Posts by Aaron Zabarte Gozum

Research Analyst at BuildingBlox Consulting MA in Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU BA in Communication at SFSU

Satellite

A satellite in New York City

I call out, can anyone hear me?

Will someone listen to the anger seeping

In my skin, the burning, the bleeding

Bubbles fester, my veins are seething

Flames flash floods fire, someone cradle me softly

Slashes carved into my cheeks

Like the soil beneath my feet

Bottomed and Brown, to be excavated

Uprooted, stripped, raped and naked

One step removed, it’s easy to say

That commas delay and memories fade

But in roast and jest, I’m sensitive to spice

My scars still remind me how commas can splice

Lonely driftwood, the borders have crossed me

In untethered limbo, a shadowy destiny

Traps and terror maps built into my psyche

Haunted and drifting in unfaithful irony

Brown and queer, as I am, do you see?

Among orbiting satellites, a glorious symphony

Golden legacies, colonial chemistries

Still radio silence, can anyone hear me?

Uncharted Waters

The last two weeks of February have felt like swimming in uncharted waters. From seeing the community outcry pour into Antioch City Council calls and social media since the news of Angelo Quinto’s death surfaced on February 18, 2021, I feel overwhelmed and heartbroken. Yet, I am perplexed by my own grief for a Filipino man I never knew.

Continue reading →

Borderless Borders and the Architectural Corporeality of Berlin

Introduction

In our current climate of hyper-securitization, popular discourse around the world seems to suggest that the nation sits upon a fragile anxiety around immigrants. Because of these anxieties, the nation has focused on bolstering security, surveillance and the policing of national borders, in efforts to protect its sovereignty. Although there is this pervasive intensity at the border, in some places as we will explore with Germany, a post-migrant discourse has gained traction. While the post-migrant discourse assumes that Berlin should be seen as a city with people who have already migrated and have been a part of society for some time, the misnomer—echoing Germany’s refusal to collect migration histories in the naturalization processes of new citizens in prevention of the targeting of marginalized groups like Jewish populations during WWII—unfortunately connotes that these individuals have been integrated, assimilated, and welcomed into the city’s community. Furthermore, the term post-migrant tends to suggest that migration has ended, rather than being a powerful continuous global force. Rather as the digital inflection of globalization accelerates and intensifies the public imaginary, borders certainly exist on the fringes of the nation’s historically-drawn topographies, but also can be ideologically and materially imposed upon the migrant in more ways than just through the exterior physical walls of the fortress. While this is the case in many other ways—the lethargic bureaucracy of legality, racist and xenophobic sentiments that fueled the temporal topographies of terror during WWII and the Cold War, more recent paroxysmal rightwing violence, and the omission of historical narratives for the sake of a national coherence—this paper critiques the post-migrant society by narrowing its scope on how through the architectural body of the city of Berlin, borders can be reproduced in ways that persist within and travel beyond the nation’s material borders.

Continue reading →

The Vanishing Point

Temporal Brushstrokes on the Corporeal Canvas

Introduction

In the public imaginary shaped by the discursive temporalities of history, a mysticism seems to shroud new digital media and technology. In one perspective of this mysticism, new forms of media symbolize a celebratory mark of progress and advancement; while on the other hand, these technological developments represent the emergence of a dystopian narrative—even with a cursory glance into popular culture, one could see this in the science fiction genre, which recycles the classic storyline of a media-induced apocalypse where robots or some foreign more advanced lifeforms from some distant planet take over. In either case, the utopian optimists and the dystopian skeptics more or less mirror the magic and liquidity of late modernity and the Information Age, a novel phase in which the conditions of globalization are unevenly intensified, fragmentarily accelerated and more abstractly disoriented. Further as the digitally-afforded forms of circulations intensify the ambivalent and mystic conditions of globalization, the circulation of things like commodities, money, and information begin to move at more variegated velocities, scales and scopes and these shifting circuits are growing more and more incompatible with the lethargic apparatuses of the national project (Appadurai 2006, 2010). Thus, we must reassess the relationship between the nation and the digital phase of globalization because the suffused spilling of cultural circuits across the canvas of national boundaries—even if in a stippling effect—instantiate this incompatibility by pointing to the nation’s philosophical incoherence and maintenance of subjective ideological temporalities that render it in a primordial veracity of antiquity. In fact, the growing resuscitation of xenophobic anxieties associated with territorial ideologies—whether we look at the case of Trump’s cathexis on building a border or the fortress metaphor that Europe has been defined with in the wake of alarming spikes of refugees seeking asylum in the past several years—indubitably illustrates a need to examine these spectacularly-mediated tensions between the nation and the global in the Information Age.

