Link to What's New This Week. Issue for Week of May 12, 2003

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Dear Habermas
A Journal of Postmodern and Critical Thought
Devoted to Academic Discourse on Peace and Justice

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Current Issue:
Volume 16, No. 10, Week of May 12, 2003

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Topic of the Week: Facticity and the Death Penalty

The Death Penalty: Up Front and Personal

State-Sanctioned Killing: Up Front and Personal

This week's topic was prompted by the review of an exhibition at the Rare Gallery in New York: Cockroaches as Shadow and Metaphor A review by Sarah Boxer of Catherine Chalmers' ""Executions" exhibition, the third part of her cockroach project." New York Times, Arts Section, Thursday, May 6, 2003. Backup.

No, I'm not kidding. This is for real. As a matter of fact, Catherine Chalmers is one of those artists you'd be likely to run into in the Saatchi collection. Some of my readings have found her mentioned in the same kind of company as Damien Hirst and Chris Ofili.

Damien Hirst confronts death and dares to portray it openly. Chris Ofili caused the uproar in Brooklyn with his painting of the Madonna with bits of elephant dung on the piece. Catherine Chalmers explores the world according to cockroaches. And Tracy Hicks collects memories in canning jars. All these artists are exploring new ways of seeing the world. They're breaking out of traditional molds and sometimes facing us with this different vision up front and personal.

Although no one I know of has interpreted the execution series as I have, it has made an outstanding impression on me. Execution, the killing of another by the State, has been a touchy subject since long before Francois Villon's 14th Century Freres Humains Qui Apres Nous Vivez (Oh, human brothers who after us shall live . . . ), spoken by a hanged corpse to the rest of humanity.

Issues of retribution, vengeance, tolerance, forgiveness are all bound up in our feelings about death, particularly death wrought by State edict. For me, Catherine Chalmers' cockroach sitting in that little electric chair with the bolt of lightning coming down worked to separate out the horror of the act from all the issues of guilt and retribution. The act of killing, in itself, stops me cold. That doesn't mean I condone what brought us to this point, but the killing, the cold, calculated killing of a living thing is a humungous act. Perhaps Chalmers' work will strike a greater impression than long-winded arguments. Permeditated, calculated killing is horrible. Just that. Nothing more. Then we'll go back and consider how we want to deal restoratively with social justice.

That's what I meant by "facticity." The very fact of that scene of deliberate killing is enough to capture me in the horror of that moment. There's no room for illocutionary understanding and governance. Just for horror. There is that kind of element to the death penalty. Particularly a death penalty in which errors have been made and people innocent of the specific crime have died.

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For Balance and Peace of Mind:

Pink Tank
Pink Tank, London, 2002
By Aleksandra Mir with Polly Staple, Nina Manandhar, Shama Khanna and Alia Mirza.
With thanks to Russell Gray.
Pink Tank photo by Robin Sellick

Take the time to read the comments. Those of you who have done conversational analysis with Alan Ryave might want to try analyzing them. They read like poetry. This should put you in a better mood for studying for end of semester. Good luck. jeanne

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New This Issue NEW for the Week of May 12, 2003
Previous Issue: Week of May 5, 2003


I now consider that the site will offer new material only for our Dear Habermas community at large. There's more than enough up for everyone to complete their assignments for Sociology of Reality. Please don't e-mail me that you don't know what to do. This is the END of the semester.

  • Contact Bobby Nelson in the Multicultural Center. e-mail:
  • Or Patricia Acone, e-mail: or Pat Acone at 310-521-8860
  • or jeanne, e-mail:

Father Adjakpe of Ghana will be visiting with us on May 21, 2003. Please be sure you've read colonization and proselytization. And some new pieces I'm in the process of putting up: Ghana, Nigeria, and Moral Theology Father Adjakpe's specialty. I'll get up specific discussion questions by Monday. jeanne

May 10, 2003: Tickets: Sorry, I need these seats. As you deal your way through trying to get tickets to graduation for your family and friends, turn to Jennifer's story. You're not alone with these dilemmas.

May 1, 2003: How to Request a Letter of Recommendation Don't forget to read Jennifer's sample request as a guide. It will help us both be more effective at writing good letters. It would be a good idea to see to it that I know who you are, if you're asking for a letter.

May 16, 2003: Site to check for virus hoaxes.

  • Shared Discourse for Tuesday, May 6
    and Wednesday, May 7, 2003

    Things I'd like you to review for Thursday, May 12, 2003, so we can all discuss them knowledgebly.

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  • Theses and Articles and Novels by Our Students

    • May 6, 2003: Effective Management Start of Veronica Roberson's dissertation, with jeanne's comments.

    • May 5, 2003: Foucault and Chomsky on Human Nature and Politics: An Essential Difference? By Michael Daniels. Junior, Trinity University. San Antonio, Texas Comments and Discussion Questions up soon. jeanne

    • April 24, 2003: Berthena Kemp: No new material. Restructuring Berthena Kemp's thesis.

    • April 24, 2003: Carolyn Ibekwe: No new material.

