University of Minnesota Press

Why Leading Beatnik Poet Allen Ginsberg Was a Crusader for Legalizing LSD

The following essay, “Ginsberg in Washington: Lobbying for Tenderness” by Don McNeill, originally published in 1966 in the Village Voice, is included in the new bookFirst Thought: Conversations with Allen Ginsberg edited by Michael Schumacher (University of Minnesota Press, March 2017):

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The 50th Anniversary of 'The Battle of Algiers' and the Film’s Impact on the Black Radical Imagination

The 1966 film The Battle of Algiers is commemorating the 50th anniversary of its release, opening in more theaters across the country. As the Movement for Black Lives continues to disrupt and challenge the status quo, it also worth noting that 2016 is the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Black Panther Party. This edited excerpt from Sohail Daulatzai’s new book on the legacy of the film reveal only part of the influence The Battle of Algiers had on the Black radical imagination. The excerpt is followed by William Klein’s 1971 documentary on former Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver in Algeria.

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How the Neoliberal 'Sharing Economy' Is Threatening Our Teachers' Job Security

The following is an excerpt from the new bookThe Uberfication of the Universityby Gary Hall (University of Minnesota Press, 2016): 

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How Life on Earth Under Drone Surveillance Is Like 'The Truman Show'

The following is an excerpt from the new bookPredator Empire: Drone Warfare and Full Spectrum Dominanceby Ian G. R. Shaw (University of Minnesota Press, 2016): 

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Why on Earth Are We Allowing the Homeland Security Department into Public High Schools?

The following is an excerpt from the new bookA Curriculum of Fearby Nicole Nguyen (Minnesota Press, 2016): 

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Americans Waste Insane Amounts of Food

The following is an excerpt from the new book Freegans by Alex V. Barnard (University of Minnesota Press, 2016): 

Excerpt is reproduced by permission of the University of Minnesota Press from the Introduction, “A Brief History of a Tomato,” to Freegans: Diving into the Wealth of Food Waste in the United States by Alex V. Barnard. Copyright 2016 by the Regents of the Universityof Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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How Detroit Became the Do-It-Yourself City

The following is an excerpt from the new book DIY Detroit by Kimberley Kinder (University of Minnesota Press, 2016): 

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How Millionaires Buy Up Farmland And Hoard All Our Water

The following is an excerpt from Karen Piper's new book, The Price of Thirst: Global Water Inequality and the Coming Chaos (University of Minnesota Press, 2014).  Reprinted here with permission.

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How America Built Its Highways to Serve the Wealthy and White

The following is an excerpt fromThe Folklore of the Freeway: Race and Revolt in the Modernist City by Eric Avila. Copyright © 2014. Reprinted with permission of University of Minnesota Press.

By and large, however, the dominant narrative of the freeway revolt is a racialized story, describing the victories of white middle-class or affluent communities that mustered the resources and connections to force concessions from the state. If we look closely at where the freeway revolt found its greatest success—Cambridge, Massachusetts; Lower Manhattan; the French Quarter in New Orleans; Georgetown in Washington D.C.; Beverly Hills, California; Princeton, New Jersey; Fells Point in Baltimore—we discover what this movement was really about and whose interests it served. As bourgeois counterparts to the inner-city uprising, the disparate victories of the freeway revolt illustrate how racial and class privilege structure the metropolitan built environment, demonstrating the skewed geography of power in the postwar American city.

One of my colleagues once told me a joke: if future anthropologists want to find the remains of people of color in a postapocalypse America, they will simply have to find the ruins of the nearest freeway. Yet such collegial jocularity contained a sobering reminder that the victories associated with the freeway revolt usually did not extend to urban communities of color, where highway construction often took a disastrous toll. To greater and lesser degrees, race—racial identity and racial ideology—shaped the geography of highway construction in urban America, fueling new patterns of racial inequality that exacerbated an unfolding “urban crisis” in postwar America. In many southern cities, local city planners took advantage of federal moneys to target black communities point-blank; in other parts of the nation, highway planners found the paths of least resistance, wiping out black commer- cial districts, Mexican barrios, and Chinatowns and desecrating land sacred to indigenous peoples. The bodies and spaces of people of color, historically coded as “blight” in planning discourse, provided an easy target for a federal highway program that usually coordinated its work with private redevelop- ment schemes and public policies like redlining, urban renewal, and slum clearance.

My colleague’s joke also signaled a shared suspicion among city people of color that the interstate generation of freeway builders targeted their communities with malicious intent. This conviction persists in the barrios and ghettos of American cities. In a 1997 interview, for example, a former Overtown resident begged to understand why state officials routed Interstate 95 through the heart of Miami’s historic black neighborhood: “Now all you white folk . . . you tell me the justification. . . . If that isn’t racism you tell me what it is.” In St. Paul, Minnesota, after Interstate 94 bisected the city’s historic black neighborhood, a former resident explained his belief that the “white man’s freeway” was built to “allow white people to get from downtown St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis five, ten minutes faster.” And as the following chapters illustrate, such racially inflected skepticism also finds recurring ex- pression in the barrios of southwestern cities like East Los Angeles, where six major freeways ravaged the area during the 1960s, just as it transitioned into the nation’s largest concentration of Mexican American poverty.

