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Political Concepts: The Trump Edition (Friday AM Session 2)

Political Concepts: The Trump Edition (Friday AM Session 2)


ANN STOLER: Thank you all. It’s my pleasure to
chair this session with Brian Meeks and Lisa Lowe. Our timing is a little off. But that’s absolutely fine. We’re going to be going till
about 1:35, taking a break, and I’ll tell you
the rest later. But let me just introduce
Brian, who is starting us off. He is a professor here and chair
of Africana Studies at Brown. And he works on revolutions,
radical movements, hegemony, and hegemonic dissolution
and is speaking to us today about hegemony. I’ll introduced Lisa now or– now. Do it now. OK. Lisa, who is a distinguished
professor of English and Humanities and
Director of the Center for the Humanities at Tufts. She’s the author of books on
French and British colonialism, race, immigration,
globalization, and most recently the colonial
context for the emergence of Liberalism in The
Intimacies of Four Continents, which came out in 2015. So Brian, please start us off. Thank you. BRIAN MEEKS: Thanks. My paper is titled “Hegemony
and the Trumpian Moment.” I’ve been thinking
about hegemony in the Caribbean for
more than two decades, utilizing the [INAUDIBLE] notion
that social formations are structured in dominance,
but that domination is often not primarily executed
through force. Rather the social
block in charge is able to produce and reproduce
discourses and sets of ideas that gives structure and shape
to its apparent right to rule. Hegemony in this sense
implies the weaving of a network of first, second,
and third order ideas, beliefs, myths, gestures, and
styles that come together to constitute a
skein of common sense that provides justification for
domination and its rightness and lays the foundation for
consent through the assumption that the governmental project,
its methods, and effects make sense. Some corollaries to
this include first, that the netting of consent
is always unraveling, always in dire need of
patching and repair. And second, that
it is permeable, and that light invariably
escapes from its confines. Yet to shift metaphors, as with
a fisherman’s net, some fish escape. But the net still
serves its purpose of retaining a significant
part of the catch within its confines. Or Stuart Hall in capturing the
tentative unfinished character of the notion,
suggests, quote, “It follows that
hegemony can only be conceived as a historical
process, not a thing achieved. But on the other hand, it is not
merely the ongoing maintenance of rule and domination. It has to be
specified empirically if the ruling class
or dominant block is in fact a moment of hegemony. Additionally, because
hegemony is the establishment of the leading position
on a variety of sides of social and
political struggle, it includes the means
that are usually ignored by Marxists, like
the discourses on morality. Anybody who wants to command
a space of common sense or popular consciousness
and practical reasoning has to pay attention to the
domain of the [? Mara ?] since it is the language within
which vast numbers of people actually set about
their calculations.” End quote from that long quote. I moved to the US to Brown
in the late summer of 2015. In the following summer
of 2016, Donald Trump was selected by the
Republican Party as its presidential candidate. And I noted the strong
sense of familiarity in the dissonance, antagonisms,
and [INAUDIBLE] bad behavior that accompanied his campaign. And that reprised for me
the social crisis of Jamaica as it approached what is often
described as a near civil war situation before the
1980 general elections. I thought it
worthwhile therefore to review the tools
and methods that I’ve used to try to explain the
recent history of Jamaica, a sort of Empire
Strikes Back phenomenon. And to experiment with
their applicability in what might be termed
the Trumpian moment, which has consolidated with its
unanticipated electoral victory in November, 2016. In the Jamaican case,
I use this notion to suggest that the social
pact between, on the one hand, middle class politicians
and their social base and on the other, insurgent
workers and the poor that encrypted this
particular structure and dominance, operated within
a very time specific framework, bracketed by the popular
labor riots of 1938 and their aftermath,
of the bankruptcy of British colonialism
coming out of World War II, and the pressure
on the United Kingdom, significantly greater after
Suez to relinquish her colonies. Of the social democratic
impulses for economic welfare that had grown
after the rebellion and were intersecting with the
post-war political ascendancy of labor, of the
glorious 30 years of economic boom after the
war, which provided even in the constricted, distorted
economic space of the post colony, an opportunity
for rapid growth, and an accompanying, if limited,
social welfare experiment. However by independence,
things had already begun to fall apart. The closure of the safety
valve of migration to the UK and the failure of the chosen
strategy of industrialization by invitation to generate
sufficient employment alongside the
continuation of some of the most egregious
features of colonialism in race and color barriers to
implement an upward mobility, had by the late ’60s,
fostered deep social unrest. Accompanying this
was the collapse of Creole nationalism and its
replacement among the young, of counter-hegemonic tendencies
that forged different world views and explanatory
frameworks, of which most evident were
the black power movement and closely allied to
it, Rastafarianism, which would require
globally iconic status with the prominence
of its musicians as vocalizers of what would
become an international culture hegemonic discourse in
the 1970s and beyond. The democratic
socialist interregnum of Michael Manley
from 1972 to ’80 witnessed a confluence of these
new counter-hegemonic notions with a popular movement that
surrounded and inhabited the institutional
structure of his party. However, the new discourse
has departed in large measure from the conservative boundaries
of the earlier social pact and gave wind to the sails of
a movement that significantly undermined the law’s
institutional structures and social norms of
colonial Jamaica. Manley’s PNP, however, was
defeated in the 1980 elections by a combination of a new
global economic situation that was unfavorable to
small, mineral exporting states and a
determined resistance from the local
wealthy, who feared their social and economic
dominance was threatened. And they were fully supported
by the United States as a global guardian
of world capitalism. Manley’s defeat
in 1980, however, did not return to the
island to a new equilibrium. Instead it has
endured four decades of what I have suggested is
hegemonic dissolution in which counter-hegemonic discourses
have continued to proliferate and in which the weakening
of the state under pressure from neoliberal structural
adjustment policies has provided space for the
emergence of novel, quasi [INAUDIBLE] criminal
political fiefdoms, which until recently
have grown in strength and morphed into new
and unprecedented forms. Yet despite these
threats to its survival, the institutional framework of
two party governance inherited from independence remains
though it has lost its gloss and natural right to rule. This impasse underlined
by the failure of the movement of the
’70s and popular resentment from the poor over persistent
economic stagnation, is manifest in cultural
resistance and an unwillingness of the subordinate to
live within the decent cultural markers of
official society. But equally and critical
in understanding the present moment is to grasp
the failure of the [INAUDIBLE] majority to forge a new
project of social emancipation from below. It is at this juncture of
social incapacity on both sides and its implications
for sclerosis and stasis that hegemonic dissolution
is to be located. In summary, the
post-war social pact forged at the juncture of a
favorable international moment provided a period of
relative stability. But it’s structural dominance
was threatened in the ’70s by a popular insurgency
which itself failed. The successive period of
neoliberal dominance which has lasted for close
to four decades has not been able
to forge a new pact, but rather there has been a
long hiatus of stagnation, anomie, limited growth,
and are punctuated by violence, uncertainty, and
an unprecedented migration, especially of the
skilled and the capable. Before suggesting what
these insights might bring to an appreciation
of this Trumpian moment, it is perhaps
worthwhile to think about how Stuart Hall sought
to explain and understand an earlier British
conjuncture which witnessed parallel Manley’s
demise in Jamaica, the consolidation of
Thatcherism and the breaking up of the Keynesian
welfarist consensus. First, in looking at the
growth of Thatcherism with its anti-union
anti-collectivist essence, Hall sought to avoid
both economistic and historically flattened
readings of the process. He attacked the notion
that every economic crisis invariably led to the same
set of responses and outcomes as occurred in previous crises. Thus he argued
the stock response to the shift in
Britain to the right, proposing that Thatcherism
was essentially fascism, was entirely misguided. History, he offered, was not
a quote “series of repeats” unquote, rather he suggested,
that what was emerging as the far Thatcherite
right’s response to the crisis of the ’70s,
was an authoritarian populism, which unlike classical
fascism, quote, “had retained most
though not all of the formal representative
institutions in place and which at the
same time has been able to construct around
itself a popular consent.” unquote. This popular
consent, he suggests, was shaped out of existing
commonsensical notions, values of Englishness, rights of the
Englishman as an individual, as well as darker racist notions
of white British superiority and the dangers of immigration. [? VC ?] argued where
no repurposed way in against social
welfare, socialized health, public education,
and collectivism in general. To quote Hall again,
“It works on the ground of already constituted social
practices and lived ideologies. It wins space
there by constantly drawing on these elements
which have secured, over time a
traditional resonance and left their traces
in popular inventories. At the same time,
it changes the field of struggle by
changing the place position, the relative
weight of the condensations within any one discourse
and constructing them according to an alternative
logic.” unquote. Thus Hall concluded
that it is through the massaging of
multiple discourses that Thatcherism forged a
new hegemonic initiative that strove to build and
consolidate consensus around the unassailability
a natural rightness of the marketplace and
captured in the [INAUDIBLE],, [? 40 ?] years later
