Joshua Clover was born in Oakland, California on December 30, 1962. His name at birth was Joshua Miller Kaplan, but he later decided to take his mother’s maiden surname. Clover earned a BA degree from Boston University in 1996, and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1991. He subsequently worked as a Visiting …
Joshua Clover was born in Oakland, California on December 30, 1962. His name at birth was Joshua Miller Kaplan, but he later decided to take his mother’s maiden surname.
Clover earned a BA degree from Boston University in 1996, and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1991. He subsequently worked as a Visiting Assistant Professor of English, Creative Writing, Poetry, and Undergraduate Interdisciplinary Studies at several schools: Indiana University South Bend (1996-97); UC Berkeley (1997, 2000-02); St. Mary’s College (1997-2000); and Brooklyn College (2001). Since 2003, Clover has been an Associate Professor of English at UC Davis, where he also teaches courses in Critical Theory, Film Studies, and Comparative Literature. A committed communist, Clover identifies his primary research interests as “social movements, social reproduction theory, crisis theory, and the end of capitalism.” Moreover, he is affiliated with the Mellon Research Initiative in Racial Capitalism.
In a direct action that was loosely tied to the Occupy movement, Clover was one of 12 demonstrators – popularly known as the “Davis Dozen” or “Bankers Dozen” – who in March 2012 gathered outside of a UC Davis branch of U.S. Bank to protest what they believed was the role which that financial institution had played in causing student tuition and housing costs to rise dramatically at the University. After some time, the protesters were arrested and charged for obstructing movement in a public place and conspiring to commit a misdemeanor. They faced possible sentences of up to a year in jail, but in May 2013 they agreed to a plea deal requiring only that they perform 80 hours of community service.
In addition to his academic work, Clover at various times has:
- written a politics and popular culture column titled “Pop and Circumstance” for The Nation magazine
- written a column of film criticism for Film Quarterly, under the title “Marx and Coca-Cola”;
- been a columnist for The Village Voice (where he also served a stint as an editor), SPIN, and the Los Angeles Review of Books;
- contributed opinion pieces to The New York Times, The New Yorker, and GQ;
- contributed articles to journals like Representations and Critical Inquiry;
- written a number of film and music reviews for The Village Voice under the pseudonym “Jane Dark”; and
- had his own poetry translated into a dozen languages, including French, Spanish, Flemish, Swedish, Danish. and Greek.
In his 2016 book, titled Riot.Strike.Riot: the New Era of Uprisings, Clover presents violent rioting as a form of class struggle designed to strike a necessary blow against economic and political oppressors.
In a January 2016 interview with Litseen.com, Clover was asked: “If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?” He replied with a single word: “Capitalism.” When the same interviewer asked him to identify his fondest memory, Clover listed a number of recollections including “the first time I took acid” and “that time I felt like I really understood the first chapter of Capital,” a reference to Karl Marx‘s famous 1867 book on the capitalist system and its inherent tendency toward self-destruction.
Though the Litseen.com interview drew little attention when it was initially published, it suddenly became a focus of considerable controversy in February 2019, when Nick Irvin, a reporter for The California Aggie, UC Davis’s student newspaper, noticed that at one point in the interview, Clover had said: “People think that cops need to be reformed. They need to be killed.” With some additional research, Irvin found that Clover had used his own Twitter account to likewise wish death upon police officers. For example:
- “I am thankful that every living cop will one day be dead, some by their own hand, some by others, too many of old age #letsnotmakemore” — tweeted on Nov. 27, 2014.
- “I mean, it’s easier to shoot cops when their backs are turned, no?” — tweeted on Dec. 27, 2014.
At that point, Irwin sent Professor Clover an email asking why he harbored such contempt for law enforcement, and whether he might have reconsidered his views in light of the recent murder of a young Davis policewoman named Natalie Corona. In response to Irwin’s email, Clover wrote: “I think we can all agree that the most effective way to end any violence against officers is the complete and immediate abolition of the police. Direct any further questions to the family of Michael Brown.” Brown was an 18-year-old black male who had been killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri in a highly publicized August 2014 incident, shortly after having robbed a convenience store. Contrary to false but widespread rumors that Brown’s killing had occurred while he was trying to surrender peacefully, a mountain of ballistic, eyewitness, and forensic evidence eventually (in late October 2014) showed that the young man had in fact assaulted the officer and tried to steal his gun just prior to the fatal shooting.
Further Reading: Joshua Clover’s Curriculum Vitae (StudyLib.net); “Joshua Clover” (English.UCDavis.edu, PoemHunter.com); “Davis Dozen Settlement Reaches Plea Deal Before Trial” (The California Aggie, 5-9-2013); Interview With Joshua Clover (Litseen.com, 1-31-2016); “A UC Davis Professor Thinks Cops ‘Need to Be Killed’” (by Nick Irwin, The California Aggie, 2-25-2019).