Questions and a Short Answer with Randall Amster, Director at Prescott College

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Dr. Amster,

my name is julian gagnon. im a debate coach at edgemont hs in scarsdale ny. i just finished reading lost in space a few minutes ago and have some questions.

this years high school debate resolution is to substantially increase social service for those living in poverty. im working on a homelessness/housing affirmative. before reading your book, i read a lot of article from the book a right to housing, and then read contextualizing homelessness. my next book is citizens without shelter by leonard feldman. any other suggestions?

now, to the real questions. this past tuesday i went to revolution books in nyc to hear/participate in a polemic against alain badiou that was written by three members of the revolutionary communist party. their position was that badiou was a reformist- passively waiting for the event. in the discussion, i pointed out that many anti-capitalist think we could be making "reforms" like decriminalizing homelessness, while we wait for the revolution. but they also make a strong point, acknowledged by many homeless advocates, that capitalism is the real problem- reforms wont solve the problem, only revolution will. any response?

second, what are you thoughts on "the right to housing?" i remember you section on rights talk bad, but is the discourse of rights worse than providing housing?

third, legislation or litigation? both seem to have advantages and disadvantages, but does that mean we should be tactical, case by case?

finally, at debate camp this summer, my former debate partner, who know is a phd candidate at john hopkins humanities, worked on a deleuzian argument that we should be nomadic, and that the home is tied to territory, boundaries, citizenship, etc. any thought? is the standard "you romanticize" the condition on homelessness appropriate, only good in theory not practice appropriate here?

i hope this isnt asking too much. if not, i certainly have more as i go on. if possible id like to put this discussion on the blog i write for, (i've been working on a series of posts about traditional debate versus activism or debate as a space for empowerment- one of the recommendations on the activist side is to do more primary research where people contact the authors they quote, thus the email).

Julian Gagnon

Thank you for your note, Julian. While I don't have time to address all of your queries in a meaningful way right now, I do appreciate your positive feedback. Many such situations are highly contextualized, and thus what works in one locale may not be valid in another -- so the "right to housing" argument is appropriate in some places, and the litigation strategy works in others, and the street-level protest angle in still others, and place-making efforts elsewhere. Still, despite the variations, all of these examples and techniques are illustrative, and that was my intention in writing the book: to explore constructive examples that people can draw from in fashioning strategies in their own communities....

Yours in peace,


Anony's picture

Dr. Amster,

Regarding your article. When was the US different? Or is it that today we know more and know it faster? The US is "imploding", it's all its own doing. There's no invasion, attack or even competitors (other than China maybe...). The history of foreign interventions is so vast, and on top most "today's foes" were propped up .... in America! or by Americans. The Nazis in the 20s, the commies in the beginning of the last century,Castro, Trotsky, the Shah, Saddam, bin Laden just to name a few.

The face of Americans watching: "that can-do spirit, streets paved with gold, champion of the tired and poor, purple mountains majesty, that sort of thingreminds me the faces of Germans listening to the Fuhrer with glossy eyes and a proud brain-washed spirit.

Pity. It could've been so nice.....

Other than that, congrats!'s a master piece.




This article you refer to, is it the one the OP mentions (Lost in Space)?  It sounds interesting is all, and I would be inclined to read it if I knew the title. 




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