Solidarity inside and outside colonial borders

Neal Jennings (Hobart, Tasmania 2011)

Any critical solidarity finds difficulty in acknowledging Indigenous populations and refugees as  “people forced to the edges of Australian society” , as stated by Walter Shaw from the Tangentyere Council, without running the risk of constructing a dangerous narrative of ‘outsiderness’, disenfranchising the traditional ownership of territory, or reifying a culture of minority solidarity which marginalises difference.  However, recent campaigns have emphasised the correlation between the detention and displacement of Indigenous and refugee populations in a way which may have critical traction: taking account of the high rate of incarceration – in which, for example,  indigenous children are 24 times more likely to be detained than non-indigenous children, and often followed by deaths in custody , reverberates with uneasy echoes…

Movement For Justice (MFJ): Open Letter to Jeremy Corbyn

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Following Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide victory as leader of the Labour Party, MFJ have sent him this open letter… Uniting the struggles against racism and austerity: Amnesty for all immigrants without secure legal status; End immigration detention; Abolish the anti-Muslim Prevent strategy; Stop mass deportation charter flights. You have now won the Labour leadership with increased support. Your campaigns have energised hundreds of thousands of mainly young supporters. Many went through the mass student movement of 2010 and felt betrayed by the mainstream parties. They have transformed Labour into the largest political party in Europe. You have great authority, but the open and closet Blairites in Parliament are making it clear that the price of their dubious ‘support’ will be major…

Why Trump Won’t Win and Why it Matters

US-flag

Trump’s candidacy allows us to see the domestic contradictions that have always existed globally. There is a sinister umbilical cord between the inside of American politics and institutionalism and its unrestricted and savage outside. The American president resembles the case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Domestically, the institution is ‘seemingly’ politically controlled by a representative congress and legally by an autonomous judicial system. But beyond its borders and with increasing voracity, the President is basically the executive power of an unrestricted global complex that orchestrates a monumental force of alliances between hegemonic Western powers (Germany, Japan, UK) international multilateral institutions (IMF, World Bank) and transnational corporation that have one unique quest: to maintain the power of the international capital…

Letter to the Society of Legal Scholars

On 9th of September the Society of Legal Scholars invited the conservative British politician Michael Gove to address the dinner of its annual conference. In opening his talk, Mr Gove commented: ‘I feel rather like the grand wizard of the KKK giving an address to the AGM of Black Lives Matter.’ On Sunday 11th September, following the circulation of the comments on social media, the SLS issued an apology, seeking to distance itself from the statement. On 12th September, over one hundred academics from across the country responded as follows: Professor Andrew Burrows President Society of Legal Scholars All Souls College, Oxford Professor Imelda Maher Vice President Sutherland School of Law University College Dublin By email only 12 September 2016…

Towards a post-liberal theory of free expression

Nigel Farage MEP campaigns for Brexit

Controversies about free expression now saturate the news more than ever before.  They certainly erupt whenever Donald Trump opens his mouth.  Questions have also arisen as to whether anti-immigration slurs incited post-Brexit attacks on minorities.  By ‘expression’ I mean not only words, but also other expressive conduct—whatever messages the burkini sends, it’s causing the French to re-think their whole constitution. Debates about free expression often divide along clear lines.  At one end, an established civil libertarian tradition inevitably applies some version of John Stuart Mill’s familiar harm principle (even when its adherents don’t use the phrase and haven’t read Mill).  Law, they claim, must always assume the background norm of free expression.  That default position may be overridden only when…

On a Recent Change of Tone in Politics and Law

Abstract rendering of the cover of Law & Critique in Central Europe

This is the foreword by Costas Douzinas to Law and Critique in Central Europe: Questioning the Past, Resisting the Present, eds. Rafał Manko, Cosmin Cercel, and Adam Sulikowski (Oxford: Counterpress 2016). I am writing this preface in the Chamber of Hellenic Parliament a little after giving my maiden speech as a newly elected Member of Parliament for Syriza, the radical left party and current government of Greece. It is only a short six weeks since I gave the opening address at the amazing Critical Legal Conference (‘CLC’) on 5 September 2015 in Wrocław, Poland, the first CLC in Central Europe. The change in my life since this historic meeting in Wrocław is momentous. I was asked to stand for the Greek…

How do you recognise an Assadist?

