Reflections in Place


This trip to Italy has been great if unexpected. Just goes to show you that you should reach out to any random academic emails you get if you think that the person on the other end shares your ideas or area even a little bit. I speak tomorrow at the University of Padua as a part of a conference interrogating the idea of judging sheets, rubrics, or as we call them in the U.S. “ballots.” It’s such a cute American name for what is essentially a rubric but we love to keep that democratic exceptionalism dream alive don’t we?

I am super curious how the event will go. I’ve prepared my remarks, about 8 pages worth, that I’ll post on after the conference concludes. I hope I did it “right.” You never know what people might expect at a European conference. Sometimes you really hit a nerve, sometimes everyone shrugs, sometimes they get really excited about your perspective. Mostly I’ve gotten option 3 out of that list because I think the combination of the American rhetorical tradition along with concern for student production is really engaging for people who feel that more can and should be done with students in the curriculum. I think it’s one of the best connections between American academics and Europeans.

I think that most of the other speakers will be tournament-oriented, which is fine. There’s nothing wrong with the tournament, per se. The concern is of course “teaching to the test” where the subversive nature of debate education is stripped away by desire to conform to the ballot for the pleasure of winning, or what Starhawk might call power-over others. The trick is to make debate events that focus us on her idea of power-with or power-through (not sure if that’s her idea, but I thought about it through her work so if not, it might as well be her’s).

For those who are interested, here’s my Trip to Italy Photo Album in Progress. I’ll update photos probably for the last time on the 9th after getting back to the U.S. This is everything from the past 24 hours so far anyway, and it will update as I upload. Trying to get away from Facebook as much as I can, and when the tools are as good as Google Photos and Squarespace, it’s super easy to do.

More on the conference after it happens. This is a reflection post and I’ve turned it into pre-gaming a conference.

I was in Venice yesterday and had a bittersweet moment and wanted to talk about it. I really like the connections between places that you visit more than once in your life. Here goes!

Hooray for the GoPro, the best blogging/vlogging device I own.

I wonder if I really am done with debate, or will debate continue to use me, or in Lacan’s words “Spin me like a top” in pursuit of it’s own pleasure, with me playing the role of the disciplinary psychotic?

The author of this blog in St. Mark’s Square, November 2004.

The author of this blog in St. Mark’s Square, November 2004.

Have I done a good job with debate over the last 14 years? There’s nothing tangible, no rewards from the University, no support that I really needed, no clear legal protections for what I was doing (travelling with students all over), no assistance from parts of the university that you’d think would be available for assistance, and the list goes on. I am glad to be done with it for sure. But I’m also glad to have done it. Everything that’s happened since 2004 I couldn’t have possibly imagined, and whether it’s good or bad, successful or not, I’m very grateful for all the experiences that happened between my first visit to St. Mark’s Square and this recent one. It has been a good time, good meaning that even the negative moments are good in the fact that they were bad; all things lead us to some sort of critical reflection if we try.

What will have happened between this visit and the next? If past is prologue, expect that video around 2032.

Debate continues to interest me but not in the more traditional capacities. Here’s to hoping tomorrow is a Burkean mystic’s “peek around the corner.”