Life and Language in the Virocene

The Virocene Sorry, this seat is taken. Move out Anthropocene, enter the Virocene. Actually, the seat was never really for Anthropos. It was meant for a parasite that could take over this planet. Oh, wait. The Virocene is the age of the parasitical, the viral, the airborne. The Virocene is the epoch in which the conative force of the nonhuman (in this case, the viral) vies with that of the human on an unprecedented scale of contingency and uncertainty, as a consequence of a multitude of unintended entanglements between the human and the nonhuman. At the core of the Virocene is a simple acknowledgement inspired by Spinoza: all bodies, human and nonhuman, material and immaterial, animate and inanimate, are driven…

Fascism 2.0: An Intensive Course

It is impossible to predict what will happen in the US in the coming weeks. As I write, a number of crucial questions remain unanswered. Was there electoral fraud or not? If there was, was it enough to reverse the outcome? Will the transition be from Trump to Biden or from Trump to Trump? Or will it be from Trump to a Congressional agreement by means of which, just as in 1876-77, the winning candidate will take over the presidency on condition that he accept an extra-electoral compromise? Will there be violence on the streets no matter what solution is reached, given that any solution is bound to marginalize a significant and polarized part of society? All these remain major…

Online Book launch: Constituent Power (14 January 2021)

Welcome to the online book launch seminar of Constituent Power: Law, Popular Rule and Politics (EUP 2020), co-edited by Matilda Arvidsson (Gothenburg), Leila Brännström (Lund) and Panu Minkkinen (Helsinki). Recent social and political developments, including the presidential elections in the United States, antidemocratic state policies in Hungary and Poland, and the political climate in the rest of Europe have brought questions relating to the position and composition of ‘the people’ in constitutional democracies to the forefront. This book confronts these questions head on as leading scholars across the fields of law, legal theory, political theory and history explore the contemporary problems facing constitutional democracies. With a strong focus on constitutional law, this book examines the legal as well as the political power of ‘the people’…

Our Favourite CRT: Steve Biko

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Steve Biko, I Write What I Like (A Stubbs. ed) (Heinemann 1978) Although she was writing about the black existentialist novelist Ralph Ellison, Hortense Spillers could easily have also been referring to Stephen Bantu Biko when she invokes the figure of a Black thinker who revises “’blackness’ into a critical posture” – “a strategy [and] process of culture critique” – and harnesses it to “a symbolic program of philosophical ‘disobedience’” understood as “systematic scepticism and refusal”.[1] This rendering of Biko and Black Consciousness in philosophical terms allows us to overturn a set of distortions and commodifications that would reduce him to empty catchphrases and quotations; exploit his image on T-shirts; falsely associate him with “post”-apartheid rainbowism; and consign him to a deserted past.  Biko’s search for a liberated…

Our Favourite CRT: Michelle Alexander

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Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow (The New Press 2010) When I was a wandering recent law graduate, I found myself washed up in the murky bayous of New Orleans, working at an under-resourced, over-stressed Capital defence law firm.  After a few weeks of preparing case work at my desk, I make my first trip to speak to our clients based at Louisiana State Penitentiary, better known by the its ominous name of Angola Prison. The prison is called Angola because it is located on a former slave plantation that was itself called Angola due to many of the slaves were brought from Angola in sub-Saharan Africa. Today, Angola is the largest maximum-security prison in America, with Louisiana holding the highest incarceration…

Our Favourite CRT: Gloria Anzaldúa

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Gloria Anzaldúa, ‘The Coming of el Mundo Surdo’ in AnaLouise Keating (ed), The Gloria Anzaldúa Reader (Duke 2009) How can we make sense of a global order that is founded upon the act of making “most of the world”[1] out of place, through the motions of the global economy and those divisions from which it has always fed from, their race, gender, class, ethnicity, culture, country of origin and so on? And, more to the point here, how can we even exist when we become aware of this widespread out of placeness? Queer, chicana, mestiza social theorist, Gloria Anzaldúa’s speaks of the power of Critical Race Theory to conceptualise this state of affairs, while building upon the strength of those differences and dislocations that assumingly…