well-battered, but still surprisingly standing notion
that there is no alternative. In returning to the
contemporary moment in the US it is useful to reassert
that there is never a single hegemony with a
single set of narratives and linguistic markers. Hegemony is sutured,
sewn, and incomplete. Yet this leaves space
for the lesser assertion that dominant hegemonies
do exist for a time. There is also never a
single insurgent culture hegemonic narrative. Rather, these are
multiple, fractured, and require significant
precisely suturing to present them as coherent
robust alternatives to their dominant competitors. What is the economic conjuncture
that undergirds all of this? There has not been
one but we should recall at least three
crises since the 30 years of the great
post-war boom, the crisis of global inflation in
the ’70s, closely followed by the explosion of public debt
of the ’90s, and most recently, the crisis of private
debt and the collapse of financial institutions in
the Great Recession of 2008. Recovery from the Great
Recession has been slow and half a decade
later, it is evident that generally jobs haven’t
recovered and may never recover with large swathes
of the population mired in poverty and hopelessness. This, more than anything
else is economic foundation for Trump’s white rural
Rust Belt male support. [INAUDIBLE]
inevitably to be found in the dramatic restructuring
of the world economy. First and perhaps
most profoundly is a sharp rise in
the use of robots, which explains in part
the present sluggishness in employment, but certainly
will have greater impact in the mid to long term, with
some estimates suggesting that as much as 38% of US
jobs might be taken over by robots in 15 years. Second and more
commonly understood are the continuing effects
of globalization, with jobs shifting from
Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky south of the border and
racing to the bottom of every cheaper labor markets. Many of the new jobs
emerging in this environment are in non-unionized service
sectors like fast food, retail, and self-employed
urban transport, and carry none of the
security and benefits of earlier unionized positions. Then in turn, the crash of
many of his lower paid jobs is already occurring as large
scale disruptive technologies utilizing social media and
instant internet communication assume sectoral leaderships,
requiring far fewer workers even as they offer cheaper
costs to the often unemployed or underemployed consumer. Persistent and
entrenched unemployment in redundant sectors contributes
to a third factor, which is a growth of inequality. In 2016, inequality
in America which new extremes, with the top 1%
control at 38.6% of the wealth and the bottom
90% holding 22.8%, down from close to a third,
that is the bottom 90 holding a third when
tracking of these statistics first began by the Fed in 1989. A fourth consideration is a
shift over the past 20 years to rapid product differentiation
in financial markets and more recently their
quantum digitization, which has increased the flow
and efficiency of trading, leading to vast new
accumulations of wealth, harvested at the margins
of financial transactions, and fast trading
digital futures markets. Wolfgang Streeck employing
some of the statistics in his bleak prophecy for
the future of capitalism, proposes that the
present moment is defined by the compounding
of intersecting crises of which he mentions five. Growth is giving way to
stagnation is his first. Second, in instances where
there is economic progress it is less shared. Third, the long interregnum
of neoliberalism has starved the
public space leading to damaged infrastructure
across the board. Fourth, corruption,
held at the margins in the first post-war
decades, has now become rife. And fifth, the capitalist system
held together by the Cold War and US dominance
in the West is now adrift with potential
for increasing anarchy. Streeck, in developing
each of these scenes, argues that capitalism
as we presently understand it will
probably soon collapse, but will not necessarily be
replaced by something coherent or better for a long time. Further discussion
around each of these seems before
arriving at Streeck’s precipitous conclusions is,
of course, urgently necessary. What is apparent though, is
that the sense that it is not business as usual, that
government is not serving its purpose, and that the
wealthy and powerful set the rules and run the system
for themselves is palpable and driving narratives
across the political spectrum in what I suggest is a moment
of hegemonic dissolution. Was there ever a
coherent metanarrative that has brought together
significant sections of America under one netting? While avoiding some
imaginary original moment, we can suggest that perhaps
in the post-war context of unprecedented economic growth
and accompanied by Cold War anti-communism,
consolidating notions of American exceptionalism and
unreconstructed masculinism, there was a framework that
dominated among some sectors, and for a while,
particularly, if we were to exclude much of the
black population, particularly those in the segregated
South from the picture. This somewhat coherent
hegemony, white and male in its structuring of dominance
hasn’t existed for some time if we think about the
impact of a countercultural movements of the ’60s, the Civil
Rights Movement, black power and anti-war movement. However, I think it
is useful to consider the extent to which there
has been movement away from this imaginary moment. A useful place to
begin particularly, in light of the
purported resurgence of the religious right in the
ranks of the Republican Party and those in the country’s
decision-making structure is the extent to which
the polls tell us a number of different things. And here I choose
randomly, beginning with attitudes to religion. Pews 2017 poll
asking whether it was necessary to believe
in God to be moral found that 56% felt
it was not necessary, an increase of some 7% from
2011, when the figure was 49% feeling that way. On the attitudes of
same sex marriage, in 2001 Americans opposed same
sex marriage by 57% to 35%. In 2017, this had
shifted significantly to support for same sex marriage
by 62% in favor to 32% oppose. And the attitude as to whether
interracial marriage was a good thing, in
2010, forgive me for not putting this up
on the screen, so you can ask me the details later on. In 2010, 24.5% of another Pew
poll had signaled yes, it was. But by 2017, this
had increased to 39%, that is from 24% to 39%. On the other hand, as to whether
it was a bad thing, in 2010, 13% thought so. And by 2017, this had
fallen by four points to 9%. On the central question of the
nature of the economic system, a 2016 Harvard
University poll asked whether there was
support for capitalism and found that a slight
majority of 51% of millennials did not support capitalism,
with only 42% supportive of it. When asked about
favorability to socialism, the same poll found some
33% supportive of socialism. Only among the
cohort of respondents more than 50 years
old were the majority in favor of capitalism. The Washington Post in its
report on the Harvard study, compares it with a
2011 Pew poll which found a similar
figure of 47% having negative views of capitalism. But that poll found
that in relation to a positive
perception of socialism, 49% had positive views,
while 42% were negative. On general questions of
people’s attitudes to politics and the state of
the country, seven in 10 persons in a 2017
Washington Post poll concluded that
politics had reached a dangerous new low point. The same poll found that there
was deep and growing distrust for the political sphere. In 2017, only 14%
of those polled felt that politicians
were ethical and honest. In a 1987 poll on the
contrary, that was 39%. So if you compare
both polls, a fall from 39% minority
feeling politicians were unethical to 14%. On the open ended
question as to what were the causes for dysfunction
in the political system, the, 2017 poll the
largest cohorts, some 65% responded that it was the undue
influence of money in politics. This was followed
by 56% asserting that it was due to the influence
of wealthy political donors. A similar percentile said it
was because of the influence of people with extreme
political views, while 51% concluded that
it was due to one man, that being Donald Trump. When asked as to whether
the divisions in the country were as bad as during
the Vietnam War, a significant majority
of 70% concluded that it was at least as bad. What do these
admittedly somewhat randomly selected
polls tell us when read through the lens of hegemony? First and self-evident to
anyone who has lived through or observed the last two years
of life in the United States is that there is a sharply,
perhaps irreconcilably divided polity. On the one hand there
is a large minority of entrenched adherents
to the hoary constellation of white masculinist
hegemonic narratives. This central core of racism,
homophobic, xenophobic, nationalist, and
revanchist views dominates among anywhere from
a quarter to more than a third of the adult population. Opposed to this,
there is a growing counter-hegemonic
insurgency, which already constitutes a clear
majority of the population. What is most striking
despite schisms, fractures, degrees of commitment
and tentativeness among many sectors
of the majority is the evident
and quite dramatic growth of racial, sexual,
and religious tolerance, which is amplified
even further when broken down into age
groups to show the swing and consolidating
numbers in favor of tolerance and inclusion
among younger cohorts. There is also, as an
important implication of this, no consolidated sense
of a social bloc or consensual understanding
among the dominant elements of American society
on the way forward for either the short
or medium term future. Equally striking is the
deep disillusionment with capitalism, the inevitable
result of the 2008 recession and accompanying this, growth of
attractiveness to alternatives, though we should be
careful as to what is meant when people declare
in favor of socialism in the polls. Why therefore, this
is a period of what we can term hegemonic
transition towards dissolution or a particular moment in
which a clear majority, perhaps among the young an
overwhelming majority, is open to a radically different
image of American society. And faced with a
sclerotic economic system are questioning
capitalism itself, they are confronted
with a regime elected by a minority of the
voting population, which is anti-immigrant, willing
to impose Jim Crow-like measures to deprive voting
rights and gerrymander electoral seats, is climate
science and truth denying, homophobic in both rhetoric
and policy measures, and willing to dismantle
anything reeking of collective social
responsibility, most notably the relatively
conservative Obamacare health system. Does the Trumpian
moment therefore herald the arrival of
a new viral insurgency in the way in which
