The Karasu Society
Karasu Society sits down with L&F to tell us about experiments with philosophy outside the academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about Karasu Society? Who are you, what have you been doing?
The Karasu Society started in the fall of 2021. The founding members all originally had gotten to know one another in Albuquerque sometime around 2015, but we all scattered in different directions in order to pursue philosophy in different academic environments around the country. Crises – such as the uprisings and COVID – somehow forced us to retreat and regroup, and we had the opportunity to reconvene in Albuquerque. We had all independently come to the conclusion that academia did not have the tools to deal with contemporary problems. We started Karasu because we realized that no one was coming to save us: no one was thinking through the fundamental problems of our contemporary situation, so we had to create a space where we could begin to think through them ourselves.
Since then our primary objective has been to loosen the grip that corporations and universities have over our thinking by producing an environment for high-level philosophical discourse in a communal environment that addresses real problems. We began the year with Penelope Haulotte’s “Gender Dysphoria for Critical Theory,” which attempted to repurpose the medicalized concept of gender dysphoria for the purpose of trans liberation. We then had Paul Livingston’s “What is a logic of ineffectivity?” which attempted to diagnose the anthropological and human-chauvinist presuppositions undergirding the history of Western philosophy. Then we had Elle Herman’s “The Problem with Prosecuting Fascism,” which presented an interpretation of the trials of Kyle Rittenhouse and the trial surrounding the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in order to critically diagnose the function of the judicial system in white vigilante murders. Our last event was a collaborative engagement with some of our comrades in Tucson, Arizona: the radical gender theorist, Lazz Kinnamon and the well-known translator Robert Hurley. It was something of our grand finale before things slowed down for the summer.
2. Why Philosophy?
Plato distinguished the philosopher from the sophist by claiming that the philosopher seeks truth. The philosophical point of view does not come from the disinterested, leisurely perspective of the armchair philosopher, who is purely an invention of the bourgeoisie. Plato, to the contrary, envisioned building his Republic in Syracuse. This is the true heart of philosophy: not abstract academic nonsense produced purely for the sake of its distribution and consumption as a cultural object, but the desire to shatter the existing order of the world and make it submit to the might of the necessary. The Platonic conception of philosophy entirely coincides with an engaged historical materialist perspective: philosophy is class conflict by other means, and the true vocation of philosophy is the forging of weapons for the proletariat.
3. What is it like to do philosophy outside the academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico?
To answer this question, we have to start by acknowledging what philosophy is like within the academy, the current state of “professional philosophy.” Philosophia, an otherwise rather anodyne generalist journal in philosophy recently published an article by Kevin MacDonald, who the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “the neo-Nazi movement’s favorite academic,” on the incompatibility between white America and “Jewish influence.” I am sure that every professional discipline has its own set of problems, but professional philosophy seems unique to me in its willingness to entertain naked forms of Nazism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and so on.
Indeed, there is regressive philistinism that is peculiar to American academic philosophy, which historians have often traced back to McCarthyist repression. In fact, it is not by chance that the ascendance of the peculiarly American brand of analytic philosophy practiced today in universities across the country began to assert its mostly unquestioned dominance during what would come to be known as one of the most thoroughgoing counter-revolutions in American history. What’s more, the memory of what actually occurred is often the first casualty of repressive persecution, so that professional American philosophers unconsciously continue to carry out the disgraced senator’s paranoid diktats by ensuring that their quasi-intellectual environment remains utterly sterile.
To do philosophy outside of the academy is to contrast our own desire to know the truth with the institutionalization of bad faith that is almost ubiquitous in academic philosophy. It is to resist the temptation to transform ideas into mere markers of cultural capital and “sophistication.” In the academy, novelty is the driver for research because of the forced, intense competition to get published. We want to create an intellectual, political, and collaborative environment: where we, as a collective, can decide what is philosophically important; to learn from our intellectual community rather than compete; and to further develop communist and feminist theory and praxis in Albuquerque.
4. How has COVID and the uprisings of 2020 influenced the activity of Karasu Society?
I think what COVID and the uprisings have revealed to everyone paying attention is the extraordinary hollowness of the central institutions of American life. We have collectively witnessed over a million deaths, the vast majority of which were completely unnecessary. We all saw the extreme violence from the police. Universities across the country sacrificed the lives of their least secure staff and students to satisfy corporate interests. The question posed by our situation is the following: What are you going to do about it? The Karasu Society is the beginnings of an answer to that question.
5. What are some next steps for you? Where do you see the project going?
We would like to significantly expand our operations in the future: continue hosting talks, panels, discussions, writing workshops, and so on. We have been in discussions with a number of people from out of state that would like to come and speak at our events and we are raising money to that end. But as our core grows, we would like to be able to participate in more direct confrontational actions as well as help spawn two, three, many Karasu Societies - that is to say, the exponential growth of cells devoted to the advancement of philosophy proliferating in the ever-widening cracks revealing themselves in the edifice of the Ivory Tower, which are blacker and darker than any dark academia subcultural internet trend.
6. Anything else you want to add? How can people get in touch with you?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please get in touch, especially if you’d like to present with us.