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foto: E. O̩mo̩lúàbí (2016)

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Extinction Symbol
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"The science"

Victor Manfredi


...studies the comparative grammar of the Benue‑Kwa languages of the Niger‑Congo family, and several indigenous cultures of the southern 9ja (or Nàìjá) area. Since 1980 he has taught about these subjects, mostly as a glorified temp (sounds nicer in Russian: kontráktnik), at a dozen universities in Nigeria, Europe and North America. At BU he has offered Ìgbo and Yorùbá (1993‑2000, 2006‑07), Syntax2 (1999‑2000) and Morphology (2006‑07) and served on six doctoral committees in syntax (defended in 1996, 1997, 2004, 2007, 2012, 2013 plus one each in ethnomusicology (2014) and history (2020). He is currently a research affiliate in BU African Studies Center.

In solidarity with the democratic struggle:

ZakariAhmadu.jpg
logo: Zakari Ahmadu (2012)

This movement evokes a "temporary autonomous zone" such as became known in Cairo 2011
and Kyiv 2014 by the Persian>Ottoman term mīdān/maidan etc. denoting open public space.

Disclaimer: Victor Manfredi does not have any (anti-)social media accounts — see sidebar to the left.

<3rd1st person> Click here for contact information, here for my RSA public key and here for more documents and streaming media. Some writing and primary research materials, plus descriptions of joint projects in demography, typography, parsing and surrogate speech, can be consulted via these links:


The following quotes express some general theses determining my work and attitude:


Se noi fossimo immortali saremmo immorali, perché il nostro esempio non avrebbe mai fine, quindi sarebbe indecifrabile, eternamente sospeso e ambiguo. … O esprimersi e morire o essere inespressi e immortali, dicevo.
[translation]
Pasolini, I sintagmi viventi e i poeti morti. Rinascita 35 (25 August 1967), p. 20
Empirismo eretico, Garzanti, Milano, 1972, p. 255

Chi me dice ammore, rispongo dulore … Chi me dice umanità, rispongo ammore, ammore, ammore
[translation]
Pino Daniele, Chi po' dicere, Terra Mia (1977), [demo version]

We do not want wahala, but if you bring wahala, then no wahala. Love and light.


By an 'intelligentsia' — a Russian word, let it be noted — I am speaking not of what we call 'intellectuals' today who are well ensconced in universities, but [of] a footloose network of writers, artists, poets and professionals of all sorts, even actors (who formed an exceptionally close and visible community in cities such as Paris during the 18th and 19th centuries). Their absorption in recent years into the modern university system, with its many emoluments, has been one of the most costly blows to the development of present-day revolutionary movements.

Murray Bookchin, The Third Revolution; popular movements in the revolutionary era [firewall], Vol. 1
ISBN 0304335940, Cassell, London, 1996, p. 15

The epistemological question for the social sciences was and has always been where its practitioners would stand in the battle of the two cultures. … Some of them pushed hard to be part of the scientistic camp, and some insisted on being part of the humanistic camp. … It is possible that the new epistemologically centripetal tendencies of the structures of knowledge may lead to a reunified epistemology (different from both of the two principal existing ones) and to what I think of, perhaps provincially, as the 'social scientization of all knowledge'.

Immanuel Wallerstein, European Universalism; the rhetoric of power [publisher page]
ISBN 1595580611, New Press, New York, 2006, pp. 65, 70

Si les États-Unis sont réellement exceptionnels, selon la vielle thématique tocquevillienne, c'est avant tout par leur dualisme rigide des divisions de l'ordre racial. C'est plus encore par leur capacité d'imposer comme universel ce qu'ils ont de plus particulier tout en faisant passer pour exceptionnel ce qu'ils ont de plus commun.
[translation]
Pierre Bourdieu & Loïc Wacquant, Sur les ruses de la raison impérialiste [Persée portal]
Actes de recherche en sciences sociales 121/122 (1998), 109‑18, pp. 117f.

Ironically, as the basis for a politics, antiracism seems to reflect, several generations downstream, the victory of the postwar psychologists in depoliticizing the critique of racial injustice by shifting its focus from the social structures that generate and reproduce racial inequality to an ultimately individual, and ahistorical, domain of "prejudice" or "intolerance".
Adolph Reed Jr., The limits of anti-racism
Left Business Observer 121 (September 2009)

Stalked by a highly disciplined and militant Christianity, the Americas adopted popular music as an underground religion that found its cathedrals in the communal sites of dancehalls, ballrooms and the street, publicly sharing an agenda of ideas that did not seem religious to the Western mind at all: animism, polytheism, political satire, transcendance through sex and a secular humanism indistinguishable from all of them. The historical memory of a bad colonial inheritence was embedded in the leisure-form, and had to be continually exorcised

Timothy Brennan, Secular Devotion; Afro‑latin music & imperial jazz [publisher page]
ISBN 1844672913, Verso, London, 2008, p. 6

While it is good and commendable to record and document fading traditions, and in some cases this is absolutely necessary to avert total loss of cultural wealth, the greater goal must be that of safeguarding diversity in the world of people.
Ken Hale, Language endangerment and the human value of linguistic diversity [firewall]
Language 68 (1992), 35‑42, p. 41

Studying sideways, as a public anthropologist, presents a whole different set of challenges than studying down.

