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Welcome to Brain Clutter. You will find pages of content to clog your brain including videos, photography, and reflections on Politics, Nature and Society. Enjoy.

Dr. Stubberfield’s COVID-19 Quarantine Environmental Issues Course

This site and its posts contain videos, images and recordings to further illustrate points often left unsaid. Students are free to interpret the artwork and presentations as they will and it is hoped that this will support student development.

Welcome to Brain Clutter’s COVID-19 Quarantine Course page for PSCI/UAP 3344: Global Environmental Issues. This page displays information relevant to enrolled students in Dr. Alex Stubberfield’s Global Environmental Issues section offered through Virginia Tech. Students should refer to the course syllabus provided on Canvas for an orientation to the course assignments, dates, readings and aims.

This page contains links to blog posts that help elucidate the readings for the week. As a reminder, this course is reading and writing intensive and students are expected to keep up with their assignments independent of course publications on this page. Additionally, students will post to the course page in teams, every week beginning the week of 2/22-2/26/21 . The Professor will organize teams the week of 2/1-2/5/21 and it is expected that these teams will not change further. Please treat the site and others respectfully as you navigate its content and formulate your opinions concerning some of the most pressing issues of our age.

Take a look at the picture featured on our page and reflect. This was a photo taken by me, Dr. Alex Stubberfield, at the $1,500,000,000+ Gardens by the Bay exhibition in Singapore. We will reflect on what it means to live in the Anthropocene throughout this course and its aim is to equip you, the student, with innovative tools for formulating and writing your own perspectives concerning our global environment. As such, this course already assumes that we inhabit a planet in which segments of humanity have intervened in the organic economies of planet Earth. I will not argue further that we do indeed inhabit times and spaces characterized by accelerated global change and it is expected that enrolled students will have an interest in those processes by the end of the course.

This is a “Supertree” from Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay and illustrates the entanglement of “technological” and “natural” systems.
We will explore human-nature entanglements throughout this course as a method of political ecology. Political ecology studies, for the purposes of this course, how politics is enmeshed in the construction and administration of ecosystems.
Gardens by the Bay, in the video above is a depiction of human-nature relationships and, as such, is a part of a representational politics that can be explored throughout the course.

This course, however, does not directly explore examples or the results of global change, but instead questions and theorizes the foundations of the issues it presents. Where do we – this class – fit into the picture of global change? Is global change a global responsibility? Will more science and technology solve the problems presented by global change? What of industry, economy, culture, politics; will these have to change as our environment does? Do we all inhabit the same “environment,” or even “environments,” and what political, and moral implications does this have? Students may expect readings attempting to answer the questions above, and more but we, in this course and in our lives, ought to cultivate a critical sensibility to what we read, how we write, and how our answers are formulated to these questions. As this class argues, the answers to the above will have real and material effects that may leave indelible evidence of human history within the lifeforms of Earth and possibly beyond Terra.

The Offspring’s “Not the One” provocatively explores the notion of global inheritance and intergenerational responsibility. It is we the living who must deal with the actions of the dead with an eye to the future. But is what does this mean politically?

My goal is to equip students with the critical tools to do their own research and argue their positions. As such, this course is writing and research intensive with students selecting a topic related to the politics of global change and pursuing a guided research project throughout the course. This assignment aims at inculcating a sense of scholarly discipline in reviewing empirical studies and the careful selection of data to support the student’s argument. I, the Professor, am available for consultation in the selection of a research project and the course is designed to support this centerpiece project. It is hoped that interested students will use the research executed in this course as a foundation for a paper, a capstone project, or a space to investigate interests otherwise frustrated in other courses. Students are free to customize their projects within the confines of the syllabus and this project presents the opportunity for students to make their research their own.

The course and its readings are divided into modules each with a question formulated to guide students through the readings. The succession of the modules also presents an argument made by the Professor and students are invited to be critical of that argument. I will, however, leave it unsaid for the time being. Module questions and more information regarding the course readings can be gleaned from the Reading Schedule found on the syllabus posted to Canvas and by actually reading the assigned documents. In order, the module questions are: What is an ecocritique and how do they operate; What are the effects of an environmentality and where can we find them in evidence; and, What is technonature, and how can it be characterized? Students should never feel compelled to agree with any of our authors or the Professor himself, but they must articulate good reasons for rejecting those positions and a firm understanding of the author’s position. Disagreements with our selected readings, if done as the above suggests, can be the basis of a student’s research project.

