Space Generating Bodies and Vice Versa

According to Foucault, racism is an inevitable tool of the nation state, which it uses to stratify and modify its citizen. Racism is not occasional slippage of the system, it is a part of the system, its integral, system-generating part. (I’d say that the same is true in regard to misogyny.)

Biopolitics is concerned with great masses of people, as opposed to the old (pre-eighteenth century) sovereign power, which concentrated on attaining control over the individual bodies. The control over bodies did not disappear, but was permeated with new types of control, subtler, and more nuanced. If in the sovereign power was the right to let live and make die, in a new era, the era biopolitics, it was a power of ‘“make” live and “let” die.’ (241)

This new mode of power, the mode of ruling over the human-being-as-a-species, rather than human-being-as-an-individual, required new methods of control, care, and management. And such methods emerged—hygiene routines, insurance, safety trainings, mandatory medical service, and so on.

Foucault critics Socialism as being but another version of capitalism, because Socialism re-implemented all these methods and tools, and never offered any critique of them—to the contrary, embraced the new Leviathan of biopolitics, still more devoid of individual features than ever, and no any less horrifying than in the Hobbesian imagination.

It is in these settings that camps appear, according to Agamben. Agamben conducted a revolution in the understanding of camps. Rather than attempting to decipher the nature of camps from the events that took and are taking place there, he asked, to the contrary, what are the nature of things which happened as derived from what camp is (Agamben, 2003). In it, he follows Benjamin, who, and this is a Marxian insight, positioned “space” before the “events,” “space” before the “bodies” which it produced (and not vice versa). Agamben shows that camp is intrinsic to the new social order—the camp, where all laws are suspended, is a place inevitably resurfacing in the biopolitical mode of power, in a nation state which is busy with its endless purification and sustaining of its population.

Dehumanized “zoe” is both camp’s production and its first victim, whereas “bios,” political life, as long as it remains in power at least. Perhaps it is possible to think about “zoe” and “bios” as about a cast division of our times, and this division has class, racial, gender, sexuality, and mental health dimensions. There is always a possibility for “bios” to slip into “zoe,” but there is hardly any possibility for “zoe” to rise to “bios.”

 

References

Agamben, Georgio. Means Without End: Notes on Politics. University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

Foucault, Michel. Society Must Be Defended. Pikador, New York. 2003.

Citizenship Debates: Exclusions and Inclusions

Whereas Locke establishes that all human beings are free, rational, and interested in protecting their property individuals, receiving the right of existing as such from birth, the whole clusters of people do not fit this definition, because they are “lunaticks,” “ideots,” do not own property, or are children; the question of whether women fit or not the Lockean figure of a citizen, is up to further consideration (Mehta, 59). Such individuals could not be considered independent agents of consensual politics, and belong to the sorts of people who should be guarded, their volition notwithstanding, in the process of taming. Some of them could not hope to achieve the destination of becoming citizens (“lunaticks,” “ideots,” and women), and for some, un-citizenship is a temporary state. Thus the complex play of exclusions and inclusions begins.

To the question of Mouffe, “Is it possible to disentangle political liberalism from the vocabulary that it has inherited from the rationalism of the Enlightenment on the one hand and from the connotations in has acquired by its long association with economic liberalism on the other?” (Mouffe, 1993, 41) there could be one reasonable answer: no, this is not possible. For whatever this is that ends up being disentangled, it could not be called “liberalism,” precisely for the reason that the very term liberalism is the term which originated and gained its history and weight within the contexts of the Enlightenment discourses. To disentangle liberalism from its origin and a very nature, means to deduct the liberalism from liberalism.

This is a debate related to the debates around the issues “Can the Subaltern speak?” (Spivak) and of “provincializing Europe” (Chakrabarty), which stumble upon the linguistic impossibility of having one’s own voice while navigating the political, philosophical, and scientific thought of a colonizer. To “provincialize” a geographico-political locale using the instruments which are imminent to the locale and reinforce its power by virtue of being used, is a task which too easily slips into further “metropolizing” of the metropole.

In the contesting modernities, the one modernity is privileged: that which is predicated on the Enlightenment ideals, largely Anglophone, grappling with its own colonial history and reluctantly renouncing positions.

In 1988, Partha Chatterjee wrote: “This is the task which, I think, faces non-Western political theorists: to find an adequate conceptual language to describe the non-Western career of the modern state not as a distortion or lack, which is what inevitably happens in a modernization narrative, but as the history of different modernities shaped by practices and institutions that the universalist claims of Western political theory have failed to encompass” (Chatterjee, 1998, 279). Whereas this magical language, the philosopher’s stone, has not been found to this days, hopefully, the task described is not only the concern for non-Western theorists. One wishes Western theorists should be also interested in completing this task, if they are loyal to the ideals of Enlightenment of freedom and equality in their best possible reduction, developed since Locke in corpuses of texts.

Empire is a governmental organization of the utopian thought. And the thought of Enlightenment is one of the most persistent utopian thoughts, generating dystopian worlds with a remarkable frequency and equanimity, on a great scale.

