it becomes difficult to talk about elements that may produce specific manifestations of rhetoric or the effects of a given instance of rhetoric without simultaneously theorizing those elements and those effects as themselves examples of rhetoric.  Because rhetoric explains circulation and everything is circulating, it is argued, the analytical grip of rhetoric can assert itself regardless of the uniqueness of the machine or the object in question.

Gaonkar talks about the globalization of rhetoric in terms of the slow dissolution of the object of rhetorical criticism.  This occurs when all objects are distanced from the act of criticism in the same way, making the object peripheral to the process of interpretation and devaluing the distinct “performative dimensions” that circulate in tandem with the “materiality or everydayness of practical discourse” (Gaonkar, 1990, p308).  Despite various attempts to recover or rescue the object by returning to a “close” or “disciplined” reading of a given text, the tendency toward globalization in rhetoric has been sweeping.  Few theorists take on expansive objects, and even fewer theories will chart the specific ways that an object, machine, or even text moves in rhetorical and non-rhetorical ways.  For Gaonkar (1990, p308), the danger of such globalization is that the object will disintegrate into fragments, leaving only the hegemonic practices of interpretation: “The dissolution continues…as the object is globalized into a message fragment.”

In addition, the effects and residual products of the machine circulate through its regime of signs, but may not always manifest as subjectivities and may not be rooted exclusively in discursive formations.  A preference for specificity, once again, draws attention to the role of circulation in the debate over rhetoric’s globalization.  To avoid the use of circulation as a mechanism for the globalization of rhetoric, the movement of a given regime of signs should be mapped as circulating as well as penetrating.  Penetration expresses that motion is not always freely circulating and that the unwanted extension of markets may be distinct from an organic model of a circulatory system.  The channeling of capitalism may be relatively smooth and organic, yet its effects are wounding and insidiously penetrating: “A focus on circulation shows us the movement of people, things, ideas, or institutions, but it does not show us how this movement depends on defining tracks and grounds or scales and units of agency” (Tsing, 2000, p337).  The notion of exchange, central to communication as well as capitalism, links the process of circulation to the condition of globalization.  Tempering both circulation and globalization (and offering a solution to the globalization of rhetoric’s domain of objects) must be the association of constraint and limitation with circulation as well as the association of segregation and corporate oppression with globalization.

Arguing that the term comes to mean many things, Tsing (2000, p331) states: “globalization came to mean an endorsement of international free trade and the outlawing of protected or public domestic economies.”  As a conduit for globalization, then, Fordism expanded through the promise of unrestricted mobility and free access, paving over local “highway markets” and toll-ways in favor of a national (global) machine.  Anna Tsing talks about globalization in terms of planetary interconnections, linkages that can further exploitation and inequality as well as linkages that can open up possibilities of globalist wishes and fantasies.  For Tsing (2000, p331), the process of invoking the global turn “is to call attention to the speed and density of interconnections among people and places.”  For example, it is important to note how people and places were shaped and influenced by the aftermath of Fordism as a manufacturing process that united with a specific form of social organization programmed by the state and the state’s military needs.  It is also crucial to mark the flow of energy resources as a corollary to the flow of goods and services led by American consumers and the highway machine—a process in place across the world by the end of the 1970s.

Circulation itself must share the stage with temporality and spatiality.[6] (6) McKenzie Wark helps to tie together the motions of globalization by defining our terrain as the “place where we sleep, work, or hang-out” (1994, p1).  Similar to Morse’s (1990) idea of distraction and “distractedness” as an ontology for everyday life, Wark traces various forms of circulation in the directed movement of people, places, ideas, institutions, and forces.  The drive-ins, quickie marts, truck-stops, and other roadside hang-outs are only one plane of the terrain.  Those places are now being forced to share terrain with the flow and timing of images:

“We live every day in another terrain, equally familiar: the terrain created by the television, the telephone, the telecommunications networks crisscrossing the globe…This virtual geography is no more or less ‘real.”  It is a different kind of perception, of things not bounded by rules of proximity, of “being there.” (Wark, 1994, p1)”

First, the separation is only partial, for any light of flight (site of virtual experience) must be grounded or located.  Second, the virtual is limited by access and the restriction of particular flows (energy, transport, etc.).  As with Fordism and the highway machine, the motion of freely circulating people or products is always mediating by competing motions of state security and economic exchange.