Our Favourite CRT: Lewis Gordon

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Lewis Gordon, Disciplinary Decadence: Living Thought in Trying Times (Routledge 2007) I’ve been called ‘Paki’, ‘flaco n*****’, ‘Ethiopian’ or ‘too Latin American’ more times than I care to count. Including during and about my teaching. But CRT is not about who I am or what names I’ve been called. It isn’t about self-victimhood or identity-politics. It’s about agency, position and creative institutional attitudes. In its most influential form, CRT can be traced back not only to 1980s America but also, to the older tradition focusing on institutional creolisation, trans-continentalism and amphibian cultures in the Caribbean and the rest of the Americas. Upon arriving in North Africa to join the anti-fascist struggle, the 18-year-old Martinican writer Frantz Fanon observed: “the French hate the Jew.…

Our Favourite CRT: Kimberlé Crenshaw & Patricia J Williams

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Kimberlé Crenshaw, ‘Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A Black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics.’ University of Chicago Legal Forum (1989) 139; Patricia J. Williams, The Alchemy of Race and Rights. (Harvard 1991). Sometimes our language fails us.  We observe things in daily life—about our social interactions, our institutions, or the ways that laws are written and applied—and when we do not have the language to describe or measure these observations, then we innovate. We develop a vocabulary to express the experiences and patterns that we can substantiate but cannot yet name. This is the very essence of critical thought, and it means the difference between learning and mimicry. Two writers who have been formative in my thinking about…

Our Favourite CRT: Donna Awatere

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Donna Awatere, Māori Sovereignty (Broadsheet 1984) My mother’s people are from Ōpōtiki on the East Cape of Aotearoa and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I came to have some understanding of my Māoritanga, or our people’s history. Our iwi (tribe) Whakatōhea are widely acknowledged to have been among those ravaged the worst by successive colonial and white settler governments. My grandmother was the last of 10 children and carried with her until death a deep sense of shame and anger at her brown skin. I never heard her speak te reo (Māori language), though she must have grown up with it as even her Lebanese father was a fluent speaker.  It was in this context that I came to read Māori…

Our favourite CRT: James Baldwin

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James Baldwin, Speech at Berkeley (1979) I call myself a child of this world of empire. The colony I was born in bore recent witness to British district officers who met with one of my grandfathers. My other grandfather was schooled by Scottish missionaries. Colonial anthropologists and sociologists took intrusive photographs of the women of my family. My mother marched at an independence day parade… a parade to mark the removal of the physical signs of empire, while its puppets and economic as well as epistemological machinery remained… like a spectre at the feast, keeping the power in place… out of sight. Out of sight.  As a child, I was told stories of empire by my grandparents and my parents. I was…

Our Favourite CRT: Attia Hosain

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Attia Hosain, Sunlight on a Broken Column (Chatto and Windus 1961)  A few years ago, I was offered the opportunity to participate in a workshop in India to support early career academics with their writing. The workshop was geared towards addressing the countless issues with academic publishing and the ways knowledge production in the “Global South” is treated. One of the main consequences of these problems is that academics based in the “Global South” are hugely underrepresented as authors in academic journals. We are simply not publishing enough of their work and editors need to do more about this. I was excited about the prospect of visiting India because my personal history leads back there. My father was born in Multan in…

Our Favourite Critical Race Theory – Introduction

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As if this annus horribilis wasn’t horribilis enough in the last few weeks the Conservative government, the depth of whose depravity is impossible to fathom from one day to the next, have commenced a McCarthy-esque censorship initiative that would be comical if it wasn’t a widely recognised harbinger of fascism. These brow-beating heroes of ‘free speech’ dissatisfied only with an edict censoring the teaching of ‘anti-capitalist’ material in schools, announced on 20 October that the Government “stands unequivocally against critical race theory” and that teachers promoting ideas like ‘white privilege’ or “partisan political views such as defunding the police without offering a balanced treatment of opposing views” will be breaking the law. The body of work referred to as ‘critical race theory’ (CRT) emerged around the 1980s and is usually…

Policing Capitalist Exploitation: An Interview with Alex Vitale & Mark Neocleous (Part 2)

