EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010

(W103)

Sourcing/outsourcing state violence: concealment, legitimacy, sovereignty

Location Callan CS1
Date and Start Time 26 Aug, 2010 at 11:30

Convenors

Urania Astrinaki (Panteion University) email
Staffan Löfving (Stockholm University) email
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Long Abstract

With military commitments abroad and a fractured neoliberal social contract at home, governments are remobilizing force for societal and trans-national disciplinary order. Re-invigorating the state's monopoly of violence entails the multiplication of adversaries, the technologization of violence, a de-politicizing calculabilty of war (cost/benefit/outcomes discourse), and the fusion of humanitarian militarism with moralized civilizational missions.

This panel explores the complicity between democracies and violence within and beyond their borders; the pathologization of internal and external political/economic geographies in terms of religion ethnicity, race, noncitizenship, failed states and failed modernities; assertions of sovereign autonomy through the rhetoric of technomilitary efficacy; and the displacement of state accountability through the outsourcing of discipline, detention, torture, intelligence gathering and securitization.

Neoliberal force also requires manifestations of power that are not spectacular but instead are hidden through the doubled-violence of bureaucractic and (il)legal concealment of violence through proceduralism, structural deniability, media manipulation, and the informalization of terror.

Questions to be addressed include: Where is political violence in the vocabulary of democracy (transparency, good governance, security, rule of law)? What definitions/nondefinitions of violence are employed to determine the illegitimacy of different movements and struggles, within and beyond self-proclaimed democracies? What type of power does the concealment (technical, legal and/or spatial), the moralization and the technologization of violence engender? What theoretical reformulations are needed for an anthropology of neoliberal ideologies/technogies of the calculablity, concealment, deniability, and the depoliticization of statist violence?

Discussant: Rania Astrinaki (first session), Staffan Löfving (second session), Allen Feldman (third session)

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Violence, morality and state in a zone of counter-terrorism

Author: Ieva Raubisko (University of Latvia)  email
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Long Abstract

The proposed paper focuses on the entanglement of state, violence and morality in the transient counter-terrorist zone of Chechnya. It attempts to trace the ways violence impinges on moral worlds in a process of a violent contestation and affirmation of (state) power whereby the ideological and bureaucratic genealogies and praxis of the Russian state blend with the transforming local ideas and habits, including Islamic discourses and practices. The argument is that it is in people's capacity as state agents, engaging in 'normalised'/ legalised corruption, violence and terror, that moral ideals and related social norms are most often ignored or overturned. These processes amount to a complex dialectic of moral destruction and a simultaneous collective and subjective urge for a moral revival.

Guardians of the b/order of violence: peacemaking experts in Lebanon

Author: Nikolas Kosmatopoulos (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne)  email
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Long Abstract

The tackling of political violence in Lebanon and in the Middle East has recently witnessed an increasing participation of diverse kinds of peacemaking experts. Older accusations of normalization efforts or crude interventionism have been enhanced by more elaborate critiques pointing towards pathologization of political resistance or feminization of state structures. However, these critiques fail to go beyond Marxist-based or feminism-inspired analyses. The paper advances the thesis that contemporary peace expertise could be perceived as guarding one of the most fundamental b/orders in modernist political thought since Hobbes, namely the b/order of violence that cuts through modernist antithetical pairs such as state/society, but also nature/culture. Thus, processes of concealment and depoliticization of state violence often go hand in hand with practices of delegitimization of societal anti-violence through its culturalization or localization. Despite acclaimed diversity, contemporary peacemaking is almost unanimously premised on a neo-Hobbesian understanding of violence, state and order.

A pool-map, terrorist flowers, and the funeral houses: on violence and spectral sovereignty

Author: Umut Yildirim (Bogazici University)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper comprises two interlinked sections on the city where I conducted my fieldwork. I argue, in the first section, that the urban space in question defeats clear-cut ideological categorisations, for the militarised landscape is built upon a series of displacements as well as being imbued with a reactionary phantasmatic quality. Secondly, I focus on the ways in which armed violence has transformed the landscape in question by following the inscription of the markers of different sovereign claims onto the urban layout. Building up on the literature on territorial sovereignty, which critically informs us about the material ways in which control over land is crafted by the technologies of sovereign states, I turn to guerrilla funerals, funeral houses, 'terrorist' flower arrangements, and a pool-map of Kurdistan to mark a domain of politics, which constitutes an affectively imbued spectral claim to sovereignty with material effects.

