Cuba and the Garden State: Assata Shakur, Abolition and the Problem of Pardon

Assata Shakur being led away to trial shackled 1977

My skin is black/​My arms are long/​My hair is woolly/​My back is strong/​Strong enough to take the pain/​inflicted again and again/​What do they call me/​My name is Aunt Sarah/​My name is Aunt Sarah — Nina Simone, “Four Women” The recent announcement by US President Barack Obama to re-​establish diplomatic relations with Cuba has been taken by many as a sign of changing times, as well as Mr Obama’s last-​stitch efforts to regain foreign policy credibility for those on the left. This news has also brought about renewed calls by New Jersey police officials to apprehend Assata Shakur, who has political asylum status in Cuba. Before discussing the renewed talk about apprehending Assata Shakur (or pardoning her for something that she…

Another Merry Week in Greece: A diary in fragmented parts to come

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04.12.2014 | Thanatopolitics is an everyday spectacle The head of the Hellenic Police decides to ban public gatherings for two days (05.12 and 06.12). The formal cause of this decision was the visit of the Turkish Prime Minister in Athens. The Athenians are becoming accustomed to such ban orders. On the 6th of December 2008 a policeman had assassinated a 16 years old boy, Alexis Grigoropoulos. The teenager died in the arms of his friend, Nikos Romanos. Nikos Romanos, an anarchist prisoner is, on this day, on hunger strike, for 25 days, demanding an educational leave from the prison he is held in, in order to be able to attend his University courses. The solidarity movement for his cause strengthens by the day. Romanos, convicted…

Interruption: Five Artefacts of International Law (Part II)

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ANZAC in Egypt: Myths, Memories and Movement in the Monumental Imagining of the First World War Charlotte Peevers* The original Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (‘ANZAC’) Memorial at Port Said, Egypt (destroyed during the Suez Crisis of 1956 and replicated in Albany, WA in 1964 and at ANZAC Parade in Canberra in 1968) embodies the antiquity of architectural remembering and the transience of the ANZAC experience far beyond Australia’s shores. The destruction of the Memorial in 1956 reflects its representation, for Egyptians, as a vestige of Empire and occupation. And here the artefact is depicted in a photograph taken by a soldier occupying Port Said during the Suez Crisis. The very destruction of this original monument provided the rationale for a re-​memorialisation and mythologising…

The First World War Interrupted: Artefacts as International Law’s Archive (Part I)

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Separated from us by the barrier of a century. Inaugurator of a fully mechanised modernity. Eye-​opener for the birth of a new, horrified, global society. Premonition of a future to come. This is the Great War. As one supremely tragic bookend to the ‘long’ nineteenth century, the ‘Great War’ is offered to international lawyers as a turning point — as a hinge between the imperial and the modern (see Berman 1999). The extended moment of memorialisation in which we find ourselves today presents, in our view, a critical opportunity for interrupting the sensibility of this bounded past. ‘Progress’ is the lens through which, conventionally, this imperial past comes to be known as past, and our present becomes modern. Yet, we know that in making sense of the past this conventional…

From the CIA Torture Report to Ferguson and Palestine: Should anyone be prosecuted?

Image by Nidal El-Khairy. Src.

We did not need the CIA Torture Report, released a few days ago, on International Human Rights Day, to know that US officials of the highest ranks, including former President George W. Bush and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, were aware of, and condoned, or even authorised, the use of torture on war on terror suspects. Such facts had been known since the publication, for example, of the ICRC Guantanamo torture reports leaked in 2004 and 2007,1 as well as the findings of earlier Senate Committees.2 To know that the torture not only included waterboarding and force-​feeding but also ‘rectal hydration’ and detainees being forced to stand on broken limbs, strengthens the calls for accountability of those ultimately responsible, especially those at the…

Homo Sacer: The Last Act (L’Uso dei Corpi)

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Giorgio Agamben has abandoned Homo sacer. By his own admission in the foreword to his book, and having so acknowledged in the first lecture of his 2014 seminar at the European Graduate School, his latest L’uso dei Corpi — forthcoming in English translation as The Usage of Bodies — will be the last chapter of his 20-​year-​long research. Abandoned, he said and wrote, because every demanding philosophical effort cannot be pushed to an end, it cannot be concluded. In these words, there is already a sort of declaration, a signal from the place he belongs and toward the place he currently occupies in western philosophy. Homo sacer ends with a book gathering his writings and ideas over a span of 20 years, reworking the texture of a lifetime’s thought by recollecting…