Thatcherism, building on popular notions
of individual freedom and wielding them to
crush and sideline trade unions and a collective agenda
manage to negate and supersede state-like Keynesianism
in the 1980s. While there were certainly
gestures from both Trump’s campaign and the first
year of governing that suggests that there was
a recognition that perhaps people needed to be
won to the project, the evidence as a
whole leans away from this being the
primary objective. What however seems to
be the dominant trend since the January,
2017 inauguration is a far darker three pronged
strategy, predicated first, not on winning over new
converts by assaulting the intellectual foundations
of the opposition, but rather a determined attempt
at consolidating base support among the minority of the
mainly white voting population that is wedded to Trumpism. This is, I think self-evident
through his appeals to the worst racist
and chauvinist tropes even when he could have avoided
alienating everybody else, as in his favor of
the codling response to the Charlottesville
alt-right, neo-Nazi rally. The second is to use the
power of the executive and existant Republican
majorities at the state level to massage the electoral
system through a combination of gerrymandering
and voter restriction to ensure unassailable
Republican majorities at both the state level and
at the presidential via the electoral college. Thirdly, and perhaps the most
effective measure for the mid to long term is stacking
up the judicial system with a raft of
judges at all levels to assure the passage of
questionable legislation and forestall any democratic
reversals of the system in the near future. This is a very different
and far more insidious option than in another era,
the Thatcherite approach of populist authoritarianism. Because it assumes
that genuine populism is out of reach, that
the majority has already lost all reason. Its path to dominance
therefore is underwritten by sleight of hand and ruse. In boldest terms,
it is the framework for a soft judicial coup. The critical factor here is
that older dominant hegemonic constructs are compromised. Clinton and Obama liberalism,
while it shouldn’t be forgotten that Hillary won the
popular national vote, is seen by many as
wedded to Wall Street and ultimately to the
neoliberal Washington consensus. It still has not provided
a credible explanation for the 2008 crisis that
captures the predatory policies of the banks and
financial institutions that led to the
housing market bubble and brought the
cards tumbling down. It’s complicity is
perhaps most evident in the failure of the
Obama Administration to convict any of
the leading players. The counter-recessionary
strategy of 2009 to ’11 worked to forestall collapse,
but was never followed by a long term,
state led strategy of economic restructuring,
employment generation, and environmentally
sustainable policies that might have captured
the popular imagination and short stopped
the rise of Trump. The alternative and contending
narrative on the left, evident in the Bernie Sanders
candidacy and the upsurge of popular support in his
favor, alongside popular protest movements such as Black
Lives Matter and the movement against the Dakota Pipeline
remains relatively vibrant and attracts
significant attention through both traditional
and social media, but hasn’t yet jelled into
a viable and believable framework. Trumpian racism,
chauvinism, revanchism is institutional in charge
but has no program or interest in winning over a working
majority of the population. The liberal center,
while, equivocating at best on the distinct
struggles of important elements of the majority
coalition has very little that is new to offer
as a broad platform for addressing imminent
economic disruption and its social implications. Radical alternatives on the left
meanwhile, remain fragmented, are often at the
margins of debate, and also have no concerted
strategy for the near future. Gramsci described
this moment in which all hegemonies are
on the retreat, new ones are still
in an infancy. And there is at the same
time no consolidated, if always temporary,
hegemonic narrative, a moment of transition
as a dangerous one. And I quote, At a certain
point in their historical life, social groups detach themselves
from their traditional parties in that given
organizational form when the men who constitute,
represent, and lead them are no longer recognized
as a proper representation of their class or
fraction of a class. When these crises occur,
the immediate situation becomes delicate and
dangerous since the field is open to solutions of
force, to the activity of obscure powers
represented by quote, men of destiny unquote
or divine men unquote. Sadly, there are
precedents for times like this in relatively
recent world history. Thus it might be useful to
refer to Hannah Arendt, who, in The Origins of
Totalitarianism speaks to the methods of
totalitarians in waiting and points to their
propensity for– and I’m going to use
a number of quotes. I won’t keep saying
quote unquote here. Points to their propensity
for the rewriting of history, the need to give the
appearance of infallibility, never admitting to
wrongdoings, the fact that their propaganda is marked
by extreme contempt for facts as such and,
poignantly, in light of prior discussion
in this paper that quote, I’ll say quote this
time, totalitarian propaganda can outrageously insult
common sense only where common sense
has lost its validity. Or even more
ominously, her warning of quote, the possibility
that gigantic lies and monstrous falsehoods
can eventually be established as
unquestioned facts, that man may be free to
change his own path at will and that the difference
between truth and falsehood may cease to be objective and
become a mere matter of power and cleverness, of pressure and
infinite repetition, unquote. Totalitarianism
arises she suggests, not in a moment of the dominance
of the intellectual notions of the potential
totalitarian party, but at the juncture of a battle
for ideas in which the deeply untrue arguments are
at first dismissed as bombastic and laughable,
yet unwaveringly persist to be amplified, steadfast
in the face of facts, until a crisis allows for
power to be consolidated, at which point they are
asserted by force as the only and then unassailable truth. The alarming reality today
is that a regime reflecting many of these traits
in its daily praxis is already in charge of the
executive power of the most powerful country in the world,
with its unrivaled array of weapons of mass destruction,
through offensive means, and its soft power through
policy and diplomatic channels, that, if deployed, could lead to
the end of life as we know it. The failure so far of
the liberal left majority to elaborate and consolidate
a vibrant new set of ideas redefining the possibilities
of social change that would address the sharp
and growing inequalities of financial capitalism, the
demands for popular inclusion from a multiracial,
multiethnic society and facing a robotic,
cybernetic future leaves the field open for the
domination of dangerous men with messianic messages. The time for a new conversation
and the patient building of new discourses is now
and urgently necessary. [APPLAUSE] ANN STOLER: Lisa will be
speaking to us on migrant. LISA LOWE: Well, I’m very
glad to come after you, where you would be
invoking Gramsci, I think, I’m going to invoke Benjamin. An unprecedented
number of people around the world displaced
by war, famine, poverty, political instability, military
coups, and environmental crises are living what
Walter Benjamin called a state of emergency, which is
not the exception but the rule. They are food refugees, climate
refugees, and asylum seekers, displaced by colonialism,
genocide, land theft, rape, and torture. Forced migrants are today
largely from the global South. And the longer history of
colonialisms, armed conflicts, the Cold War, and
neoliberal globalization create the conditions
for their displacement and affect the situations
into which migrants enter. The UN High Commission
for Refugees estimates that in
2015, the total number of forcibly displaced
peoples worldwide was approximately 64
million, the highest level since World War II. The more than one million
arrivals to Europe were Syrian, Afghan,
and Iraqi making up the large majority of all
refugees and migrants arriving in Europe across
the Mediterranean. Well over four million Syrians
are now refugees 107 countries. The World Bank estimates
that over 10 million people are displaced by
so-called development projects, the construction of
dams for hydroelectric power or irrigation,
pipelines for drilling and mining, military
installations and weapons testing, the building of
roads and railways and more. Most 20th century Asian and
Pacific Islander migrants have been displaced
by US militarism, from the colonization of
the Philippines, World War II, the Korean War, and
the US war in Vietnam. Hundreds of thousands
of people each year leave El Salvador,
Honduras, Guatemala to go to Mexico
from where they then attempt to cross the border
to the United States. Many migrants are
internally displaced. Others are twice
or thrice migrants, leaving one country
of origin to relocate in another before moving on. Structural adjustment and
austerity policies, debt, and securitization have
displaced migrants. Of course the profitable
national security industry further imperils migrants
around the world. Companies like G4S, Academy,
formerly Blackwater, and more, sell security services
to states, embassies, and corporations. They run military prisons,
detention centers, black sites, and extra-legal encampments. Their armies wage covert
wars and counterinsurgency. Life as a migrant without
papers is precarious. In the United States
where migrants are detained, persecuted, and
deported, being undocumented may mean no work, working
and toxic conditions for meager wages,
are being barred from working in the fields
or professions for which one was trained. Trump has not only
signed executive orders to ban immigration from
six Muslim majority countries, Iran, Libya, Somalia,
Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, he has increased the
number of detention cells, expanded authority
to ICE to deport, and vowed to punish
cities and states who declare themselves sanctuaries. Haitian migrants were
targeted last week when the Trump administration
ended deportation protection for over 60,000 Haitian
refugees in the US. Finally, environmental disasters
such as the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean and the failure
of government aid to the US territory of Puerto
Rico, for example, has displaced tens of
thousands of Puerto Ricans to Florida, New
York, and elsewhere. Migrants are young
and elderly, families, children on their own,
queer folks crossing lands, negotiating deserts,
making sea journeys, and confronting thieves
and traffickers. As the numbers grow,
