Swedens of the Mind

This article was first published by Wildcat Dispatches: Speaking in Florida on Saturday 18 February, Donald Trump pledged to keep the United States safe from refugees, and pointed to catastrophes unfolding elsewhere as the reason: We’ve got to keep out country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Who believes it, however, is of significance only if we work through what it is they are being asked to believe. Trump inserted Sweden into a narrative chain that included the Daesh-related attacks in Paris and Brussels in 2015-16, thus intimating that a ‘terrorist attack’ had taken place. No such attack had taken place, of course, and…

Police and Protest in the Banlieue

On February 2, 2017, in the banlieue municipality of Aulnay-sous-Bois (North-East), 22-year-old Black man Théo L. was raped by a police officer, while three others were holding him. As of today, Théo is still at the hospital suffering of a 3.5-inch-long tear of his anus. The video showing the crime was quickly spread, provoking outrage country-wide, and making it impossible for police officers to deny the anal penetration with a telescopic baton to which Théo was subjected. However, the officers and the service within the police in charge of the investigation have since made the outrageous claim that what happened was an accident, going as far as forming the phrase “deliberate rape” to describe what the situation was not according to them, in an extremely…

The problem with the past is that it doesn’t pass: On the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution (RR)1 and also the 150th anniversary of the publication of the first volume of Karl Marx’ Das Kapital. Combining the two historic dates may seem strange because Marx never wrote in detail about the revolution and communist society and, even if he had, it is unimaginable that what he might have written could bear any resemblance to what the Soviet Union (USSR) was, especially after Stalin took over the leadership of both the party and the State. The truth is that many of the discussions raised by Marx’ book during the 20th century outside the USSR were an indirect way of discussing the merits and demerits of the RR. Now…

Torture Works? Beccaria’s Forgotten Lesson

Power structures and governments will resort to euphemistic labelling in order to sanitize morally reprehensible or illegal behaviour — this is neither new nor surprising.  A textbook example is the G. W. Bush Jr. Administration who tried to immunize inter alia waterboarding against criticism by calling it an ‘enhanced interrogation technique’. The roots of this practice can be traced back thousands of years. Thucydides branded this stasis where we engineer a shift in semantics, so that ‘words fit in with the change of events’, as an effort ‘to disguise one’s unmanly character’ (Thucydides 3: 82). Whatever one’s opinion of the new POTUS, Donald J. Trump, we cannot, I think, accuse him of being ‘unmanly’ in the above Thucydidean sense. For…

The Control Room: War, Exception, Threat

If the machinery of intelligence-gathering and war is never switched off, then we have truly entered the permanent state of emergency. This 10-minute video essay looks at control rooms in film and television since the 1970s, and identifies an array of technological apparatuses that both manifest and make possible an increasingly distributed kind of sovereignty. These control rooms display a set of related technologies – virtualization, remote control, simulation, real-time processing, networked computing, graphical user interfaces – that have become commonplace in popular screen narratives about imagined threats to modern society. The transformation of the theatre of war into a virtual, audiovisual, theatrical experience is part of a broader, deeper transformation of modern experience itself, including politics, under the sway…

Open Letter to the Prime Minister from the UK Legal Academic Community

As the new US administration moves to enact a series of ever-more discriminatory policies, and as the material consequences of those policies begin to be felt around the world, those of us based in the UK face an additional blow as they watch their government throw its lot in with Trump’s. In response to this blow, we, a group of UK-based legal academics and academic support staff, decided that one relatively straightforward action we might take, as the first step in a wider strategy of resistance, would be to draft an open letter of protest to the Prime Minister. This initiative was born at Kent Law School and has been supported by colleagues at universities across the country. Here is…

The American Terrible

Someone recently asked me: if you don’t think Trump is a fascist, what do you think is going to happen? I answered her as truthfully as I could: I don’t know. The fact is: none of us knows. Not even, I suspect, Trump or Steve Bannon. In the course of several argumens and conversations over the last few days—about Trump, what he’s up to, and so on—I’ve sometimes found myself, against my better judgment, drifting into predictions. I start out trying to think about what this current moment means, and I wind up making claims about where we’re going. That’s not a place I want to be. Not simply because my prediction about the election was so completely wrong, not simply because I’m…