Providing a transition, the motion of circulation creates interconnections and “interconnection is everything in the new globalisms” (Tsing, 2000, p336).  Rhetoric assists in the meeting points on either end of circulation, in both coercive and liberating ways.  Thus, we can map the ways that globalization itself enters modes of circulation.  The motions of globalization, for Tsing (2000, p336), are rhetorical because “global rhetoric” relies on circulation in the same way capitalism relies on penetration: “the way powerful institutions and ideas spread geographically and come to have an influence in distant places.”  This means that Fordism can uniquely point to the boundaries of rhetoric’s circulation by diagramming the object of a flow as well as the social conditions “that allow or encourage that flow” (Tsing, 2000, p337).  Certainly by linking globalization and circulation, we can add the angle of penetration, not to mention the critique of “the use of the rhetoric of circulation as a ruling image for global interconnections” (Tsing, 2000, p337).  If we do want to trace Fordism to the globalization of rhetoric and the globalization of capital, the arresting and releasing sides of circulation fashion a middle-ground that must be negotiated.  Movement and the energy required to fulfill that movement are both irresistible magnets for the apparati of state control and capital expansion, both linked to each other through this brief genealogy of Fordism through globalization.

[1] (1) Dependency, in this context, references the extreme reliance on external sources for oil, effectively making the U.S. dependent on other nations for energy resources.  The other trajectory of dependency, making it a multi-faceted trope, is the reliance of “lesser developed” or developing countries on the industrialized or developed countries for capital, equipment, and many consumer goods.  These relations of dependency between the “West and Arab oil-producing countries” allowed the industrialized states “to have control over the nature of the dependent countries’ policies, to the extent that the dependent country cannot regulate its political actors or develop legitimate political institutions capable of making independent domestic and international policies” (Raoof, 1977, p212).

[2]   (2) The narrative of struggle and colonialism is not endemic to oil.  The phrase “middle east” designates a Western cartography of imperialism that must be associated with the history of the region.  American naval officer and historian Alfred Thayer Mahan adopted the phrase “Middle East” in 1902 to designate the territory between Arabia and India (B. Lewis, 1966, p9).  Fromkin (1989, p18) contends that the wartime negotiations conducted during 1922 were the origins of “frontier drawing” in the Middle East.  This cluster of events includes the Allenby Declaration defining limited independence for Egypt, the Churchill White Paper laying the groundwork for Israel and Jordan, the British treaties establishing the status of Iraq, the French Mandate for Lebanon and Syria, and Russian rule over Moslem Central Asia.

Labeling these struggles for control “the Great Game,” Fromkin (1989, p16) conceives of the Middle East as “the entire arena in which Britain, from the Napoleonic Wars onward, fought to shield the road to India from the onslaughts” of other colonial powers.  During the period of parcelization, when European states found it necessary to re-draw the borders of the region, Sir Mark Sykes, a self-proclaimed expert on the “Problem of the Near East,” spent a good deal of time “making public speeches in which he gave currency to the new descriptive phrase, ‘the Middle East’” (Fromkin, 1989, p224).  In sum, one of Fromkin’s subtitles, “The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East,” details the history of European colonialism surrounding the so-called Middle East and the ways many of those territories were shaped by Britain, France, and Russia in competition for influence.

[3] (3) Another restriction on petroleum took place as a result of the 1956 Suez war when Great Britain and France suffered severe hardship.  The shut-off of petroleum was not a deliberate embargo by particular Arab countries as much as it was a consequence resulting from the damage done to the Suez canal during the course of the conflict.

[4] (4) “Ideal significations and indefinite teleologies” are the tools of the nation-state–companions of an obsessive search for origins that loses value as a critique.  As part of a critical reading of Nietzsche’s discussion of origin (Ursprung), Foucault (1984, p81) urges a rethinking of the linear model of history:

“From the vantage point of an absolute distance, free from the restraints of positive knowledge, the origin makes possible a field of knowledge whose function is to recover it, but always in a false recognition due to the excesses of its own speech.  The origin lies at a place of inevitable loss, the point where the truth of things corresponded to a truthful discourse, the site of a fleeting articulation that discourse has obscured and finally lost.”

[5] (5) Meanwhile, commuters and suburbanites moved further into the flows of globalization and the instantaneous circulation of data while populating edge cities, gated communities, and gentrified urban condominiums.

