“Queer Necropolitics”

I definitely want to share about the queer politics of death making and creating death, embodied particularly by the homo sacer (Agamben 2004). The homo sacer, according to Roman law: is someone who is banned/exiled and may be killed by anyone, but their death does not count as a religious sacrifice and therefore does not meet the criteria for proper burial or mourning. For many contemporary scholars have named life in terms of “those whose life matters”, “those whose life is precious”, and “those whose life is precarious.” In almost exact terms, Butler describes well the political connectedness, and thus militaristic, between life and death, distinguishing between those who are allowed to live and those who are let to die. Citing the Advocate,

At press time, 21 transgender women have been murdered this year alone, most of them women of color — with one additional victim whose gender identity has been disputed in press reports and among family members and activists. That exceeds the number of transgender women killed in the U.S. in all of 2014, though neither of these totals account for individuals whose deaths were not reported or investigated, nor for victims who were misgendered or not regarded as trans women in death.

Transwomyn – specifically Black transwoymn – are highly susceptible to living in a perpetual condition of vulnerability (housing and workplace discrimination, unsupportive family and community members, education deficit, low access to physical and mental healthcare, etc.). We know this! This is not news. Similar to knowing the increasing rate of new HIV cases among Black men, queer or otherwise in this country and Black men subsequently dying from an AIDS related illness – we know this too. We know of the US military drone strikes and incalculable weapons and bioagents created for the extermination of Black and Brown bodies not only in the Middle East, but right here in the United States. And yet, we do not feel complicit in this violence.

We mourn/grieve/pray for some but not all. We question the responsibility of the death makers in times of outstanding catastrophe, such as in Paris – but in contrast reluctantly in Beruit.

In her essay, Killing me softly with your rightsShakhsari concludes observing the transgender and transexual refugee, and while her focus is upon Iran, contemporary discussion on the placement of Syrian refugees in the “Global North” considers the opportunity and livelihood for queer and/or genderqueer individuals. The juxtaposition, Shakhsari is describing in her title sets the US as a home for gay rights against a backdrop of an oppressive Muslim theatre. In this dichotomy, the US has created supposed “freedom” for LGBT people amidst death and violence occurring elsewhere. The US does not have a problem with LGBT people, it proclaims!, but does the backward Middle East. If this makes sense, the idea that the US reifies their nationalist state, equipping gays and lesbians in the US with a spirit of queer pride (nationalism) and a second spirit of dissent toward refugees, despite the lack of freedoms these marginalized groups have themselves. In other words, by creating a strict, religiously fundamental anti-LGBT Middle East, the US has found backing and support from its most marginalized group.

 

The Secret US Prisons You’ve Never Heard of Before

 

Worth noting: “CMUs” self-contained housing units, black holes, an abbreviation for communication management unit. These spaces, a “prison within a prison” where prisoners are kept for an undisclosed amount of time, denied physical contact with their family, and closely held under surveillance. A CMU is where animal-rights activists are also held by authorities as “balancers” to the high number of Muslim (Brown and Black men) contained here. The men are the surplus from more than one walk of life, contained out of fear they have the potential to commit crime – personally choosing not to distinguish and politicize acts of terror from criminalization. In this extra-judicial space. African American studies professor, Naomi Murakawa, in a piece posits, “the U.S. did not confront a crime problem that was then racialized; it confronted a race problem that was then criminalized.” She is speaking of course of contemporary and historic US race relations and the prison-industrial complex. So much of our discussion in class mentions or can be related to the Arab Mind and a complex argument over what pathologies have been embedded into the American/Western imagination created for the sake of proliferating intervention into “Brown countries” and how much is actually true. I am asking, does Murakawa apply, are US Black/white race problems analogous?

Perhaps we can assume this is the case. In Murakawa’s research she contends such radicalized pathologies have formed uneven (even brutal) conceptualizations of Blackness and Black bodies. Reading Black bodies as inherently criminal has been one of those ways. In the same way we must confront our domestic anti-Blackness, it would be wise and in line with Murakawa to confront our global perceptions of Blackness. When terror rhetoric begins, the face of this imaginary is not an American, not a woman, not white. This face is Brown, his names is (mis)spelled in Arabic, and the garments laid over his body, whether the photo is accurate or an sketch artists interpretation is of a style distinct from the West. Such is an example of anti-Blackness we must consider and also consider what justifies any form of intervention, occupation, or presence in a country the US should have no claim to.

Internet: third wave colonialism*

I was reading this article in the New Yorker: The World Cracks Down on Social Media spending some time also contemplating Kuntsman and Stein in more depth.

“Of course, Zuckerberg… has focussed less on the potential usefulness of these countries to his business than on the potential usefulness of Facebook to their citizens.”

 

“Internet penetration is even lower—but also growing—in Africa, where Facebook this year opened its first office, in Johannesburg.”