documenting the figures, the rates, the
routes, rather than the peoples or the
processes and the histories that create the conditions
for forced movement has become the most common
mode of representation. This regime of valuation risks
depoliticizing the migrant to the degree that a
aesthetisized spectacle of statistics in the
production of a crisis often stands in for
analysis itself, Can I have the– I want to show a
couple of websites. Governmental and
non-governmental organizations have mapped migrant movements,
routes, and demography. For example, 15
Years Fortress Europe is an interactive map that
lists and spacializes the death toll of migrants on
the way to Europe or trying to stay in Europe. It documents over 32,000
deaths in 15 years. An enormous database,
it permits one to click on a particular location. Sorry, it’s not working. There. Click on a particular location
to discover data on the dead, missing, drowned, or
suicided migrants. The data is used by news
outlets, artists, NGOs, activists, and
governments alike. And the project evokes
mortality rates, spatially and dynamically
by route rather than by absolute numbers. In contrast, Watch the Med
is an online mapping platform for a transborder
activist network. The media project intervenes
in current migration struggles in the Mediterranean
Sea in a multiplicity of ways. While it monitors the deaths and
violations of migrants rights at the Maritime
border of the EU, it also offers a
mobile phone hotline for migrants who find themselves
in temporary emergency zones as well as a website that
reports distress calls. Excuse me. The website also maps,
oh, I forgot to do sound. I’m sorry. I’m not a media person. It also maps border police
locations, search and rescue points, and mobile
phone coverage. It charts the number
of safe migrations and numbers and
locations of deaths and it describes
the militarization of the Mediterranean by Frontex,
the EU border management agency and Operation Active Endeavor
launched after 9/11 to deter the threat of terrorism. The site map has
this live feed of the optical and thermal camera
surveillance by sea, air, and land borne radars,
vessel tracking technologies, and satellites to
increase chances that migrants may actually
navigate to avoid surveillance. The interactive platform
then is an innovative virtual crossroads that instructs
both activists, for example, there is a– there’s a page
here how to report, how to give instruction
when you receive a call, or it instructs you what
you do when you receive a call from a boat in distress. And it also instructs
migrants themselves with pages on your
rights at sea, maritime jurisdictions, rights
to seek asylum, and so forth. The shift teams speak
Arabic, Farsi, Tigrinya, and other languages,
other European languages. They offer information
and assistance in arranging rescue
by civilian fleet, rather than by
state authorities. Because many of its activities
are clandestine, unauthorized, and not recognized, activist
scholar Maurice Stierl describes the project as a type
of transnational, transmedial underground railroad that
heralds the instability of the European border regime. Watch the Med, unlike 15
Years Fortress Europe, does not merely collect
data on migrant deaths, rather it operationalizes
is the emergence of new intimacies,
cross-border kingships, and provisional communities. Closer to the United
States, The Wall is an interactive order map
of the border between the US and Mexico. It allows users to pick any spot
on the interactive digital map and cue up an aerial video
taken from a helicopter at that exact
location, as well as to see the type of fencing
that already exists along the border, beginning
with aerial footage of the border that was gathered
by the USA Today network. GIS mapping teams at the
University of Texas and Arizona State Universities’ combined and
synchronized that footage with federal maps and satellite
imagery from the Department of Homeland Security to
show a map that quote, is billed as a pioneering
border virtual reality. Let me do another one here. That enables viewers to have
an immersive 3D on the ground experience of the border. The project description
claims quote our map is totally objective
the map doesn’t say the wall was a good idea or a bad idea. It simply shows the
real world, unquote. As Trump pushes forward
with his commitment to build a border wall, the
map calls attention especially to quote huge stretches of the
border that are not fenced. There are about 1,350
miles of the open border that is without fencing. Alternatively, this [INAUDIBLE]
Project by the Center for Investigative
Reporting crowd sources current information about
the US Mexico border fence. So for example, it
provides information to migrants and travelers
about which parts of the border has walling, the
type its features and the likelihood
of being detained. So here for example, you have
a section with no walls yet. And then finally, The
Transborder Migrancy Tool designed by Ricardo
Dominguez, a new media artist at the Electronic
Disturbance Theater Lab is a cell phone app
with a GPS system, which provides experimental poetry
aimed to inspire the migrant’s survival as well as information
on the location of food and water caches, where
security patrols might be, and directions to
potentially safer routes. We can observe that
both national security and humanitarian
conceptions of the migrant, invoked by some of the
maps and digital platforms I’ve just shown you tend to
represent migrants in ways that confirm not only the normative
geography of bounded nation states, but which also
monitor and govern migrants in terms of normative narratives
of political sovereignty, history, and society. Whether foreign threat or victim
in need of rescue, the migrant is placed within an implied
linear temporality of progress and development exemplified by
the reproduction of the south to north itinerary as the
normative route of migration. To the contrary, the countries
hosting the greatest numbers of refugees are actually
in the global south. Many migrants go to Turkey,
Lebanon, Iran, and Jordan. Pakistan takes in many
west and South Asians. Chad, Ethiopia,
Kenya, and Uganda are the destination of many
sub-Saharan African migrants. Germany is the only
European destination among the 10 countries
hosting the largest numbers of refugees. However in the Fortress
Europe Project, migrants are documented
exclusively in their efforts to enter or land in Europe,
even the dynamic activist platform Watch the Med defines
migrancy as people en route to Europe. And none of the
US Mexican border projects redefine or interrogate
political sovereignty as the nation
state’s jurisdiction over territory and population. A traditional understanding
of sovereignty as the nation state’s
power over land and people is evidently not merely
a spatial representation, the spatial concept upholds
a temporal development that reiterates the
liberal political story of human freedom overcoming
unfreedom through membership in the Western nation state. For the larger part
of the 20th century, the social sciences of
sociology, political science, and economics have adopted
a [? vabarian ?] paradigm of modernization
that would privilege Western forms of nation
state industrialized society and political economy. The migrant is figured
in this through reference to this teleology of human
development unfolding in time, consigned to what Depeche
Chakrabarty has called the waiting room of history
within a modernist narrative that hierarchizes
nations, races, and cultures in a
linear development from primitive to civilized. Quantification and mapping
produce and govern migrants as population. Furthermore, [INAUDIBLE] maps
emulate the aerial perspectives that have been central to the
statecraft of foreign policy and war in the
late modern period. Not only has the
visual virtualization become central to the
post-Vietman conduct of late modern war, but
a longer colonial history has employed the visual field to
detect, produce, and administer colonized subjects
and territory. Maps perform the omniscience
and scientificity of what Martina Taziolli
and Glenda Garelli term a statist gaze, moving off
of James [? Skant’s ?] work, as they seek to represent
people in conditions that are entirely uncertain
and constantly in motion. Defining and mapping the
migrant as imperiled trespasser of the nation state
confirms liberal orthodoxies of sovereignty and territory,
juxtaposing the migrant to the settler citizen subject
and homoeconomicus disfigured figured as human by the Western
liberal political tradition. More importantly, the
figuration of the migrant in a proliferating
language of crisis, the migration crisis, the
crisis of the Middle East, the financial crisis, often
obfuscates and depoliticizes the historical
contradictions of which the forced movement,
its criminalisation, and the multiplication of
borders and border zones is the expression. The language of crisis is
crucial for the reproduction of capitalism of
course, and is evidently exploited as the occasion for
capitalism’s neoliberal renewal and restructuring
in the imposition of aggressive privatization
and unrestricted movements of capital, tax
breaks, and brutal austerity measures, and the evisceration
of social welfare, while demonizing the quote
unquote undeserving poor. Crisis works as well,
as Zahid’s discussion of the uncanny hunting
of the law by impunity so well elaborated, crisis
works as well to refortify and justify states’ absolute
monopoly on force and violence, whether as the buildup of
policing border patrols, drug enforcement, and prisons, or
as a nuclear proliferation, military basing, and the
pursuit of military supremacy. The affective deployment
of crisis masks material histories and focuses
public attention instead on migration as
a contemporary presentist phenomenon, rather than as a
history of the present that would defamiliarize
the present and linked the conditions of forced
migration with the longer, undisclosed histories
that produce them. A history of the present would
refuse the simple recovery of the past and
trouble the giveness or the inevitability of
the present formation. It is not a historical
reconstruction that justifies the present,
but a critical project that exposes existing
conventions for knowing and representing modernity
through narratives of progress and development,
and thus releases our present from the dictates
of those conventions. Contrary to the
single figuration of the migrant as the outsider
whom the nation state must either rescue or
deport, migrant life is not a single
condition of course, but many different
ones historically and in the present. In the modern period
of nations and empires, the migrant has heralded
the fragmentation brought into being by the
contradictory ambitions and failures of
settler colonialism, militarized for an empire
after the alleged stabilities of liberal modernity, as Brian
