Archive for foucault

Putting the K in Debate

Posted in 2012 deb(k)ate Oral History Project with tags , , , , , on June 22, 2012 by kevin kuswa

“Each age has its own particular way of putting language together, because of its different groupings.  For example, if in the classical age the being of language appears completely within the limits of representation it lays down, by the nineteenth century it leaps out of its representative functions: it is now on the point of losing its unifying function, but only in order to rediscover it elsewhere in a different mode…Therefore the historical being of language never manages to gather this new function in an inner consciousness that founds, originates or even mediates; on the contrary, it constitutes a form of exteriority in which the statements of the corpus under consideration appear by way of dispersal and distribution.”

G. Deleuze in Foucault (1986)

Putting the K in Debate has been emphasizing debate pedagogy and critical thought for over two years now and the response has been resoundingly monumental.  Featuring debate videos, podcasts, articles, and discussion posts, the use of the site has been steadily expanding and many of you have found helpful material to assist your own forays into kritik debate.  Content not advertising, experimentation not orthodoxy, pedagogy not pandering, and thinking not prescribing have been the continual aims of the site.

Re-examine some of the initial posts here:

and here: and here:

As always, we are interested in your feedback and would love to hear your thoughts on what you enjoy on the site, what you would like to see in the future, and any comments you would be willing to share.  Feel free to paste those here in the comments or send a note to us:

<odekirk dot scott at, infinite dot monad at, kevindkuswa at>

We hope to hear from you.  As Foucault writes:

“Making historical analysis the discourse of the continuous and making human consciousness the original subject of all historical development and all action are the two sides of the same system of thought.  In this system, time is conceived in terms of totalization and revolutions are never more than moments of consciousness.”  (Archaeology of Knowledge, p12)

A Classic Debate: The 2002 CEDA Nationals Championship Round

Posted in A Classic Debate, Battles, elimination round, Final Round, Know Your History, Ks on the Aff, tactics, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2010 by Scott Odekirk

Thanks to professor snider (tuna) for producing this video in 2002 and posting it in such an easy and accessible way on his site. 

This debate features Michigan State CM (Austin Carson and Calum Matheson) on the negative vs. Fort Hays RR (Jason Regnier and Joe Ramsey) on the affirmative… 



 This debate was enormous for me. I was a sophomore and my two favorite teams to watch in outrounds were facing each other in the final debate of the season (CEDA came after the NDT that year).

On display were two very different teams with different styles, but I was drawn to both because of the qualities they shared. Both teams, Fort Hays Regnier/Ramsey and Michigan State Matheson/Carson, were fiercely competitive and that inspired me. Both were innovative and creative. The fort has been rightfully recognized and respected for the mind-blowing challenges they have made to conventional debate ways of thinking, but Calum also was a uniquely creative, prolific speaker, who was comfortable in any situation. Calum’s rhetorical skills alone pushed the envelope of what could be achieved in debates by wordsmithery alone. That year, on the “increase federal control throughout indian country” topic, MSU CM and FHSU RR had taken interesting approaches. At the Northwestern Tournament Calum made a run through the outrounds with a fascinating, almost genealogical, criticism about colonization and the pine ridge reservation that to this day I still think about (because it soundly beat me in a prelim that weekend). Calum was flexible enough to win every kind of debate and he initiated all kinds of strategies. The fort had really come into their own by the 2002 CEDA National Tournament as one of the most thought-provoking teams on the national circuit. Their whole way of being was different, it swerved. They ran their team by consensus (inspired by bill, the coach) and they debated differently, without the usual regard for the flow. On this night each team would display rhetorical grace and power, both would fight passionately for the win and in the end the fort would win the 2002 CEDA National Championship on a 5-4 decision. But there was something more than a debate present for many of us watching in the room. This was a major cultural experience (like many outrounds are in this little community) that challenged many of us to perceive debates differently. Though debates like this had been happening, even between these two teams before, this was an opportunity to really see it on stage and as the culmination of an entire season. The room was packed and the debate amazed the audience. None of us really knew who would win, we all had our opinions of course, and some were even angry, but none of us could predict what the outcome would be. This must undoubtedly be called A Classic Debate…

there is a lot to be learned from the affirmative in this debate…

Fort Hays is doing a lot of sound fundamental work on the question of what impacts matter the most in the 1ac. The whole “what we do here matters” set of arguments presented in the 1ac are a great example of how to make all K style impacts come 1st. A lot of what one sees here in the first speech are some of the best basic “critiquing assumptions is good” args I have seen in a debate in a long time. The description of debate becoming an apology for a bad joke is also a great example of how to use logic and linguistic characterization to provide evidence for an argument (ie. what we do here matters) without cards. The aff can be divided into 4 main parts: 1) what we do here matters, 2) regimented western assumptions in debate participate in real colonizing violence, 3) this can be countered by taking our assumptions into account and challenging them as a way to be more inclusive of other cultures, 4) the affirmative accomplishes this by challenging the very notion of what it means to affirm the topic.

