The Age of Pardon or the Age of Aggression?

Throughout the 20th century there were frequent apologies and claims for reparations for the atrocities committed in the context of the relations between peoples and countries, as illustrated by Germany’s initiatives with regard to the Holocaust and by the US response in the case of the Japanese Americans kept under arrest during World War II. In the 21st century there has been an insistent (and not always heeded) demand for apologies regarding atrocities, violence and crimes committed in the more or less distant past under European colonialism. Sometimes the demands for an apology are accompanied by claims for reparation or compensation. Here are a few examples: In 2004, the German government recognized the violence committed against the people of Namibia…

One Token, Two Sides: Data Dysphoria & Fantasies of Control

New data horizons Cyberspace, as a shared dimension but unequal community, is in a moment of unease and alienation over the ways and means of data creation, dissemination and preservation, including methods of storage on- and offline. Communication and circulation of commercial and personal data increasingly occurs amid threats of intermeddling and exposure to varieties of fraud and exploitation. This unease is symptomatic of scandals involving the ‘psychological profiling’ of personal data in the course of supposed civic and democratic processes, and the growing uncanniness of digital social spaces. The company Cambridge Analytica, whose ‘data harvesting’ practices and psychographic analyses of user content from sources such as Facebook led to accusations of dubious interventions in and effects on the US…

TWAIL Coordinates

Also available in Spanish and Portuguese translation Third World Approaches to International Law, best known by its acronym TWAIL, is a dynamic, intentionally open-ended and decentralised network of international law scholars who think about and with the Third World. Within the universe of TWAIL, the ‘Third World’ refers to that expansive and usually subordinated socio-political geography that, during the mid-twentieth century, came to be seen as ‘non-aligned’ – belonging neither to the ‘free’ nor to the ‘communist’ world. Today the Third World is more often referred to, however, as the ‘developing world’, the ‘post-colonial world’, or the (Global) South. In our intensely unequal, racialised, gendered, environmentally precarious global order, confronting a proliferation of Souths in the North and Norths in…

Law & Critique: In the service of a total market: the Future of Legal Craft

In recent years, the growth of financial markets, the spread of information technology and institutional changes in democracies have often been associated with the rise of populist politics. Such developments, sometimes characterised as transformations resulting from reactions to the deepening of “globalization”, and the spread of its “neoliberal” ideological and regulatory scaffold through international cooperation mechanisms, have incited forms of political radicalism reminiscent of fascist regimes that flourished approximately a century ago. Alain Supiot[1]has associated these conditions to what he called “total market”, in which “signs and things can all be rendered commensurable and be mobilized in the cause of globalized competition”. In the “total market” things and people maybe “liquidated”, a term which legally means “making something fungible by…

What if we really protested Brexit? Constituent Power & Unrest

No one has really protested Brexit. Sure, lots of people have gone to the streets and politely walked around their major cities. But there is no real protest, no unrest, no potential for disorder. Instead there is an endless cycle of hot-takes: hot-air continuously recycled on twitter, the airwaves and in print. For all the energy that goes into this, no one is ever energised or excited to action. There is a reason that exhaustion is the dominant feeling of Brexit. Even the 700,000 march on the 20thof October ended up being another moment of exhaustion. The march, and the many others like it are aimed at ‘petitioning parliament’. The media is imagined as the medium of this petition, partially because…

Michel Foucault: Discipline

Key Concept Discipline is one of Foucault’s most intriguing and widely discussed concepts. This explanatory post broadly examines discipline and disciplinary power by considering how Foucault conceptualises the panopticon (and panopticism) to articulate it, how it differs from juridical-sovereign power, and its (contentious) interrelation to law and liberalism. The hope is to suggest and gesture towards uses of disciplinary power in legal analysis. Foucault discussed and theorised discipline in what English-language scholars of his work call his genealogical period.1 In a key text from that period, Discipline and Punish, Foucault articulates several modes of power: absolutist, juridical, and disciplinary. The absolutist, monarchical or sovereign form of power involved punishment as a theatrical ritual of public torture.2 Foucault details how punishment…