Interview with Walter Mignolo: Activism, Trajectory, and Key Concepts

Alvina Hoffmann Interviews Walter Mignolo.1 This interview first appeared in E-International Relations.   Where do you see the most exciting debates happening in the field of cultural theory? In general, the most interesting are the varieties of creative thinking and doing (publications, exhibits, artists, organizations, web networks) coming from the non-European regions of the planet and from immigrants in Western Europe and the US. I see a parallel between two apparently disconnected spheres of life: the closing of five hundred years of the forming and consolidation of Western Civilization (since the Renaissance and its darker side, coloniality) in the political, economic, diplomatic and military sphere and the closing of intellectual domination of Western thoughts (meaning Western Europe and the US,…

Catastrophe: Critical Legal Conference 2017 Call for Streams

Ten years ago, the so-called ‘Invisible Committee’ urged that ‘It is useless to wait…. To go on waiting is madness. The catastrophe is not coming, it is here. We are already situated within the collapse of a civilization. It is within this reality that we must choose sides.’ Over a decade before, Leonard Cohen had written; ‘This is the darkness, this is the flood. The catastrophe has already happpened and the question we now face is what is the appropriate behaviour.’ The 2017 Critical Legal Conference thus calls for streams, panels and papers that reflect upon ‘catastrophe’; on the catastrophes of our time and upon their interrelations; upon the questions of appropriate behaviours that might emerge and sides that might…

Spatial Justice and Diaspora: Foreword by Parvathi Raman

Spatial Justice and Diaspora, edited by Emma Patchett and Sarah Keenan, has just been published by Counterpress. We are pleased to republish the following foreword by Parvathi Raman, Chair of the Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies, SOAS. When Emma Patchett and Sarah Keenan asked if I would write a foreword for their new edited volume, Spatial Justice and Diaspora, I was delighted to be able to make a small contribution to this important and timely new book. In our current political moment, we urgently require engaged scholarship on questions of space-making, the politics of diaspora, and the racialization of inequality. Global disparity has reached unprecedented levels. Mass displacement, fuelled by wars, environmental change and the gross disparity of wealth and opportunity,…

Boycott the National Student Survey

We are facing a truly pivotal moment in higher education. This government is set to usher in the full marketisation of the sector, with a wave of reforms which represent the most drastic shake-up in decades. Under the new proposals, market-oriented metrics will be used to raise tuition fees even further beyond the current £9000 cap, students will be pitted against academic staff who will have to endure even greater pressures, and the establishment of for-profit providers – which will run in direct competition with public institutions – will be actively encouraged by the government. Faced with multifaceted and somewhat unprecedented attacks to higher education, it is clear that today’s student movement must seek to deploy a diversity of different…

Mourning from Aleppo to Cairo: An Insight into Gillian Rose’s Third City

Be ahead of all departure, as if it were already behind you, like the winter which is almost over. For among winters there is one so endlessly winter, that, wintering through it, may your heart survive.1   In times when mourning is not allowed Rose’s insights echo the importance of mourning. In Mourning Becomes the Law, Gillian Rose drafts a path for mourners, one that is neither passive nor vengeful. It is a path of overcoming the limits of modernity and post-modernity, or maybe it was her path of working her way to death. These days Rose’s mourning has become abrogated to a passive form of mourning, one that doesn’t resolve our anger but grows it. Let me start by mapping…

We are the enemy: on scholarly resistance to the conservative crush

Like many of my friends in academia, when Trump was elected I went online, just as I had done after Brexit, and Turnbull, and Abbott, and every other major election and political ‘event’ in the last decade or so. Facebook—the Facebook I inhabit—was on auto-pilot. First came the shock, outrage and despair, then the think-pieces. Class-based critiques, race-based critiques, gender-based critiques, intersectional critiques of those critiques, critiques of the polling industry, critiques of the electoral college system, critiques of the Right, of the Alt-Right, of Populism, of Neoliberalism, of the Left, of the Republican party, of the Democratic party, of the Media, of Social Media…and so on ad nauseam: control, copy, paste, repeat. I read and agreed with all of…

