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Confessions of an American Pumpkin Eater



Why do high-achieving students help others cheat?

I first faced consequences for cheating in middle school. During an algebra test, my friend Samantha, who sat next to me, asked to borrow my eraser, and I slid it over to her. This violated Mrs. Connor’s strict rule against talking during tests, and she immediately marched over and announced we’d both receive zeroes. We were two of the most straitlaced students in the school and would never have dreamed of cheating, but here we were with our first Fs, sobbing in front of the whole class.

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Representing Crisis


When focusing on symptoms of austerity, media transfers blame to CUNY student body

This is the oppressor’s language
yet I need it to talk to you

—Adrienne Rich, “The Burning of
Paper Instead of Children” (1971)

THE City University of New York (CUNY), the country’s largest urban university system, is broken. As both a graduate student and an instructor at CUNY, I find my inbox flooded with emails about the institution’s ongoing financial crisis: library hours are now limited, escalators can only function as stairs, our union is moving to strike.

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A Declaration of the Dignity Image


In art that defines itself by what it withholds from public view lies the challenge for us to do the same

AN image that is not shared publicly on social media platforms, a dignity image provides the means by which Internet users may gain some measure of control over their increasingly mediated identities online. The act of creating and modifying online identities by deciding which images to share is also an act of erecting boundaries between self-conception and assimilation to an avatar. Avatars are vulnerable to exploitation by social media platforms.

An inevitable reaction to a climate of hyperconnectivity, dignity images are never deliberately identified because they are considered worthless under conditions of capitalist market relations. Identifying them assigns value and authenticity to them. The images withheld from circulation on social media — whether out of shame, security concerns, sentimentality, financial viability, or convenience — may be put to use in recovering one’s dignity, or political autonomy, online.

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Bug Out


What’s crawling underneath the fantasy of an insect-free home?

WE who live in homes still strive for them to be bug-free, or at least occupied by as few bugs as possible. The proliferation of exterminators and other “pest control” companies like Orkin position bugs as terrible things that could invade your home. Their advertising suggests Orkin as the Superman type, an embodiment of “the father,” a white heterosexual male hero who will come into your home and sweep away any of these “enemies,” aka the bugs. He takes pest control seriously. He wants you to be safe from this threat, the threat being invasive bugs and other vermin. It’s not entirely false advertising, however — bed bugs are the worst. But the fantasy of a bug-free home is just that.

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Colony Control


Metaphors of happy ant laborers work to make the same of human bodies

AN illusion and allusion I’ve seen repeated in corporate as well as public service branding, on billboards, placards, and GIFs, is that of ants, usually black: labouring together, to lift that sugar cube, build that allegorical insect town, keep a supposedly egalitarian system humming along — and those ants are, with their tapered waists and smiling faces, templates as well as intended reflections of the people who work for that public service body, that corporation, that enterprise. While certain members of the species homo sapiens may think nothing of squashing them in our daily wake, these ants rush around in their worker hats, shaking hands, building projects, getting shit done. They are anthropomorphised stand-ins for human workers, diligently cooperating to achieve society’s aims, addressing our infrastructural concerns with occasional banter over water coolers or sugar lumps. These metaphors gloss over ruptures and inequalities within late capitalism, and while our bodies know viscerally, with tangible and tragic consequences, the exoskeletal baggage, let’s sketch an imaginary in which the hierarchical structure of ant societies helps reflect back more honest human realities.

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