* * PLEASE Contribute to BABEL's Spring 2014 Fundraising Campaign HERE * *
You might think, and some days it's true, that the BABEL Working Group runs on Manhattan cocktails, WD-40, ramen, loose change, the kindness of strangers, old Talking Heads albums, matches, a glitter ball, chewing gum, and a few guitars. Indeed, without institutional or foundational funding, but with a lot of elbow grease in the wee hours of the night, the BABEL Working Group has, since 2004, worked very hard to: 1) develop new co-disciplinary, nomadic, and convivial confraternities between the humanities, sciences, social sciences, and the fine arts (both within and beyond the academy), 2) to build shelters for humanist and post/humanist vagabonds, 3) to foster a politics of friendship both within and beyond the University, and 4) to create new spaces for para-academic alliances (such as our biennial conference, our symposia series, but also our press punctum books and or new sound label punctum records).
But the fact of the matter is, we cannot keep doing everything we have been doing, not to mention continue to build even more new spaces and events and projects and platforms, without some sort of regular fund-raising campaign, which we've decided to undertake beginning this year, in both spring and fall of each year. It's important to us that we never charge membership dues [although many people have urged us to do just that], because as idealistic and foolish as it might sound, I've always envisioned BABEL as an attempt to put theory into practice -- more specifically, to see if it's possible to build and sustain something like Deleuze and Guattari's "desiring-assemblage," which of its very nature must have propensities, trajectories, flows [and also breaks in the flows], attachments, detachments, reattachments, agglomerations, itineraries, ETC. that cannot be predicted in advance nor managed bureaucratically nor controlled. As such, all manner of persons must be invited to jump on, and also jump off, with no impediments to their movements in and out of the spaces we are creating to foster new modes and experimental forms of creative intellectual work. We don't want officers. We don't want Robert's Rules. We don't want dues. Consider, also, that without any of that -- and again, without any institutional support [although some, like GW-MEMSI have generously helped fund our biennial meeting and social events] -- we've managed to do the following:
- fund symposia and conferences that foster creative alliances across disciplinary, institutional, and para-institutional divides [to whit: our biennial meeting and also our symposia series];
- bring scholars and cultural theorists who normally would not come to medieval studies conferences to our events [such as the Kalamazoo Congress] in order to dialogue with medievalists on a wide variety of disciplinary and institutional and cultural concerns;
- found punctum books, and thereby also support authors and work that might not otherwise get published, as well as help punctum to cultivate new collaborative publishing projects across a "whimsical para-humanities assemblage," and to also hopefully provide some alt-ac careers for humanities scholars, cultural workers, and artists -- not to mention also offering work in OPEN-ACCESS formats while still lavishing attention on printed matter;
- found punctum records as an experiment in bringing together cultural theorists, musicologists, sound artists, and musicians in order to place a wager on the label, or publishing house, as an important domain for a collective-activist experiment in the construction of what Ivan Illich called “tools for conviviality,” and for developing sound-styles that would “give priority to the protection, the maximum use, and the enjoyment of … personal energy under personal control”;
- help to defray the travel costs [housing! air tickets!], dinners, and drinks [the drinks! -- don't underestimate the power of these to lubricate a daringly creative and convivial medieval studies] of graduate students at the biennial BABEL meeting, but also at other conferences in medieval studies, such as the Kalamazoo Congress, the biennial meeting of the New Chaucer Society, the biennial meeting of the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists, and so on [to whit: the James J. Paxson Memorial Travel Grant, and also regularly subsidized housing for graduate students at our biennial meeting and many transit tickets simply granted when asked -- yes, we DO that!];
- pursuant to the previous point: foster and cultivate the work of graduate students and early-career researchers [to whit: the Biennial Michael Camille Essay Prize and the granting of editorship of multiple special issues of postmedieval]
- cultivate more spaces [whether in print or otherwise] for the pursuit and fostering in medieval studies of what the Material Collective calls "a lyrical and experimental style of writing along with a more humane, collaborative and supportive process of scholarship" [we couldn't have put that better ourselves];
- develop the politics of friendship and modes of playfulness and creative failure as institutional and disciplinary necessities;
- infect/contaminate the post-1500 humanities so thoroughly that no one can any longer THINK about anything without sensing and taking into account the chill downtempo strains of the medieval cultural studies soundtrack in the background [to whit: the recently-created REMEDIAEVAL book series];
- establish the medievalists as the humanists of the present and future [to whit: the creation of postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies]
- throw great parties wherever we happen to be, because you cannot underestimate parties as critical to revolutionary practice; and
- [this is the dreamer in us] create new futures so that, after we're gone [desiring-assemblages don't last forever], it feels like it was always this way.