“Platform-34.532298,69.153442” (2014). Mixed media on canvas. Image by Waseem Marzouki.

Some people whose interest in the Middle East is recent think that Assad is a uniquely Syrian phenomenon. I think the excessively harsh despotism and the equally excessive ability to cruelly exterminate your own population while believing yourself to be setting your nation on the road to modernity are quite unique in terms of their degree and intensity, but Assadism is nonetheless a more widespread political disposition in the Arab world. It can even be described as a mode of being. How do you recognise an Assadist? Here are some helpful suggestions for the newcomers: • An Assadist is anyone who pretends that the tension between a local population’s aspirations for freedom, justice and dignity and geo-political anti-imperialist posturing (i.e., being…

A feminist case for Basic Income: An interview with Kathi Weeks

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Katie Cruz: Since you wrote The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries in 2011, the demand for a basic income has received increasing attention from those of us on the Left. But I think what differentiates your work on basic income from much of what has been published is that yours is a Marxist feminist perspective. Social reproduction is central to your work in general and on a basic income. Could you start by outlining your expansive definition of social reproduction and how you arrived at it in conversation with earlier Marxist feminist approaches? Kathi Weeks: Marxist feminism’s focus on social reproduction is probably the main reason I keep coming back again and again to that…

When Seeing Isn’t Believing: On Images of Police Brutality

Eric-Garner-Cover-Picture

Our TV screens and social media feeds are saturated with images of police brutality towards African Americans; the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling among the most recent. While visual proof of police violence towards African Americans is not new — as images of the 1935 Harlem race riot reveal — it is now more prevalent than ever. The increased visibility of police violence is commonly understood as an unambiguously positive development in the fight for justice. Belief in the power of photographs and videos has seeped into the very language of social change; to “bring an issue to light” or “expose abuses by the state” is to hasten justice. Visual materials are seen as objective records of moments in…

Criminal Law to the Rescue? ‘Wolf-Whistling’ as Hate Crime

Eugène Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People

On July 13, 2016 Nottinghamshire police became the first force in the UK to recognise misogyny as a hate crime. Hate crime is defined as ‘any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic’. In practical terms, this means that in Nottinghamshire police can record reported incidents such as wolf whistling, verbal abuse, taking photographs without consent, and using mobile phones to send unwanted messages with an additional ‘flag’ or qualifier on their incident log as hate crime. It appears that the move is largely symbolic, as gender animus is not a relevant aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing under relevant UK ‘hate crime’…

The Iraq War, Brexit and Imperial Blowback

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Brexit is a disaster we can only understand in the context of Britain’s imperial exploits. A Bullingdon boy (Oxford frat boy) gamble has thrown Britain into the deepest political and economic crisis since the second world war and has made minority groups across the UK vulnerable to racist and xenophobic hatred and violence. People of color, in particular those in the global South, know all too well what it is to be at the receiving end of the British establishment’s divisive top-down interventions. Scapegoating migrants is a divisive tool favored by successive governments, but the British establishment’s divide and rule tactic was honed much further afield in the course of its colonial exploits. Britain has a long history of invading,…

Three Brexit lessons from our work at Kent Law School.

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  We are some of the staff who work at Kent Law School, one of the UK’s leading critical law schools. We value working in a place where people disagree with each other, where diverse colleagues, often from different schools of thought and political convictions, feel a sense of shared belonging, and where our jobs give us the chance to meet wonderful people from all over the world. But while many of those who voted for leave may have been celebrating this week, we have been feeling shocked, subdued, and concerned. As a result, we have been uncharacteristically quiet during the most significant period in the UK’s recent legal and political history. People with different kinds of jobs, as well…

The Unbearable Weight of Staying

The Host (Cropped)

On the paradoxical semantic ambivalence at the root of the unrooted concept ‘host’ On Wednesday 22nd June 2016, during Refugee Week, Adbul Rahman Haroun was sentenced to nine months in prison under the Malicious Damage Act 1861, prosecuted for ‘dangerous obstruction’ of traffic. This ‘obstruction’ of which it speaks concerns the evasion of high speed trains going through the Channel Tunnel during his 31 mile walk in 12 hours of near total darkness, in August 2015. After first escaping persecution in Sudan in 2004, making the perilous journey to Europe and then jumping the fence in Calais following months in the refugee camp, Haroun was arrested by the police at Folkestone. He was detained at HMP Elmley in Kent until…

