Oublier Baudrillard


[Aside] Jean Baudrillard, dead at 77.

I didn't know Baudrillard but through his work, and he most certainly had no idea who I was, yet here I write. Seems pretty unreal (ahem).

I had heard of him early in my graduate days as the "French McLuhan", which held a certain cachet for me, since I was a big McLuhan fan going back to my undergraduate days. I sort of poked around with some Baudrillard-related material for a while, and then my friend Greg Duquette pulled out Simulations at a conference several years ago. I was immediately captivated by its slick minimal black cover, and would be captivated by its contents shortly thereafter. During my master's degree I was taking a course on Foucault with Debra Shogan (author of The Making of High Performance Athletes), and all I kept wanting to know was why Baudrillard thought we should forget this guy.

Baudrillard insinuated himself into sportsBabel as I started to knit together the synapses between his work and my understanding of the sporting world. I once surmised that neither he nor Radiohead's Thom Yorke had spent much time at the fitness club. I got snarky with him for having one of my ideas 25 years earlier than me — and writing far more eloquently on the topic, to boot. And I speculated how the Olympics might intersect with his semiotically-driven World War Four.

The thing is, I was going to get to meet him this summer as part of my doctoral studies, which I was obviously quite excited about. Upon his death, I was (selfishly) pretty bummed out about my lost opportunity and didn't know what to write in memoriam, even though I felt like I should write something given his influence on my early work.

So I didn't write, instead aimlessly staring at the screen and wandering around my usual internet comfort zones. One stop was to Google Analytics to check the stats for sportsBabel. In checking my referrer logs, I am able to see what search strings visitors typed into search engines to arrive at my site (the tactility of which I am sure he would have greatly appreciated). Given the various appearances that Baudrillard has made here over time, I was not surprised to see his name appear in the logs following his death. But one search string caught my eye:

baudrillard funeral smile home

What could this cryptic snatch of text mean? What could this individual possibly have been searching for?

And then I realized that Baudrillard maintained a sense of humour to the last. His ultimate ruse? Forever manifesting himself as noise to someone else's desired signal in the data-networks of the world.

Baudrillard - Smile

Smile, M. Baudrillard: post-funeral, you will have achieved your true legacy by fully completing your passage — as an image — to a new home in the hyperreal.

Je vous oublierai …



3 responses to Oublier Baudrillard

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  1. Rod says:


    What an incredible way to write in memoriam! It makes me wanna finally read his stuff (which I've somehow managed to avoid thus far). Alas, even in passing his work will not jump the queue on my "must read" list in the next while. But, that doesn't mean I won't get there. Thanks for this … as usual, it made me think.


  2. sportsbabel says:

    Thanks Roddy, much appreciated. I'm not so sure that one can use Baudrillard as the cornerstone of their theory, but I do certainly think he has an important contribution to make. Specifically, I think that his notion of "simulation" has been mis-used by many, and that it can help us to make much sense of current trends in the production of sport.

  3. sportsBabel » On Diving says:

    [...] Fernando is the Jean Baudrillard Fellow at the European Graduate School. He works at the intersections of literature, philosophy, [...]