Pre-​emptive States of Emergency: Martial Governmentality & the Crisis of Police

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Commenting on the investigation into the police killing of Luis Rodriguez in Moore, OK in February 2014, an attorney for the Moore, OK police department declared, “In this country, it seems we are becoming anti-​police and that the tide has turned in respecting law enforcement.”1 In the wake of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner grand jury verdicts, and the lack of any formal charges in the cases of Luis Rodriguez and so many other victims of color of police violence just this year, it is easy to see why. In this article, I focus on the pre-​emptive state of emergency declared by the Governor of Missouri in the Michael Brown case, and link this form of ‘martial governmentality’ to the…

Deleuze and the Accelerationsists

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We are expected, in the name of Deleuzoguattarian anti-​fascism, to embrace capitalism as nihilist machine that has no ‘purpose’, because ‘purpose’=fascism, while forgetting that neoliberalism appeared in Germany as the form of governmentality that would immunize us against fascism by trading the political for the economic. —Benjamin Noys, ‘The Grammar of Neoliberalism’ Not to withdraw from the process, but to go further, to ‘accelerate the process’, as Nietzsche put it: in this matter, the truth is that we haven’t seen anything yet. —Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-​Oedipus With the recent publication of the Accelerationist reader1 there has been a revived interest in the relationship between the work of Deleuze and Guattari and a particular reading of Marx that emphasizes both Marx’s own dissatisfaction…

The Hunger Strike of Nikos Romanos

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We are currently witnessing one of the most beautiful and tragic moments of resistance in human history. Please join with us and sign the solidarity statement (link below) alongside educators, artists, philosophers and activists. We have now arrived at the 25th day in the hunger strike of political prisoner Nikos Romanos. He is still alive and fighting this outrageously painful battle for human rights – as an anarchist. He writes, “Last spring, I sat university entrance exams from inside the prison and got admitted to a faculty in Athens. According to their laws, since September 2014, I am eligible for educational furloughs to regularly attend classes from the beginning of the term.” In solidarity with Romanos, other anarchist prisoners went on hunger strike: Yannis Michailidis, on November 17, as…

The Podemos Wave

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The countries of Southern Europe are extremely diverse, both socially and politically. But they are taking the brunt of the impact caused by the same misguided policy imposed by Central and Northern Europe via the European Union (EU), with varying but converging outcomes. In broad terms, this amounts to chaining these countries to their peripheral position within the continent, subjecting them to unfairly disproportionate indebtness, actively disabling the state apparatus and public services, pushing the middle classes into abrupt impoverishment, forcing young people to emigrate and cutting investment in education and research, without which it becomes impossible to shed the peripheral status. Spain, Greece and Portugal are paradigmatic tragedies. Although all polls indicate high levels of disaffection and even outrage…

The Further Criminalisation of Student Protest

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The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement has served as a reminder of the wider politics of austerity and its beneficiaries in the form of tax cuts and those at its detriment experiencing wage freezes and cuts in services and benefits. It was also a reminder of how the reforms to higher education and the introduction of full fees is part of the same political programme. This point was not lost on the students who protested on Wed 3rd December. The sensitivity of universities to such protest is in inverse proportion to their willingness to debate the changing idea of the university. Increasingly, universities have sought to criminalise protest on campus while employing marketing techniques to protect their brand. The actions of police on the University of Warwick campus on…

Transgressive Substances, Transmogrification and the Tragedy of Michael Brown

My Blackness is not a Weapon

The [police] chief was informed that a hitherto inoffensive negro was running amok in a cocaine frenzy … Being fully aware of the respect the negro has for brass buttons, the officer went single-​handed to the negro’s house for the purpose of arresting him. … The officer … informed him quietly that he was under arrest … . In reply the crazed negro drew a long knife, grappled with the officer and slashed him across the shoulder. Knowing that he must kill the man or be killed himself, the chief drew his revolver, placed the muzzle over the negro’s heart and fired … But the shot did not even stagger the man. A second shot that … entered the chest, had just as little…

