I met Marc in the late 1990s when I was a graduate student. I think the first time might have been on a panel at ASA, and I was starstruck, having read and loved his work up to that point. Marc, of course, would have been embarrassed by what I star I considered him. But we’d remain in touch occasionally, since we would run into each other at various conferences, including in Manchester, UK. Marc was also beloved by my good friend Cecelia Walsh-Russo, and we sort of had a Columbia-based Marc fan club. In any case, my best Marc story is that he was an anonymous reviewer on my first book manuscript. The manuscript had been sent out to two reviewers, earlier, and one came back positive, and the other, very perfunctory (I think about 2/3 of a page) was dismissive of the entire project. So, the editor sent it out again. I then got back something like 8 pages of the most careful and constructive criticism on the manuscript that I could ever wish for. It included advice to much more clearly position the book among the landmarks of literature on social movements and cities. It gave me the confidence to do so. I had no idea who this angel of criticism was, but I was deeply grateful. At ASA the following summer, I again ran into Marc. He asked how the tenure process was going (a fraught question, of course) and then, how the book was going, and whether I’d finished revisions. I took a second. I am not too swift, and, puzzled, I asked how he knew that I’d been working on revisions. He smiled. It clicked. And then he gave me confidence all over again by saying that he thought it was an important book.
So, Marc is one of the people who essentially saved my career, and whose work is of lasting importance to mine. When he died–just a few months after Colin Barker, a fellow enthusiast of Bakhtin in the study of movements–it suddenly felt a significant responsibility to maintain the kind of perspective that he was critical in developing. I am not sure that I have the chops, or even the will to remain as deeply in the academic conversation (as opposed to the activist one). But one way or the other, I do hope to maintain the lessons that he drew about the ways in which language works in contentious contexts, as one of the most interesting and sensitive scholars of his time. I thank him and miss his voice all the time.
June 9, 2022
John Krinsky, Free Labor: Workfare and the Contested Language of Neoliberalism, University of Chicago Press, 2008.