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Today Petr Kupka and Vaclaw Walach continue the interview with Mark Neocleous and Alex Vitale, discussing their critical analyses of policing. VW&PK: On the other hand, there are cases that appear to show that policing is not just about working-class people and ethnic minorities. Bernie Madoff was punished for his financial machinations for example. Did we really make a step towards redressing this inequality inbuilt within the police, or is it just cosmetic changes? Or how are we to interpret this? AV: We see sometimes police power used against people for financial crimes and sometimes wealthy people but if we look carefully, we can see that these cases kind of make the point. They do not go after the executives…

Policing Capitalist Exploitation: An Interview with Alex Vitale & Mark Neocleous (Part 1)

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On 14 July Petr Kupka and I sat down (virtually) with Mark Neocleous and Alex Vitale to discuss their critical analyses of policing. Vitale is a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and has been frequently interviewed on the issue of policing in connection with the Black Lives Matter protest movement. His latest book The End of Policing was published in 2017 by Verso Books. Neocleous is Brunel University’s professor of political economy who has written several books on the police and its role in the production of social order. In 2021, Verso Books will release A Critical Theory of Police Power: The Fabrication of the Social order, a new edition of Neocleous’s first book on policing. In this wide ranging interview that is to…

The De-Aging of the World

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Social age does not coincide with physiological age. But the degree of the discrepancy varies according to historical period, including its social context and the other collective circumstances surrounding it. The same applies to societies. The industrialized world in which we now live began to age rapidly during the 1980s. In your personal life, aging depends less on physiological than on social age. Social age is inversely proportional to your capacity to think of, feel, and live the new as future, as a task, as still-to-be-experienced present. You’re as young as your capacity to live life as if it were an experience of constant new beginnings, leading not to repetitions of the past, but rather to futures — maps waiting…

CLC Dundee: undeed and duende.

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Had the virus not intruded, I, and many of CLT’s readers, would be in Dundee right now, for the annual Critical Legal Conference, an event that has happened every autumn since the mid-1980s. The CLC has often proclaimed its non-existence for all but three days of the year, leaving no permanent institutional structures or office holders in place in the 362/3 days between events, convening on the first day and dispersing on the third, by courtesy of the efforts of that year’s temporary organising committee; this year it has surpassed itself, achieving non-existence for the entire year. Instead, the Dundee organising committee tells us on their website, ‘to help maintain the ongoing vitality of the CLC and the communities that…

An Escape Route for Brazil

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Brazil is at an existential crossroads, the magnitude of which we can only begin to imagine. This is a country where the pandemic has caused one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world. With only about 2.8 percent of the world population, Brazil accounts for 13.9 percent of deaths from COVID-19. This is a country that experienced two grave attacks on democracy and the rule of law in a short period of time: the 2016 legal- political coup against President Dilma Rousseff, and the grotesque judicial- political machinations that led to the sentencing without evidence, in 2018, of former President Lula da Silva, the most popular president in Brazilian history. This is a country ruled by a president, Jair…

A Second Manifesto for the World Social Forum? From an Open Space to a Space for Action

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Is the World Social Forum (WSF), which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2021, just an open space or can it (should it) also be a space for action? This question has been discussed for years in the WSF International Council, and so far, it has not been possible to reach a conclusion. We, Frei Betto, Atilio Borón, Bernard Cassen, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Federico Mayor, Riccardo Petrella, Ignacio Ramonet, Emir Sader, Boaventura Santos, Roberto Savio, Aminata Traoré, are the signatories of the Declaration of Porto Alegre, in the WSF of 2005. We have lost since then wonderful friends (Samir Amin, Eduardo Galeano, Samuel Ruiz Garcia, Francois Houtart, Josè Saramago, Immanuel Wallertsein). But we have shared a lot with them, and we…

Sharing Myth (A Critique of the Sharing Economy)

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In his 1957 book Mythologies, Roland Barthes explores how wine functions not only as France’s national emblem, but also as a myth that helps grasp the ambiguity within French capitalist society. Wine, he argues, is a defining part of France’s experience because it structures the “environment”, serving as the core piece in almost all ceremonies of French life. On the other hand, Barthes also notes that the production of this magical fluid was deeply intertwined with French imperialism, as a seemingly innocent myth that moves away exploitation from the public eye. Unsurprisingly, French wine and many other local symbols have been globalized and have effectively transcended national barriers. They now evoke some of these patriotic sentiments to a cosmopolitan elite…