In the context of urban history, infrastructure can make or break a community. In the United States, the historical development of urban infrastructure has both formed and followed the inscriptions of race, class, and gender on the urban landscape. Ample in more affluent communities, usually absent or minimal in historic concentrations of urban poverty, infrastructure does not serve its public equally. Some cities have a more equitable distribution of infrastructure than others, but many urban neighborhoods remain woefully underserved. During the postwar period, the interstate highways sparked the development of new communities, new jobs, and new forms of commerce and enterprise, particularly for the great white suburban middle class of the postwar era. They did not (and do not) serve affluent communities very well because many in those communities successfully resisted local routing proposals, and they often decimated poor, working-class, and racialized neighborhoods, wholly vulnerable to the conclusions that highway planners derived from their meticulous data. These neighborhoods harbored the very conditions that infrastructure is designed to prevent—congestion, pollution, disease, crime—yet remained bereft of public investment. A better solution, in the logic of the time, was to simply eradicate these communities altogether through invasive public-works projects. Small wonder, then, that urban communities of color continue to express a pervasive belief that conquest and modernization are two sides of the same unlucky coin.

This book strives to listen to what inner-city people think about the freeways that fracture their communities and to open our senses to what is seen and heard in the shadows of the freeway, in the communities exempt from the dominant narrative of the freeway revolt. To some extent, The Folklore of the Freeway records long-standing grievances against the freeway and its presence in the inner city, but it moves beyond a simplistic narrative of victimization to explore a dynamic relationship between structure and culture, between the physical fact of the freeway and its refraction through the prisms of identity, language, and place. The surprising results of this investigation tell us not only what freeways do to inner-city people, but also what people do to inner-city freeways. Spatial justice remains elusive in the barrio and the ghetto, but there the freeway revolt continues.

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How the Feds Are Recruiting Spies at Campuses Across the US

The following is an excerpt from The Imperial University: Academic Repression and Scholarly Dissent edited by Piya Chatterjee and Sunaina Maira. Reprinted with permission of University of Minnesota Press.

This is by no means the first time that U.S. military and intelligence agen- cies have funneled large sums of money into universities to advance their interests. The 1958 National Defense Education Act led to the creation of dozens of language and area studies programs focused on Russia, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, but those centers generally did not limit scholars’ ability to pursue a wide range of research, including critical social science research building upon anti-imperial and leftist scholarship. By contrast, there are clear indications that the IC Centers and other new recruitment programs have much more focused and narrow objectives that threaten core educational values that have underpinned American universities for many years.

Judging from some students’ responses, it seems that the DNI programs are making an impact. News reports from college newspapers begin to tell the story. Najam Hassan, a nineteen-year-old student at Trinity University, said, “It’s a good opportunity. I have interest in the FBI.” Reagan Thompson, who is seventeen, told a reporter, “I want to be a spy when I grow up. You learn different perspectives and it opens your mind.” Meriam Fadli, also seventeen, said, “I was like ‘Oh my God, I am so joining the FBI’. . . . She [the speaker] made it seem so interesting. It’s not like a dull office job.” Leah Martin, a twenty-one-year-old, decided that she wanted an intelligence career after getting involved in the program: “You get to travel, to do something different every day, you’re challenged in your work and you get to serve your country. How cool is that?” The picture that emerges from these and other comments is that students are drawn to the IC Centers because they offer exciting, challenging experiences that will serve the country—not unlike the reasons that many young people decide to enlist in the armed forces. Television series that glorify law enforcement agents (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation), intelligence operatives (24), and military personnel (JAG) have greatly romanticized these careers.

University administrators and faculty like the IC Centers for other rea- sons. Obviously there are the issues of funding and job placement for grad- uating students. But some also emphasize the importance of building an ethnically and culturally diverse pool of intelligence agents who might blend in more easily abroad. Norfolk State University geology professor David Padgett told the journal Diverse Online, “When a lot of higher education funding shifted after September 11 into defense, a lot of Black colleges weren’t in a position to take advantage of it. We saw an opening. In order to have a diverse work force in the intelligence arena, you have to get to minority- serving institutions. In intelligence, people have to go to areas populated by people of color.”

