Machete at the American Comparative Literature Association

Machete Group Members Avi Alpert and Gabriel Rockhill are organizing a panel at next year’s ACLA in New York. Description below. Interested parties should submit abstracts through the ACLA’s website.


The Times of Social Transformation: Narratives of Change and Changing Narratives

Seminar Organizer(s):

  • Gabriel Rockhill (Villanova University), Avram Alpert (University of Pennsylvania)

Some commentators say that the grand era of revolutionary social transformation began around 1776 and ended in 1989.  “Popular capitalism” then came to impose itself as the normative horizon of human time, if not the veritable end of history.  This historical narrative was quickly challenged, however, by the Zapatista Rebellion, the Bolivarian Revolution, the Seattle protests and other uprisings.  History was not following its proposed script.  More recent revolutionary activity around the world has further discredited the historical narrative that frames our current conjuncture as one that is beyond the pale of radical social transformation.

These practical contestations of the supposed framework of contemporary politics have given rise to important reflections on the temporality of social transformation, including renewed interest in categories such as prefiguration, untimeliness, belatedness, recuperation, revolutionary rupture and the longue durée.  In the context of the ACLA, we would like to open an inquiry into the narratives of change as well as these changing narratives.  This includes a preoccupation with contemporary social movements, a concern with their aesthetic and literary framing, and a consideration of how such framings relate to different notions of time.  We envision this seminar, therefore, as an opportunity to reflect on the variety of ways in which change becomes meaningful through social praxis and its narrative encoding (or decoding) in time.  Papers addressing these issues from theoretical, historical, practical, aesthetic or literary perspectives are all welcome.

SEMINAR KEYWORDS: Social transformation, revolution, historiography, Marxism, anarchism, critical theory, pluralism, cultural politics, aesthetics, the avantgarde, narratology

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Occupy Time

October 6th, City Hall, 1pm

Join Machete Group members Avi Alpert and Gabriel Rockhill as they take part in a teach-in to usher in the second year of the Occupy Movement. Alpert and Rockhill will be discussing how the Occupy movement relates to other long-term political struggles, and how we need to understand the movement not as a means to accomplish a finite end, but as part of an ongoing struggle for global justice.

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Fall Update

While the Blog was down this summer, a few Machete Group member activities occurred. Here is a sample:

Alexi Kukuljevic spoke on the topic, “Almost Nothing” at the annual MaMa conference in Zabgeb.

Gabriel Rockhill took part in the conference “The Avant-Garde at the New Stage of Institutional Criticism” at the National Center for Contemporary Arts in Moscow

A performance by Avi Alpert, alongside Danny Snelson and Mashinka Firunts, was favorably reviewed on the blog of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Philadelphia.


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Attention w/ The Order of the Third Bird

SATURDAY / 26 / MAY/ 2012 / 2PM
Institute of Contemporary Art @ University of Pennsylvania
118 S. 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 · 215 898-7108 

As part of their participation in First Among Equals, Machete Group has organized a series of performances that will take place in the exhibition gallery. This, our final event, will be run by The Order of the Third Bird, whom we have invited to explore they key term “Attention” with gallery visitors. The afternoon will consist of a kind of training session in sustained attention to artworks. They describe the event as follows:

Art and Attention: The Protocols of Practical Aesthesis. An extramural foray by indiscreet members of The Order of the Third Bird, who may be expected to lead interested and suitable participants through peculiar rites of sustained attending on made things. Temporary metempsychosis may occur, but must not become permanent. Space limited.

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6:30PM, Wednesday May 23 @ the ICA Philadelphia
A lecture-performance presented by Avi Alpert, Danny Snelson, and Mashinka Firunts.

As part of their participation in First Among Equals, Machete Group has organized a series of performances that will take place in the exhibition gallery.

“Unsearchable” with Avi Alpert, Daniel Snelson, and Mashinka Firunts.

Examining citation and erudition, Machete Group member Avi Alpert joins Philadelphia-based artists Danny Snelson and Mashinka Firunts to present an untraceable lecture performance that asks, what remains beyond the database?

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Machete and Shifter at the ICA: “The Intention of the Unintentional”

SATURDAY / 28 / APRIL / 2012 / 2PM
Institute of Contemporary Art @ University of Pennsylvania
118 S. 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 · 215 898-7108 

As part of their participation in First Among Equals, Machete Group has organized a series of performances that will take place in the exhibition gallery.

