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MICHELLE CHIHARA

Editor & Writer

Los Angeles

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There’s no question that the fascination with Bernie Madoff, an ideal Jewish scapegoat and record-breaking Ponzi builder, emerged out of both a desire to punish the entire rentier class and a desire to excise a bad apple. His normal qualities made him a good stand-in for finance generally. And at the same time, if Madoff was an unusual criminal, then getting rid of him might allow finance to get back to the status quo. In this way, punishing Madoff served both a desire to see and not to see systemic problems. And Tygstrup is correct in pointing out that the financier who was called a monster exhibited a real lack of monstrosity. The scale of his crimes may have been monstrous, but he didn’t seem particularly devious and the money wasn’t spent on cocaine and hookers and yachts–just one mistress and a second home. The fear that Madoff provoked came from the subtlety of the distortion. If, generically, Madoff served as an allegory for the events of his era, perhaps affectively he entered the category of the uncanny. Madoff was so familiar that he was eerie, unheimlich.

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SELECTED PUBLICATIONS

Articles and peer-reviewed research

Schedule

THE REAL PRODUCTIVITY: CREATIVE REFUSAL AND CULTISH TENDENCIES IN ONLINE PRINT JOURNAL COMMUNITIES

New Directions in Print Culture Studies - Eds. Jesse Schwarz and Daniel Worden. Fall 2022

Straddling the line between private diary and public ploy for online self-branding, between mindfulness and hustle, Bullet Journals don’t carry a specific politics. But BuJo do provoke questions, ultimately, about what journalers believe they are working toward. Print journaling communities online can, sometimes, open out onto wider horizons about what it means to live a productive life. Fall 2022 Chapter in New Directions in Print Culture Studies, from Bloomsbury, eds. Jesse Schwarz and Daniel Worden

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RADICAL FLEXIBILITY: DRIVING FOR LYFT AND THE FUTURE OF WORK IN THE PLATFORM ECONOMY

Distinktion: Journal of Social TheoryNovember 2021

The idea that finance is the naturally complex lifeblood of our economy whose path only a rarefied group of white men can chart, and not the triumph of the middle man: that’s a trope. It’s a cultural narrative, with material consequences. It’s a cultural narrative that engages with the question of what is and isn’t real because, for example, only Goldman Sachs’s money was treated as real in the last crisis.

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THE RISE OF BEHAVIORAL ECONOMIC MASCULINITY

American Literary HistorySpring 2020

This essay begins a cultural history of the behavioral economic narrative mode in American popular media. From podcasts to Michael Lewis’s books and films, the behavioral economic mode of narration changes the character or figure of economic knowledge. Instead of the distant financial expert, this mode insists on the authority of the friendly explainer. In the years around the 2008 crisis, at a moment when financial scandals seemed to be losing their power to scandalize, this mode asserted behavioral economic knowledge as the new standard of realism. As the affective structures beneath earlier capitalist realist narratives diminished in power, the behavioral economic turn marked a reassertion of narrative authority.

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NEOLIBERAL GASLIGHTING, QUALITY JOURNALISM, AND PODCASTING

Post45: ContemporariesAugust 2020

This points to the abyss at the center: what is quality podcasting? Neither the sitcom nor the podcast nor Gimlet could articulate Alex's editorial mission. How did Alex want to change the world? And why did he need his Asian American wife or an Asian American woman as a co-host, as in the podcast, to help him do it? With each iteration, the sense of purpose behind the story of the white male entrepreneur spiraled further away.

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