Re-launch and Rescue

The much-missed Radical Philosophy has just re-launched as an open access journal with downloadable pdfs here.  The site also includes access to the journal’s wonderful archive.

Among the riches on offer, I’ve been particularly engaged by Martina Tazzioli‘s Crimes of solidarity. which picks up on one of the central themes in the last of the ‘old’ RP series.  It addresses what she calls ‘migration and containment through rescue’, the creeping criminalisation of the rescue of migrants in the Mediterranean.  In a perceptive section on ‘Geographies of Ungrievability’ Martina writes:

The criminalisation of alliances and initiatives in support of migrants’ transit should not lead us to imagine a stark opposition between ‘good humanitarians’, on the one side, and bad military actors or national authorities, on the other. On the contrary, it is important to keep in mind the many entanglements between military and humanitarian measures, as well as the role played by military actors, such as the Navy, in performing tasks like rescuing migrants at sea that could fall under the category of what Cuttitta terms ‘military-humanitarianism’. Moreover, the Code of Conduct enforced by the Italian government actually strengthens the divide between ‘good’ NGOs and ‘treacherous’ humanitarian actors. Thus, far from building a cohesive front, the obligation to sign the Code of Conduct produced a split among those NGOs involved in search and rescue operations.

In the meantime, the figure of the refugee at sea has arguably faded away: sea rescue operations are in fact currently deployed with the twofold task of not letting migrants drown and of fighting smugglers, which de facto entails undermining the only effective channels of sea passage for migrants across the Mediterranean. From a military-humanitarian approach that, under Mare Nostrum, considered refugees at sea as shipwrecked lives, the unconditionality of rescue is now subjected to the aim of dismantling the migrants’ logistics of crossing. At the same time, the migrant drowning at sea is ultimately not seen any longer as a refugee, i.e. as a subject of rights who is seeking protection, but as a life to be rescued in the technical sense of being fished out of the sea. In other words, the migrant at sea is the subject who eventually needs to be rescued, but not thereby placed into safety by granting them protection and refuge in Europe. What happens ‘after landing’ is something not considered within the framework of a biopolitics of rescuing and of letting drown. Indeed, the latter is not only about saving (or not saving) migrants at sea, but also, in a more proactive way, about aiming at human targets. In manhunting, Gregoire Chamayou explains, ‘the combat zone tends to be reduced to the body of the enemy’. Yet who is the human target of migrant hunts in the Mediterranean? It is not only the migrant in distress at sea, who in fact is rescued and captured at the same time; rather, migrants and smugglers are both considered the ‘prey’ of contemporary military-humanitarianism.

As I’ve explained in a different context, I’m no longer persuaded by Grégoire’s argument about the reduction of the conflict zone (‘battlefield’) to the body, but the reduction of the migrant to a body adds a different dimension to that discussion.

In the case of the eastern Mediterranean, Martina describes an extraordinary (though also all too ordinary) ‘spatial rerouting of military-humanitarianism, in which migrants [fleeing Libya] are paradoxically rescued to Libya’:

Rather than vanishing from the Mediterranean scene, the politics of rescue, conceived in terms of not letting people die, has been reshaped as a technique of capture. At the same time, the geographic orientation of humanitarianism has been inverted: migrants are ‘saved’ and dropped in Libya. Despite the fact that various journalistic investigations and UN reports have shown that after being intercepted, rescued and taken back to Libya, migrants are kept in detention in abysmal conditions and are blackmailed by smugglers, the public discussion remains substantially polarised around the questions of deaths at sea. Should migrants be saved unconditionally? Or, should rescue be secondary to measures against smugglers and balanced against the risk of ‘migrant invasion’? A hierarchy of the spaces of death and confinement is in part determined by the criterion of geographical proximity, which contributes to the sidelining of mechanisms of exploitation and of a politics of letting die that takes place beyond the geopolitical borders of Europe. The biopolitical hold over migrants becomes apparent at sea: practices of solidarity are transformed into a relationship between rescuers and drowned.

There’s much more in this clear, compelling and incisive read.  A good companion is Forensic Architecture‘s stunning analysis of ‘Death by Rescue’ in The Left-to-Die Boat here and here (from which I’ve taken the image that heads this post).

Problematizing Cyber-Wars

Cyber OrientI’ve just received a Call For Papers on Problematizing Cyber-Wars for a special issue of CyberOrient: Online Journal of the Virtual Middle East.  The Guest Editor for the issue is the amazing Helga Tawil-Souri, whose work has done so much to illuminate these issues already and who starts in January as the new Director of NYU’s Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies [more on Helga’s work, with links to her writing and other projects, here].