Picture this, a white, Western, male goes abroad to teach English, improve the water quality, or build a school in a community that has little infrastructure. Many would applaud and pour out their capital to fund internships, scholarships, and “Global Gap Years” for young humanitarians intent on furthering the US project of civilising (re: imperialism) the indigenous people of color. I will accept I am alone in making this point against the expansion of Internet and data firms in places which have been historically and presently dispossessed by the West and are vulnerable to violence and settler colonialism by foreign governments. Searching through the first one hundred or so Google results of the expansion of Facebook, a for-profit firm, into Johannesburg, South Africa, yielded (not to my surprise) very little pushback. In fact, the media applauded the expansion as “potentially useful to countries” much like Johannesburg, a narrative, I argue, steeped in anti-Blackness, an updated, all too familiar, neocolonialist perspective once used to impress, inter alia, Christianity, aggressive heteropatriarchy, and capitalism into new places. The parallels are too obvious and yet are being overlooked.

Zuckerberg’s humanitarian effort, for instance to alleviate poverty in the developing world, centers the expansion of Internet as integral to the development of these countries. This innovation, I have come to learn is a repurposing of lethal warfare, “be they balloons or drones — to bring high-speed Internet access to “underserved” communities“. The “balloons” in this example would provide Internet to “dark zones” and is currently being lobbied by Facebook and Google.

I am pointing out, drawing upon much of Kuntsman’s literature on “nercopolitics” how this justification for expansion and the use of Black bodies to accumulate wealth is a vicious retelling of settler-colonialism. The more value (profits) Black labor produces, the more Black lives are valued. So, the more potential for super profits from governments or the potential for profit in expansion – the more Black life is fungible. Appealing to how untapped countries could benefit from the expansion of Internet has a vile aftertaste embedded in how military intervention can appear humanitarian.

However, preserving Black life for its potential to produce capital has neither eradicated anti-Blackness, nor has it done anything to end the assault and extermination of Black bodies. In my view, the expansion of the Internet justifies the ephemerality of Black bodies (and cultural wealth created by Black people). It does not secure that Black bodies will survive in the physical being. Photographs can be taken of arts and crafts and records can be scanned and uploaded for safe keeping but this does not protect against those who are displaced by the erection of US owned and operated tech firms abroad. The Internet does not protect against the elimination of Blackness, yet the Internet has simultaneously been carefully crafted as a space where Blackness can exist. So this is what I find interesting about Facebook’s algorithms that hides or removes certain posts from circulating, because even while Blackness is allowed to exist within this space, there is still racist power dynamics, whether that is a by concerted state actors or a freelance actor, such as Zuckerberg.

I definitely acknowledge the expansion of Internet into militarized or oppressed zones as intentional tools to combat, at least digitally, a military project bent on exterminating its opposition. But I am wary of state and private sector cohesion when it repurposes the methods of colonialism into a globalized and accepted  phenomenon. I think we should remain critical even as we occupy our own ambiguities and contradictions in using a tool that could very well kill us.

*I estimate the first wave of colonialism as settler-colonial projects; the second wave as gentrification and the creation and destruction of the ghetto; and the project of digital colonialism where the information we share/create is invested in the project of colonialism and the theory of decolonizing?

Social Media, “Inside Syria”

Mentioned briefly on pages 82 and 84, the use and repression of social media communication among youth had a small but significant role in the rebellion against a totalitarian government regime in Syria. Within the past decade, forms of social media and information sharing has become a common tool among state and non-state actors. Including media shared in typical online and print journalism, the realisation of an obscurity of truth, (two sides to every coin) is evidenced by how each “side” in conflict reports information with bias, (i.e. propaganda at its finest). While activists living in Syria are restricted by what and how information can be shared, international coalitions, such as the Associated Press have been known to cover events and create narratives for the consumption of the global community, (i.e. the US). Creating narratives is essential to what is commonly referred to as “grassroots organising”. Grassroots, defined as the most basic level of action and organising, typified by hierarchical and loosely aligned groups such as the Local Coordinating Committee, LCC and more commonly known Black Lives Matter, relies on the ability of groups to create and maintain narratives that support one cause while depicting the opposition as hostile, violent, or uncooperative. For example, a depiction of Syrian youth engaging with state police can be read as hostile by activists or necessary for peace by the state. In this case, the use of violence is enacted and justified. Often times, as in the case of Syria, harm or aggression is justified judiciously or extra-judiciously, by means of moral, communal, or religious codes. In short, social media and the communicating of narratives has played a obvious role in activism and rebellion against state regimes since the advent of print journalism and especially due to the innovation of the smart phone, camera, and social networks.

For more information on how both the Syrian state and non state actors have used social media, visit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/19/syria-social-media_n_4128360.html

Capitalism and space

Capitalism and space – reading Weizman inspired ideas of property and the politics of decay and warfare. In war-torn areas of developing countries that have experienced isolation and desolation, I find it intriguing how navigating these spaces for survival and protection (as well a for guerrilla warfare) is studied by the US military, an adaptable machine. As the article posits, the lack of training afforded to Palestinian soldiers requires their use of public/private space in order to mitigate their shortcomings in strategy and power. Transforming these spaces into battleground is mutual – done by the US government and by whoever happens to be at war against the US at that time.

It is worth noting how the US strategizes the destruction of property abroad (and at home) as a method of environmental and urban warfare. In the US we view capital and clear property rights as values of American rights and necessary to maintain a sustainable standard of care and living. When applied to the other, this is less so the case.

