“Terminal Degree: The Works of Dawn Dedeaux”, Thread Waxing Space

TERMINAL DEGREE: The Works of Dawn Dedeaux


Dawn Dedeaux has been a student of political economy. Departments of political

Film still from Drive-By Shooting, 1988.

economy have not as yet been established in the traditional university and as a result she has had to pursue these studies in the public housing facilities and prisons of New Orleans that offer the most up to date variants of the curriculum and where admission requirements and rankings are commensurate with the local murder rate.

This is not to say that there are no actual professors of political economy. We see in Dedeaux’s video “Drive By” the faces and gestures of the residents, at first paralyzed with rear, then coming to grips with what they are witnessing, and high tailing it out of the way, pushing baby carriages, running around corners, ducking into doorways, as the members of the faculty arrive on campus.

Now the study of political economy involves the apprehension of power relations, the machinations and ramifications of such, and most importantly, the unpredictable shifts and turns that they take. One must attempt an epistemological leap by which one is somehow distanced from the shifting system in order to methodically uncover its workings. This is actually less difficult than it appears and is not subject to what Labov has termed the “observer’s paradox” (where the appearance of the anthropologist alters the field of his or her investigation). In fact, the population from which political economists emerge is already marginalized by the very object of their endeavors, namely the aforementioned system, marked by its aggressivity – constituted as it is by the often conflicting agendas and strategies of psychologists, social workers, school and prison administrators, criminal and family court judges, public housing and health officials, government bureaucrats, and the police. The products of these cross currents are what are commonly referred to as norms. The political economist throws out the notion of norm from the get-go. He is never fooled by the social worker’s attempt to play it off as a scientific designation supported by statistics, and perceives it rather as a device by which surveillance and control are rationalized and maintained.

The political economist is an extremely dangerous individual, but we just look to the context out of which this volatile symmetry arises. In a field where everyone is an assassin it becomes impossible to define an assassin per se. And it is precisely in this field that Ms. Dedeaux is finishing up another semester and where a semester is all you really need in order to land a big time chair. For this is an academy where tenure is forced upon you and where the highest ranking deans, chancellors, provosts, and presidents are six and seven year olds who attest to the hideous death of the old cartoons, sound effects scholars with Tek-9 riffs (pahp, pahp, pahp, pahp, pahp, pahp, K-dijz – K dijz – K – dijz, duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh, that’s all folks….) already preparing the orientation seminars for the twenty-first century freshman.