Legality and the Production of Difference

Rafael's Judgement of Solomon (1519)

Legal theoretical approaches oriented around discerning a constitutive difference between law and morality are misguided in that they misrepresent epistemological claims for ontological certainty. While some, such as Kelsen, have been admirably straightforward about this, other legal scholars have attempted to hide this unfortunate reality beneath layers of conflation and qualifications.1 Hart’s work is the most prominent and indicatory example; one more brief look at his work will provide a useful segue into the more critical discussion. Hart argues that the transition from rules to law is primarily driven by the desire of hegemonic groups who feel obligated by the dictates of particular moral systems to oblige others to adhere to them as well.2 The motivation behind this is to…

Nowhere Left to Dance: ScumTek, the Electronic Underground and Neoliberal Mainstreamism

Photograph: Lewis Whyld/PA The Guardian

As I sat down to write this piece on some of the less credited and understood sonorous movements in the UK and their affecting encounters with law, snippets of David Cameron’s pronouncements on ‘blitzing poverty’ and ‘bulldozing the UK’s worst sink estates’ transmute my rainy January Sunday a few weeks ago, and immediately there exists a ligature between the Tory government’s newscast, and the content of this piece. Occurring within the same week as the barely scrutinised second reading of the most scandalous and violent piece of proposed housing and planning legislation seen in recent years, Cameron suspiciously justifies the knocking down of peoples’ homes, in the name of helping them, and yet the real story is all too familiar.…

Agamben: The Messianic Kingdom

Wall painting of Agamben at the Abode of Chaos, France

Key Concept In “The Messiah and the Sovereign: The Problem of Law in Walter Benjamin,” Agamben explicitly addresses the difference between the state of exception in which we are living where the law is in force, but does not signify anything, and the real state of exception that somehow has the “potentiality” to overcome the problematic nature of sovereign power, with reference to Walther Benjamin’s “Theses on the History of Philosophy”.[i] Here, Agamben sees the possibility of going beyond the fundamental structure of law and sovereign power, and, drawing on Benjamin’s interpretation of the Messianic tradition names the real state of exception “The Messianic Kingdom”.[ii] Messianism in religious context signifies a radical transformation of law as such because the Messiah at…

On parents going to school in pyjamas

Davina Cooper -  On Parents Going to School in Pyjamas

Sometimes, working late at the university, when it’s dark or raining I call my partner (who works there also) to drive and pick me up. She jumps in the car, in her “loungewear”, and is at the university within five minutes. I was reflecting on our own comfort levels, and the distinctions in what we will wear in different spaces, in the light of the drama which recently erupted when a primary school head teacher in Darlington, England, wrote to parents, asking them to come to school appropriately attired. “I have noticed there has been an increasing tendency for parents to escort children to and from school while still wearing their pyjamas and, on occasion, even slippers,” her letter noted. The…

Pirates in our public library: Why Indian scholars are closely watching a court case in Quebec

aaaarg.org

The online library aaaaarg.fail, which is being sued for copyright violation, gives researchers access to a wealth of vital texts that are inaccessible in the subcontinent. Originally published on Scroll.in and republished here with permission. In 2005, Sean Dockray did what any sensible government should have done for its students. The American artist set up a sharing-enabled platform for a website then called aaaaarg.org, and uploaded digital copies of largely theoretical and philosophical texts that could be freely downloaded by readers. Before long, many of the researchers, students, teachers, and scholars who used the site began to upload scans of texts in their possession – exactly as Dockray hoped they would. To readers based in places like India, a collection with this breadth…

Darkness Visible: A New Years Eve at the Calais Jungle with Black Sartre, White Fanon and friends.

GARENNES

This is a recounting of a New Year’s eve night at the makeshift settlement known as the Calais ‘jungle’ that is the subject of so much media attention of late. A cold wet sludge of a jungle that’s home to some 6000 people, the migrants of Calais. The encounters over the course of the night blown through by wintry gusts offer another insight into why this jungle exists and the significance of its place in the contemporary colonial question. It’s worth saying at the beginning that the jungle as a mode of improvised shelter has by now an established history in Calais. Whilst this requires its own research, in its current incarnation the jungle at Jules Ferry owes its existence…

Fanon — Revolution

Brahim Haggiag (center, with arm outstretched) as  revolutionary leader Ali La Pointe in a scene from Gillo Pontecorvo's THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS (1965). Photo courtesy Rialto Pictures.