Giorgio Agamben: Stasis

Key Concept At a time when the world seems to be rejecting the universalist neo-liberal logic of governance to embrace various modes of cultural, political, socio-economical, and juridical nationalisms, an engagement with Giorgio Agamben’s concept of stasis becomes all the more urgent. If there is indeed one message to be taken from Agamben’s study of the modern variant of stasis, it is that such an entity as a territorially-framed, culturally-bounded, and ontologically self-defining ‘people’ has never been posited and is politically insignificant.[1] Current aspirations to return to idealised forms of nationalisms, then, might not only be impossible to realise; more fundamentally, they might be voided of historical content and legitimation. But let us proceed in order. The term stasis derives from…

Roma, or the Concealed Artist

The poet should endeavor, if possible, to combine all poetic elements; or failing that, the greatest number and those the most important; the more so, in face of the caviling criticism of the day. — Aristotle, Poetics Like all great aesthetic works, Roma by Alfonso Cuarón can be seen and felt in innumerable ways. I want to focus on one. Roma is one of the most scathing and beautiful critiques of cinema through cinema itself, the purest form of metacritique. What Cuarón puts into play is nothing less than a deep assessment of the capacity of cinema, as a pure poetic form, to represent a world and at the same time the power of transforming it, while, as Wilde commanded,…

Soft Power and Hotspot Life: The Lessons of Lesbos 2015–18

A hotspot, to explain, is the idea of detaining arriving migrants and refugees at one spot for processing, the hotspot RIC (Reception and Identification Centre). It is another instrument to add to a growing collection for a common European asylum policy. But that is a myth, for the common policy is only called upon when it serves the purpose of reactionary politics. After that the policy is thrown to internal wrangling between EU member states. Thus, far from advancing a common policy, the hotspot only adds to its ongoing theatre of dis-coordination. The hotspot becomes a migration choke, a new mechanism of detention and a way to ensure that those who escape to Europe from one disaster zone end up…

Are some feminists asking the wrong question about who counts as a “lesbian”?

Kindly reposted from Diva Magazine: Kathleen Stock, a Professor of Philosophy at Sussex University, and enfant terrible of gender critical feminism, has recently asked: “can a biological male be a lesbian?” Of course, framing the question in this way tends to suggest a particular conclusion, one Stock wants us to draw, which is that trans women cannot be lesbians. Yet, this conclusion only follows if we accept the proposition that “woman” must be defined by reference to reproductive biology alone (Stock does not insist on “reproductive capacity” for obvious reasons), so that “lesbian” desire becomes the desire of two women who share reproductive body parts (we will put to one side the fact that many gender critical lesbians advancing this…

Gilles Deleuze: Ethics and Morality

Key Concept The place of ethics and morality in Deleuze’s thought The task of talking about ethics and morality, in relation to the philosophical thought of one of the most significant French philosophers of the 20th century, Gilles Deleuze, is not an easy one. This is because – and despite the vast multiplicity of subjects that he examined, both in his solo works and in his collaborations with the militant psychoanalyst Félix Guattari – Deleuze has never stated his intention to write or create a work of ethical or moral philosophy, at least in the traditional sense that the term is used to describe a ‘genre’ of the discipline of philosophy.1 As such, any discussion on ethics and morality in…

A Hegelian Logic Underlying Contemporary Conservative Populisms?

As Jair Bolsonaro takes office in Brazil, he seems to have become the latest in a worldwide trend of the last few years, of populist (at least would-be) strongmen who premise their right to ignore or violate longstanding norms of civility upon their representation of the will of the People. Such claims are now an emerging norm. Donald Trump has portrayed himself as the voice of a “silent majority” and a defender of American sovereignty against a hostile world. Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Erdogan, Duterte, Orbán, and more such figures worldwide all position themselves as having an inherent capacity to unite the essence of the polity in their own person. “I have a natural bond with the common people,” said…

Sex, Gender and the Trans Debate

The recent debate on gender recognition reform, as played out in the press and on social media, has been painful to behold. With passions running high, much of the discourse has been marked by a lack of regard for the viewpoints of others, on occasion spiralling into professional and even personal abuse online. That the pursuit of equality should unleash such unkind sensibilities is troubling, particularly in a feminist context in which values such as inclusion, empathy, and respect for different standpoints have generally commanded wide respect. What lies behind the apparent deadlock in debate between transgender activists and ‘gender critical’ feminists? On the one hand, there is the perfectly proper concern of trans people to have access to a…