Economist Dennis Soden, who is executive director of the Institute for Policy and Economic Development, a University of Texas, El Paso, unit that was awarded an IC Center grant, had this to say:

In the intelligence community before, it was really a white male, Ivy League, Big-10 kind of place. All these guys who went to Harvard, Wisconsin, and Yale looked like America and they got the jobs and ended up just slapping each other on the back telling each other how great they were. Of course, we found out they weren’t very good because they couldn’t find WMDs and they couldn’t figure out what was going on. There is a real sense that the agencies were just recruiting from the same places all the time and getting the same people over and over again—it was like a type of inbreeding. . . .The US-Mexico border is now a national security interest, but who really understands it? A guy at Yale who takes Spanish for a few years doesn’t really understand it. The idea is to get people both for domestic and international intelligence purposes who reflect the country and understand all of its nuances.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence promoted the IC Center program heavily during its first few years of existence. The original IC Cen- ter program plan is a twenty-five-page document that clearly lays out goals and procedures. Under the title “Pre-College/High School Outreach” is the subheading “Summer Camp (for elementary and junior high students).” The program plan notes, “Institutions may consider coordinating summer camps for junior high students. The camps should be at least one week in duration with high energy programs that excite the participants. . . . They should focus on developing the critical skill of ‘thinking before you act.’”

Though it is not clear whether or not elementary and junior high students have been included in IC Center programs so far, the Office of the DNI clearly supports this idea. (The CIA, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency all have “Kids’ Page” websites that include games, puzzles, and, occasionally, sanitized histories of the agencies.) Nearly all universities that have received funding for IC Centers have created high school outreach programs. For example, Norfolk State’s program included a simulation exercise in which faculty asked Nashville-area high schoolers to locate ten simulated “weapons of mass destruction” hidden in the city using GPS locators.

The name “Spy Camp” was only used once, at Trinity University. Now the high school outreach programs are known in many places as “Summer Intelligence Seminars.”

Recruiting Intelligence?

What makes the new IC Centers across the country different from other insti- tutes or research centers? Though there are numerous differences from one school to the next, several universities appear to be involved in three kinds of activities apart from high school outreach programs like “Spy Camp.”

Curriculum development—especially the creation of new classes—is a common process for IC Center schools. Many participating universities are creating new majors and minors in “intelligence studies” and developing new courses to meet the demands of spy agencies. For example, Trinity Uni- versity developed a new course titled “East vs. West: Just War, Jihad and Cru- sade, 1050–1450.” While the title itself is benign (though it conjures up images of the “clash of civilizations” popularized by historian Samuel Huntington), the syllabus reportedly states that the course “seeks to develop the critical/ analytical and writing skills that are particularly important to the intelligence community.” (We are left to wonder what the costs of favoring some kinds of writing—perhaps intelligence briefs and PowerPoint presentations—over others might be.) In some cases new masters’ programs are also being developed, which might result in new faculty hiring. New classes in languages deemed important to U.S. security are being established as well (particularly in Arabic and Mandarin), and many campuses are purchasing books and films to support these new courses.

Another group of activities includes organized events such as academic colloquia and guest lectures. Like all university special events, these can be intellectually stimulating, particularly when a thought-provoking or controversial speaker is invited to speak. But what should occur when a guest lecture or other campus event becomes a recruiting pitch for spy agencies?

Finally, nearly all the IC Centers include scholarship and travel abroad programs. The same law that brought the IC Centers into existence also created the new “Intelligence Community Scholarship Program” (ICSP). Scholarship fellows take required intelligence-related courses and are typically eligible for study abroad experiences and internships with spy agencies. According to the law, ICSP students who do not take jobs with U.S. intelligence agencies after graduating are required “to repay the costs of their education plus penalties assessed at three times the legally allowed interest rate.” Like PRISP (the Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholarship Program, a $25,000, one-year scholarship for undergraduate and graduate students that requires them to work for the CIA after graduation), the identities of students are not publicly announced. Congress established PRISP in 2004 as a kind of academic version of the ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) program: it was designed to combine intelligence training skills with academic areas of expertise, such as anthropology or political science. Since its creation PRISP has placed hundreds of students in an unknown number of university classrooms. Although critics have referred to such programs as “debt bondage to constrain student career choices,” President Barack Obama’s director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, announced in 2009 plans to make PRISP permanent.

In and of themselves, these activities sound benign, even desirable. After all, who could argue against funding for new courses, films, guest speakers, conferences, and scholarships, particularly during this period of chronic underfunding of higher education? But there is a subtle danger posed by the deluge of funds reaching universities through IC Centers—a danger similar to that posed by military funding. Anthropologist Hugh Gusterson has written eloquently about the ways in which this can twist the education process over time. A wide range of problems comes into focus:

When research that could be funded by neutral civilian agencies is instead funded by the military, knowledge is subtly militarized and bent in the way a tree is bent by a prevailing wind. The public comes to accept that basic academic research on religion and violence “belongs” to the military; scholars who never saw themselves as doing military research now do; maybe they wonder if their access to future funding is best secured by not criticizing US foreign policy; a discipline whose independence from military and corporate funding fueled the kind of critical thinking a democracy needs is now compromised; and the priorities of the military further define the basic terms of public and academic debate.

In short, the IC Centers could further threaten the notion of the classroom as a free “marketplace of ideas”—a process that is well under way due to the powerful influence exerted on college campuses by multinational corporations and other commercial interests. The fact that the “intelligence com- munity” includes heavy representation from Pentagon agencies (such as DIA and Marine Corps Intelligence, to name but two) and is closely linked to military contract firms further underscores the significance of Gusterson’s words.

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