Governmentality: Notes on the Thought of Michel Foucault

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The title of Foucault’s lecture series of 1977 – 78 Security, Territory, Population was poorly chosen; the series should, as he acknowledges, have been called ‘Governmentality’, since the concern of these lectures is with the overarching ‘problem of government’ – that is, ‘how to govern oneself, how to be governed, by whom should we accept to be governed, how to be the best possible governor?’1 He is thus interested in the how of government – both how governing happens and how it is thought. The 1977 – 78 lectures start with the theme of biopower, one of Foucault’s thought ‘fragments’2 (as opposed to cohesive theory) on the how of power. Biopower referred to a set of procedures, or relations, that manipulate the biological features (for example, birth rate, fertility)…

Lessons from Gaza: Human Rights (2009/​2014)

A youth holds-up a big Palestinian flag during a protest against the controversial separation wall in Ramallah

According to UN Human Rights High Commissioner, Navi Pillay, “there appears to be a deliberate defiance on the part of Israel in complying with its international obligations. We should not allow this kind of impunity. We should not allow this to go uninvestigated, or for these flagrant violations to continue.”1 She also affirmed that “deploying rockets in the environs of hospitals and schools or even launching them from densely populated areas constitutes violations of humanitarian law”, but this does not “absolve” Israel from violating the same law”.2 Although these declarations were made towards the end of her mandate, it is important to highlight that there are indications that the world in general, and the South in particular, are starting to turn against…

‘Why is no one counting the thousands of deaths of black youth in Brazil resulting from police actions?’

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Two days ago, a US American friend of mine, who lives in Rio, asked this question on a Facebook post. I don’t have an answer. I have a rant. Everyone who like me has lost friends and relatives to state violence never stopped counting. What we need is a political transmutation, a turn of thought. We need the left and those to the left of the right and to the left of what now counts as left, to talk and write and protest against police/​state violence without immediately associating the talking about it with some plot orchestrated by those who have always been on the right — the Brazilian elite and the wannabes. There is no such thing as state sanctioned violence. If Max Weber and Walter Benjamin are…

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

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An oft told tale at the start of international economic law modules is the failure of the Havana Charter of 1946 to establish the International Trade Organisation (ITO). Unlike its sister the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group, the ITO failed to launch. This failure was largely down to the US’s reluctance to join an organisation within which, and unlike its other post-​World War multilateral fellows the United Nations, the IMF and the World Bank Group, it did not possess a veto. The UN’s Permanent Five veto members enables this genus to manage both institutional questions such as choice of International Court of Justice judges or Secretaries General alongside questions of international peace and security. Both the IMF and…

Resist “Lawful” Police Killings: Answering the Call from Ferguson

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Almost a year ago (January 15 to be exact) I wrote an article here in response to the Duggan Inquiry. I remember being struck by two things when reading the verdict: a pro­found con­fu­sion over how they could reach the de­cision that his killing was lawful as well as a com­plete lack of surprise at their ver­dict. Fast forward ten months and I find myself once again experiencing the same bi-​polar reaction of anger and shock alongside the surety that that in the US there would be no indictment for Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Michael Brown on 9 August 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. However, the reasons underlining today’s sense of anger and surety couldn’t possibly be further away from what we here in the…

Open Letter to the Young Women and Men of Mexico

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To all my friends from Mexico. And if I may, I would particularly like to address this to you, the young men and women of Mexico. The whole world has been greatly shocked by the massacre of the young men from the rural teachers’ college of Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, and in particular by the horrific details. I understand your great anguish, rage and perplexity: What type of society is this that allows people — apparently normal like us — to commit such despicable crimes? What State is this that seems to be completely infiltrated by narcoviolence? What democracy is this that invites people to surrender to enemies that seem too strong to be subjugated, while it passes laws that criminalize peaceful protests (such as the bullet law, that permits the use…

Hashtag Panelwatch: Accumulation by Discrediting

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A common occurrence when organizing academic events these days is the inevitable encounter with a trigger-​happy deployment of queries and condemnation regarding representation. In the age of immediate self-​publication in social media, this “calling out” usually takes the form of one or more people condemning event organisers on Twitter, Facebook, a blog or some combination thereof. The organisers are condemned for hosting speakers who do not reflect a sufficiently full spectrum of people from marginalised groups (by, for instance, ignoring gender, race, dis/​ability, nationality, sexuality or some other aspect of social identity in the panel’s or conference’s line-​up). In the last year, we have witnessed several events marred in some way by the social media call-​out. This phenomenon more often than not has…