As a final remark: please remember to read the syllabus and keep in contact with me, and each other. We have a cross-disciplinary class composition with majors drawn from across colleges at Virginia Tech. The Anthropocene and global change must be confronted from all sides and it is exciting that we have a multiplicity of perspectives to draw from and welcome. I hope that we can learn from each other and work in an interdisciplinary fashion that reiterates the urgency of our changing environments. It is exciting that we get to do this and I hope that all of you will bring your best to the table. 

Dr. Stubberfield’s COVID-19 Quarantine Political Theory Course

Welcome to Brain Clutter’s COVID-19 Quarantine Course for PSCI 3015: Political Theory. This subsection holds all information relevant to PSCI 3015 administered by Dr. Alexander Stubberfield for enrolled students at Virginia Tech. Each post includes an essay regarding the assigned readings for the week that will help structure the course narrative. All essays are designed for multi-modal engagement and include songs and videos attempting to ground the often heady theoretical readings in more concrete representations through popular culture. Podcasts are provided on occasion when necessary and students are invited to download them for edification and info-tainment.

The lyrics help for this one, but it’s not always the case on Brain Clutter. Some videos are provided purely for visual display and it’s not always necessary to speak the language to draw out the deeper meaning or the Professor’s intention. “Tom Sawyer,” by Rush is embedded above to illustrate a deeper project of the course. Pull what you can from it and wrestle with what it presents. There is no test but whether you enjoy learning.

RIP Neil Peart 9/12/1952 – 1/7/2020

This course is an amalgam of material selected by the Professor concerning political theory, ethics and society. These selections are in no way guided by Virginia Tech and the arguments and opinions made throughout are the Professor’s and his only. The course discusses three major topics necessary for more advanced understandings of some conversations in political theory. As such, this course does not pretend to be exhaustive nor present a unified view or survey of the field. Instead, the course proceeds in arcs concerning three major vocabulary constellations each addressed in the readings. Each week has at least one guiding question within the syllabus reading schedule and students should consult the week’s question before reading the assigned documents. This will help guide students through the readings by highlighting an important theme throughout related to the course narrative. Students may read more freely and work through the texts on their own terms but the questions are there to help orient students in relation to the central question of the course. Those vocabulary constellations are: sophistry; “the good life;” and “the just state.” Each is foundational within the history of political theory and each is useful in the current atmosphere of political discourse broadly construed. The central question of the course is: “How is sophistry connected to the good life and the just state?”

The readings selected to address the above are not the final word on the subject. Students are invited to continue researching the week’s questions at the close of the course as the course is intended to spur individual interest and provide a groundwork for deeper dives into political theory. Each week builds from the next and this is intentional to show the endurance of philosophical problems and political discussion chronologically and throughout antiquity. Each of our authors builds from the next either through confirmation or refutation so it is vital that students get a foothold in the conversation within the first few weeks. The one exception to the above is the first week’s readings of Marx who introduces students to a functionalist definition of “capital” and shows the manifestation of it socially, politically, ethically and materially. However, Marx, as we will see, is responding to the perennial debates introduced in this course and provides an historical link between the ancients and contemporary political theory. Students are reminded that it is necessary to read the syllabus provided on Canvas and a careful reading of it will reveal the interconnection between questions through readings. This is intentional and a methodological consideration as we explore political theory both historically, and expose the overlap between some of the great questions of our age. Additionally, the Professor is making an argument through the readings and the guiding questions, though perhaps quietly. Students never need to agree with the Professor regarding his interpretations of the texts, nor must they present his suspected political views back at him in course assignments.

Brain Clutter and the Professor aim at helping students advance themselves through political and philosophical reflection. They do not aim at “producing students,” but better learners, careful readers, creative thinkers, and responsible people. The assignments and grades found in the syllabus are guides for learning and each assignment sharpens a skill set such as critical reading, reasoning and writing. We are, however, constrained by technological necessity in the presentation of this course and unfortunately the dynamic environment of the classroom has been lost for the time being. This means that the usual free flowing and dispersed nature of classroom discussion is constrained by the flow of information and its channels across the net. The Professor believes that this method of course delivery cannot cultivate democratic citizens in the way that person-to-person discussion can but he has done his best to make the course about the free expression of thought and to cultivate an interest in assuming the mantle of democratic responsibility. We will, as a result, pursue ancient political theory to the best of our abilities no-holds-barred.

The final speech – Charlie Chaplain’s first talking role – in The Great Dictator (1940) captures the democratic project embedded in our course. As an historical note, the end scene in the film above was written, directed and produced by Charlie Chaplain and released in October of 1940 – nearly one year after the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939, and a year before full U.S. commitment against the Axis powers in December of 1941.