The violence of the spectral assemblage: trajectories and imaginaries of Mozambican sovereign formations

Author: Bjørn Enge Bertelsen (University of Bergen)  email
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Long Abstract

Departing from the colonial and postcolonial violence of Mozambican state formation, the paper explores the particular contested nature of such sovereign dynamics. Empirically, the paper analyses shifts in elite violent accumulation as well as the rise of police death squads, popular lynchings and powerful criminal networks. These violent dimensions of urban and peri-urban life are analyzed in relation to historical processes - including the civil war and the emergence of a post-independence socialist politics - as well as recent neoliberal transformations of statehood and powerful social dynamics and imaginaries. Employing Benjamin's notion of the spectral in relation to police practice and law, the paper will argue that these violent shifts has produced a state crisis characterized by spectral assemblages of sovereign forms. Such violence, I argue, should be seen as a doubly destructive and constructive force embedded both in social realities and in the crises integral to sovereign formations.

Is the historic centre of Athens in a state of exception?

Author: Elia Vardaki (University of Crete)  email
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Long Abstract

Violence and the suspension of human rights masked in a discourse of security and law enforcement represent a medium by which democracy and sociopolitical stability is protected and/or reinforced. Illegal migration in this context is viewed as a threat to social and political security, while illegal migrants are stripped off their basic human rights. With Agamben's work as point of departure, this paper explores whether the historic centre of Athens constitutes a symbolic space in a state of exception in the context of the urban web, legitimizing police violence. Secondly, the paper analyzes both public and state discourse on illegal migration in Greece in light of notions of security and order, and it critiques political authority practices that depoliticize the current situation in the historic centre.

Criminalized minorities, minor criminals: everyday global terror in the underbelly of Sri Lankan democracy

Author: Mangalika de Silva (Columbia University)  email
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Long Abstract

Majoritarian imaginaries criminalize Sri Lanka's Muslim within fictive narratives of insecurity informed by the war on terror. Protesters against Islamic public building view Muslims as an economic enemy mobilizing transnational Islamic capital, and local criminal and global terror networks to financialize and suborn the cartographic nation. For local Muslims madrasa/mosque building materializes their commitment to, and citizenship within a plural democracy and its neoliberal economy. The disparate theological economies of madrasa/mosque building, "Muslim" criminal underworlds and globalized Islamic capital and terror are singular prospects from which to (1) analyze the linkage between minoritization, criminalization and (para)militarization, and to (2) examine how national discourses on insecurity articulate with the cultural imaginaries of the global war on terror.

The cloak of democracy: unintelligible violence and the shadow state in post-war El Salvador

Author: Ainhoa Montoya (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)  email
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Long Abstract

Eighteen years after the cessation of the war that devastated El Salvador throughout the 1980s, violence has become deeply ingrained in the everyday life of this country. The ongoing high levels of violence have not provoked an outcry from the Salvadoran governments and international community, but are instead deemed residual problems within a new stage of liberal democracy and neoliberal capitalism. Homicides, extortion, ordinary crime, and a landscape in which security is being outsourced while militarisation is simultaneously increasing have made the experience of violence in post-war El Salvador highly unintelligible. My fieldwork in a Salvadoran municipio in 2009 allows me to argue that youth gang violence, a conspicuous manifestation of the country's violence, has been deployed as a scapegoat by the ARENA governments, thereby obfuscating other aspects of violence that might call into question the successful completion of the country's transition from war to peace.

Democracy/violence: metamorphoses of Colombian state power

Author: Staffan Löfving (Stockholm University)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper discusses violence in democracy, not as expression of a failed, or yet unfulfilled political project but through an approach to democracy's actual operation and social effect. Among groups of forcibly displaced in Colombia, the power of the government is currently perceived to restrict itself to building foreign relations while continuously outsourcing domestic control to paramilitaries. State power, locally singularized in terms of the metamorphosis of authoritarian rule, also include the depoliticization of the armed conflict through the criminalization of the insurgency and the denial of the existence of paramilitaries; the manipulation or cooptation of media and foreign aid; the securitization of urban life; and the economic complicity in the displacement of the rural poor. By reconceptualizing displacement in terms of new emplacements, and the security of the state in terms of the insecuritization of citizenry, the paper reflects on the conditions for a political change beyond metamorphoses.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.