The 2ac is a very good speech. It is important to recognize that though some teams might abandon the flow this does not mean they give up on techne. The tech for an “off-the-flow” team just shifts to different concerns. Time prioritization is still a major technical issue and in the case of Regnier’s 2ac here, the time management is impeccable. Regnier knows that the question of whether or not there is a compelling reason to affirm this resolution is the center of the debate so he spends 80% of his time there. I think the 2ac does a good job of establishing that their relationship to the resolution that deals with our whole manner of percieving who we are in relation to it as western/rational percieving and political beings locked in a system of colonization.

The 1ar is actually a quite effective speech after a very moving and rhetorically big block. I actually thing this is the most technical of all the speeches even though it drops a lot of stuff. Here Joe is doing a lot of work comparing different pieces of evidence and drawing out particular lines. This is actually one of the few times either side focuses on evidence comparison in the debate. I think this speech is good mix of reinforcing meta concepts from the 2ac and handling particular details brought up by the block. I think the 2ar is strong but it is largely positioned for success by the previous 3 aff speeches.

There is much to be learned from the negative in this debate…

When I talked to Calum on a recent podcast he told me that the strategy they went with was constructed during the middle of the 1ac, which they had never before encountered. Right away in this debate MSU CM demonstrates their flexibility and creativity. I didn’t really think there were many winners on the case debate in the 1nc but the discussion is successfully shifted by the negative to the question of federal control by the end of the debate. One of the strengths of the 1nc that gets carried into the 2nc but not into the 2nr is the emphasis on the failure of multicultural inclusion. I liked the negative interpretation of spanos throughout the debate and I think it should have gone further to indict the instances in which the affirmative, particularly in the 2ac and the 2ar, asserts the value synthesizing and including other cultures without really defending it. Instead the negative emphasizes the question of the acceptability of the resolution far more greatly than the problems with a benevolent inclusion move as a western way of relating to others. “Deloria says synthesis is good,” to me is not a warrant for a multicultural ethic. It makes sense to me that the negative, in the 1nc and the 2nc, used the spanos evidence, some characterizations of all of us as colonizer agents, and Deloria’s own arguments about the ” dangers of western ways of knowing” push against the forts claims to reckon with and include “all other cultures.” The negative strategy comes to full fruition in the 2nc in two main thrusts: 1) the acceptability of federal control, and 2) the risks associated with coming to know the oppressed other from this round’s privileged position. The question raised by the negative is: will the affirmative project, through its association with federal control and the west’s academic impulse to know the other, be rearticulated to serve the interests of colonization?

The 2nc was one of the best speeches I have ever seen…

This was an amazing display of what can be done with words. Just go back and watch it again. The final 15 seconds of the speech are the best close to a debate speech I have ever seen. Here Calum certainly focuses on the evils of federal control but he also pays attention to the inclusion/visibility problem. Our very perception of the oppressed other is the problem since we see with the eyes of the colonizer. This is great and I especially like how he ties together these two themes by describing the BIA officer with good intentions. By the end of the 2nc cx I think the panel has to be with Michigan State like 8-1 or 7-2. That. Speech. Was. Awesome.

So what happened?