[6] (6) A number of authors align with Virilio in his distinction between spatial and temporal discourses (E. Hall, 1982; Castells, 1991; Wark, 1994; Soja, 1996).

Consider Attending this Unique Camp: xylum debate institute

Posted in camp, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2012 by Scott Odekirk

Their Staff already looks awesome and it looks as if I may be participating as well. I will most likely have a podcast later about this but for now, everybody should be aware that they are taking applications. Here is the link.

xylum debate institute

Transportation Infrastructure

Posted in camp, High School, topic with tags , , , , , on April 6, 2012 by kevin kuswa

More on the high school topic to follow, an interesting choice given the space exploration topic because exploring and developing could be seen as increasing investment in transportation infrastructure, particularly with a broad interpretation of “in the United States” as “initiated in the U.S.”

Here is the wording and the brief overview provided by the NFL:

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its transportation infrastructure investment in the United States
Over the last ten years, there have been a series of significant transportation infrastructure failures indicating the nation’s once world-class infrastructure is falling apart and other nation’s are pulling ahead of the United States. Transportation infrastructure policy featured prominently in President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address and is likely to be a main component of his re-election campaign. This topic offers debaters a rare opportunity to consider how government and policy affect the physical structures of daily life; at the same time as the public at-large considers these investments. The national policy debate topic has only discussed transportation policy once, in 1939-40, and the national topic has never considered “infrastructure.” Proponents of increasing investment in transportation infrastructure argue there is a substantial need to invest in transportation infrastructure and that infrastructure is central to a modern economy, the United States’ leadership position in the world, the security of our nation and a high quality of life. Opponents argue that government spending in this area is unnecessary and further complicates fiscal policy. Examples of affirmative cases include direct investment in high-speed rail, highways, bridges, airports and seaports. Other affirmatives might propose new federal structures to finance transportation infrastructure projects. Negative positions could focus on the economic consequences of additional spending, the effectiveness of various transportation solutions, the political implications of infrastructure investment and critiques of economic development.

…This is a helpful overview, to be sure, laying out the main controversy and justifying debate in this area.  The main issue for the affirmative will be finding the resources to substantially increase investment and the main issue for the negative will challenging the large impact claims made by most affirmatives.  A few angles/approaches to keep in mind at the outset involve scope, reach, and history.  The scope of the topic will involve definitions of transportation and infrastructure and how narrow or broad that phrase becomes–everything from “only the material/physical condition of roads, bridges and runways” to “all aspects of human movement.”  The latter implicates areas such as the mobility of particular groups, real time data exchange, military readiness, the internet, circulation of goods and services, and mass communication.  The reach of the topic will center on infrastructure–will we limit debates to the blueprints or expand our discussion to include future possibilities (oceans, space, other scientific explorations)?  And, perhaps, most telling, where have humans been and where are they going?  Do we maintain or can we build?  How have we “progressed” from human power, to animal power, to steam power, to fossil fuels, and now beyond?  Should this include urban planning or is it about travel–the movement to and through our current conception of the City? The long-term history of transportation, not just in the U.S. (destiny, expansion, colonization), but throughout time will shed light (pave the way) toward a more complete view of the topic.  One example–just a sliver of the iceberg, is here:  Transportation means progress and life, but also clash, accidents, and destruction.  Infrastructure needs propping up, but to what ends?  A quick little story to ask more of these questions can be found here:  Be creative with this topic because transportation is nothing if not the imagination of change and the human capacity for expanding circulation.  Ambulate your arguments! Enjoy and frequent puttingthekindebate for further updates.

Like our content? Check out for Content on the High School Space Topic

Posted in camp, Podcasts with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2011 by Scott Odekirk

I am hosting another debate site for the Gonzaga Debate Institute this summer,, that should have some great content on it. Tonight I posted a podcast that featured deb(k)ate author Izak Dunn. Those of you interested in running Ks on the High School Space Topic should probably check it out.

Podcast: Izak Dunn (USS Reliant) on the GDI 


Kritiking Space Exploration and Development

Posted in 2011-2012 High School Space Topic, camp, High School, topic with tags , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2011 by kevin kuswa


Dr. Kevin D. Kuswa*

(2011-2012) Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its exploration and/or development of space beyond the Earth’s mesosphere.