Disorder under Heaven

Img: Reuters/Reinhard Krause

A crisis is to be taken seriously, without illusions, but also as a chance to be fully exploited. Late in his life, Freud asked the famous question “Was will das Weib?”, “What does a woman want?”, admitting his perplexity when faced with the enigma of the feminine sexuality. A similar perplexity arouses today, apropos the Brexit referendum: what does Europe want? The true stakes of this referendum become clear if we locate it into its larger historical context. In Western and Eastern Europe, there are signs of a long-term re-arrangement of the political space. Till recently, the political space was dominated by two main parties which addressed the entire electoral body, a Right-of-centre party (Christian-Democrat, liberal-conservative, people’s…) and a Left-of-centre…

After the Referendum: What’s Left?

Sorry Closed

There is nothing to celebrate today. The vote by a small (but significant) majority of people in the UK to leave the EU is not a victory for working people, for migrants, for socialists or left activists of any stripe. It could have been: if Labour and the main trade unions had seized the moment and set out a strong, principled, anti-racist and anti-capitalist case for leaving the EU. They didn’t, and the moribund radical left was so fragmented and disorganised, that it’s interventions had little or no bearing on the debate. As a result charlatans such as Nigel Farage are able to portray themselves as champions of “ordinary people” standing up to the “elites and fat cats”. Race and…

Europe at the Crossroads

Earthlights

Brexit campaigners would have us abdicate at the global level, all potential for the re-establishment of political and social self-determination over the economy. We, by contrast, should take our fight for the soul of economic liberalism to Europe. Order in Chaos Even as it is wholly ill-informed, the Brexit debate is dominated by a battle for facts. In the one corner, those determined to catapult the UK out of the Union have been evermore inventive (mendacious) in their pursuit of figures that ‘demonstrate’ the unbearable strains of integration upon the UK population Exchequer. In the other, Vote Remain’s assertion that a no vote will lead to economic shock is better backed up by reputable research, but the campaign is nonetheless…

Brexit as Nostalgia for Empire 

Zong Massacre

The run up to the EU referendum has shown Britain for what it is. Woodwork: the washed-up bracken of the British Empire, and the ugly flotsam of its legacy of racism. This week Jo Cox, a pro-immigration Labour MP was brutally murdered by a man who shouted Britain First as he killed her and who gave his name in court on being charged with her murder as “Death to traitors. Freedom for Britain”. Jo Cox was killed a week before the referendum on Britain’s EU membership and following months of campaigning which has been dominated by the topic of migration. This referendum has not felt like an exercise in democracy. There is something painfully undemocratic about denying EU citizens from…

Hans-Georg Gadamer: Hermeneutics

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Key Concept Hermeneutics concerns itself with the philosophy of interpretation, initially oriented toward the interpretation of texts. Indeed, though its origins lay in Greek antiquity, ‘advances in the formulation of methods of interpretation had to await the Reformation and the attack on the Church’s authority to interpret the bible.’1 Thus, hermeneutics was a branch of theology that dealt specifically with the interpretation of holy scriptures but has since expanded beyond textual interpretation to encompass the interpretation of verbal (speech) and non-verbal (conduct) expressions. The use of Gadamerian hermeneutics in legal interpretation is well documented. Indeed, Gadamer regarded law as having ‘exemplary significance’ in developing his Post-Romantic interpretation that moved beyond methodological variations of attempting to determine authorial (specifically here, legislative)…

‘Internalised homophobia’: The exception or the paradigm?

Omar Mateen

Shortly after the 11 June anti-LGBT massacre, it became clear that the perpetrator, Omar Mateen, had a gay profile of his own. Commentary poured out associating Mateen with internalised homophobia. What shall we make of that diagnosis? It’s not necessarily wrong. Given our long and complex histories of sexual taboo, psychological explanations for gays aggressing others as gays are certainly plausible enough. Throughout much of the media, however, ‘internalised homophobia’ is recited not to enhance the public’s insight into the politics, but to write politics out of the analysis altogether. If the killer was gay himself, it seems, then maybe his crime wasn’t really about politics. Far from surpassing the age-old medical model of non-normative heterosexualities as disease (memorably documented by…