“The dynamism of empire is so thoroughly wedded to the betterment of the world that it is easy to see why the deployment of power despite its acknowledged and sustained abuses <…>, and the often wholesale erasure of extant life forms, could have been countenanced as justified by a higher purpose.” (Mehta, 87). I would argue that there is no need in countenancing or justifying abuse as a deed performed for a higher purpose while it was indeed performed for a higher purpose—the purpose of establishing of the universal freedom as a particular (imperial, colonial) power sees it. There is no deception going on, because the power deploying itself is genuine in its deployment. If there should be numbers of exclusions, sorting-outs, stratifications, standardizations, groupings, hierarchizations, and selections performed, for a better governing, so be it (in the imperial consciousness).

Still, as Taylor points out, it is remarkable that the world, which has only known the hierarchical structures of societies, begets the very idea of equality and that it is now so widespread (Taylor, 100). “Cosmos as a work of God’s providence” (Ibid), mimicked, in the medieval understandings, the kingdom with its orders of “oratores, bellatores, and laboratories—those who pray, those who fight, and those who work” (Taylor, 95).

Zoon politicon (Aristotle), political animal, continues its desperate search for endamonia—happiness, the intrinsic part of the fantasy of which, equality seems to be.

 

 

 

References (Incomplete)

Chatterjee, Partha. Community in the East. Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 33, N.6 (Feb 7-13, 1998): 277-282

Mehta, Uday. “Strategies: Liberal Conventions and Imperial Exclusions.” Chapter 2 in Liberalism and Empire.

Mouffe, Chantal. The Return of the Political. Verso. London—New York. 1993.

Taylor, Charles. “Modern Social Imaginaries.” Public Culture 14 (1): 91-124

Landscapes of Dreams

The “remittance landscape,” the term explained by Sarah Lynn Lopez in the book of the same title, refers to the spaces created in the absence of their inspirators–“dream houses” and projects, such as restaurant buildings, subsided through the migrant money by the migrant, a figure of political transformation who work slowly at her own rate on creating “not the product of generic top-down “globalization” but of the enterpreneurial opportunism of remittance space “from below.” (264). He changes the face of the world, so that it even becomes a question, “To what extent is the American metropolis predicated on the rapid transformation of sending communities throughout the world?” (265). S/he is a figure fully endowed with agency, “influencing both what is possible and what is probable” (265) in a nicely observed by the author duality of the future as a bunch of possibilities and probabilities.

Lopez looks at buildings: “Buildings crystallize historic moments like no other artifact–technologies are required, desire is enacted, capital is expended, all to create objects that shape future life-worlds.” (11). Remittance buildings–in an analogue to “remittance landscape”–buildings constructed with remittance money in an evocation of often if not American than Americanized dream of migrants from Mexico, returning to their communities or having plans to return, either for aging and dying or for living. Migrants, simultaneously envied and despised by their own community, have contradicting desires which define the way they structure landscapes of their living both in the adopted country and in the home community, so there is a blurred distinction between “home” and something that is not home, as well as between “here” and “there.” They won’t to preserve the spaces of their childhood, but also to improve and modernize them, they want to create an image of American dream success but they keep allegiances to their markedly distinct way of living; they want to demonstrate their success, but they want to be accepted by their community. They want to improve their communities by bringing other ideas, as their ancestors brought wristwatches, sewing machines, and cars–but these other ideas do not always work on a different soil. Such position is fraught with paradoxes, ironies, promising failures, and devastating successes.

Plenty of remittance houses, dream houses, end up abandoned for various reasons, and so there is a creation of ruin, dreams unsustainable, economically questionable, demanding expenditures, and bringing not the results which were expected or hoped for.

In a Benjaminian understanding of architectural space in a way of, as Susan Buck-Morss reminded in her guide (1989), a space of collective dreaming, remittance landscapes are also collective dreams, even if not dreams of collective dwelling.

As I read Lopez, I thought about the house which Alina and Alexander (names changed) who lived in the village of Anosovo, have been building in Irkutsk with a thought of once living in the Irkutsk house, as Anosovo fits Lopez’s fomula “the necessary institutional, economic, and political support to bring infrastructure to such places did not exist” (19), unfortunately, all too well. How would one call such project? This is only one example of such projects, which Anosovians, those who have a job in timber industry, create and sponsor in Irkutsk, while for years remaining in their village. Muscovites were known at some point to buy houses in Bulgaria, Spain, Greece, to create some kind of vocational / retreat spaces with the same or even still more unpractical considerations, since Moscow apartments and houses answering their demands were not affordable even for those who could buy villa-like houses elsewhere. Such displaced landscapes could hardly be called the remittance landscapes, although in the technical sense of the term they perhaps are. But those are the landscapes of dreams, and dreams should not be fulfillable to persist.

A sense of indecisiveness befitting a dream, precarity of living, temporality of all solutions, becomes itself a feature of certainty, constancy, a very fixedness of things in flux: “While Taylor was researching migrant housing conditions in California, he approached a couple living in a self-built shack under a tree and asked the owners why they did not invest more in their housing. They replied that they did not know if they would stay and that they might return to Mexico. He then asked, “How long have you been here?” to which they responded, “Thirty years.”” (19) In an expression popular in Russia, there is nothing more constant than temporary.

References

Buck-Morss, Susan. The Dialectics of Seeing. The MIT Press, 1989.

Lopez, Sarah Lynn. The Remittance Landscape, University of Chicago Press, 2015.