            As many of you know, a topic very similar to this one has been debated on the high school level in the past.  Full of debates about resource wars, the overpopulation crisis and possible solutions, mapping asteroids, the intent and existence of various clans of extra-terrestrials, and weapons snatched from the plots of science fiction novels, the clashes were evenly matched and quite interesting.  This year’s topic adds the idea of “development,” arguably the step taken after exploration and a more explicit gesture to the free market’s inevitable influence in space (privatization CP, anyone? Just collect cards that say the USFG crowds out investment in space to answer the permutation).  “Development of space” is conceivably dependent on exploration, such that the topic is divided between “first-stage discovery” and “second-stage use” where the objective is more sustained and regulated.  The unfortunate construction of “and/or” will probably hinder some of these rich sequencing debates, but they will also reinforce each other (exploration leads to more development and vice-versa) so that being well prepared on one means being well-prepared on both.  Another interesting series of questions concerns what activities related to space are NOT exploration or development, how do these endeavors (education about space, for example), trade off with one another or open ground for negative counterplans, and what aspect of space policy is most ripe for criticism?

            Of course, once again, the USFG is at the center of the universe, this time literally, as the topic projects outward to the Earth’s second atmospheric layer “and beyond.”  How often do you see the Earth take on a possessive in this sense and what arrogance to assume that the USFG should be the agent to explore and develop all external territory?  Copernicus would be proud.  “Dancing with the Stars” becomes governing them, and not like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!  This essay is an attempt to begin the broad link debate for a number of Kritiking options on the Space Topic, a taste of the depth and clash necessary to compete successfully on the negative.  Backing up, though, before detailing a few arguments on each side, we must begin with an Overview.

I. Overview…

…Effect, (1)  because getting outside the Earth and gazing upon her wonder is the true route to planetary consciousness—perhaps the mental space beyond the “meso” or “middle” sphere?  The affirmative has to occur in the “Thermosphere” or beyond, with the Earth defined as the starting point—the center—and the USFG as the puppet master of that planet.  Even more interesting, whether you have a starting point on the Earth or outside the Earth, we know that the mesosphere itself is excluded—at least from topical affirmative action. To explicitly project beyond this layer is to invite debates about the layer itself, a response intrinsic to the wording of the topic.  And, in this case, a brief swipe at the literature points to a fascinating layer of change and transition—the place where the Earth’s environment converts into what we so rigorously classify as “outer space.”  Information on the upper atmosphere wiki provides a description:     

“More than 100 metric tons of meteoric debris enters the Earth’s atmosphere per day, most of it in the form of small meteoroid metal particles with sizes smaller than 1 mm, evaporating and forming atomic Metal Layers, which are observed mainly in the mesosphere, at a range between 80 and 105 km. The mesosphere is also the region where turbulent mixing of the lower and middle atmosphere ends and molecular diffusion becomes the dominant transport process. This leads to composition changes: whereas below the mesosphere composition is constant, above the mesosphere it changes drastically with altitude such that the heavier species are concentrated lower down while the light ones dominate at the higher altitudes.” (2)

The same source contends that this region is the location for the highest clouds on the planet made up of ice crystals (Noctilucent Clouds), and it is the “gateway that connects the Earth to space.”   Because of its properties, the mesosphere is critical to the study of global warming, space travel, energy use, and many other crucial questions, yet it is underexplored and often neglected because it is too close to study by spacecraft and too distant to study through remote sensing.

            This issue may end up being more of a PIC debate (strike the phrase “beyond the mesosphere” and defend textual competition), but the mesosphere is definitely a good place to start thinking about the crazed anthropocentrism of what the topic implies in the first place.  More broadly, begin with an assessment of what you will be up against—what most affirmatives will try to claim against you.  Regardless of our treatment of the mesosphere and below/within, this topic is all about the new frontier and claiming it for a group of nation-states, the colonization of the unknown, a classic strategy of human and Western imperialism, capitalism, racism, the patriarchy, and other ideologies premised on power, progress, and advancement through exploitation and ownership.  If the aff does not find itself caught up in calculative thinking as a means of understanding and managing everything that is outside the planet’s atmosphere, often parallel to sailing out across the ocean to ‘discover’ new worlds, built on the promise of unimaginable wealth and beauty, it is probably not topical.  Older criticisms of development and structural adjustment (Escobar, E. San Juan) often turn to horror stories involving space exploitation as a metaphor for the ways in which industrial capital would commodify the “Other” based on race and class, as well as “difference” in general—a natural Us-Them dichotomy, exploiting entire regions of the universe under the flag of “Explore and Develop.”  Now it is no longer a metaphor, and simple assumptions like “nation-states will get along when faced with new challenges,” “humans make good decisions about energy use and weapons development,” and “now is the time to devote our capital and resources to speculation beyond the planet,” will confound affirmatives with a very high burden of proof all season, giving the topical case a lot to overcome when forced to defend the topic.