    • April 24, 2003: Charles Barlow: No corrections submitted. jeanne

    • April 24, 2003: Jolie Gibbs. Has entire first draft of thesis in on disk. Abstract and start of chapter 1. Working on Chapter 2. Up soon. jeanne

    • April 24, 2003: Patricia Hamilton. First section in as hardcopy. We need to get it into Word. Beautifully written. Needs structural context and visual support. jeanne

    • April 24, 2003: Millie Coulter. Hello, Millie. Where are you?? jeanne

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    Merriam-Webster Dictionary Search:

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    Theoretical Musings for Us by Us

    • Modern Social Theory: Advanced

      • Interactive Digital Comics and Their Role in Social Communication:

          May 13, 2003: Oneironaut. An interactive digital comic that was "the final project of Joseph Talbot for the MA in Electronic Media [MA in EM] at Oxford Brookes University.

          • May 13, 2003: The Potential of the Online Comic Comics have been with us for a long time. They are a means of communication that need to be developed in connection with the new digital world out there. Some of you may be intrigued by this site and find tools that will help you communicate in helping others. Although most of our behavioral science students are unlikely to seek jobs creating digital comics, it is vital that you understand their use as tools in reaching out with the social services we seek to provide.

            Culture is changing, and culture is also one of the areas we need to understand rather thoroughly if we are to describe and predict social and interpersonal situatedness and interdependence. I hope this site might help you start to think outside the box. jeanne

    • Ethics and Integrity:

    • Health

    • Labor

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      Lived Experience: Narratives

        Jennifer Elster
        (Toshiro Yamaguchi) New York Times

      • May 10, 2003: Tickets: Sorry, I need these seats. As you deal your way through trying to get tickets to graduation for your family and friends, turn to Jennifer's story. You're not alone with these dilemmas.

      KIDS' Stuff

      Helping Your Student Get the Most Out of Homework National PTA. National Education Association. Link added April 13, 2003.

    • May 3, 2003: Educational Resources for Teachers at K - 12 Levels Center for Diseease Control. Free curriculum on health and public health. Link added May 3, 2003.
    • New for Kids this Week:

      Art Shenanigans

      Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
      Catherine Chalmers in her studio with "Hanging," part of her "Executions" exhibition,
      the third part of her cockroach project.

    • Gabriela Trzebinski, Kenya: Artist

      Portrait of a Servant, Gabriela Trzebinski, Kenya
      Portrait of a Servant

      Link to artists, then to Gabriela Trzebinski, on the menu at bottom of home page. Rh|g Gallery (Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London)

      This same image, Portrait of a Servant, appears in the exhibit of Gabriela Trzebinski's work with a green background. I like the magenta much better. The tiny form, the hat that repeats the shape of the body, the teeth that pick up the white, and the energy of the magenta background, a backqround that bathes the whole scene in a comfortable kind of joy for me. I thought of There Eyes Were Watching God and Zora Neale Hurston's description of the joy of "blackness" in the little Southern town which had its own black governance and culture.

      I like this artist's spirit. Another of my favorites was

      Big Mother,
      Big Mother
      By Gabriela Trzebinski, Kenya

      Note the irony that the mother honored here is Britain, not Kenya. And then note the row of little heads all looking up to their ideological mother. Note also the overwhelming size of the motehr compared to her "children" and consider what that might mean in terms of agency, structural context, and colonization.

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    • Tracy Hicks, Dallas - Artist

      Tell Tell Heart by Tracy Hicks, Artist
      Tell Tell Heart

      I came across Tracy Hicks' work while looking for a suitable site to send you off to for Damion Hirst's work. Still haven't found what I want on Damion Hirst but Tell Tell Heart just demanded to be shared with you. Be sure to read the essay on Re-Collections by art curator, Annegreth Nill, and find the Tell-Tale Heart by Poe linked there, too.

      Here is art at a whole different level of symbolism. You might not want to hang it on your wall or stand it somewhere in your living room, but it has much to say, and Hicks says he has patrons who understand his art and buy the jars, if I understood correctly.

      See also Project Row Houses by Nancy Bless in Sculpture Magazine. Tracy Hicks has been one of their curators in this public art project. "Joseph Beuys once said, “The social order is a living being....I am really convinced that humankind will not survive without having realized the social body, the social order, into an artwork.” . . . But very few artists actually become involved in the long-term community relationships needed to effect measurable change. This is the major contribution that Project Row Houses brings to the conversation on public art. Project Row Houses creates a framework for people in the larger community to plug into in some way, closing the gaps between art and life, between artists and nonartists, as well as bridging the divides of race, class, and ethnicity. Reverend McGee of the Trinity United Methodist Church, the oldest African-American church in Houston, described Project Row Houses to the New York Times as ”a blood transfusion, it has given life to the community.”5 Whether we label their work “a neighborhood-based public art project,” as they do, “new genre public art,” as Suzanne Lacy might,or “social sculpture,” after Joseph Beuys, Project Row Houses is a standard-setting endeavor."