[-empyre-] April 2009 on –empyre-

davin heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Thu Apr 2 06:45:56 EST 2009

I will also take the time to introduce myself here, too.  (Although I
was a pretty excited participant last month, too).

I am Davin Heckman and I teach in an English department at a small
Catholic liberal arts college called Siena Heights University in
Adrian, Michigan.  My teaching duties are divided between courses in
media studies, visual culture, literature, and composition.  Some
people estimate that the unemployment rate in this little part of
Southeast Michigan could be as high as 20%, so at a small school (with
under 800 full time undergraduate students at our main campus, a great
many of whom are first-generation, working class kids) we are also
feeling the squeeze.  Being so small, you really get to know students,
so I am constantly reminded inside of class, outside of class, and
everywhere else, that people are losing jobs, homes, and, in some
cases, hope.

As far as my research goes, I have spent the last few years with my
eyes on neoliberalism (reading lots of David Harvey, Mike Davis,
Frederic Jameson, etc.) and exploring a lot of "theory" through this
lens (reading Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, Lacan, Zizek, Virilio,
Heidegger, Stiegler, Badiou, deCerteau, etc).  In general, I guess I
come back quite often to discussions I used to have with my advisor,
Hai Ren, about Neoliberalism and Governmentality
<http://www.rhizomes.net/issue10/>, in particular the pervasive
character of capitalism.  My book on smart houses (A Small World)
attempts to discuss these problems in relation to household

In addition, I am quite interested in electronic literature, new media
art, popular culture, etc.  And so the next step in my research has
been to turn my critical concerns towards these things that I enjoy,
to ask how the arts (broadly conceived) express, critique, embody, or
propose alternatives to the current economic, political, and social
malaise.  Furthermore, I am interested in how I can function as a
scholar and teacher to promote a critical awareness of this malaise.

As a result, I have picked up a couple of odd projects.  Most
immediately, I am trying to initiate broad reforms in my school's
liberal arts curriculum.  I am also doing a bit of reading and writing
on the history of the University as an institution, and am interested
in sketching out various theories for the university as a "humanist"
(or "posthumanist," the specific terms are unimportant) enterprise
after poststructuralism.  For this I have been reading Bill Readings'
University in Ruins, Gary Hall's Digitize this Book, and Neil
Postman's various writings on the topic, Bernard Stiegler's works on
Ars Industrialis, etc.)  Hopefully, I will be able to sustain some
sort of meaningful discussion in this area.  Specifically, I am
interested in how these philosophies will effect they way I teach
courses like Electronic Literature, Visual Culture Studies, Media
History, etc.

In my travels, I have also identified a number of practical approaches
to the problems of the current economy.  In the upper Midwestern
United States, especially in Minnesota, there is a strong tradition of
co-ops.  I am especially interested in worker-owned co-ops, community
supported agriculture, and, because I work for nuns, religious and/or
intentional communities.  I am very interested in figuring out how
these models might teach us something about how to create better
colleges and universities that are not so dependent on the whims of
the stock market.

As a peripheral matter, I am also interested in the
"professionalization" of academia.  Going to various conferences,
having many friends who are looking for jobs, and having very recently
done the job search thing, I am acutely aware of the desperation that
prevails among academic job seekers.  This leads to an intensity which
strikes me as contrary to intellectual life (the constant jockeying
for attention, the obsession with prestige, the pressure of writing
and trying to publish, etc.).  I cannot blame people for trying hard
to compete for jobs that are scarce, but as a whole this is also
continually devastating the culture of academic life, which simply
should not mirror the Wall Street ethos.  Philosophy is about
considering how to use our lives differently, in figuring out what to
do.  Too often, higher education is not about figuring out what to do,
it is about learning what you have to do to progress to the next
level, so you can hurry up and work.

So....  that was my long-winded introduction.


Davin Heckman

More information about the empyre mailing list