II. The Link.

When you hear exploration, you should conflate “exploitation.”  When you hear development, you should conflate “envelopment.”  Resolved: Expand the Exploitation and Erasure of Space.  No.  That is not a statement that should be supported and any affirmative contributing to such a shattering and apocalyptic project should be rejected. 

            The traditional affirmative case will claim some combination of advantages about US leadership in space, the scientific advances possible in space, the economic bounty we can access in space, and a few other “keys to survival” that can only be obtained by exploring and developing beyond the mesosphere.  The affirmative will try to assert that space exploration is not only beneficial to humankind, but also imperative to the survival of our species. A more specific policy will likely contend that NASA does not receive necessary funding to maximize its full potential and an increased budget would enhance efforts to discover new advances in medical, environmental, and other fields, as well as potentially encountering new life forms.  Finally, in solvency, the aff will state that the United States can ensure cooperation with other nations and use space exploration as a tool for global diplomacy.   Let us go through some of these arguments in detail:

1. Funding and support. 

The substantial increase in exploration and development has to be justified through the political process and this is the first step for understanding the full reaches of the link arguments.  Congress approves between $15 and $20 billion in funds for NASA each year and the spending compromise in April is no exception.   The funds are always hotly contested (indeed, more chopping is bound to occur to the $18 billion allocated for 2011), making for a nexus of link arguments about prioritization, taxation, and general debates about federal spending.

“The U.S. Congress included $18.45 billion for NASA in hard-fought spending compromise lawmakers passed April 14 to fund the federal government for the last five months of the 2011 budget year…  Most of the NASA savings were achieved by funding Space Operations — an account that includes the international space station and soon-to-be-retired space shuttle — at about $600 million below the 2010 level and denying increases the White House sought for Aeronautics and Education. There’s also no funding specified for Space Technology, a roughly $300 million account NASA hopes to boost to $1 billion next year. NASA’s Exploration Systems and Science Mission Directorates were the big winners, with both divisions singled out for significant boosts. The NASA Science Mission Directorate — that part of the agency that funds planetary probes, space telescopes and environmental satellites — will receive $4.945 billion for the remainder of 2011, or about $448 million above the 2010 level. H.R. 1473 also frees NASA to formally cancel the Constellation program under which it has been developing the Ares family of rockets and an Orion spacecraft optimized for manned lunar missions.” (3)

The specified dollar amounts matter, and the line between increasing and maintaining is fairly clear.  This may not strike readers as a primary link argument for most critiques, but such a dismissal would be costly for those aspiring to kritik the resolution throughout the year because you cannot “race to the middle” and succeed.  You must master the specifics, know the political context that the affirmative is mired in, and be ready to debate the ways these bureaucracies operate (or claim to operate).  “State bad,” friends, is insufficient. 

2.  Technology and Space. 

            The affirmative is certain to contend that the discovery of new technology and resources depends on further space exploration.   1ACs will cite people like Mark Whittington, a self-published author and space advocate, in order to sell the concept of “spin-offs” (4).  In short, space exploration, worth over $50 billion in jobs and contracts a year, stimulates the economy, creates spin-off technologies, and inspires thousands of school-children to “reach for the stars.”  According to this argument, even though the concept of “spin-offs” has tended to be oversold, these advances do exist and they have brought benefits to society on a scale that justifies the expenditures devoted to space. Further advances are possible, yielding more products, perhaps everything from water recycling technology to new sources of energy. Space technology developed by NASA has proven useful for private space commerce and this trend could continue in the future. 