Continue reading →

Dear White People: Cultural Production & Citizenship in the Neoliberal Age

This is our world—rampant affairs of identity engulfed in our political climate, with citizenship and recognition spearheading our historical contestations with democracy. In Western pop culture in our digital age, dissension on racism, cultural appropriation and police brutality emerge across our spectacular media representations. From Kanye West’s recent debacle of supporting President Trump to the cultural production of Black essence in Black Panther to the more recent Childish Gambino music video, This is America, reforging one’s identity hits center stage in the post-Obama era. And culture, like Stuart Hall suggested, remains focal in media and communication circulations that construct and sustain how we come to be (or like to be). From the optic gaze of the white patriarchy to the algorithmic architectures of social media, these representations historically reconstruct culture by outlining the conditions of possible ways of being and thus determining the accessibility to equal recognition as citizens. When we consider the conditions of existence that are determined based on the mechanisms of power (like with media), the production, circulation, distribution, consumption and reproduction of culture sets the stage as a complex structure of power, sustained by the articulation of connected circuits and modalities (Hall 1980). However, our digital age has propelled us farther into a global landscape that disrupts the notions of nation-states and citizenship, calling for new hybrid forms of identity for social equality, activism and change. The disjunctures across our global landscapes open a window to questioning if citizenship is a document of legitimacy to live in a certain region or nation or if it is the social recognition by a civilization that treats you as a free being (Appadurai 1990). Conjuring questions of collective identity, we need to ask if assimilation is a necessary precondition for citizenship (Fanon 1952, Washington-Bā 1973). When we evoke the term citizenship, the debate stirs around democracy, legitimate status and the constitution of membership. Who gets to hold this membership and how is it embodied or recognized? Thus because culture is a powerful mechanism in maneuvering through our politics of society, the search for interventionist work that demonstrates hybridization, relationality and authentic representations across cultural production is crucial to developing an understanding of agency and true freedom. With themes of recognition, finding agency, the self, and authenticity, Dear White People, a television series reboot of the 2014 film with the same name, mediates as a satirical comedy to engage with the disconcerting realities of racism by forcing us to have difficult conversations, but also as an inciting contribution to how we process contemporary rhythmic flows of the Négritude Movement today.

Continue reading →

The Social Media Account

“While we are encouraged to join a digital stage to perform what seems like a permanency of self-appearance – but is really just a transient, one dimensional version of our self, we experience a hyper-scrutiny and collective backlash as if that one like, comment or message is a revelation of one’s whole self.” – Aaron Gozum

As the public stage of social media becomes an avatar of a facet of our identities that tends to represent and reduce our complexities to a news feed, a profile photo and a timeline, media suggests that American culture has galvanized toward a politics of privacy.

What is privacy and why does our society in the U.S. place a tremendously large value on privacy? Everyday, we are approached by messages on YouTube and WordPress asking if we would want to upgrade to a premium service that provides us the “freedom” of no advertisements as we use their digital services. Some might say, in this sense, privacy in the digital age is growingly becoming a commodity to be consumed. We live in a society where service is commodified and consuming as many commodities is what we consider the modern day achievement of Hegelian mastery.

Continue reading →

Blueprints to Nation Building: Consciousness, Revolution, then Culture?

Fixated on nationhood, Fanon in The Wretched of the Earth, prioritizes a revolutionary call for educating the masses, equipping them and liberating them to build national unity and culture. When we consider the ways in which we can go about building society, there is a common thread of asking how to do so and redefining the relation between nation and culture seems central to this question. In agreement with his aspiration for a democratic nation, I sadly align with Fanon’s decry for violence as necessary because violence seems like the only way to break the colonial cycle of oppression. Some say we are living in a postcolonial era, but I fear that today we seem to still sit comfortably in the second stage of embracing and discovering a common transnational culture—in that intellectual phase that Fanon seems to suggest as Negritude. Beyond breaking the colonial cycle of violence, we nevertheless lack a map toward a postcolonial, post-racial nation.

Continue reading →

Judith Butler talks at NYU Skirball Talks

I had the privilege of listening to Judith Butler speak on February 12th, 2018 and I wanted to take a moment to reflect because I was speechless by the endless conduits and channels in which her conversation inspires and challenges me to consider in my own studies and research. She spoke of how “we live through one another all the time.” As we spread gossip, read the news, tell stories, create art, and build relationships, we vicariously transform each other by reinforcing, challenging, and renegotiating the reality in which we live. I was deeply moved by her interweaving of José Esteban Muñoz with ideas of Freud, Benjamin, and Fanon among many other great thinkers.

Continue reading →

The Challenges of Defining Culture

With Indigenous People’s Day protests filling space in our country every October, this quote stood out to me as a good reminder: “We should accept, frankly, that if we extend our culture we shall change it: some of it offered will be rejected, other parts will be radically criticized” (Williams 1958: 16). From the readings this week regarding cultural studies, this resonated with me as the underlying objective of studying culture.

