On the Barricades: Strike Reading

UCU strike action here in the UK over pension cuts (and poor pay, job security, fairness, etc.). I am seeing our strike as an opportunity to get some reading done (when I am not on the picket line that is). A few books I picked up in the last couple of weeks look like an interesting distraction from the dark cloud of personal and collective financial doom that striking (always a last resort) inevitably entails.

Museum of Contemporary Art Rome (MACRO) Conference Catalogue Publication (Audio File Links)

Catalogue Publication in English and Italian.

Audio of the Rome conference talks:

My contributions:

Smith RG (2019) A World Beyond The Real: Jean Baudrillard’s Photographic Theory, in Extending Baudrillard: Space, Image, Representation, Volume: MACRO (Museum of Contemporary Art (Rome)) Catalogue, 21-11-2018, Unpaginated

Smith RG (2019) Introduction – International Symposium on Jean Baudrillard: ‘Baudrillard Redux’, in Extending Baudrillard: Space, Image, Representation, Volume: MACRO (Museum of Contemporary Art (Rome)) Catalogue, 21-11-2018, Unpaginated

The Matrix’s real-world legacy – from red pill incels to conspiracies and deepfakes

By Alex Taylor
BBC Entertainment reporter

I was interviewed for this BBC article published today. Quote extracts:

“Where for Baudrillard there was no escape from the simulation, the Wachowskis offered hope in the “promise of a true natural world ‘unplugged’ and separate from the Matrix”, explains Prof Richard Smith, editor of The Baudrillard Dictionary. Baudrillard was not a fan of the change. “The Matrix is surely the kind of film about the matrix that the matrix would have been able to produce,” he said.”

For Prof Smith, the film’s Marxist narrative evokes Plato’s allegory of chained prisoners in a cave “who mistake the shadows on the wall for reality”.

As Morpheus puts it: “The Matrix is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.” The pill scene “urges human beings to free themselves from the world of appearances”, says Prof Smith.

Carrie-Anne Moss and Keanu Reeves star in the original 1999 film

URGENT – ESRC PhD funding for Human Geography with the Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (Post-Doctoral Fellowships also available)


Email me if you want me to supervise your PhD or mentor your Post-Doc Fellowship: r.g.smith@swan.ac.uk

Deadline for PhD applications is 12:00pm GMT on 4th February 2022.

Indications of interest in PDFs must be sent to the pathway convenor, Professor Gary Bridge at Cardiff University before February 1st, 2022.

Further Information (DTP website)

Further Information on Human Geography Pathway (DTP website)

Further Information on PDFs (DTP website)

The Department of Geography at Swansea University invites applications for PhD students and Postdoctoral Fellows (PDFs) as part of the Human Geography pathway of the ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Partnership. The deadline for PhD studentship applications is February 4th, 2022. Indications of interest in PDFs must be sent to the pathway convenor, Professor Gary Bridge at Cardiff University before February 1st, 2022. These are both for October, 2022 entry. Enquiries can also be sent to Chris Muellerleile at Swansea University: c.m.muellerleile@swansea.ac.uk

The PhD studentships are ‘open’ awards meaning that any topic within the broad remit of the ESRC is eligible. If successful, applicants would be awarded a fully funded studentship for either 3 or 4 years depending on previous experience. Applicants should approach a potential supervisor before submitting their application. Information on the research interests of Swansea Geography staff can be found here.  A short description of the accredited Human Geography pathway is available on the ESRC Wales DTP website here. Prospective PhD students should apply here: https://apply.swansea.ac.uk/#/home.

The Postdoctoral fellowships are one year awards. Potential applicants will need an academic mentor, which would be a member of staff at either Cardiff, Aberystwyth, or Swansea University. Information on the research interests of Swansea Geography staff can be found here. The first formal step in the application process is to contact the Human Geography pathway convenor, Professor Gary Bridge at Cardiff University to discuss the suitability of the topic and potential mentors. This conversation with Professor Bridge must happen by February 1st, 2022 at the latest. More information on eligibility for these fellowships, including application information, can be found here: https://walesdtp.ac.uk/fellowships/.

There will be an information session on applying for a PDF on Monday, January 10th, 2022. See below.

Applying for an ESRC Wales DTP Postdoctoral Fellowship

Monday 10th January 2022, 11:00am-12:00noon

ESRC funded Postdoctoral Fellowship opportunities are open to applicants who have completed their PhD at a research organization that is part of a DTP. Full information regarding Postdoc Fellowships and eligibility is available on the Wales DTP website .

The DTP recently opened its call for ESRC funded Postdoctoral Fellowships to commence in October 2022.  Join us for a live one-hour session aimed at helping you to decide whether a Fellowship is right for you, and how to go about applying. In the session, Wales DTP Director Professor John Harrington will outline the benefits of a Fellowship and how to apply. You will also hear from and have an opportunity to put questions to current and former Wales DTP Postdoctoral Fellows, who will share their own experience of a Fellowship and how it has helped to further their career.

Register for this free one hour session by 5th January 2022. Live talks will be recorded and made available after the event.