            The assumptions that these advances are always there for the taking and that humans should consider space as a vast array of resources to be harnessed and deployed for human purposes is a difficult one to defend from any standpoint or ethics concerned with anthropocentric thinking.  The “environment” as an ecological practice and a sense of Oneness cannot be separated from space itself, no matter how abstract or distant that space is.  Human conquest is a form of imperial control and domination, regardless of the new forms of fuel that are added to the fire.  Almost equally compelling against the “space bounty” affirmatives is a position centered on capitalism and an ethics of fighting a system of economic accumulation.  Resisting capitalist-statism, the jurist-priest and the magician-emperor for D&G, requiring rejecting a Master-Servant binary with the USFG as the agent of exploration and development while the construction of space is empty itself, a “New World” being defined as unknown and beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, yet somehow inert, waiting to be managed and allocated, void of independent agency, and constructed—in total—as a resource.  Del McWhorter and Gail Stenstad provide plenty of ammunition against a calculative approach to Being seen in the management of resources in the 2009 edition (Toronto Press) of Heidegger and the Earth.  Thinking through technology is also a quick route to the subjectification of the self to the smooth operation of objects, what Baudrillard would call The Perfect Crime.    

3. Leadership and Space. 

            From here you can take your pick of scenarios, and affirmatives will, always holding back an add-on or two and ready to ratchet up the escalation ladder in terms of planetary annihilation and beyond.  The “” website is a collection of justifications for space exploration generated by a “group of young professionals with a passion for space exploration” and includes health, education, security, energy, economy, leadership, and the environment.  Among these sections, Go Boldly (5) connects space exploration and NASA’s role to the development of vaccines from microbiological research performed on the International Space Station (ISS), to advances in baby formula necessary for neural and visual development, to medical improvements in kidney dialysis and a number of other life-saving procedures, to energy efficiency improvements in construction material, to new means of harnessing energy through fuel cells and other solar power.  The possibilities are virtually infinite given the significant leaps in knowledge we have already made through space exploration.

            Making a link out of these types of arguments is essential because letting this type of assertion slide is the recipe for a 2AC and 2AR that claims to “solve the problems under-riding the kritik of technology” by eliminating poverty, providing infinite (or free—see Tesla Coil) energy for the planet, or otherwise making resource constraints less of a problem for humanity.  This blind faith in future technology should also be characterized as a link, but the negative would be well-advised to poke holes in the “space tech solves” argument in as many ways as possible.  Debating the progress and living standard improvements of technology in general will be a good starting point for the debate about future advances coming out of more space exploration and development, but ultimately this is a question of framing.  Not same vague “framework-fiat garble,” but a rhetorical framing of all of the benefits brought about by space innovations operating alongside the continued poverty, warfare, disease, and resource limitations on earth, not to mention structures of racism, sexism, and a number of other identity binaries that result in the enslavement and oppression of vast number of people across the planet.  Space innovations have solved, what, exactly?  For whom?  The affirmative will want to say space is different and the negative will need to interrogate that claim aggressively. 

            Many “space cooperation possible” arguments will cite David Livingston, a regular space podcaster as the host of the Space Show ( in addition to serving as an adjunct in the Space Studies Department at the University of North Dakota.  Livingston argues that a sizable portion of our space technology and experience in outer space was developed when the US and the then-USSR were forging treaties to cooperate in space exploration, to prohibit weapons in space, to rescue each other’s astronauts/cosmonauts if necessary, and to treat celestial bodies in a way that prevented territorial ownership while allowing room for resource development for all humanity. These nations worked together to prevent conflict in space and the efforts have a proven and unparalleled track record. Today, Livingston notes, the International Space Station features multiple countries working together under a model agreement that works. This has always been the case in space exploration. No other discipline, activity, venture, or multinational effort has a track record equal to “manned (sic.) space development.”  The aff will want to argue that even though there may be challenges ahead for our space behavior, so far we are doing fine in space, certainly much better with each other than we are doing back here on Earth. (6)  The bottom line is that the furthest the aff. will be able to go on the “space is different” track is through a loose statement of current endeavors like the I.S.S. and a total dismissal of existing planetary conflict.

            Livingston, Whittington, and many other space exploration advocates will emphasize the cooperation and harmony that has dominated most of our current efforts in space. (7)  The negative needs to debate these claims head on and has a vast arsenal from which to select arguments.  Research on the nation-state, diplomacy, international relations, and realism is abundant and has been debated for decades.  The trick is to find the sources that make those same types of criticisms in the context of space policy (8) and the “spirit of cooperation” that apparently prevails in space.  With specific evidence, it should not be hard to apply a Foucauldian criticism of the capture of “peace” (politics is war by other means), or a criticism of “Security” in international relations using Dillon, Dalby, Ole Weaver, and many others.  Throughout the debate, the link needs to stress the fact that the affirmative represents a substantial increase in investment in space by the USFG at a time when the US cannot cover its mammoth debt and is cutting billions of dollars from an already super-strained budget.  Empirical examples do not take into account the unilateral nature of the topic and the current financial condition of the United States.  