“Intention” with Shifter Magazine (Sreshta Rit Premnath and Matthew Metzger).

From Aristotle to John Cage, intention and non-intention have been key components of aesthetic practice. Part-launch for Shifter Volume 18 (on intention) and part-discussion about the concept itself, Machete Group members, Shifter editors and others will investigate the relevance of the concept of “intention” and its social dimensions.

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Dictionary of the Present at the ICA

WEDNESDAY / 28 / MARCH / 2012 / 6:30PM
Institute of Contemporary Art
118 S. 36th St. Philadelphia, PA 19104-3289 

In conjunction with First Among Equals, a presentation of the Machete Group’s Dictionary of the Present. 

Are there a set of key terms, events,and images that can help us better understand our present condition? Machete Group members Gabriel Rockhill, Alexi Kukuljevic and Avi Alpert will discuss the idea of making a Dictionary of the Present, as well as present some of their entries thus far.

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Capitalism and the State: March 21 at 7 p.m.

Part 8 of Occupy Philly Education and Training Working Group’s
Dissecting Capitalism Series:
Capitalism and the State with Gabriel Rockhill and Avi Alpert of the Machete Group

Wednesday, March 21 at 7 p.m.
at LAVA space, 4134 Lancaster Ave, Philly
Gabriel Rockhill
“State-Driven Capitalism and the Neoliberal Recuperation of Economic Determinism”
This talk will explore the historical emergence of laissez-faire economics as the product of deliberate state action in order to debunk the widespread myth of a structural opposition between the state and free market capitalism. Against this historical backdrop, it will further examine the rather suspect neoliberal recuperation of economic determinism and historical teleology–two mainstays of vulgar Marxism. It will conclude by raising a central question concerning the current political and economic conjuncture: Has neoliberal economics “triumphed” by clandestinely recycling the supposedly defunct historiography of vulgar Marxism?
Avi Alpert
“Is Capitalism Like a Language?”
This talk will present a series of theses about how research into the words we use may help illuminate the economic system in which we live. The hope is that language may reveal to us both some hard truths and real possibilities for the transformation of capitalism, the state, and beyond.
The Dissecting Capitalism series provides an introduction to capitalism, highlighting its historical, social, and political constructs as well as its systemic, global impact. Each session will feature speakers, open discussion, and for certain dates, short readings designed to facilitate participatory debate, dialogue, and popular education. We envision the series as forming a cohesive whole, and encourage participants to attend all ten sessions, if possible. The education series is free, as all education should be, but donations to West Philly’s collectively run LAVA (Lancaster Avenue Autonomous Zone;; 4134 Lancaster Ave Philadelphia, PA 19104), which is generously letting us use its space, are greatly appreciated.
Future events include:
Wed, March 28 at 7 p.m.
Part 9: Capitalism and Racism
Josh Lukin (to be announced soon)
Wed, April 4 at 7 p.m.
Part 10: Imagining a Postcapitalism (details will be announced)
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Lecture at UPenn: January 24th

“Rancière’s Productive Contradictions: From the Politics of Aesthetics to the Social Politicity of Art”
by Gabriel Rockhill 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012.
6:30 p.m.
UPenn MB 102 (201 South 34th Street)

More info

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Intersections: Race, Class, Gender and the Occupy Movement

Machete Group Members Avi Alpert and Gabriel Rockhill in dialogue with Annika Thiem and Homay King


Due to a conflicting event, this discussion has been postponed to Monday, November 14th at 5:30 pm.

Continuing our Confrontations series in experimental Public Pedagogy in support of the Occupy Together Movement, the Machete Group proposes a collective symposium on “Intersections: Race, Class, Gender and the Occupy Movement.” Building on classic readings by Angela Davis and Cornel West, we will bring to the fore the question of who is the 99%. Through these readings and the discussion that develops, we aim to foster critical dialogue while at the same time foregrounding the point that paying attention to race, class and gender is not divisive, but rather can help strengthen the movement. We hope to engage with various voices trying to understand how our different social positions can come together to make a lasting and sustainable movement.

Although it is not a requirement for participation, the texts of reference are available for download below. A limited number of hardcopies will also be made available at the Occupy Philadelphia Library.


Angela Davis, “Class and Race in the Early Women’s Rights Campaign”
Cornel West, “The Pitfalls of Racial Reasoning”

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