By the end of the debate the 1ar successfully complicates the spanos issues and Calum gives a much more technical 2nr almost entirely on the need to totally refuse federal control. Michigan State frames the judge’s decision as a choice about desirability of federal control, good or bad, up or down. FHSU, now with an untested value multiculturalism, argues that a prior question to our own decision-making about the resolution is deciding whether or not our choice about the meaning of the resolution matters at all. The aff wins by the end of the debate that to truly relate well to other cultures we must drop our ethico-political view-point in favor of cultural perspectives in resistance to the west. This they say applies too to the question of federal control. The affirmative even begins to identify some positive uses of federal control (which seems a little strange) by the end of the debate. I think the negative focuses the debate too acutely on what fort hays affirms (federal control) and less on how they affirm it. A vote for FHSU by the end of the debate means simply to be open to the resolution, their reason for this becomes quite simply that what we think about it is secondary to what those of the indigenous oppressed might decide. They win offense against the negative because Michigan State’s insistence that we all decide on federal control as a definitive statement reconstitutes the western rational decision maker once again.  In the end, it is more important to fundamentally alter our ways of being and perceiving by challenging our own habituated notions of things like “affirm” “what the resolution is” than to decide on the meaning federal control, because those prior questions determine how we relate to the other (according to deloria). I do think that the negative should have made a PIC move more explicit. In other words, they should have said very clearly that “we endorse all of the affirmative except for the part about federal control,” they try to say this but I don’t think it is drawn out as a voting option at the end of the debate. I also think that if the negative had dug in on the dangers of multicultural inclusion more in the 2nr, as in the 2nc, then i also think a lot of this offense goes away. I don’t think that the fort is right, per se, but that they got on top of the issues more at the end of the debate.

Though I would have voted Neg then, Now I Vote Aff… 

It is important to close study debates. It is necessary for preparing complex strategic instincts in rounds. Watching great debaters, over and over, helps us habituate good patterns, but it is also important to be inspired by watching debates. The viewer ought to be inspired to create something that can also be viewed in such a way. All great and classic debates (and debaters) should humble us to pay attention to repeatable patterns and forms but they should also inspire innovation and creativity. I hope this debate resonates with you, in any way.

If you are in the mood for another debate, watch this one, hung up on this my sophomore year too…

Defining Kritik vs. Practicing Kritik

Posted in Manifestoes with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2009 by Scott Odekirk
my eyesWhat does it mean to “kritik” in debate?
The word kritik, like many words in debate, is taken from another context and made meaningful uniquely for our game. To really understand what a kritik is you have to see it in practice, or better yet, you could practice it. For me a kritik cannot agree with the decision-making frame of fiat. The first kritik was based on this idea (Mike Hester, another author of this blog, will write about the first argument called a kritik later). Too often, kritiks are explained as linear disadvantages with “complicated alternatives” that “counterplan in” uniqueness. This view is pushed heavily on the Wikipedia page devoted to the kritik. If this blog accomplishes anything, I hope it is at least a counter to the crap posing as information on that wiki page. Feel free to check out the drivel at Whoever wrote this is clearly a Cointelpro agent ( In any case, to frame Ks in these terms (I will hereby refer to this disad-counterplan way of looking at the K as the “assimilationist view”) already cedes too many taken-for-granted assumptions. The assimilationist view usually sees the K as testing the affirmative at the level of “what the world looks like after the plan passes,” much like a disad does. The assimilationist view expects Ks to “weigh” alongside traditional DA impacts, which has lead to the “this justifies nuclear extermination” line of argument. The assimilationist view treats the “K alt” as a sweeping use of “attitudinal fiat” in which we evaluate the alternative as if everyone in the world adopted the mindset of the criticism. This “alt-centered” approach to the K frames the debate in terms solvency (which is good for the aff), plan passage, and traditional impact calculus. This “utopian alt” reading makes the K highly susceptible to permutation and the ever-dreaded “alt-uniqueness-doublebind.” Most importantly it keeps the judge focused on meta-strategic decision-making (i.e. how best to solve problems at a societal level). On my view, any K which allows itself to be framed in such a manner is not actually a K at all. At this stage I will forward a basic, and provisional, definition of “the K”: an argument which criticizes the core assumptions of the affirmative in which the impacts are weighed outside the fiat frame. Undoubtedly this definition will change for me tomorrow, but this is mainly due to the dynamic and fluctuating nature of the K. Ultimately I privilege a frame-centered, rather than an alt-centered, view of the kritik (more on “working the frame” to come). The K does not gain strength from its definition as some arguments do. Just by defining the parts of a DA we can see its beauty. Part of its brilliance comes from its clarity and logical consistency (see Adrienne Brovero’s lecture on the Politics DA, it blew me away). The K, on the contrary, operates less by definition and more by practice. For the K: Doing Is Better Than Saying (more on this in later posts, from many different authors). This blog seeks to make the K rather define it; we seek to practice the K rather than explain it or figure it out.
How do I practice… practicing the K?
Really it comes down to one sentence, one fundamental premise, if you will. It goes like this:
Take up
The K is about taking up perspectives. The K debater seeks out new and different perspectives to take up and try on. We must be willing, when taking up different paradigms, to look out from each perspective at an entirely different world (see Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions). It is only when we do this that we can begin to perceive how views born from different methods of scholarship fundamentally clash. Even to defeat the K we must be willing to take up differing perspectives. All of the best framework debaters can only come up with successful responses at the second level of the debate when they have considered the critical arguments they face on their own terms. Those who are unwilling to take alternative perspectives up are waiting for the slaughter in a debate universe that includes the kritik.
Take up reading
The best debaters who run the K (and for that matter most of the best debaters) are at least perceived to be well read. Becoming well read cannot happen simply by reading online articles. One of my problems with the shift towards electronic debate is that it seems to undervalue books (here is where the e-innovators cry out in disgust and cite the effectiveness of questia). You have to read books to really become a well-versed and intelligent reader. Books are more in depth, they go into more detail, and they are supported by more research. It takes a lot more analytic knowledge (more on this later as well) to figure out a book than to figure out an article. If you want to get smarter, read a book. If you want to get better at explaining your Biopower K, read a book by Foucault. And there is nothing like the dead tree copy, trust me. And this isn’t about cutting cards. Reading a book helps you get smarter, which assists you in a K debate a lot, but it also provides you interesting examples and anecdotes that you may never cut but might be just the thing you need to explain a tough concept in the 2nc cross-ex or hammer down the case turn when you don’t have a specific card. Plus, a lot of our args are old; sometimes you need paper books to find them. Even if you don’t believe me, read a book.
Take up reading and writing
Writing is a skill too often overlooked by debate. Consider that there are two forms of knowledge: synthetic and analytic. Synthetic knowledge is all about experience; it is based on what we observe in the world. Our usual preparation focuses heavily on synthetic knowledge. When we cut cards we gather facts and quotations that provide evidence for how the status quo is and what it could become. Conversely, analytic knowledge is more like logic. This type of knowledge is about our understanding of how arguments and evidence interrelate. We use our analytic knowledge more in the construction of a file than the gathering of cards. This is also the form of knowledge most used in a debate round. Analytic knowledge helps us to better explain and synthesize our arguments; it helps us compare our arguments to the opposing ones. Writing helps us cultivate, more directly, our analytic knowledge. As a K debater writing skills can be the difference between a good speech and a bad one. Ks often times try to communicate complex ideas in the face of ready-made and well-trained concepts. In order to do this we must be skilled with turn-of-phrase, encapsulation, and rhetoric. A debater with writing skills can make intricate propositions about the meaning of life seem simple enough to vote on. Try this: write an essay about your argument, make it long, make it heavy with citations, and ask an English teacher to proofread it. Try this (one of my new favorites), the “Explain a Book Drill”: read a book, almost any book, find somebody and explain it to them in 7 minutes exactly, find another person, explain it to them in 10, find another person, explain it to them in 4, read another book, repeat.
Take up reading and writing for the purpose of revolutionizing debate