Key Concept The naked truth of decolonisation evokes for us the searing bullets and bloodstained knives which emanate from it. For if the last shall be first, this will only come to pass after a murderous and decisive struggle between the two protagonists. That affirmed intention to place the last at the head of things, and to make them climb at a pace (too quickly, some say) the well-known steps which characterize an organized society, can only triumph if we use all means to turn the scale, including, of course, that of violence (Fanon, 1963: 37). Frantz Fanon used his lived experience as a revolutionary in Algeria to develop a theory of revolution. Fanon was born in Martinique, a French…

Fanon on Violence and the Person

fanon-red

Key Concept Decolonization is the veritable creation of new men. But this creation owes nothing of its legitimacy to any supernatural power; the “thing” which has been colonized becomes man during the same process by which it frees itself (Fanon 1963: 36-37). Frantz Fanon’s approach to violence and its effects on the individual is uniquely guided by his lived experience. Fanon was born and raised as a colonial subject in the Antilles. He then undertook medical school and psychiatric training in France. Fanon was later an employed psychiatrist in Algeria, where he later eventually joined the revolution against the French. Fanon’s outlines both the potentialities and negative aspects of violence. His most famous and controversial remarks are those around the…

Frantz Fanon – Contextualising the man

fanon

Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) was a Martinican psychiatrist and political theorist. He is famous for his work which theorises colonialism and violent revolution. Crucial to an understanding of Frantz Fanon’s theoretical work, is an understanding of his very unique personal circumstances. In this short piece, I will give a brief account of Fanon’s life and writing. Fanon was born 1925 in Fort-de-France, the capital city of the French colony of Martinique. He was born into a middle class family, with a public servant father and working mother. Fanon was privileged to be educated in a good school under the tutelage of another famous Martinican postcolonial theorist, Aime Cesaire (Nicholls, 2015). Fanon’s lived experience in Martinique was unique due to the means…

The Left of the Future: A Sociology of Emergences

Image by Arshile Gorky

The future of the left is no more difficult to predict than any other social fact. The best way to address it is by way of what I term the sociology of emergences, which consists in paying special attention to signs from the present that can be read as trends or the harbinger of whatever will be decisive in the future.  At present I propose to draw special attention to a fact that, given its uncommon nature, could portend something new and important. I allude to recent pacts signed by various parties on the left. The Pacts Pacts do not have a strong tradition in the “left family”. Historically some branches of the family have established more pacts with the…

Shut it Down #YarlsWood

YarlsWood

Reading the migrant detention centre within a global economy of violence through new formations of resistance and solidarity. Yarl’s Wood IRC. On a wet windy November day in Bedfordshire, outside the notorious Yarl’s Wood detention centre, Judith an ex-detainee is on the mobile sound system. My sisters on the inside On the 8th August I was on the inside and you were on the outside. If you can see the third window at the bottom, that was my room — Jud98 I wrote SOS, red lipstick on blue pillow case. Handcuffed and shackled in-between internment centres, tossed from vehicle to vehicle like a “sack of potatoes” Judith had resisted her deportation to the very end with support from Movement for Justice…

The Gardens of Atocha: Pablo Iglesias’ Election Night Speech

e252f169364c4e109c2d2015a3648a9d_t1070_h97ef7dbd04c118e668f11cd93728eeb6b224e78c

Kindly translated by Richard McAleavey over on the superb Cunning Hired Knaves. Translator’s Note: This is a translation of the speech given by Pablo Iglesias following the election results on Sunday night. I do not have a satisfactory English translation for ‘patria‘ (‘Fatherland’ has other connotations) so I’m leaving as is. There are two words in Spanish that both translate into English as ‘people’. ‘La gente‘ refers to people in a general sense, and is often best translated as ‘ordinary people’ or ‘everyday people’, depending on the context. ‘El pueblo‘ is in the sense of a collective subject in political terms, as in ‘the will of the people’. I have included links to provide background to some of the references made.…