Indigenous-Peoples-Day

Continue reading →

Questioning the Hyphen

Questioning the Hyphen: Considering the hyphenated-American for an alternative approach to U.S nationalism by Aaron Gozum, 12/7/2017

IMG_0474.PNG

Today, the American concept of nation is ardently debated between traditional nationalists hailing from a dominating gaze of white male patriarchy and the emerging voices of among the marginalized ethnic groups who have differing perspectives on American culture. As Anderson famously theorized, nations are constructions of our imagination built upon the culturally and politically dominant ideas of a group. The popularized definition of nation was defined as “an imagined political community — and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign” (Anderson 1983). Essentially, Anderson sought the belief that nationalism seemed to be the abstracted invention of nations where they do not exist through means of developing a sort of political kinship (6). Among the discourse of nationalism, many variations emerged. In the course of the U.S., two seem most prevalent: civic nationalism, which derives from political legitimacy intended to represent the democratic will of the people via social contract; and ethnic nationalism, which focuses on determining nationality from linguistic, religious or ancestral commonalities (Anderson 1983, Rousseau 1762, Barnard 1967). Emblematic of civic nationalism, President Theodore Roosevelt was an outspoken anti-hyphenate who seemed to stand for an assimilationist belief:

“There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism… The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities… each preserving its separate nationality” (President Theodore Roosevelt on Columbus Day, 1915).

Though the goal was most likely an attempt to reinforce solidarity, President Theodore Roosevelt — regardless of intention — imposed a necessity for homogenization. Post his presidency, World War I was underway, giving rise to the question of political loyalties among ethnic groups, particularly Irish-Americans; thus, motivating the denunciation of the hyphenated American as a response for national unification in the country. Though the negative effects of homogenization deserves further discussion, the main issue of this paper points here: if homogenization was the goal for U.S. American nationalism, the compelling question falls to unraveling why the term Asian-American appeared in the 2000 U.S. census reports, decades after the initial usage of the hyphen. If the aim was to create a shared, assimilated community among the residents in the U.S. like President Roosevelt intended, what is the purpose of tacking on another categorical box on the national population records?

15-teddy-roosevelt-quotes-on-courage-leadership-and-success

Continue reading →

Do educational institutions have a responsibility to dissuade students from pursuing specific fields of study?

Prompt: Educational institutions have a responsibility to dissuade students from pursuing fields of study in which they are unlikely to succeed.

Success comes in many forms. Yet, success does not come from a field of study. Dissuading students from pursuing fields of study that is considered to have a low rate of success is wrong for this very reason because success depends on the student and the resources available to them. Without ambition or the available resources, a student will never be successful, deeming the act of avoiding certain fields as a way to climb the ladder of success a misleading fallacy. Moreover, discouraging students from embarking on an academic journey toward what society may judge unsuccessful is a disservice to education because the primary focus of educational institutions should be the expansion of knowledge in all forms of scholarship. Educational institutions should not discourage students, but rather shed light and emphasize the potential successes within each field, making as many resources available to them. Academia needs to be safe haven for embracing the diversity of thought, diversity of success, and the potential to contribute to the pool of knowledge we have so we can make the world a better place. Because success is dependent on a student’s ambition and accessibility to resources, discouraging students from specific fields is an incomplete solution. Further, since innovation and success in society is built upon diversity and the ever-growing pool of knowledge, encouraging students to disregard fields of study in which they are unlikely to succeed is counterproductive.

Shaped by society, success is a subjective construct that changes depending on the individual, the scholarship, and the audience. For instance, artistic success may be trivial in sectors of business and science, but is the core element of fields like graphic design and drama. Further, technological success may be futile in some areas of history and anthropological scholarship, but is fundamental for the constant innovation in science and the development of communication. As a classic example of the diversity of success, many will consider both Steve Jobs and Idina Menzel successful. With no advanced degrees in higher education, Steve Jobs climbed the ladder of success through technological development, his skills in entrepreneurship, and his hunger to learn. On the other hand, Idina Menzel graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, going on to become a successful Tony-award winning Broadway star. Analyzing these examples of success, success does not stem from a field of study; rather, success is built solely upon a student’s desire and ambitions to learn and to succeed.

From business and art to science and humanities, every field contributes knowledge to society in different ways. Business is a salient factor to financial knowledge in society and science can focus on our health and life expectancy whereas humanities successfully contribute to improving our communication and interpersonal skills and art supports society by strengthening our communities in empathy through critique of our history and our presence on this planet. Persuading students to avoid fields of study that society considers unsuccessful hampers the potential for new ideas and fresh perspectives. An example of diversity of thought, the creation of architecture is at the crossroads of many fields. Without art, the field of architecture would lack the sense of creativity needed to design buildings, bridges, and roads. Without business, the field of architecture would lack the knowledge regarding economical factors of bringing these abstract designs to reality. Another instance of where success requires diversity of thought is in the instance of government and the law of the land: the Constitution. Our country’s very foundation was built on the diversity of thought. When we hear the term “founding fathers”, we think of famous names like John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. However, dozens of many others contributed to building the Constitution. Even today, we continue to amend different components of the Constitution because with time, society grows and changes. In order to develop, society needs diversity of thought in our government to expand our perspectives in how the laws we vote for affect every citizen, making the process of discouraging students to join seemingly unsuccessful fields of study counterproductive.

In conclusion, encouraging students to disregard fields of study in which they are unlikely to thrive is counterproductive to success because a field of study does not create success. Success relies on individual ambition to learn and accessible resources. Further, success in society depends on diversity of thought and perspective. Educational institutions have the responsibility to act as an accessible resource to support students in reaching their full potential, not hindering it.