The End of the City and the Last Man: Urban Animals and the Law

If we begin to think about law and the absence of urban animals, or of law and the urban and the absence of animals, or even of the law and its production of lawful animals, we are overwhelmed by the evidence of what John Berger calls ‘the loneliness of man as a species’. I was asked to write on law and urban animals. When I went to put pen to paper, I found I could not visualise this field or that relation. The law of rats? Of bacteria? Of crows? Most laws that mention animals (for example those relating to welfare and vivisection) are regional or national, rather than municipal. Those kinds of laws, in any case, afford animals every…

Of Critique and Straw Men: A Response to El-Enany & Keenan

“We must practice revolutionary democracy in every aspect of our [movement] . . . Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories”. – Amilcar Cabral Academics should welcome the prospect of their peers thoughtfully engaging with their work. It is unfortunate, therefore, that Nadine El-Enany and Sarah Keenan’s article fails to engage with our commentary on the Miller case, despite purporting to do so. In their rush to score points, El-Enany and Keenan misrepresented our views, as expressed in the specific article they refer to. They set up a straw man that bears no resemblance to our article in order to declare…

Beware the Ivory Dwellings of the Left: Political Purity in the Face of Fascism

For some time we have been witnessing the rise of racist nationalism and fascism in many parts of the world. In Europe and North America, significant elements of both the Brexit and Trump campaigns propagated explicitly racist ideals, albeit to varying degrees. Whether you understand Brexit and Trump as having triumphed despite or because of the racism that dominated both campaigns, the reality is that these victories have legitimised white supremacy in alarming ways. Despite the increasing rise in racist violence and rhetoric, some on the Left are reluctant to acknowledge the severity of this political development, in part because of a preference to perceive the Brexit and Trump victories as anti-establishment movements/the end of neoliberalism/expressions of the legitimate grievances…

The (in)stability of change: The Italian constitutional referendum

Basta un SI [a YES is enough], is the slogan coined by the campaign for the approval of the Italian constitutional reform to be either confirmed or rejected on December 4th, in the nth referendum of these troubled European years. If the reform is rejected, according to the YES campaign, ‘everything will remain the same’. 60 years after the publication of Tomasi de Lampedusa’s novel The Leopard, with its (in)famous passage – ‘everything needs to change, so everything can stay the same’ – the Italian political rhetoric is yet to be updated. While change is apparently constant (one point will suffice: 63 governments in 70 years), the story goes, everything remains the same. Widespread corruption (according to Italians’ perceptions), systematic…

Going Rogue

Though I do like breaking femurs You can count me with the dreamers Like everybody else, I got a dream… (I’ve got a dream, Tangled) The jig is finally up, politics isn’t running as normal anymore (although ‘the oppressed’ always knew that the ‘state of emergency’ was normal, reminding us that our ‘amazement’ revealed the paucity of geopolitical and chronopolitical maps). The unanticipated and unpredicted – Brexit, the growing popularity of the right across Europe, and now, my focus here, the election of Trump in the US – have illuminated key blockages and sites of struggle in the contemporary political and economic and cultural landscape as, using proper names as improper political shorthand for what are really movements, Sanders, Corbyn,…

Seven Theses on Trump

The response to the election of Donald Trump has been sweeping and swift. Massive and continual protests have taken place in a number of cities across the United States. Students have led walkouts and called for the creation of sanctuaries on many university campuses. A petition calling on the members of the Electoral College to vote in favor of Hillary Clinton, the clear winner of the popular vote, has already gathered millions of signatures. Progressive organizations such as Black Lives Matter and Our Revolution have begun a coordinated fight back against Trump’s openly fascistic agenda. On the other side, a spate of hate crimes—over 700 as we write this, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s tabulations—has spread across the…