Bennie Ricardo Brown
Teaching and Past Courses:
While education contains within it certain assumptions about discipline, education itself should never become a form of punishment and control. There is nothing romantic about seeing college as a moment when one can take time to explore concepts and texts that one may not have after college. This is actually a very practical view of one’s brief college experience. Unfortunately, we all recognize that the corporatization of the academy is relentless and the practical value of education is being lost to the finacialization of our everyday lives. So, the goal of my courses is to go somewhat against the grain and allow you some time and space to critically engage concepts and texts that will challenge many of conventional ideas about ourselves and society as a whole.
In my courses we usually read ‘primary’ or ‘original’ works rather than commentaries, so that you can begin to come to your own understandings and interpretations. All of my courses are only a semester and so can really only serve as introductions that lay the ground for you to pursue your own interests in what are extensive and varied bodies of work. So the primary purpose here is to allow you to begin an engagement that can fortunately last a lifetime. We examine texts, visual and audio recordings as artifacts in which past and present social relations are crystallized – not because they are ‘great works’ but because these authors/works mark changes in our systems of knowledge and the limits of truth by raising fundamental problems that the contemporary sciences of life and society seek to address address. We do this not only through texts, but by examining the expressions of social relations through images, sounds, and texts.
In a nutshell, the purpose of my courses is not to make you an expert in a narrow academic field, but to allow you the chance to read, see, and listen to works that you might be curious about, but did not think that you had the time and space to study.
My courses, as with my research, fall under three general headings:
Cultural Studies, Sociology, and Critical Theory.
Introduction to Cultural Studies.
Controversies in Cultural Theory:
Postmodernism, Science Studies and the Social Text Affair.
Spaces, Movements, Identities (now titled Spaces of Power).
Star Trek: Technologies (co-taught with Prof. Ivan Zatz).
Methods of Cultural Analysis.
Cultural Studies Praxis Course I: From Work to Text.
Cultural Studies Praxis Course II: Siting Culture.
Introductory Sociology: The Ends and Uses of Society.
Sociology and Society: An Introduction to Sociological Theory.
Sociology of Music/Sound/Noise.
Perception and Creativity.
Political Institutions: State, Civil Society, and Community.
Science and the Origins of Race.
From Phrenology to Eugenics and the ‘New’ Genetics
Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud.
Foucault and Critical Theory.
Societies of Control.
The Uses of Terror.
Marx and Nietzsche (co-taught with Prof. Sameetah Agha).
My research can be described as critical explorations of the genealogies of systems of knowledge. The various subjects that I have and am still exploring all have to do with central questions from Critical Theory: How is it that we come to desire our own domination and what is the relation between our domination of nature and our domination of ourselves? This work includes studies of: Materialism from Epicurus to Marx and Marxism; Sociology of Science: Theories and Systems of Classification of Human Variety in Sociology, Biology, and Ecology; Critical Theory on Authority, Power, and Terror; Environmental Studies; Music/Sound/Noise.
I do not write autobiographically, though I am not adverse to remarking in class on various aspects of my past that might be relevant to our discussions. I was once asked about this by students putting together an Institute-wide seminar and wrote this piece for them, which though the passage of time would lead me to slightly modify, I would generally still agree with:
‘Diversity and Narrative or Against Autobiography.’ https://www.academia.edu/1118916/Diversity_and_Narrative_or_Against_Autobiography
I have use the words ‘I’ and ‘my’ more often in this short description than in most of my writings combined!
‘Remember that here work is not for work’s sake but is only a means.’ — G. I. G.
B. A., Environmental Studies
Simon’s Rock College, Great Barrington, MA, 1982. Thesis: “A Natural Resources Inventory of the Upper Campus of Simon’s Rock College (with results of the sampling of the Benthic Invertebrates of Lake Mansfield).”M. Phil., Sociology
Graduate Fellow in Cultural and Historical Geography
Department of Geography, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, 1985-87. Thesis project [unfinished]: “Luminism, Emerson, and the Landscape of 19th Century New England.”
City University of New York Graduate Center, New York, New York, 1997.
Classical, Contemporary Theory and Oral Exams: Stanley Aronowitz, Patricia T. Clough, Bogden Denitch.
City University of New York Graduate Center, New York, New York, February 2001. Dissertation: “The Spirit of Discipline: Communitarianism in Social Theory and Social Policy” (Accepted with Distinction). Committee: Stanley Aronowitz, Patricia T. Clough, Hester Eisenstein.
Publications and Projects
2022. “Race After Darwin” in Griffiths, Devin and Deanna Kreisel. After Darwin: Literature, Theory, and Criticism in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge University Press.