4. Survival of the Species / Extinction Rhetoric

The Decision:  To Be(ar) or not to Be:

            The negative needs to make a choice, at least in the block, as to whether the debate should be about ideology and the logical extension of the way we think OR if the debate should be about the rhetorical choices we make to defend various forms of competing advocacies in the round.  Ideology-effect or Rhetorical-effect?  Materiality and the constitutive effects of rhetoric matter in both, but the first asks questions about the world as a whole and the second asks questions about the debate’s depictions of the world in the context of an external set of subjectivities and movements.  This choice might not seem to matter in that both options are not transfixed on fiat, but it actually could be quite significant.   This is a round-framing distinction primarily based on the treatment of debate’s relationship to rhetoric—the rhetoric of the sources being used and the literal speech created by the debaters in the round.  The ideology position tends to argue that the method deployed by the affirmative is complicit and indicative of a path that will itself end in extinction.  Some critiques of capitalism argue that a system of wage exploitation will bring us to extinction, some critiques of white privilege argue that structures of racism will bring us to extinction, some critiques of technology argue that our own military advances will bring us to extinction, and some critiques of anthropocentrism argue that humans will find a way to destroy the planet by extracting its resources and overpopulating the land.

            So, if this is the type of criticism (essentially an ideological criticism) that is in play in the debate round, it is difficult to do much with the “rhetorics of survival/extinction.”  Both sides are making claims about the end of life as we know it or the value of preserving life in the first place.  The words and descriptions we use in the debate are central to the detection and elaboration of various ideologies, but the word choice and the representations emanating from the discourse uttered in the debate are not the starting points of the criticism.  Most ideological criticisms posit a distinct “root cause” or general path of inevitable doom within which the affirmative operates.

            Thus, in this first realm, the Ideology-Effect, the negative critique will have to confront the affirmative’s argument about extinction—that the planet is doomed and the colonization of space is crucial to the continued long-term survival of the species and many other aspects of life on Earth.  There are no shortage of extinction arguments that might compel a vigorous space program and generate an imperative to find ways to sustain life off the planet.  Asteroids, evil or robotic extra-terrestrials, the use of weapons of mass destruction, natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, etc.), sun shifts, massive plagues, a loss of presidential political capital, global starvation, or of course global warming are just the tip of the extinction iceberg, all of which could justify a rapid exodus off the rock we call home.

            To Bear down on this affirmative argument, encapsulated wonderfully in the literature advocating the colonization of Mars, means indicting the extinction scenarios offered by the affirmative and using the push into space as proof of the actual world-ending consequences of the ideology being critiqued.  In other words, fight fire with gravity.  The affirmative will come at the extinction question from any number of places.  Professor of Physics at Arizona State University as well as the Director of the “Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science,” Paul Davies supports the colonization of Mars because such a colony would act as a “lifeboat in the event of a global catastrophe.”  He contends:

“A worldwide project to create a second home for humankind elsewhere in the solar system would be the greatest adventure our species has embarked upon since walking out of Africa 100,000 years ago, and provide a unifying influence unparalleled in history.” (9)

Not only would a Mars colony act as a safety-valve, humans could mine its asteroid belt for minerals.  The ability to survive on Mars may be changing as it begins to warm, according to Science News. (10).  Again, from an ideological perspective, these are the kinds of arguments that will need to be positioned as the harbingers of extinction, not the solutions.  As the market begins to colonize planets other than Earth, the logics of capitalism and labor exploitation, for example, will force the simultaneous weaponization of space.  Conflicts among nations will provoke further militarization, making an accidental launch or the escalation of hostilities even more likely than if we were to stay rooted on the planet.  As space exploration frees us from certain constraints, it will also make it easier and more thinkable to enact species-threatening changes. 

            If the negative is not going to criticize the rhetoric of the “doomsayers/space saviors” and make a series of threat construction arguments, another path than can help minimize the aff’s contention that space is the only escape—separation or death—try or die, is the argument that colonization is inevitable.  Whether the US substantially increases its efforts or not, privatization is coming and is being fueled by the government as we speak. (11)  Do not let the affirmative get away with the outlandish claim that space exploration and development will halt without the plan. 