Adrienne Pine, www.quotha.net, 4 June 2010

This is not to say that African culture is any less cultural than say, French or British culture, but that it is harder to render invisible the politics of African culture. "Africa" is still a site of contention, as we can tell when we note that its scholars, like those of the Middle East, are put into categories based on the old imperialist politics… A set of alliances or intellectual formations thus connects the English work of Basil Davidson with the politics of Amílcar Cabral for example to produce oppositional and independent scholarship.

Edward Saïd, Culture & Imperialism, Knopf, New York, 1993, p. 239

The powerful need nothing from you but to parrot their propaganda. The powerless, on the other hand, often cause as much trouble as they suffer. Their arguments and discourses are often as brittle as their positions in society and their diminishing chances of safety and survival. Taking their side, therefore, even as an experiment, is a catalyst for deeper reflection, deeper investigation, deeper analysis and imagination.

Alaa Abd El Fattah (tr. Nariman Youssef), A profile of the activist outside his prison, Mada Masr, 18 April 2017
(= You Have Not Yet Been Defeated; selected works 2011-21 [publisher page]
ISBN 1913097749, Fitzcarraldo, London, 2021)

I realized that if everyone who had nothing to say didn't, there would be no Modern Language Association.

John Seelye, quoted by New York Times, 28 December 1972 [public OCR archive]
2 critics here focus on films as language conference opens

There is a strong sense of communitas in the air — it is not at all like identity politics — we need a new word for it… They want to read. They want to be with open communities of people of very different ideas.


L'uso della bicicletta in città è un segno di civilità che significa rispetto di sé e degli altri, ma anche dell'ambiente storico‑sociale. Pianificare lo spazio per favorire la circolazione dei ciclisti è per me un imperativo politico, nel senso più alto del termine. [translation]
Marc Augé, Repubblica, 22 April 2012
(cf. Éloge de la bicyclette [publisher page], ISBN 2743621400, Rivages, Paris, 2010)

Cependant, la richesse ou la complexité des tableaux de correspondance que nous avons donnés avec cet imbroglio d'un même saint pour plusieurs orisha et de plusieurs [saints] pour le même [orisha], peut provoquer un malaise. N'existe-t-il pas un fil conducteur qui nous permette de mettre tout de même un peu d'ordre dans le chaos d'identifications contradictoires? [translation]

Roger Bastide, Les Religions Africaines au Brésil; vers une sociologie des interpenetrations de civilisations
Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1960, p. 373

We've got lots of theories… We just don't have the evidence.

R. Rico-boy Giuliani Esq., a.k.a. "Co-Conspirator 1", New York Times, 22 June 2021, p. A15

[P]repare to be lucky… Columbo… an untidy, seemingly distracted detective… solved cases by poking around in a practiced but random fashion and stumbling in the direction of a solution. That's how it's done.

Timothy Dowd, Detective Who Led Son of Sam Manhunt, Dies at 99 [firewall]
New York Times, 29 December 2014

[N]on la teoria atomistica spiega la storia umana, ma viceversa…
[translation]
Gramsci, Quaderno 11, 46 bis, 1932‑33
(= Quaderni del carcere, Einaudi, Torino, 1975, p. 1445)

Guarda le cose anche con gli occhi di quelli chi non le vedono più!
[translation]
Pirandello, Colloqui coi personaggi (1915)

Es una de las paradojas más tristes de mi vida: casi todo lo que he escrito lo he escrito para alguien que no puede leerme, y este mismo libro no es otra cosa que la carta a una sombra.
[translation]
Héctor Abad Faciolince, El Olvido que seremos [publisher page]
ISBN 9584215000,  Editorial Planeta, Bogotá, 2006, p. 22

He called us spineless, so we developed spines.
Prof. ̩ná Íbè Nwáò̩ga ["Nwoga"] 1984,
responding to excathédra taunts by Prof. Frank Ńdì̩lí̩, the Vice-Chancellor eventually convicted
of embezzlement from the University of Nigeria, Ǹsú̩ká ["Nsukka"], cf. also Nwáchukwu (2006)

But who are the terrorists? Are we the terrorists or are they the terrorists? …[S]ometimes it's not clear.