2020. “The Sound of Extinction without the Sound of Humans? Bernie Krause, Soundscape Ecology, and ‘Natural’ Soundscapes in the Anthropocene.” Enviro–History. http://enviro-history.com/sound-of-extinction
2019. “Between Nature and Society: Empowering Research on the History of Science” in the Bio-Diversity Heritage Library blog series. https://blog.biodiversitylibrary.org/2019/08/between-nature-and-science.html
2016. Review: Political Descent: Malthus, Mutualism, and the Politics of Evolution in Victorian England. Hale, Piers J. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014. Canadian Journal of History / Annales Canadiennes d’histoire. Fall.
2015. Review: Genetics and the Unsettled Past; The Collision of DNA, Race, and History. Wailoo, Keith, Alondra Nelson, and Catherine Lee. Rutgers University Press, 2012. Contemporary Sociology, March.
2010. Until Darwin: Science, Human Variety, and the Origins of Race. Pickering and Chatto, London, October 2010. Selected reviews: Isis, Vol. 102, No. 4 (December 2011); British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, (February 2012); British Journal for the History of Science, 45 (1):135-136 (2012); Studies in the History and Philosophy Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Vol. 44, No. 3 (September 2013); Victorian Studies Vol. 57, No. 2 (Winter 2015); Science & Education, Vol. 25:933-936 (2016).
John Bachman. Dictionary of Early American Philosophers. New York: Thoemmes Continuum.
2008. Darwin, Slavery, and Science. In The Civil War and Reconstruction Era: 1850s- 1877 in the 4 volume series Conflicts in American History: A Documentary Encyclopedia by Anthony J. Connors, Brian Johnson, eds.. Columbia, S.C.: Manly/Facts on File (September 2010).
2007. A City Without Walls: Notes on Terror and Counter-Terrorism. Situations: Project of the Radical Imagination, Spring, Vol. 2, no. 1.
Josiah Nott. Encyclopedia of Race and Racism. Macmillan Press.
Brief Critical Remarks. Ubiquitous: Literary & Arts Magazine, Spring.
2004. Philip Selznick. Dictionary of Modern American Philosophy, 1860-1960, Theommes Press.
Review: “HarlemWorld: Metropolis as Metaphor.” Studio Museum in Harlem, January 28 – April 4, 2004” The Architect.
2003. Review: “Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno. Edited by Guzelin Schmid Noerr. Translated by Edmund Jephcott.” Critical Sociology, Vol. 29:2 March. http://crs.sagepub.com/content/29/2/274.full.pdf+html
2001. The Foundations of Ethics: Marx on Epicurean Materialism and the Domination of Sensuous Experience. Found Object, Winter/Spring Issue, Number 2.
Review: “Historicism, Psychoanalysis, and Early European Culture by Carla Mazzio and Douglas Trevor (eds).” Journal of Intercultural Studies, April 2001.
Review: “The Postmodern Marx by Terrell Carver.” Critical Sociology, Volume 27, Number 2. http://crs.sagepub.com/content/27/2/290.full.pdf+html
2000. Marx and the Foundations of the Critical Theory of Morality and Ethics. Cultural Logic, Volume 2, Number 2.
Syllabus: Science and the Origins of Race, Spring 2000, Fall 2003, Spring 2005, Fall 2006. Syllabus included in RaceSci: The History of the Science of Race edited by Prof. Evelynn Hammonds at http://di-145c.mit.edu/racesci/
1999. Syllabus: Rights & Responsibilities: Community at the Intersection of Race, Class, and Gender, Fall 1999. Syllabus published in Jean Ait-Amber Belkhir and Bernice McNair Barnett, eds. 1997, 1999. An Inclusive Curriculum: Race, Gender, and Class in Sociological Instruction, 1st and 2nd editions American Sociological Association Teaching Resources Series.
1998. Review: “The Rise of Baptist Republicanism by Oran P. Smith.” Southeastern Political Review [now Politics & Policy], Volume 26, Issue 4 (December), pages 945–6.
Syllabus: Spaces, Movements, Identities (with Prof. W. Menking’s Planning and Environment course in Urban Planning), Fall 1998, Spring 2000, Fall 2003, Fall 2004. Syllabus included in Teaching Sociology from a Marxist Perspective, 1st and 2nd eds., Washington, D. C.: American Sociological Association.
Homo Socius: Human Variety and the Origins of Sociology, 1778-1914.
Capt. Paul Whipple and Kate Rains: War, Reconstruction, and Memory.
The Bull of Phalaris: Fragments of Materialist Politics.
Science and Race in the Long 19th Century (4 volumes: Volume One: Natural History; Volume Two: Political Economy and Industrialization; Volume Three: Biology and Ecology; Volume Four: Sociology, Economics, Psychology). Forthcoming in 2027. Routledge.
“Alerts, Curfews, Lock-downs: Policing the Quiet of the City”
“The Ibis and the Negro: A Moment in the History of Natural History.”
“The Colonne du Souvigny: The Order of the World in a Medieval Garden.”
“Ancient Reflections on Human Variety.”