October 23, 2020:
That we were actually what was already labeled "Poststructuralists" became clear to us only later.
The lag was an outcome of our institutional setting. Where "French Theory" was assimilated and domesticated elsewhere through French (first) departments and English (second) departments and Comparative Literature (third) departments, Johnston did not have these institutional divisions. For us, there was the literature guy and his bud the philosophy guy, and they were it. Also — overdetermination — we had no grad students, and our wider university context was not a research institution. We were a tiny island of humanities types in a wider sea of business students, jocks, and sorority girls serious about their MRS Degree. In this sense we were not on the institutional cutting edge.
We were, though, embedded inside the widening web of left-wing oppositional currents thrown forward by the revolutionary wave in Central America. I worked with CISPES and maintained my links to the UCSD milieu, while many of us traveled, by Greyhound in my case, to attend rallies and marches in Los Angeles and San Diego and San Francisco. Through the movements we were starting to find each other, where the grad students and in some cases the professors who were also invested in these struggles helped us younger types orient ourselves in the wild. In a quirky, local kind of way we actually were on the cutting edge: the intersection of French Theory, especially Althusser, with real world events. Although this was all happening at the same time, this is nevertheless a very different trajectory to the isolation in academe of Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze, Irigaray and others.
The tag end of my undergraduate career thus mirrored my final days in high school. Like Clairemont High in 1974-5, Johnston College in 1980-1 did not have the resources I needed to advance my education in the directions I needed to go. So, increasingly, I absented myself. In high school I spent more and more time at UCSD; at the end of college I returned there, and went to L.A., and to San Francisco and Berkeley, where the people and the books could help me move forward. Eventually when Johnston was closed in the reactionary wave coinciding with the definitive triumph of Neoliberalism, I opted not to continue, leaving me without a university degree, just as I also have no high school diploma.
That's fine. It was fine then, it's still fine now. I didn't go to Johnston for a degree, I went to learn about Marxism and scientificity, so that when Johnston's always ambivalently nebulous resources were exhausted, moving on was not a crisis. Realistically, it reflected what I'd already done.