“… In response to these queries he assented generally, but he also wanted me to speak more explicitly in the traditional languages and narratives of critical theory, and in particular to make explicit the ways Foucault, Benjamin, and Gramsci have enabled my understanding of national culture. (He was right about that, but apparently hadn’t hear the ways other work — say, that of Eve Sedgwick, Hortense Spillers, Fredric Jameson, Michael Warner, and Judith Butler — has also made this analysis possible. But this miscue over my archive raises other questions about the politics of academic theory.)"
This exchange also helped me to clarify the professional juncture at which I had and others in cultural studies stand at the present moment: because humanists traditionally get value by being intimate with the classics (literary and theoretical), those who think through popular materials and waste thought on objects that were not made for it threatens to degrade the value of intellectual life in general and the value of humanities in particular.”
“… In the previous paragraphs I demonstrate why a different strategy of reading can be productive for the analysis of contemporary American life. One does not find the materials of the patriotic public sphere theorising citizenship in either beautiful or coherent ways. These materials frequently use the silliest, most banal and erratic logic imaginable to describe important things, like what constitutes the intimate relations, political personhood, and national life. In this book I am conducting a couonterpolitics of the silly object by focusing on some instances of it and by developing a mode of criticism and conceptualisation that reads the waste materials of everyday communication in the national public sphere as pivotal documents in the construction, experience, and rhetoric of quotidian citizenship in the United States. The very improvisatory ephemerality of the archives makes it worth reading. Ts very popularity, its effects on the law and on everyday life, makes it important. Its very ordinariness requires an intensified critical engagement with what had been merely undramatically explicit.”