Meeks’ paper has demonstrated so well. Migration heralds in this
way the unfinished work of decolonization, the
failures of global capitalism, the shrill violence of
white racial supremacy, national security regimes,
and moreover the inadequacy of liberal political
representation and free market fundamentalism, or the
authoritarian states to manage to resolve
these failures. In this sense the figure
of the migrant today refers not just to mass
movement and displacement, it is also an expression
of the precarity of the claims to resolution. It’s in this sense that
the migrant struggles and what Benjamin terms a
state of emergency that is not the exception but the rule. Fascism may not be a breakdown
of liberal sovereignty, but rather a continuation
of the historical forms of arbitrary and authoritarian
rule and subjection opened by the fabric of
liberal democratic capitalism. The migrant may also be
a sign of our difficulty in reading the object
of the global present, marking the gap between
political discourse and material
conditions themselves. In this sense, I
want to underscore that I’m distinguishing
a typology of the migrant from the shifting, undocumented
immeasurability of migrant worlds or migrant lives. It’s also necessary to
emphasize that the migrant is different than the immigrant. For where the migrant is
figured as perpetually eluding the state, the immigrant
is subjected to the state and is domesticated
by the promises of national assimilation
and citizenship. Immigrants are forced to
comply with the narratives of rehabilitation,
cure, conversion, and national belonging. But the migrant, from whom
citizenship is withheld, is the disquieting, the
repudiated not same. The migrant defies and
arranges and is simultaneously more vulnerable and
more transgressive than the immigrant. The migrant is
stateless, homeless, and rightless, the
target of police, armies, counterinsurgency
and biomedicine, subjected to the extraction of
surplus value, surveillance, and carceral enclosure. In the discourses of
authoritarian states, like the United
States, the migrant is the state’s reification
of its national limit. And not to be confused with
migrating peoples themselves, whose lives and
survivals are always in excess of the representation
of their disposability as the migrant. The migrant is rapidly conflated
in this way with other figures, equally constructed as
threats to national security, homogeneity, and coherence, such
as the terrorist, the queer, the diseased, the infidel,
the oriental, or the disabled. These figures mark the
threshold of the nation and herald its contradictions. They are supplements
that at once must be banned and
yet de-stabilize in their very objection. They figure the
cultural negativity that refuses integration into
the dominant social order. The state’s figuration
of the migrant mediates the endless
production of difference, of good and bad Muslims,
of inside and outside, of the normative
and the deviant, from which society
must be defended. Yet migrant life
and survival also recast the targeting and
production of the migrant as an expression of
key shifts in the rise and transformation of
US led global empire and global warfare. In other words, the US
State targets and produces the migrant as the limit
of national sovereignty and social order,
even as it continues to translate the migrant
into the immigrant, through the
visibility, legality, and temporality of the liberal
political sphere, and to prey upon what remains of
migrant lives and labor in the economic sphere. Migrants are portrayed by some
states and non-state agencies as meriting protection
insofar as they conform to a criteria of
unfreedom that can be redeemed within liberal
regimes of promised freedom. In transit zones such
as the Idomeni Camp at the Greek Macedonian border
or in makeshift camps at Kelly France where tents and
shacks sheltered refugees until it was cleared last
year, the military policing of migrant populations
is presented through humanitarian rhetorics
of protection and rescue. The combination of
militarized governance and humanitarian care of course
has a long colonial history that Neda Atanasoski
has analyzed as humanitarian
violence, as restating international divisions
of political power and justifying its interventions
in terms of suffering victims in need of care. Whether as foreign
threat or abject victim, security and
humanitarian discourses converge around a
construction of the migrant as voiceless, which
totalizes state sovereignty while evacuating migrants’
subjectivity and political possibility and also obscuring
other forms, itineraries, and temporalities of being. Migrant life both attracts
yet exceeds the capture by both the humanitarian
and security gazes. Driven from one’s
land or prevented from returning to one’s
land, hiding, fleeing, surviving occupation, enduring
deportation, being poor, growing poorer, forced
to reproduce, prohibited from reproducing, migrant
experiences and histories are forms of
undocumented knowledge. Itinerant movements,
practices and epistemologies escape representation
and are not apprehended by the state that
documents only its engagements with its institutions. In this way, migrant
life forces a reckoning of existing political
and aesthetic regimes of representation. Migrant life, labor,
and survival, in a sense defies the narratives
of political struggle for emancipation that draw
upon the very historic binary of freedom and
unfreedom, and must be imagined as resembling
something more like what Neferti Tadiar terms
remaindered life. Neferti Tadiar examines
the leftover, devalued, sensorial practices of
the unfree, those persons, particularly women who are
obligated, owned, indentured, or instrumentalzed. In her work, she
looked particularly at Filipino domestic
laborers and sex workers. And Remaindered Life describes
the everyday transactions of exchange, cooperation,
and dependence as rights of collective
enjoyment, perseverance, and relation. The transient spaces
of refuge and practices of transit and survival
are evidently much more heterogeneous, contested,
and multi-dimensional than either the humanitarian
or security order regime can capture or envision. Moreover, the exclusive
binary analysis of either captive unfreedom
or redemptive freedom enunciates a form
of the political that forecloses
alternative subjectivities, other ephemeral survivals,
and solidarities within migrant border worlds. Nick Mirzoeff’s work on
colonial visual culture suggests that insurgent forms,
such as cinema or photography may not only seize the
gaze from the state and humanitarian
hands, but perhaps experimental visual
forms can also suggest more complex, aesthetic,
and political representation. In this regard, I wanted
to show one more oh. It’s not it’s not essential. In this regard I wondered
to mention briefly an experimental film. I’m not going to
show a clip from it, because it will take too long. Maquilapolis, produced by Vicki
Funari and Sergio De La Torre is a collaboration between
Latinas in the US and Mexicanas and they work with
experimental Media to represent the transnational
politics of young migrant women who travel from southern
Mexico to work in the border maquiladora factories. Of course since the
1970s, US investors have profited enormously
from manufacturing in export processing
zones around the world, including cities along
the US Mexican border, which employ hundreds
and thousands of girls and young women, exploiting
their structural vulnerability and family society and in
the factories themselves. For Mexico’s centralized
government and the large state run unions who view the
maquiladoras as a strategy for national
development, the revenues have been a disincentive to
recognizing or protecting the women workers,
hundred of whom have been murdered with impunity
in places like Ciudad Juarez. Multi-vocal and
multi-perspectival, the film Maquilapolis is
composed of video segments that the women have
filmed and narrated, portraying arrivals at the
border from rural Mexico, their discoveries of toxic
conditions in their workplace and in their colonias,
and their decision to take action and become
promotoras to educate other women, these
particular stories are enfolded within a
narration about the growth of the maquiladora industry. The camera itself is mobilized
as a product assembled by the women in the
maquilas, but also as a metaphor and a medium
for seeing and being seen, as an apparatus
constituting the very means of representation. The film opens for
example with Carmen holding a camera explaining,
my name is Carmen Duran. I’ve worked in nine
assembly plants. I was 13 years old when
I arrived in Tijuana. Soon after, another
woman, Lourdes, tells the viewers she
is turning the camera on to show us the toxic
river of lead slag and sulfuric acid running
through her neighborhood, Chilpancingo, explaining that
her children and her neighbors are at high risk for leukemia,
cancer, and anencephaly. And she then uses the
camera on her own body, pointing to the lesions
and sores on her skin from toxic chemicals
and mineral waste. Carmen films her daily
routine, feeding and bathing her children in their
house without running water that she has assembled out
of discarded garage doors that she bought in
the United States. She films going to work in the
factory and explains that her exposure to poisonous chemicals
fumes and lead contamination in the factory means that
she cannot wash her own work clothes with her
children’s clothes. What’s crucial is that the
movement and the transformation of perspective is thematized
throughout the film in sound, image, and narrative form. The women record the shift
from being objectified as commodified yet
disposable labor to becoming a subject
who films oneself as an analyst of
these conditions and as a social actor
working against them. In one segment, Carmen films
Lourdes as Lourdes films the US side of the
border through a space in the corrugated metal wall
that divides the two countries. Quote, I’m looking at the
other side of the border. This is something so new for
me, her voiceover explains. Lourdes looking at the
side of the border that constitutes her as disposable,
refutes the status gaze and Carmen looking at Lourdes
refutes a colonial politics of recognition. Contrary to state and
industry discourses that see the women
as docile or passive, their experiment in
looking and looking away is part of their
collaborative struggle against toxicity in which
migrant women reversed the discourse of
female disposability. Countering the
industrial toxification that subject their
communities to death, they refuse to be
less than living. The film suggests a
concept of the political that does not depend
upon normative models of political sovereignty or
rights-based citizenship, and whose strategies necessarily
reach beyond traditional state channels. Furthermore, their
anti-toxicity struggle challenges and complicates
existing political paradigms, whether nationalist, trade
