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Monday, February 5, 2024

“However loathsome or loving we are, so will we be.“

“The first step is to stop policing the borders of your own imagination.”
Rooting around in the online edition of my forthcoming next issue of my Science Magazine.
Sociologist Ruha Benjamin’s Imagination: A Manifesto is a short, punchy book designed to kick-start expansive thinking about society’s most pressing collective problems. Joining works such as historian Robin Kelley’s classic Freedom Dreams (1), Benjamin’s new book argues that scholars and activists committed to justice should look to the utopian imaginings of those ill-served by current distributions of power, privilege, and resources. Victims of oppressive structures often have insight into the kinds of social transformations that would alleviate their suffering, she observes.

 In the tradition of the best manifestos, Benjamin encourages readers to think through seemingly audacious suggestions, such as the abolition of oppressive systems and the creation of “a world in which everyone can thrive.” Rights now thought of as inalienable were often first envisioned by radical dreamers, she reminds us, inviting readers to join their ranks...

The book is strongest when it draws on concrete examples of scholars, artists, activists, and even states that are imagining more equal power relations and more inclusive futures. For instance, Benjamin describes how, in collaboration with Breonna Taylor’s mother and boyfriend, the artist Lady Pheønix created an app that reframes negative media portrayals of Taylor, who was unarmed when she was killed by police in her Kentucky home in 2020. Pheønix’s work helps to contextualize Taylor’s life, creating an experience that includes a hologram of the 26-year-old medical worker with her favorite flowers, her art, and messages from people who cared for her. Benjamin explores how art helped to interrupt a victim-blaming narrative, imagining a more compassionate framing in the face of dehumanization…
Ahhh... No "Praise-Criticism-Praise sandwich" in the review. Gotta be a good'un. I'll know tomorrow, pre-ordered it (release date Feb 6th). Amazon blurb:
In this revelatory work, Ruha Benjamin calls on us to take imagination seriously as a site of struggle and a place of possibility for reshaping the future.

A world without prisons? Ridiculous. Schools that foster the genius of every child? Impossible. Work that doesn’t strangle the life out of people? Naive. A society where everyone has food, shelter, love? In your dreams. Exactly. Ruha Benjamin, Princeton University professor, insists that imagination isn’t a luxury. It is a vital resource and powerful tool for collective liberation.

Imagination: A Manifesto is her proclamation that we have the power to use our imaginations to challenge systems of oppression and to create a world in which everyone can thrive. But obstacles abound. We have inherited destructive ideas that trap us inside a dominant imagination. Consider how racism, sexism, and classism make hierarchies, exploitation, and violence seem natural and inevitable—but all emerged from the human imagination.

The most effective way to disrupt these deadly systems is to do so collectively. Benjamin highlights the educators, artists, activists, and many others who are refuting powerful narratives that justify the status quo, crafting new stories that reflect our interconnection, and offering creative approaches to seemingly intractable problems.

Imagination: A Manifesto offers visionary examples and tactics to push beyond the constraints of what we think, and are told, is possible. This book is for anyone who is ready to take to heart Toni Morrison’s instruction: “Dream a little before you think.”

"Dream a little before you think."

Copy that.

All apropos of recent heavy topics, I would say.
Oh, yeah, on "thinking." I read this book in one sitting on Saturday.

THIS LITTLE BOOK IS A collection of essays I wrote for The Atlantic that emanates from my stubborn desire to think for myself. Any time a person in authority tells me that I must believe their version of events—even when the truth is so obviously different—has my attention. Some of them are about very serious subjects, such as the brutal attack on Salman Rushdie or the media’s certainty that a video of an adolescent on the Washington Mall shows him committing a hate crime. Others are about extremely nonserious subjects, such as … well, you’ll see. They all come from the same impulse, however—and they are certainly a product of George Orwell’s observation that “to see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”

It’s more true now than in his day: Here is what you have to believe to be a “good” person—someone “clubbable,” to use an old phrase—and here are the facts on the ground.

I can tell you that each time I finished one of these essays, I heard a tiny, satisfying kind of “click.” I had done the best I could to find out what had happened, correct the record, and draw a conclusion supported by facts.

The world is full of glittering images and salesmen eager to get you to buy one of them. But it’s your life and your mind, and—as of present writing—you have every right to think and speak and write for yourself. You’re needed out here…

Flanagan, Caitlin. On Thinking for Yourself (Atlantic Editions) (pp. xiii-xiv). Zando. Kindle Edition. 
A fine writer. Great sense of humor.


Saw this on 60 Minutes last night. Goes to my now-abandoned absurd non-starter proposal.



Dr. Benjamin's new book is out. I'm whacked upside the head from the very first page.

I bought Dr. Benjamin's book on Tuesday, finished it yesterday. A lot to ponder. Elegantly written, tightly argued, a pleasure to read. Princeton is lucky to have her. More on it shortly. I'm listening to SCOTUS Orals at the moment, re: the Trump CO primary election ballot removal thing per Amendment 14, Section 3 ("insurrection").

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