            We will end the link section with a note about the second of the two options (To Bear or Not to Be)—the “Rhetorical Effect” kritik.  The argument begins with the speech choices made by the affirmative and the effects of their particular advocacy based on their discourse and their representations.  Yes, the ideological-effect and the rhetorical-effect overlap and bleed into one another constantly, but there is value in isolating the affirmative’s speech-act as distinct from the ways the external world can be imagined or constructed.  To say that the Earth is facing total annihilation, then, is more about the effects of making such a claim in the debate than it is an impact to be compared against the impacts that might result from thinking within the constraints laid out by the plan.  The identities, subjectivities, and physical locations (bodies, places, and territories) are meaningful and cannot be dismissed—the rhetoric generated by the debaters is the primary route to those considerations and must be evaluated through the lens of how debate relates to change discursively.  This is an appropriate bridge to the second half of the negative’s task: make the link count.

III.  Concluding:  Not Pigs…In….Space!, but Pigs in Zen.

            The link is not enough alone and a few additional steps will need to be take to seal the deal and move from the application to the ballot itself.  The negative should win the debate because the USFG is not in a position to expand space exploration given the magnitude of the more immediate concerns at home and on the planet.  If the “Earth First!” mantra can become more than a minor blip on the social movement radar, the ethics behind any dismissal of our local surroundings may make space exploration a difficult endeavor to expand.  Maybe Whitey should not be on the moon until more humans can pay the rent.  At the very least, we have series of ethical questions to ask before a massive reorientation toward outer space is undertaken. (12)   A good place to concentrate is the space weapons debate, how these weapons are being controlled, the consequences of arms control and misperception, and the internal links between exploration and militarization.  DeBlois, for example, argues that some advances may need to be given up by the US in order to obtain assurances from other nations and to assure that US efforts are not seen as overly ambitious or aggressive. (13)  If exploration and development are a prelude to warfare and space and space war would be catastrophic, than the plan is probably worth rejecting and will not solve as expected.

            The major thread of this essay has been to seek out specificity in the link debate and to use those links as platforms for the remainder of the position.  If it is important to look at space exploration from a philosophical approach, the game is on!

Erin Daly, ASU, and Frodeman, Chair of the North Texas Philosophy Dept, ’08.

“Revolutions in philosophic understanding and cultural worldviews inevitably accompany revolutions in science. As we expand our exploration of the heavens, we will also reflect on the broader human implications of advances in space. Moreover, our appreciation of human impact on Earth systems will expand as we come to see the Earth within the context of the solar system. Most fundamentally, we need to anticipate and wrestle with the epistemological, metaphysical, and theological dimensions of space exploration, including the possibility of extraterrestrial life and the development of the space environment, as it pertains to our common understanding of the universe and of ourselves. Such reflection should be performed by philosophers, metaphysicians, and theologians in regular conversation with the scientists who investigate space and the policy makers that direct the space program. The exploration of the universe is no experimental science, contained and controlled in a laboratory, but takes place in a vast and dynamic network of interconnected, interdependent realities. If (environmental) philosophy is to be a significant source of insight, philosophers will need to have a much broader range of effective strategies for interdisciplinary collaborations, framing their reflections with the goal of achieving policy-relevant results. If it is necessary for science and policy-makers to heed the advice of philosophers, it is equally necessary for philosophers to speak in concrete terms about real-world problems. A philosophic questioning about the relatedness of humans and the universe, in collaboration with a pragmatic, interdisciplinary approach to environmental problems, is the most responsible means of developing both the science and policy for the exploration of the final frontier.” (14)

* by Dr. Kevin Kuswa with assistance from a group of students in Debate 201 (R. Rueda, M. Collins, C. Shrader, M. Stern).  April, 2011

Adam Symonds on “the art of the case hit”

Posted in camp, case hits, High School, lectures, Video with tags , , , on October 12, 2010 by Scott Odekirk

Special thanks to the Gonzaga Debate Institute for allowing us to post this video. Adam Symonds is a professor at Arizona State University, where he is the director of forensics, and he is also a former CEDA Nationals champion and first round debater for Whitman. Adam is also the longest tenured faculty member at the GDI. This lecture is in the context of this year’s high school topic. Adam is also one of my favorite judges.