unionist, or feminist. The film ends with the
decade long collaboration between their collective
with the environmental health coalition in the United
States having created enough public international
pressure to obligate both the Mexican
and the US states to jointly clean
up the lead waste in their particular
colonia, depicting an alternative
practice of sovereignty or the exercise of
political power, which counters the state sanctioned
death of migrants in the border community. Yet the film ends with
Lourdes commenting that with still hundreds
of polluting factories, the future is quite uncertain. Confining the migrant
to a traditional notion of political sovereignty entraps
the migrant life further. Where territoriality is
one way of conceptualizing political sovereignty,
sovereignty also regulates the
character of movement, attempting to determine whether
people may move as citizens or slaves, legal or smuggled. But as migrants defy
this regulation, it exposes the degree to which
the totalizing understanding of sovereignty– I have one and one
half pages left, the totalizing
understanding of sovereignty is fictional in that it
is perpetually incomplete and failing. The state is not the source
of power, but its effect. States are rather constituted
by their performances of sovereignty, often
performed in relation to an outside against which
they define themselves. In this sense, we ourselves
perform the state’s work when we re-center
sovereignty in the state or continue to reify the migrant
and subordinating migrant lives in relation to this state few. If modern political
philosophy is founded on the dielectric
of unfreedom and freedom and our political
imagination is still haunted by its teleology,
its narrative organization, and dialectical temporality,
then perhaps the migrant might inaugurate a different
political concept, not limited by the organizing
teleology of emancipation. The migrant whose itineraries
elude the binary of freedom and unfreedom might be a means
to explore other vocabularies, other frameworks or practices to
reckon with the conditions past and present offering alternative
modalities for framing the political, not as a state
of unfreedom to be overcome by political emancipation,
but as a way to conceptualize political subjectivity
as being with, rather than having,
owning, or regulating. Migrant life is
both an exception to dominant forms of national
and imperial identity and one that challenges
and complicates abstract subjects of
oppositional paradigms that require individual
standpoints or identities, whether anti-colonial or
anti-racist nationalisms, Marxisms, or feminisms. For the migrant is
not an identity, but is heterogeneous,
shifting, and unsettles the binary framework upon
which the dominant and some of our oppositional political
projects have been built, white, nonwhite, settler,
indigenous, civilized, uncivilized, male, female,
developed, undeveloped, and so forth. Like indigenous theorist
Jody Bird’s category of the arrivant, the
migrant complicates the dyad of settler
and native, for there are many kinds of migrant
lives and arriving is not a monolithic, stable,
or permanent position. Migrant life refers us
to a different aesthetics of representation,
one that challenges mimesis and verisimilitude,
one that radically challenges teleological and developmental
narratives of emancipation and assimilation and interrupts
presumptions of stability, location, and habitation
and territory. Walter Benjamin wrote in 1940
that quote, the tradition of the oppressed teaches us
that the state of emergency in which we live is not the
exception, but the rule. We must attain to a
conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. Then we shall clearly
realize that it is our task to bring about
a real state of emergency. And this will
improve our position in the struggle against fascism. One reason why
fascism has a chance is that in the name of
progress, its opponents treat it as a historical norm. The current amazement that
the things we are experiencing are still possible
is not philosophical. This amazement is not the
beginning of knowledge, unless it is the
amazement that registers that this view of
history is untenable. Unquote. The migrant invites an
aesthetics of disidentification that refers us to this
understanding of history and another form of
the political, one that no longer rests upon the fulcrum
of freedom and unfreedom, which might permit us to name
the fascism of our moment and to bring about
a state of emergence from the state of emergency. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] ANN STOLER: So we have time. We have time for about 35
minutes worth of questions. I’ll keep a list going. Clare, would you like to
start us up and then Nick. AUDIENCE: Thank you so much
for two fantastic papers. And I guess my question is
about strategies for resistance. And I think it’s a question
that is likely to be pertinent for both speakers. But I’m going to respond
specifically to one point that you made, Brian, in terms
of you described the left and the alternative it
proposes is fragmented. And I was wondering,
you know given the very multi-faceted and
multi-dimensional forms that this particular
moment, political moment, takes but perhaps all moments
in terms of its colonialism and sexism and heteronormativity
and xenophobia and racism and environmental
devastation et cetera, which I think the thinking
of the figure of the migrant actually speaks to, right? Given that
multifaceted character is fragmentation actually,
potentially something positive? And what does it mean
to claim that the left and its alternatives
are fragmented? Does it follow from such a claim
that there should be unity? What kind of unity? What would the
potential risk for obscuring certain alternatives
be if this implies unity? So what is being
obscured, I guess. And I think, I wonder if the
left is indeed fragmented, then what kind of fragments
may, for instance the women of the Machipolis be, raped? And aren’t these actually
powerful fragments? Isn’t a strategy of
resistance perhaps a strategy of trying to become intractable? Thank you. ANN STOLER: You can start. We can start with
just one at a time. Please. Thanks, Claire. Basically I didn’t mention
the word unity at all. I think there is a need
for coalitions, which are a different thing from unity. Unity implies some
sort of homogeneity, which by definition, you’ve
already said and I’ve said, you know, not only doesn’t
exist but is necessary to have. But the question is,
there is a politics here that has not sufficiently been
invoked surrounding coalitions. It seems to me that
the politics of it, which I haven’t
mentioned at all, I’ve talked about discourses
that need to be generated, but the politics of
it requires thought about what are the channels? You know, there, was a channel,
the Bernie Sanders channel, which was remarkable in terms
of the support it gained, but not enough to overcome
the barricades of the DNC. But you know, what are
the forms of strategies and what are the
compromises that need to be made in
the component parts? And it’s this sort
of discussion. In other words, you
know, what would a movement like
Black Lives Matter want to assure
that it’s not lost were to enter a coalition with
feminist groups, LGBTQ groups, and what would they in turn
compromise in a strategy that was genuinely
broad based and didn’t require as a subsuming
of their demands under some broad banner. So it seems to me that is this
is quintessential politics, but it’s a politics
of coalitions. [INTERPOSING VOICES] LISA LOWE: I’m not in the– I think I don’t
want to prescribe what kinds of practical
organizing could take place. Because I think
the task was more to think about how
our concept could be generative of new
ways of thinking. But I think that
what I was trying to suggest is that different,
I mean, I’m not sure, coalition would be one
way of talking about it. But that there
would be it might be necessary to recognize
forms of struggle that would be around particular
provisional sites as opposed to nation bound or
ones that prescribed, for example, an international
proletariat that would mandate a particular kind of formation. So I was trying to be suggestive
about the ways in which the anti-toxicity,
anti-globalization, feminist struggle that’s
being described is a representational
project that might open up other ways of
thinking politically. ANN STOLER: Nick. AUDIENCE: So Lisa,
this is for you. And thank you for the shout out. I appreciate it. I was scribbling down
notes while you talked, so it’s possible that
what I was doing that, you said what I’m
going to ask you about. But you maybe take kind of
frontiers years of migration, if you like, in different ways. And managed to give out
Wall Street as a wall that was built by enslaved
African labor to keep out the [INAUDIBLE]. So that there is a
way in which this has a very long history in the
history of settler colonialism. And yet having used this
very trenchant phrase where you talked about
migration is the unfinished work of decolonization. And that made me start
thinking about Palestine and I wanted to
ask you about that and to think about the
way in which the only two countries in the world where
the United States is now more popular than it was
before Trump got it, one is Russia obviously,
and the is Israel. When one thinks of the
condition of the Palestinians as fundamentally both
refugees and migrants but migrants within
their own space. And the question of mapping
has become very critical. There are no maps of Palestine. If you go on the West
Bank tell Google Maps, you get blank space. And so [INAUDIBLE] in Israel and
Zakat and other organizations have been producing maps to show
what is otherwise not shown. It seemed to me to be a sort
of paradigm case of what you’re talking about. So I wondered if you
might want to think a little bit about this
debate that’s been going on. [INAUDIBLE] sort of said
Palestine is the exemplary, rather than the exceptional. And there’s been some
pushback on that. And I just wondered how it
might fit within your framework that you set up here. LISA LOWE: Well I
almost, I wrote out a whole part of the paper that
was about five broken cameras, I don’t know if
you know this film. Which is so you know it
uses the camera as well. In Bil’in, so that it gets
smashed each time by Israeli soldiers or various, the
process of building settlements and that sort of thing. I mean, absolutely, I
think that Palestine is an example in which
they are occupied. First of all, there’s
Palestinians in Israel. They’re in the West Bank. They’re in Gaza. There are migrants,
internal migrants. They’re migrants in
their own location. I hesitate to say paradigmatic,
but certainly, not an exception to what I’m trying to describe. Thank you for the question. Did you want to say something? ANN STOLER: No, no, no. It’s just an