The “Yellow Vests” Show How Much the Ground Moves Under Our Feet

Reposted from InfoShop News: If one feature of any truly revolutionary moment is the complete failure of conventional categories to describe what’s happening around us, then that’s a pretty good sign we’re living in revolutionary times. It strikes me that the profound confusion, even incredulity, displayed by the French commentariat—and even more, the world commentariat—in the face of each successive “Acte” of the Gilets Jaunes drama, now rapidly approaching its insurrectionary climax, is a result of a near total inability to take account of the ways that power, labour, and the movements ranged against power, have changed over the last 50 years, and particularly, since 2008. Intellectuals have for the most part done an extremely poor job understanding these changes.…

The Problem with ‘Populism’

Last month, The Guardian published a series of articles on populism, which were accompanied by much hype from the newspaper’s social media accounts. They started the series with the front page splash, ‘Revealed: One in Four Europeans Vote Populist’. This series included articles discussing the ‘rise of populism over the last 20 years’ and an analysis of how many times the word had been used in The Guardian in various years. The two items that attracted the most controversy, and are most interesting in an ideological sense, were the hilarious ‘How Populist Are You?’ quiz and the horrifying interview with Hillary Clinton. These are worthy of further examination. Firstly, the quiz. The set-up is very much along the lines of…

The Yellow Vest Movement: Between ‘ecological’ neoliberalism & ‘apolitical’ movements

CrimeThInc.com have very kindly allowed us to repost this really useful analysis of the Yellow Vest movement in France. The past weeks have seen a massive confrontational movement arise in France opposing President Emmanuel Macron’s “ecological” tax increase on gas. This movement combines many contradictory elements: horizontally organized direct action, a narrative of being “apolitical,” the participation of far-right organizers, and the genuine anger of the exploited. Clearly, neoliberal capitalism offers no solutions to climate change except to place even more pressure on the poor; but when the anger of the poor is translated into reactionary consumer outrage, that opens ominous opportunities for the far right. Here, we report on the yellow vest movement in detail and discuss the questions…

Humour, Security and the Stansted 15

‘Humour is not resigned; it is rebellious.’ Sigmund Freud ‘Humour’1 On 28 March 2017, activists known as the ‘Stansted 15’ obstructed a charter airplane, preventing it from taking deportees back to their countries of birth. The Stansted 15 managed to immobilize the plane by sitting to its front and rear on the tarmac and locking themselves together with metal tubes. When the police approached, they were asked what was in the tubes. The activists’ answer must have not amused the police because we find reference to it in the court trial.2 They humorously told the police that their tubes were constituted by ‘Kryptonite’.3 For those of us like myself who are not well versed in popular culture and have to look…

Crossing the Trenches: The Jungle and its Contentions of the Image

The image is the means by which we both avoid the Other and yet represent the Other. As the rights of movement in the global age demarcates who the Other is, a confrontation with the image becomes necessary to envisage a future based on an equal rights of movement. The Calais jungle over its two decades is a space that enables us to uncover the dimensions of that challenge and to cast another light on the entire edifice of our politics of representation. 1. Resistance of the Image As subjects of the jungle, the undocumented of Calais, the san papiers, les migrants de Calais may also be refugees and asylum seekers but thereon it is the status of being without…

Trump, or Capital in the Oval Office

The moment was of course metaphysically necessary—that capital incarnate itself as man and come among us. The question we must ask rather is how this descent occurs, for that determines all that follows. Trump is not a pope and he has not come down amongst his priesthood, his presence conferring absolution on the interpreters of the law. Trump is not a neoliberal and he has not come down amongst neoliberals—his descent from the gracious realm of capital has been immediate and to the base. In this way Trumpism cannot be considered a doctrine; it—he—is capital in act. According to some theo-logic the body is transubstantiated with capital in actu. The due order of our financialised world, which proceeds from capital…