Most interesting was this concept of détournement: the adaptation of space to fulfill a purpose it was not designed to perform. This transformation of capital should be noticed in the US as also a proliferation of war (warring classes). In the context of the US military aggression against foreign countries, it’s almost the necessity to economize on space sacred space in order to stay alive. I wonder how much of the physical (non green) space could be attributed to the success or failure (and death) of a country or group of people?For instance if the community center or Temple is destroyed and is no longer a safe space, what does this mean for the people?

The Military’s Secret Military

In 2010, Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post co-authored a report on the expansion of “secret war”. I highly suggest reading this supplement to chapter two of The Changing Face of Empire as it highlights one of the most cringeworthy facets of the US military regime: “taking the battle to the enemy”. The US is in fact an imperial power, capable of waging war and inflicting violence into countries with which there is little to diplomatic relationship. Also telling of how desensitized to mass murder abroad we have become, look no further than websites such as this one I discovered while listening to an NPR podcast that buys and sells government contracts to small business. These small businesses who accept are then responsible for purchasing large quantities of items, including, inter alia, blankets and bandaids to ammunition. In practice, the government is rarely ever low on supplies that are used to mass produce genocide in poor and developing countries, who dare use violence to express their disdain for the hegemonic West. In Changing Face it is briefly mentioned the how the defense budget has more than quadrupled in the wake of 9/11. While many read such action in response to an act of mass violence within our comfort zone, I read a quadrupling of funds as capitalist and preventative of ever seeing an end to the omnipresent war.

In the social imaginary, post 9/11, the hero typified an army soldier ready to be deployed to war. As insurgency into the Great Middle East continued forward without result and no end, the hero became a sniper, a special operation trained killing machine that would quell the danger by first assigning the danger onto one person, vilifying this one person, while justifying this xenophobia with doctrine such as the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorist. The ambiguous wording used here has been the justification for the American Empire. While ending terror abroad is the mission of the US government, it is not a secret, when thought about empire from a critical, practical standpoint, that the US is profiting from the exploitation of natural resources. In summation, the empire of the US is expanding and it is time we spent more time putting forth a narrative in opposition to the global hegemon instead of benefitting form the death of the innocent.

Also an update on student’s reaction to the College Republicans, Christians United for Israel and the Carolina Review’s petition to end Dr. Ahuja’s first-year seminar. 

I, too have been personally attacked by the UNC GOP

Hey everyone, I found this article written by UNC student, Alec Dent circulating amongst some conservative, right wing thinkers I just so happen to be friends with. We have something in common Dr. Ahuja because I, too have been personally attacked by the UNC GOP. To save us the trouble of more reading, the article does not elaborate for what reasons “ENGL 72: Literature of 9/11” is as Fox Nation calls a “Disgrace on Campus”. There is plenty background about Neel, including his hometown, his teaching appointments, and salary. Dent raises much concern over the class syllabus not including the point of view from victims and their families, as if there is a lack of terror-porn circulating about victims, images, destruction of property, and the US nationalist response. Point of this tidbit: if you haven’t already, set a Google alert for your name and refuse to respond to such nonsensical rhetoric.

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In GEOG 423: Racialization in the Global City, we are learning how catastrophic events change the nature of colonial projects and enterprise creating new systems of oppression and privilege. In the US, this system has vastly benefited white people, specifically white men but nevertheless the systems changed and adapted to its new environment. For example, the most current of these “sub-expressions of structure” is cultural/differential racism created post-Emancipation, end of the Civil War, and post-thirteenth amendment. It is my understanding that this first chapter would agree that colonial projects are flexible in their execution of taking space. It may however diverge in opinions regarding theories related to globalization and imperialism. I found it interesting that imperialism, the highest stage of colonialism centered, at least in definition, upon capitalism. It would make sense considering how exploitative such a market becomes that capitalism must then be the root of all evil, but it was interesting to me to think about colonial trappings and their effects on the human body, mind, and soul in terms of economics. I should spend more time studying economies that are not only anti-capitalist, but also ante-capitalist. It was eye-opening to read how dynamic iterations of center/periphery were expressed in other sites, that involved people of color colonizing other people/groups of color. Yet, with this absorption of displaced peoples I am curious of what makes a racialized motivation as violent as it has historically been, not only in treatment but also passionate hate for people we (as “Americans”) have not met. As always when discussing the canon of literature written on this topic, I end with more questions that when I began.

I did find Loomba’s elaborations about resistance and post-colonialism: fair. As someone who would like to think is working toward my own liberation and “decolonizing”, I am open to the idea that this is more than working through internal racism, bias, and quickness to identify with the majoratorian narrative and envy the position of white/male/middleclass. If it is of the opinion that we are living in a post-colonial world and that our options are to decolonize our mindfulness, then are we left with accepting the colonial project of the US and Europe as a reality of the past, are we guaranteed that such a narrative will be written on and studied in the next half century? Since the project of colonialism is arguable over, then do we begin to see the success of an American democracy as related to our liberation and decolonized minds? I’m not sure.