argument that I made and I agree with you very much. Layla, please. AUDIENCE: Thank you. Thank you for those
absolutely wonderful papers. I have a question for Brian, but
very much provoked by material in Lisa’s paper. Brian, in a way,
both talks seemed to be about the problem
of the dissolution of traditional forms
of sovereignty. But Brian, your account
of this dissolution was immediately to see it
as an index of the failure of the political. And which you diagnosed very
stirringly via the Gramscian precedent as the problem of
social groups dissociating from traditional
forms of behavior. I just wanted to ask whether
I could urge you both to think more about the political
possibilities of dissociation and disengagement. And here of course,
there are two types, one, Lisa touches upon
by speaking about the creative disidentification
of new [? subordinate ?] groups with existing or
traditional forms of power. But may I touch upon another
slightly more complicated form of disidentification, but
also very productive, taking say this gathering as a
paradigm, where the problem is not that you see yourself, that
a few, enough, see themselves as subject to hegemony,
but as stakeholders in it. Say here, a politics that might
arise from in various contexts. And there are various
contexts here besides Trump, but more of that later
today or tomorrow. Say, the problem of
being a white and male. Say in another
context, the problem of being unbearably
upper caste Hindu male. And there are
endless such examples of the unbearable
burden of being nominated as a stakeholder
by the prevailing form of hegemony. Does that not produce
then a certain pressure on another kind of political? BRIAN MEEKS: Thanks, Layla. I’m not sure if I
understood where you were going with disassociation. And exactly, if you elaborate
on that a little more. And you can come back to that. But on the question of
stakeholders, my notion and the way in which
I use hegemony, it’s always a two
way negotiation. It’s never imposed
always from above. It’s by people incorporating
themselves and seeing themselves as, you
correctly put it, as stakeholders in the process. So you have stakeholders
who are on Wall Street and you have stakeholders
who are in Appalachia, but they see
themselves as benefit and absorb that sense of
the dominant discourse in a way which satisfies them. And you know, so I see this
thing as far more temporary and flexible. I use a notion of a
netting as opposed to some sort of solid
ceiling around things. But at the same time, a
netting serves a purpose. It may have holes in it. It may not, but it
does hold some fish. So, yeah, so that’s my answer. And I agree with
you very strongly that discussion of the
stakeholders is critical, but I’d love to hear your
disassociation point elaborated a little more so that I
can respond maybe or not respond as the case may be. LISA LOWE: I think
you were referring to the type of discussion
that I was presenting, which is that these Maquiladora
workers are not primarily struggling as workers,
though their migrancy is part of their economic condition. They’re not primarily
struggling as Mexicanas. They are a
cross-border group that rely upon collaborations with
people in the United States. They are organizing around a
profound condition of toxicity brought on by global
capitalism, but through means that put pressure on
different states that don’t see the states as the
guarantors of their freedom or liberation or emancipation. So I think I was trying
to precisely point to ways in which our traditional
notions of sovereignty may, if we follow them too
closely we may inadvertently reimprison new
political possibility in the old categories. And so I think there is the
possibility that, I’m not quite sure I understand your
stakeholders and hegemony idea with respect to the subaltern
because the subaltern are not always thought of as
stakeholders in hegemony. But there might be a way in
which this disidentification with traditional
categories might help counter hegemonic insurgent
actions to reimagine themselves differently, not as monolithic
unities, not as state bound, not as a race bound. So for example, Brian,
you were gesturing towards an emergent kind
of black counter hegemonic possibility with the
collapse of capitalism. But it might
include also Asians. It might also include with
these women at the border, it might not
necessarily have to be captured by a particular unity. And so I think that’s
why you didn’t say unity. ANN STOLER: Did you want to
say something just in response? AUDIENCE: Thank
you both very much. I think, and my
apologies for this. I think I just wanted to
speak about two figures of disidentification
that might be producing this dissolution of hegemony
that you are both so powerfully diagnosing, one of
course, subaltern groups. But then the other I think I’m
also interested in an unwilling elite groups. And those who don’t want
their own whiteness, those who don’t want their
own Brahminism, those who don’t want
their own maleness, that these may be less
few and far between, Brian, you suggested
optimistically, and that that produces its
own kind of disidentification. I’m just thinking of
what we’re doing here. Look at the privilege,
the unbearable privilege that we have. And trying not to be
contaminated by Trumpism. Where the problem is
that many of us are. There’s a new opportunity
and that is unbearable. So I suppose the problem of
both new subaltern and ethically vexed elite groups as well. Thank you very much. ANN STOLER: Melee. Sure, please or
one of them closer. AUDIENCE: So my
question is largely for Lisa’s presentation. Thank you very much. I think the question that
I had of the difficulty concerned this sort of
inauguration of the refugee as this sort of
limit or litmus test for concepts and
political theory, right? And it’s a common
enough, I think it’s symptomatic of our
time that the refugee now is so often spoken of as
that limit point, limit point for various ordering
categories, sovereignty being among them. But one of the things
that, I do research on Syrian refugees in
Jordan and Lebanon, and one of the complications
that I’ve had with my project is also trying to understand the
ways in which humanitarian care and humanitarian institutions
that one finds, UNHCR being one of them, but it’s
a sprawling Nexus, that mass displacement
also calls forth new forms of state
institutions, not just in the form of humanitarian
violence, which I think you describe so
well, but also in the form of biopolitical care. And biopolitical care
as a form of control. I mean after the
European migrant crisis, Europe was pumping a lot of
money into Jordan and Lebanon, into its education
and health sectors, presumably to keep
refugees there. The irony is that that
project is largely failing. And in most of my interviews
with Syrian refugees, one of the things that keeps
coming up as a kind of contrast is how sustaining strong
state institutions in Syria were compared to
Jordan and Lebanon. So for instance free health
care, free education, up until a certain point. I’m not talking about
higher education. And one of the– and the constant invocation of
the necessity for strong state institutions and the idea that
the reason why humanitarian care is failing is
because it cannot do that. It cannot live up to those
rules and responsibilities. So I was kind of wondering how
does one theorize that too? You referred several
times and to talk to alternative
political subjectivities outside the state. And I don’t know whether I
find freedom there either. And I was kind of
wondering what does that work of theorizing an
alternative subjectivity outside the terminology of
the state actually look like? LISA LOWE: So what I’m
describing actually, I don’t believe is incompatible
with what you’re saying. So I’m not saying that there
isn’t humanitarian care that continues to make
migrant lives living, but that it’s a form
of governance that sometimes converges
with state governance and sometimes is another net of
governance, the biopolitical. I’m not trying to,
in the description, I’m not trying to say
it’s positive or negative, but that it isn’t freedom. And so I’m trying
to suggest that we may be in a political
moment in which freedom and unfreedom and that
very weighty dialectic that has framed so much of
our political thinking might not be the adequate
description for our projects now. So I think that was, in a way,
it’s just a small observation. But I don’t think,
I think what you’re saying is compatible
with what I’m describing. ANN STOLER: Jen, please. AUDIENCE: Thank you. Yeah, Lisa, I wanted
to ask you maybe following up on that
point and pulling upon Layla’s question
about what happens, what are the implications
for the nation state in which what you
suggest, if we build a sort of new political
imaginary around the migrant, which I think sounds fantastic. For James Scott that means
movement towards anarchy. And so, you know his
next couple of books, he’s pretty explicit about that. So I wanted to ask
you about anarchy. And you know, I don’t
mean the anarchy of the early 20th
century, but whether there are forms of anarchy that
actually are suggested by the migrant, by not
necessarily the refusal of the state, but the
failure of the state to even accommodate
large numbers of people. So that’s one thing
that I wanted to ask. And while I like that
film and I’ve used it, I wonder if it belongs to
even an earlier order, sort of an after moment. And I wanted to suggest
a different text, not a visual text. And we’ve discussed
it before, this book, Exit West by Mohsin
Hamid, which, when I read it wasn’t,
it’s sort of dystopian near future fantasy set
in an unnamed Middle Eastern city where people
pay coyote type of agents to give them access to a
portal that will deliver them to various sites. And so this, a Muslim
couple leave the city. They go through a
portal and they end up in Lesbos, which is
interesting in Greece, because the
trajectory of the book is actually the
exit to the West. They end up in Greece
and then London where they do not find at
all what they’re looking for. They find new forms of racism. So they exit from the West. And then the final
piece of the book is they exit to San Francisco,
where the female partner becomes a lesbian. And then I was like, OK this
sounds more interesting now. Because it’s actually charting
a kind of political trajectory based on exit. And I wanted to see if
we could do something, you know, and I think that
lesbianism piece is interesting because it becomes, in so
many political projects, the unthinkable, the place
that can’t be inhabited, that was never
interesting politically that no one wants to be in. It is the site of political
disidentification. And there are lots of
people who talk about exit. There’s [INAUDIBLE]. There’s exodus in
Hardt and Negri. There’s escape in
Moten and Harney. So is exit something we
could use and is exit a portal if you like for
new forms of anarchy? Is that where we go
with the migrant? LISA LOWE: Well