The Weight of Our History

Portrait of Jean-Luc (Jean Luc) Nancy 11/09/2015 

©Vincent MULLER/Opale/Leemage

This is the long version of an essay that was first published on November 20, 2015 in L’humanité. Translation by Philippe Theophanidis with the help of Marie-Ève Morin and Marc James Léger.   We would rather remain silent. In the face of the horror and emotion. In the face of the effects of proximity – since what happened in Paris has been happening constantly and for a long time in Bombay, Beyrouth, Kaboul, New York, Madrid, Casablanca, Algiers, Amman, Karachi, Tunis, Mossoul, etc. etc. In the face of the misery of our indignation (justified but hollow) or of our protestations ( “One should…” ” One only has to…”) — and the gravity of perspectives (control, retaliation…). We would rather remain silent also…

The Blind Leading the Blind: the Paris Attacks and the Construction of Infinite Evil

bruegel_blinden_grt

After the horrific attacks in Paris, the painting of the great Bruegel, The Blind Leading the Blind is in my mind. Bruegel finished this work in the year 1568. It was the year when the notorious Duke Alba arrived with his troops on behalf of the Spanish King in order to cleanse the land of all heretics: Calvinists, Lutherans, Anabaptists as well as all those who dared to oppose the hegemony of the governors of the Spanish Netherlands. The Duke of Alba appointed the Council of Troubles, also known as “the blood council” to pass relevant orders to protect Spanish interests and to judge the sinners. Year by year the number of those deemed ‘outlaws’ increased, and the authority of…

Open Letter to the Australian Government

Gate to Manus Island camp

The following open letter was sent to Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. It was signed by 600 refugees who are currently indefinitely imprisoned in the detention centre pursuant to Australia’s ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’. 30/11/15 Hello Dear Mr Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton. As the refugees and asylum seekers trapped in Manus Island detention we wold like to request you something different this time. As previously we wrote and asked for help and there was no respond to our request to be freed out of detention we realized that there are no differences between us and rubbish but a bunch of slaves that helped to stop the boats by living in hellish condition. The only difference is that we are very costly for…

Concerning a Critical Legal Pedagogy: Exposing Race-Thinking in Political Canon

slave ship

Locke’s philosophy worked to entrench slavery as a politically justifiable practice, effectively extending property rights to a select few while encouraging the political legitimacy of race-​based persecution. John Locke is considered the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers and a leading philosopher of British empiricism – in other words, the theory that knowledge is primarily derived from sensory experience. Empiricism emphasizes the privileging of facts and ‘hard’ evidence, insofar as the testing of a ‘theory’ ought to accompany observations of the natural world, rather than intuition or a priori reasoning. Locke was primarily concerned with a branch of political philosophy known as social contract theory, or the notion that the individual ought to relinquish some of their freedoms to the authority of the…

Financial Indebtedness as a Political Strategy

debt

Money in law is a form of debt Lawyers are not much concerned about, and economists have never really known, what money actually is. In microeconomics the issue of money does not appear at all: indeed, mainstream microeconomics has eliminated money entirely from the supply-demand market model, with the argument that money is just a neutral means of exchange without any effects on the market. In this way one can avoid addressing economically and politically relevant points. Money is a form of legally recognised and legally enforced debt; in fact, it is the nature of being a debt and its the enforceability by the law which creates the money. Money is a debt represented by socially recognised reifiers (coin, banknote,…

Space: Notes on the Thought of Luce Irigaray

Irigaray Space

Key Concept   In March 2015, a conference was held in New York entitled Feminism in Architecture 2015, and subtitled, ‘We need to change our expectations. We need new models of success. We need to change what and how we teach’. I made an application, and I suggested adding to the subtitle ‘And we need an evolution in love’ (it was not accepted). And yet, the concept of affect, but not apparently affection, is a current conversation in architecture. The question of atmosphere and affect, of space and mood, has been pondered in a number of conferences recently including: Atmospheres (University of Manchester, July 2015), with the British place-poet Simon Armitage as keynote speaker, and Sites of Production (UCL, London,…

The folly of vengeance: Thinking through the Paris attacks with Simone de Beauvoir

fractures (1)

‘…we said ourselves in an outburst of anger ‘They will pay’. And our anger seemed to promise a joy so heavy that we could scarcely believe ourselves able to bear it. They have paid. They are going to pay. They pay each day. And the joy has not risen up in our hearts’.1 In the wake of the Paris attacks on November 13, international media highlighted how it was the deadliest attack since the Second World War, which was quickly rebutted when it was pointed out that up to 200 Algerians had been massacred in Paris in 1961 after protesting the colonial war in Algeria. Even if we believed every life mattered, the unequal mourning shown after the bombing in Beirut…