Margaret Morse on Tue, 22 Nov 2011 04:50:10 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> more on Kittler

Dear nettime colleagues,
I want to thank Eugen and Nancy for their heartfelt and revealing posts about Kittler, including some valuable links that led to other links.  I will stick to my own reminiscences in my response and avoid going into the story about the yacht and the Sirens or the sad events that ended in a hommage with 2 bras.  I found the material they included  really wierd enough to get my attention as well as honest and touching. 

The link to an interview with Kittler that identified sex/love as the area of HALF of his work was also illuminating.  After my original post on Kittler and his misogyny I was compared by one person behind the scenes with Xanthippe and was strongly attacked for the inappropriateness of my post.  Indeed, I do want more than the kitchen and kids--I want good conversations that are both intellectual and passionate and also preferably civil.  I don't consider gender a taboo topic and think it is fair to consider Kittler's views--all the more so after his death.  Kittler aside, the notion that women are "being" is a very old story (and evidently a Greek one) and it goes together with thinking of gender as a strict dichotomy determined by sex.  It often leads to thinking of women as a natural resource, confined to that role or even to the status of chattel.

While reading the views Kittler expresses first hand and second hand, thanks to the above posts, I felt as if I were back in graduate school again in the late 1960's and early 1970's, especially during the peak of the sexual revolution.  From the point of view of a female graduate student, I thought sex could be a good thing, but not when one is likely to be offered nothing else and especially when one doesn't have a choice.  I was there to learn, but in atmosphere charged with sexual vibes and mini-skirts it was tacitly clear that women grad students could fill seats but that they would not be taken seriously as scholars with a potential future at the university.   There was plenty of coercion and physical force being used as well by my male peers as the era developed.  The last thing I wanted was to be propositioned by my professors.  That Kittler's seminar apparently felt otherwise with Kittler as cock of the roost is certainly its business. Note that I am not against sex 
 between consenting adults; the power relation does, however, give me pause and his dismissiveness or lack of appreciation with which he mentions this is also noteworthy.  

There were only three women teachers in my higher education from beginning  to end; one was my physical education instructor, one was my German instructor and one was a very, very tough and brilliant Jewish woman with a Ph.D. from Harvard.  When I flew to conferences during business commute hours as an academic looking for a job or giving a talk,  I was often the only woman on the plane other than the stewardesses.  As a young (Mellon) professor I was usually mistaken for a secretary.  This was a man's world.  Kittler is an especially privileged case in this regard, since a vision of sex influenced by the sexual revolution (and a pre-second-wave feminist world) played a significant role in his ideas--as if another time and place were frozen there.  (It is as if history disappears and myth appears as living reality--consider the yacht story.)  However, that is not all Kittler is--there is another half to his work.  Both sides are legitimate objects for further thought in the l
 ight of a lifetime. 

Judging from wonderful people I have met in German universities and intellectual communities, I think the situation of women in academia in Germany has improved from what it used to be, leaving the GDR as a complicating factor aside.  I long thought it be very repressive in the West--the East was a different matter--and I am sure there are still vestiges of old views and practices today.  If nettime is a hostile place to post something like this, I will be sad and pessimistic that nettime can become a stronger place for women to have a voice.  

Best wishes,

On Nov 17, 2011, at 1:24 AM, Eugen Leitl wrote:

> Via Telepolis
> Hegel is dead
> Axel Roch 17.11.2011
> Miscellanea on Friedrich A. Kittler (1943-2011)
> Recently, on the 18th of October 2011, one of our most prolific thinkers in
> art, media, and culture died: Friedrich A. Kittler. You might have read this
> some time ago in some sort of news. Today, on the 17th of November, he was
> buried. His final place to rest is a well known graveyard: Dorotheenstadt
> cemetery in Berlin with prominent neighbours, such as Bertolt Brecht, Heiner
> M?ller, Georg W.F. Hegel, Johann G. Fichte, Herbert Marcuse, amongst others.

Margaret Morse
Professor of Film/Digital Media
University of California Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, CA 95064

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