Anthony Dominick Benedetto a.k.a. Tony Bennett, radio interview, 20 September 2011

Tribalism is attractive to politicians because in many ways it is easier than democracy. … Self-harm and self-pity form a feedback loop of endlessly renewable political energy. And this perpetual motion machine is also driven by revenge. … The phrase "identity politics" is a misnomer. Tribal politics do not in fact deal in collective identities, which are always complex, contradictory, multiple and slippery. They reduce the difficult "us" to the easy "not them". … The opposite of progressive hope is not realism. It is paranoia.

Fintan O'Toole, review of Susan Neiman, Left is not Woke (Polity, Cambridge England 2023).
New York Review of Books [firewall], 2 November 2023, pp. 18, 21.

The spreading of a virus is not dissimilar to the spreading of political extremism. Many Italians have a way of living and thinking that under normal circumstances seems harmless: we are rather certain that we are safe, until the day when we wake up and see Mussolini standing on a balcony surrounded by a crew of adoring people. You don’t realize it until it happens, and, when it does happen, it will often take a war to get rid of it. We started off sending jokes about the coronavirus, and now here we are, with the Italian Army transporting caskets across the country because crematoria in the worst-hit areas are overwhelmed.

Marco Malvaldi, New Yorker [firewall suspended], 5 April 2020

TL: DR marketising higher education is undesirable, and what is happening in unis right now is a product of decades of devaluing education as a good and recasting it as a product.

[T]he growth of endowments as the financial engine for most higher-education institutions has also helped warp the culture of these schools. … [H]igh-net-worth individuals… support… research that can be translated into intellectual property from which they can profit, or chairs in areas of study that reflect well on their identity. …[A]dministrators are guided by the same playbook: First, invest in fundraising and development that would be attractive to billionaires looking for philanthropic opportunities to avoid taxes. Second, leverage your assets by taking on bond-funded debt for new buildings. Third, shrink your workforce down to the bone by reducing the number of tenured faculty positions, outsourcing food and cleaning services, and paying graduate student workers as little as possible. Then, get rid of unprofitable departments in the name of productivity. Finally, establish and copiously reward administrators who will execute those policies with alacrity.

As universities are beaten into the shapes dictated by business, so language is suborned to its ends. We have all heard the robotic idiom of management, as if a button had activated a digitally generated voice. …
Education — of which creative writing is just one strand — gives its participants material to think with, and ways of reading, thinking and speaking. It helps fashion 'the country of words' as Mahmoud Darwish puts it, where we travel and dwell.
Marina Warner, London Review of Books 37.6, 19 March 2015

Appealing as it may be to view science as occupying a privileged epistemic position, scientific communication has fallen victim to the ill effects of an attention economy.

Jevin D. West & Carl T. Bergstrom (2021) Misinformation in and about science, PNAS 118 (15)

More than a few independent studies/reports have shown that social media (esp Twitter) selectively amplif[y] false information. … It's important to realize that an engagement-optimized platform will naturally tend to do this — false information is infinite and not constrained by reality in its ability to capture our attention. True information doesn't stand a chance. … Every single time a profitable tech has a core issue/externality, the industry will pivot towards expecting those impacted to fix it.

[W]hen you have cognitive automation — something that helps you think less — you inevitably think less.


"Once you go automatic, target generation goes crazy."

'Lavender', the AI machine directing Israel's bombing spree in Gaza
Yuval Abraham, +972 Magazine, 3 April 2024

So let me get this right: in exchange for the maps you will give away your democracy, the mental health of your children, your own mental health – for a map? I will get you a map!

Zuckerberg's ambition is to insert his billions of Facebook non-gamer users into a Steam-like digital social economy — complete with a top-down platform currency that he controls. How can I resist the parallelism with a digital fiefdom in which Zuckerberg dreams of being the techno-lord? … Central bank money has replaced private profit (as the system's main fuel and lubricant) and digital fiefdoms/platforms have become the realm in which value and capital are extracted from the majority by a tiny oligarchy.

Yanis Varoufakis, Crypto, the left and technofeudalism
n.d. [on or before 26 January 2022]

Silicon Valley ideology is using private equity to buy a new marketplace, flood it with capital to flush out competitors, and us[ing] economic dominance to eviscerate working conditions and the cost of labour before jacking up the prices again, this time with the surplus all going to investors. It's hyping specific technologies as universal, structural game-changers in accelerating hype cycles designed to fleece their marks quickly enough to drive growth and cash out before most people realise the technology simply doesn't work as they were told. Bonus points for damaging trusted institutions (crypto) or labour (AI) along the way.


the location of this page is https://people.bu.edu/manfredi
last updated
3 June 2024