Some people I greatly respect disagree with me on this, but, I think any good K debater has to have revolutionary purpose. This can take many forms; the words revolutionary and purpose are laden with much baggage and a wide array of interpretations. That is ok. I have seen successful debaters who were radically committed to humor and others who tried to make debate a space for the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is not to say that a good K debater ought not to be motivated by winning. Without the prospect of winning and losing we wouldn’t be here. But the choice to run K arguments (as your primary focus) must also be inspired by something other than winning. If all you care about is winning than there are host of arguments that are more marketable and have a more proven track record (once again I will direct you to Brovero’s DA lecture). This is also not to say that you have to care, or be some bleeding heart, a gamesplayer could be motivated to be a K debater by an unexplainable commitment to being different, or to see if something that shouldn’t win, can. In terms of debate, curiosity is not far from revolutionary purpose. In any case, some part of the good K debater wants to leave debate a little differently than it was before they started speaking.

Take up reading and writing for the purpose of revolutionizing debate, with the full knowledge of failure.

Look, having purpose is one thing, but we have to know our role. The assimilationist view is so prevalent because it comes from debate’s most basic nature. Debate accommodates; it continually tries to incorporate difference within its beautiful notions of clash (this is debate’s strength and why I love it). As Foucault taught us, all resistance becomes the natural compliment of the thing it wishes to oppose. Over a decade ago, Bill Shanahan told us that “debate is already dead.” Perhaps he is right. Perhaps we are only replaying what has come before, but this, for some reason does not dissuade me. We do this despite being called lazy. We do this despite having to justify the legitimacy of our methods. We do this because it is trying to kill us. And if we risk becoming debate’s underside, its belligerent compliment, than I (and others) will take up the challenge.