Judith Butler – Precarious Life

Does successful grieving exist and if yes, what does that mean? Does it mean to forget someone we have lost? Or that something/someone else takes the place? Those questions are not easy to answer and it was interesting and at the same unsettling to read Butler’s text with the ISIS attacks that just happened in e.g. Paris and Lebanon on mind. It seems like a tragic coincidence that we are reading Butler’s text just a few days after these attacks happened.

It is just as Butler states; the problem is that terrorism has become “limitless”. I read this article and found it to be quite appropriate: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/14/islamic-state-goes-global-paris-attacks

The article suggests that ISIS has gone global with the Paris attacks. However, can it really be a surprise to anyone that ISIS is trying to expand its campaign of terror? I personally think that this question can only be answered with No. Maybe there was a slight hope that an attack like the one at the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 would not happen again/could be prevented next time but the recent attacks should be proof enough that ISIS will not stop until it is completely defeated.

I also thought that Butler’s argument about how we mourn different people in different ways was very thought provoking. The situation can actually be seen right now. How much of the Paris attacks is covered in the news and how much about the recent attacks in Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Israel, and Palestine? What is the reason for this? Do we really allow ourselves to value those people’s lives in different ways? And if yes, how can we change this?

One last thought along with this: Why is it that FB only lets us put the national flag of France as the backgrounds of our profile pictures right now? If they offer this option in the first case, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to also offer flags of other countries that have been targeted recently?

-Chantal M.

Carbon Democracy – Timothy Mitchell

It took me a while to get through the chapters of Mitchell’s book because it was sometimes hard to keep track of all the points he is making. However, all in all, I am glad that due to this reading, I gained a new perspective on things yet again. It was not that apparent to me that “[i]gnoring the apparatus of oil production” can be seen as an “underlying conception of democracy” (2) before I read the chapters from Mitchell’s book.

I thought that the part about Jihad vs. McWorld and specifically the idea of “McJihad” was very interesting. According to Mitchell, the term “McJihad” refers “not to a contradiction between the logic of capitalism and the other forces and ideas it encounters, but rather to the absence of such a logic. The political violence that the United States, not alone but more than any other actor, has promoted, funded and prolonged across so many parts of the Middle East over recent decades is the persistent symptom of this absence” (p. 230).

Even though Mitchell writes about the term “McJihad” quite a lot and tries to concise its meaning in these few sentences at the end of chapter 8, I think it’d be helpful if we could further discuss the term during class and maybe find our own definition of what Mitchell means by it and what details we specifically need to pay attention to.

I also found this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUeT1sviFB8 which I thought was quite helpful. Mitchell talks about McJihad and the visit of a delegation of the Taliban government of Afghanistan to Washington D.C. in 1997.

– Chantal

Lethal Theory – Eyal Weizman

Weizman’s article really gave me a new insight on the topic of war strategies and techniques. However, after having read the article, I am still unsure whether I see the “walking through walls method” as usefull at all. To me it seems very inhumane to lock up civilians in a room for days without water, food, toilet, and medicine after blowing up a wall or several walls in their homes. Any military who argues that they use this method because it is more “humane” must clearly be losing touch with reality. The damages that are caused by military actions might not be visible anymore that much on the outside but as Weizman also explains, they are concealed in the homes of the victims (cf. 58). Moreover, in contrast to traditional techniques of warfare, “un-walling” can (of course, it does not have to necessarily) cause even more destruction.

In general, I thought it was interesting that Weizman drew a connection between the “walking through walls method” and the “obliteration of the status of privacy” (75). In my opinion, this point really hits home. In addition, I agree that the “un-walling of the wall” leads to the collapse of the separation between inside and outside and therefore also between private and public. As Weizman explains, the method destabilizes democracy itself.

– C.Muthmann

Living in the world risk society – Ulrich Beck

What I found particularly interesting about this article was Beck’s statement that “in order to protect their populations from the danger of terrorism, states increasingly limit civil rights and liberties” (330) which, according to him, will remove free society rather than helping to prevent terrorist attacks. Has his argument not been enforced by the recent NSA spying scandal? Did American citizens feel like their civil liberties had been limited by, e.g. the Patriot Act, or do they see it as an effective protection? Is it a risk or an “instrument of risk management”?

What I also get from Beck’s arguments is that people have a need and desire to explain everything that happens to them (especially catastrophes). Out of this results states being obsessed with the idea of having to “control something even if one does not know whether it exists” (335). In other words, controlling the “the unknown unknowns” (335). Personally, I think there is not only irony in this statement as Beck explains but it also hints at a touch of paranoia in today’s states and societies, which is certainly intensified through mass media (cf. 332).

With regard to publicly received risk functioning as a connector and communication device between people of different countries and societies, I would like to point to the current refugee crisis. Especially the European Union has the chance to prove right now that this statement is true and I do believe that it is. It is an opportunity to “tear away the facades of organized irresponsibility” (339). In addition, to connect this to a further point of Beck’s article, I agree with his opinion that there exists a “network of transnational interdependencies” (343). It is not only Europe and it should not only be Europe that is involved in the refugee crisis. That is why I was happy to read today that President Obama has told his administration to take in at least 10,000 displaced Syrians over the next year.

If you are interested, here is the link to the newspaper article: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/11/world/middleeast/obama-directs-administration-to-accept-10000-syrian-refugees.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Here is another video of Jean-Claude Juncker, current President of the European Commission. He calls European countries to accept binding quotas to resettle 160,000 refugees and stresses the fact that every European country needs to be “on board”. http://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2015/sep/09/refugee-crisis-junker-unveils-eu-quota-plan-live-updates

– Chantal M.


Inside Terrorism – Bruce Hoffman

Reading the first chapter of Hoffman’s book Inside Terrorism made me aware of the issue of how to define the terms “terrorist“ and “terrorism”. In my eyes, Hoffman found a nice way to describe the history of the term “terrorism” and how the meaning of the term has changed. After having read the text, I would state the following terms as the some of the key characteristics of terrorism: threat of violence, act of violence, aim to “change ‘the system’ “ (42), political change and the refusal to be bound to rules of warfare (cf. 35).

I agree with the distinction Hoffman made between the term “terror” which means the “internal political violence directed mostly against domestic populations […] [ordered] by those already in power” (23) and “terrorism” which means “the violence committed by non-state entities” (23). However, there are also a few points that I do not fully agree with. As an example, Hoffman claims that a certain kind of self-denial is a characteristic of terrorists. To me, this statement seemed to be too much of a generalization and I do not think that it should and can be applied to all terrorists. The same applies for the argument that “[t]he terrorist will never acknowledge that he is a terrorist and moreover will go to great lengths to evade and obscure any such inference or connection” (30). In addition, when Hoffman mentioned that the news media used to avoid the terms “terrorist” and “terrorism” and rather used the words “guerrillas” and “extremists” (cf. 37), I started to wonder if this was only the case in the U.S. or if one could speak of a global phenomenon.

Lastly, I agree with Hoffman’s statement that today, there is “no one widely accepted or agreed definition for terrorism” (37) since probably every country (government) defines the term in a different way.

– Chantal M.