that’s a suggestive and I know that you’re going
to speak about anarchy. So I’m not going to try to
say too much about anarchy, but I think the question of
what happens to the nation state is interesting,
because if we are not– if we’re de-investing
in national citizenship and borders, then where could
that energy and resource go? You know, it could go back
towards creating sustenance for many different kinds of
communities, some of whom might not be only American. So I think that’s what
I’m gesturing towards. I don’t have a kind of blueprint
for how that would take place. But I think I’m interested
in the disidentification with national citizenship
and the nation state. AUDIENCE: So it seems
to me, among historians there’s a whole attempt
to figure that out by going back to what people
like Gary Wilder and Max Tumba and Kristin Ross
call the foreclosed moments of alternatives to the
solidification of the nation state. And its worth I
think looking at how they handle that to try to think
otherwise about communities, grassroots communities, that
form associations of a kind that, The Paris
Commune being Kristin Ross’s exemplary moment. ANN STOLER: So I
just wanted to take the liberty of making
one statement here, and it’s going to not
a very popular one. I think we’re at a political
moment in which we’re desperate, desperate to imagine
that a new politics is possible and that a new
politics is coming out of something that
as you said so well, Joan, is not a new
politics from Trump but that the contra politics
that we’re establishing. The only way that that
politics could matter this, this current contra movement. AUDIENCE: Don’t call it contra. Call it oppositional. ANN STOLER: OK. Oppositional. Is if it produces
sabotage in certain ways, because we’ve had so many
counter movements that retract themselves actually
from participation, that are no longer identify
with the state, with society, with I mean,
we’ve all been part of them in minimal and major ways. What this new political
moment would need to do would actually put a
wrench in what’s happening. And I don’t know, if even
with all of our desire to see in this migrant situation, these
new political possibilities, this new [SPEAKING FRENCH],,
as [INAUDIBLE] would say, a new way of divining and
sharing in our senses. I don’t know if that’s
really the case. Susan. AUDIENCE: Yeah, I’m going
to sound very conservative at this point. I understand doing
away with nation state. I understand doing
away with sovereignty. But the category of
citizen is the one, because, because Jared Kushner
wants to do away with it, I’m very nervous about. I don’t know why,
because citizen, citizen is not just national citizen. Citizen is as old as the Greek
polis, which is not a nation state, even though polis has
been transmitted by Hobbes at nation state, the first
translation of Thucydides into English in 1629. But that is not the
meaning of the term. It means, it has an
attachment to public space. It has an attachment to getting
away from, I happen to be white or I happen to be this
or I happen to be that, and to actually be where
I take a stand, where I take a stand with others
because of my moral commitments going back to the
[? Saeed. ?] I don’t think that that is part of– I don’t think that
citizen is reducible to either national sovereignty
or the nation state. ANN STOLER: And I, by accident,
I have to excuse myself. I skipped over [INAUDIBLE]. LISA LOWE: Again,
let me try to say that I don’t think
that I’m saying we should all become migrants
and give up our citizenship. I’m trying to suggest that
the unbelonging of migrants is suggestive about the degree
to which we could disinvest, we could unreify the
citizen of the nation state and national boundaries
as our primary guarantors that we could retrieve
liberal democracy. There’s a way in which
what I’m suggesting is that the particular
forms of liberal democracy in the US with global
capitalism has actually allowed this
authoritarianism to come in. It’s not opposed to it. It’s part of it. So it’s not that I’m
romanticizing the migrant and that we should
all be migrants. But there’s a status
of unbelonging that is suggestive to the
types of political projects that we might rethink. Yeah, that’s all I’m saying. ANN STOLER: Addi. AUDIENCE: I want to ask
Brian to respond to this. Because I think that– I want to ask Brian to
respond to this discussion. Because as I
understood you, holding to the concept of
hegemony is holding you to some kind of synaptic view
of society and social order, and expecting a very dangerous
moment in between to imagery of social order, but
hoping for another one which will be better. And what I hear and what Lisa
suggested, and also developed by Layla and some, I think
Jack as well is something I would like to call,
and not pejoratively, the politics of the bubble. No, it’s not pejorative. This is the kind of politic. Of the bubble. This is the kind of
politics that I practiced in Palestine Israel, that
was the only possibility of surviving, is to withdraw
into a bubble in which you can care to the people around
you and to some students and some Palestinians that
you meet here and there or something like this, kick
without hoping for anything larger or more
significant that this. It’s another bubble. So, yes, so we can move
from bubble to bubble, giving up this. Now I’m really serious. The question is, is this the
only possibility because we have to give up not only the
nation state and capitalism, we have to give
up the pretension to understand the world in such
a way that we can amend it. BRIAN MEEKS: I like what you’re
saying, in the sense that I’m worried about where Lisa and
the discussion that has followed from it is going,
because it seems to me that this question of
unknowing and unbelonging on the border is a way that
black people in the United States have felt
since they came here. And they’re still here. And the avenue that they
use to fight that is to you know, form the necessary
political arrangements to do battle with
that real force that is still all around
them and so dominant called the state at the local level. And it seems to me that
we’re making a leap into a post-statal phase when
the state is still very much here and still very much in
power and still very much exerting that power
in a virile sense, in a very masculine
and virile sense. So you know, I don’t think if
that’s the way in which you’re using bubble, but certainly
that’s the way I’m interpreting a bubble. What is this thing? I mean, where is that going? You know and I say this, it’s
not a pejorative question either. But where is the
discussion going? It seems to me the discussion
needs to be around, how do we find the necessary
relationships, integuments, political strategists, to unite,
not unite, I trip my own self, but to find the necessary
bonds to hold together a coalition of the majority. This is a peculiar
moment we’re in. It’s a coalition
of the majority, but it is a fractured coalition. And through that, do
battle with the state to address these questions. The state is still here. The state is still powerful. ANN STOLER: So wait, so we
have really, only a few– LISA LOWE: I’m going to
try to explain this again. I’m not trying to suggest
withdrawing into a bubble. And I’m not trying
to suggest giving up the state or citizenship. But I’m talking about
different temporalities here and which we
might seriously think about what it
means not to depend on the state as the sole
guarantor of freedom and think about
building coterminously with various kinds of
coalition struggles and acting as citizens,
other kinds of subjectivity and of being with and community
and forms of struggle. So I’m pointing to the
migrant, not that we should all be the migrant, but
the way in which thinking through migration,
through this freedom and freedom temporality will
only further abject them. So what does that tell us? ANN STOLER: Steven and Rebecca
and that’s it, unfortunately. AUDIENCE: David. ANN STOLER: I’m sorry. AUDIENCE: I’ll take Steven. That’s OK. You know, it strikes
me that there are some maybe old fashioned,
not so fashionable terms, that are helpful here. Because when I was listen
to Susan and Layla, that there’s an argument
about power and recognition that’s operating here, right? So you know, where
where’s our power going to come from, given
the desperation that you spoke about? You know, given this
moment of desperation, and that the politics
of the bubble might be necessary as
moments away from the fray to recuperate, but neither the
publicness nor the privateness thoroughly describe
the politics. Neither the publicness nor
the privateness thoroughly, adequately represent
the kinds of recognition that we’re seeking. And so you know, in
this moment where the disruptive recognition
is only a moment, it’s only a moment. That’s what I took
from you, Lisa. It’s only a moment,
you know, somehow to break space from that. Yeah, well it’s a bubble,
but you know, bubbles burst. Right? Bubbles burst. Hopefully they burst. And so think we take
some hope and solace from that but it’s not where
all the politics resides. LISA LOWE: It’s
neither the end nor the [? continuing ?] reality. ANN STOLER: It’s where
Hannah Arendt leaves us a little high and
dry, because she really, really, you know, keeps
the social as apart from the political. And what we’re in this moment,
it’s absolutely impossible, nor do we want to do that. AUDIENCE: I don’t know. I think this is fantastic. [INAUDIBLE] the discussion
and I think [INAUDIBLE].. Not all be the migrants. I don’t know, I mean I
think maybe we should be. And also, I think actually what
we should be is the toxins. You know, I think that
this kind of question of letting the toxins speak
in the maquiladoras example is an indication of a
new politics that doesn’t want to go back to a model. And here you know
obviously I’m calling on Mel Chen to the table. But you know the
question of migrancy being the unfinished
business of de-colonialism, it’s also the unfinished
business of capitalism. I mean the migrant is like the
toxin produced by capitalism. And so to go with the
migrant doesn’t necessarily exit capitalism, but it does
ask us to look at capitalism from another position
of that, which is the objective
refuse of capitalism. And so I almost
think that I have a problem with is the
language of the emergence of a new politic. And I would rather think about,
with such with people like Jodi Byrd, like Leanne Simpson, like
Glen Coultardt with the word resurgence, a resurgence of
like John was suggesting, and as Jack’s work on
failure manifests too, these still residing
alternative possibilities that could resurge. Because I think the
language of the new and of emergence is just
another way of keeping us within the same kind of– ANN STOLER: Thank you
for starting to clap. That’s a great place to end. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

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