Responding to my post about my own academic career, Ben writes:

I was struck but what you wrote as I am beginning the process of applying to phd programs here in the states and find myself constantly frustrated by the options (you mention two of ‘continental friendly’ programs and I would add New Mexico as well) and have been lately considered whether it is worth it to go into philosophy at all in the states.

Part of me wants to just flee across the ocean where the rest of me thinks it is long over due that continental philosophy have proper homes (or a proper home) in the states and that something like black mountain college/egs needs to be made here – a theory camp if not a real school.

Sorry I am mostly rambling – I guess my question is – is it even possible to get into well respected (but always analytic) programs in the US with continental credentials and, if so, like you partially suggest, is it impossible to teach what one likes in the high ivory towers?

I really like Ben’s idea about starting something like the equivalent of EGS here in the United States. This is something that theorists from a variety of disciplines should be talking about and something that should seriously be implemented. I have even been considering going after a second PhD at EGS not only for the opportunity to work with theorists and artists of such stature, but as a motivation to write another book. Although an outsider, I think I have enough background in media theory and technologies to have something of interest to say on these issues.

With respect to the academic job market, I think it’s worth emphasizing that a lot of what I wrote in my post is really my own personal symptoms and insecurities. I think there are a lot more possibilities out there than I suggest, and that in my own case I often create artificial barriers where they don’t exist. Lacan often observed that neurotics tend to manufacture barriers against jouissance as a way of sustaining their desire. Moreover, one of the ways in which neurosis functions is through the frustration of the Other’s desire. This is certainly the case in my own psychic economy. Throughout high school, undergrad, and graduate school, I had to do things in a very indirect fashion. Thus, in high school I skipped so much schooling that the state actually attempted to bring charges against me for truancy. What the state didn’t know was that I spent my days at the local coffee shop reading history, mathematics, literature, and philosophy. Fortunately, given that I had reached a point where I was performing very well in school, the teachers and administration came to my defense and said “leave him alone, this works for him.” Basically I had home schooled myself.

As an undergrad I had to read texts for my philosophy courses– I took 116 hours of philosophy at Ohio State –a quarter in advance because it was constitutively impossible for me to read assigned texts during the actual quarter. The situation was similar in graduate school. In other words, I had to trick myself into doing the work. The reason for this, I think, was that I simply cannot tolerate what I perceive as an order issuing from the Other. If I am told that I am required to do something, I simply shut down and dig in my heels. This tic is so pervasive for me that I even have difficulty filling out forms.

From a psychoanalytic point of view this would be a way of frustrating the desire of the Other, but also a refusal of the Other’s jouissance or a refusal to be enjoyed by the Other. However, while this is an unconscious strategy for frustrating the Other’s desire and refusing to be an object of jouissance, it’s also worthwhile to note that this is a way of stealing jouissance from the Other. To do one’s schoolwork at the local coffee shop or read texts other than the assigned text during the semester is a sort of theft of an illicit enjoyment. It’s a delight in doing what you believe you’re not supposed to be doing. In this regard, I wonder if the way in which I portray academia isn’t a variant of a fantasy structure organized around the theft of jouissance. If I tell myself that academia only recognizes commentary, that there’s no place for the sort of work that I would like to do, then I can gratify myself by stealing something from academia or believing that I am stealing something. In other words, there’s a way in which I need this sort of impediment to get off in the way that I do. I often wonder if the sort of depression I experienced after the publication of Difference and Givenness wasn’t precisely the result of the manner in which its publication and its warm reception challenged my unconscious fantasy structure and economy of jouissance. I experienced a sort of subjective destitution and sense of the surreal or uncanny after the book was finally released. No doubt this is part of the reason for my antipathy towards the book.

Here I think it’s important to note counter-examples. Adrian Johnston, for example, has found a way to do what he wants to do within the current framework of philosophy as practiced in the United States. Who would have thought it would be possible to do serious work on Zizek, Lacan, and German Idealism and land a position in a graduate program? DeLanda is really a total outsider, but has found a way to do what he wants to do. Harman has made himself a place as well. It’s also worth citing the example of Jameson. Who would have thought it would have been possible to do the sort of Marxist literary criticism in the milieu he was working in? Finally, I have been able to publish a good deal on the sorts of things that interest me despite the belief that there is no place for my work. My point is that we have to make a place for ourselves within the institutions that exist. We also get an opportunity in the long run to change those institutions through collaborative activity, the formation of alliances, the production of journals, conferences, etc. Get involved, get to know people, put yourself out there and publicly develop your thought and you have a good chance of getting somewhere. Each generation of thinkers remakes the institutions within which they were trained. It’s your job to do that.