Very sad news this week. Quite rightly there are may obituaries and tributes to such an innovative and influential man. The first Baudrillard book I read 32 years ago was a Semiotext(e) ‘Foreign Agents’ production. Whilst I met Jean Baudrillard several times, I only ever got to speak to Sylvère on the telephone when he rang me to ask me to give a keynote talk in China. I have something like 30 Semiotex(e) books on my shelves, and that is an important part of his legacy and the great service he has done for so many of us. He kindly provided the endorsement quote for the back cover of The Baudrillard Dictionary I edited:

“The Baudrillard Dictionary challenges for the first time every received idea we may have had about Baudrillard, establishing him as one of the most substantial and visionary philosophers of our era… A revelation.”– Sylvère Lotringer, Professor Emeritus, Columbia University and founder of Semiotext(e)

Sylvère Lotringer est mort, la French Theory perd son passeur (Libération)


Sylvère Lotringer, Semiotext(e) Founder Who Brought French Theory to New York Art World, Has Died at 83 (ART NEWS)

Obituary for Sylvère Lotringer (e-flux)

Sylvère Lotringer, intellectual who infused U.S. art circles with French theory, dies at 83 (Los Angeles Times)

On Sylvère Lotringer (n+1)

Theory Daddy (New Left Review)

Outside the Text (Jewish Currents)

Sylvère Lotringer, Shape-Shifting Force of the Avant-Garde, Dies at 83 (The New York Times)

Sylvère Lotringer Obituary (The Guardian)

Britain’s culture war is not really taking place (Financial Times)

This is why the UK is increasingly horrified by US culture:

“The truth is that Britain doesn’t have a culture war like the US. There is no strong religious right. Gay marriage and abortion are not dividing lines. There is no “antifa” and barely any anti-vaxxers. Britain has perhaps the lowest vaccine hesitancy rate anywhere in the world. It likes socialised healthcare and climate action.”

This is why the UK voted for Brexit (to leave the EU, not Europe)

“Many voters say the government doesn’t care about their area. They resent being spoken down to. They probably resent Financial Times columnists who quote Jean Baudrillard.”

Fake News? Baudrillard and the Royals

Meghan’s dramatic words have real-world effect; The Sussexes’ claims have undermined the monarchy and done lasting damage to the Commonwealth

The Daily Telegraph (London)

March 15, 2021 Monday
Edition 2, National Edition
Copyright 2021 Telegraph Media Group Limited All Rights Reserved

Section: NEWS; Pg. 17
Length: 868 words


Two headlines appeared on the BBC News website on the same day. At the top: “Harry and Meghan rattle monarchy’s gilded cage”. At the bottom: “The kidnapped woman who defied Boko Haram”. Well, that puts the Sussexes’ problems in perspective, doesn’t it? Yet across Africa, one reads, the Duchess’s story has revived memories of colonial racism, tarnishing the UK’s reputation, and has even lent weight to the campaign in some countries to drop the Queen as head of state.

The only nation that seems to think a lot of nonsense was spoken is Britain. In the wake of an interview that Joe Biden’s administration called courageous, British popular opinion of Harry and Meghan fell to an all-time low, and the American format had a lot to do with it. Oprah Winfrey is not our idea of an interviewer. She flattered, fawned and displayed utter credulity. Imagine if it had been her, not Emily Maitlis, who interviewed Prince

Andrew over the Jeffrey Epstein allegations. “You were in a Pizza Express that day? Oh my God, you MUST be innocent! Tell me, in all honesty, though … did you have the dough balls?”

This wasn’t an interview, it was a commercial for a brand called Sussex, a pair of eco-friendly aristo-dolls that, if you pull the string, tell their truth – which isn’t the truth, because no one can entirely know that, but truth as they perceive it. “Life is about storytelling,” explained Meghan, “about the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we’re told, what we buy into.” Meghan is a postmodernist. Just as Jean Baudrillard said the Gulf War never happened, but was choreographed by the US media, so the royal narrative she was forced to live was fake, her public happiness was fake and, following that logic, this interview might have involved an element of performance, too.

People have challenged her claims, alleging contradictions and improbabilities, but one of the malign effects of wokeness is that you have got to be very careful about pointing this out. Why? Because wokery insists on treating a subjective view as objective truth, or even as superior, because it’s based upon “lived experience”. To contradict that personal perspective is perceived as cruel, elitist and, in Meghan’s case, potentially racist, so it’s best to wait a few weeks to a year before applying a fact check. In the meantime, affect sympathy. People would rather you lied to their face than tell them what they don’t want to hear.

The result is profoundly dishonest, for I have never known an event over which there is such a gulf between the official reception, as endorsed by the media and politics, and the reaction of average citizens, who are wisely keeping it to themselves. Into that vacuum of silence steps not the voice of reason but bullies and showmen – like Piers Morgan, who said some brash stuff about Meghan’s honesty and, after an unseemly row on Good Morning Britain, felt obliged to resign from his job. “If you’d like to show your support for me,” he wrote afterwards, “please order a copy of my book.” Dear Lord, was this row fake, too? I can no longer be sure, though I despised Good Morning Britain before and still do: it embodies the cynical confusion of emotion and fact, a show made for clicks where even the weatherman has an opinion.

So what is real in 2021? The Commonwealth, which does a lot of good in a divided world. The monarchy, which has been at its best during the pandemic, doing the boring stuff of cutting ribbons and thanking workers that, one suspects, Meghan never grew into (can you imagine her opening a supermarket in Beccles?). It contains flawed people, but that only adds to its realness, and they can adapt faster than you might think.

Prince William got the ball rolling by telling reporters, who he is trained to ignore, that his family is not racist. His wife paid her respects to the murder victim Sarah Everard, demonstrating that she is neither cold nor silenced. I’d wager Kate does her duty, day after day, no complaint, not because she is “trapped”, as Harry uncharitably put it, but because she loves her family and believes in public service.

Meghan and Harry have indeed prompted the Royal family to change: not in order to endorse their criticisms, however, but to answer them.