According to military analysts, since the 1991 Gulf War and even more so since the Hezbollah-Israel 2006 war, we have entered a new phase of warfare, in which kinetic and traditional military power are losing importance to symbolic and media power. Perhaps unsurprisingly given a still-widely held Orientalist view in military circles, many such perspectives revolve around wars and conflicts in the ‘Middle East’ or against ‘Islam’ more broadly – taking place in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine, Syria, but also on cyber networks and mobile phones. 



While these claims are of course hyperbole, this special issue of CyberOrient invites articles on questions of how we might define wars in a (new) media-age in the region; whether, why, and how (new) media are increasingly sites of warfare; the relationships between ‘virtual’ and ‘real’ battlespaces. Topics could include the significance of targeting (and bombing) telecommunications and media infrastructures; the use of (new) media as outlets for propaganda during wartime; the mediatization of war and the militarization of media; the role of participatory or social media and mobile communications during and in wars; relationships or differences between official, military, alternative, citizen, and grass-roots (new) media uses during war and conflict; the expanding definition of warzones; commemoration and memorialization of war in a digital age; among others. We welcome submissions from across disciplines and methodological approaches that are empirically and critically grounded.

IDF tweet re Hamas Twitter account

[In relation to the IDF tweet (above), from earlier this year, Twitter hasn’t suspended the all too obviously fake ‘Hamas Global PR’ here…]

CyberOrient is a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Anthropological Association, in collaboration with the Faculty of Arts of Charles University in Prague. The aim of the journal is to provide research and theoretical considerations on the representation of Islam and the Middle East, the very areas that used to be styled as an “Orient”, in cyberspace, as well as the impact of the internet and new media in Muslim and Middle Eastern contexts.

Submission

Articles should be submitted directly to Helga Tawil-Souri (helga@nyu.edu) and Vit Sisler (vit.sisler@ff.cuni.cz) by 30 September 2014 (Full Papers). Articles should
be between 6,000 and 8,000 words (including references), and follow the AAA style in referencing and citations. Upon acceptance, articles will be published online with free access in spring 2015.

More information can be found here.

UPDATE:  With exquisite timing, Mondoweiss has just published Rebecca Stein‘s analysis of ‘How Israel militarized social media’:

‘What’s been lost in this coverage – in this story of surprise — is the history of the Israel’s army presence on social media. For in fact, the military’s move to social media as a public relations platform has been rife with improvisation and failure, a process that runs counter to IDF narratives about its innovative work in this regard (the IDF lauding itself as a military early adopter). The army’s interest in the wartime potential of social media can be traced to the first few days of the 2008-2009 Gaza incursion….

In the years that followed, the IDF investment in social media would grow exponentially both in budgetary and manpower allocations, building on this ostensible wartime triumph.

But the process was rife with challenges and missteps.’

You can also find more detail in my previous posts here and here.

Exorbitant witnessing

PLIThe first issue of the Cambridge journal of postcolonial literary inquiry, edited by Ato Quayson, on ‘New topographies of the postcolonial’, is available as an open access edition here.

The Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry is a new peer-review journal that aims to deepen our grasp of postcolonial literary history while enabling us to stay comprehensively informed of all critical developments in the field. The journal will provide a forum for publishing research covering the full spectrum of postcolonial critical readings and approaches, whether these center on established or lesser known postcolonial writers or draw upon fields such as Modernism, Medievalism, Shakespeare and Victorian Studies that have hitherto not been considered central to postcolonial literary studies, yet have generated some of the best insights on postcolonialism. The Journal aims to be critically robust, historically nuanced, and will put the broadly defined areas of literature and aesthetics at the center of postcolonial exploration and critique. Essays of up to 8000 words on any aspect of postcolonial literature, literary history and aesthetics should be sent to The Editor at pli@cambridge.org.

The special issue includes a fine essay by Debjani Ganguly,The world novel, mediated wars and exorbitant witnessing‘, which provides close and illuminating readings of Art Spiegelman‘s Maus and In the shadow of no towers and Michael Ondaatje‘s Anil’s Ghost and connects them to what she calls ‘our era of humanitarian wars’ (see p. 16 for her characterization).  Here is the abstract:

This essay traces the emergence of a new contemporary novel form at the conjunction of global violence in the wake of the Cold War, digital hyperconnectivity, and a mediated infrastructure of sympathy. Since the first Gulf War, and more so, in the rhetoric presaging the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have come to accept that there is very little difference between the technologies used to wage war and those used to view it. This essay argues that the novels of our time are not contiguous with contemporary cinematic or televisual or new media genres in representing the immediacy of violence, but are rather texts that graph the sedimented and recursive history of such mediation. Their alternative way of documenting “witness”—that is, of abstracting the architectonics of testimonial work—urges us to focus not so much on the question of visibility—and its stock thematics of overexposure and desensitization—as on the legibility of this new mode of witnessing. The distinction between visibility and legibility amounts to calibrating differently the work of witnes- sing in novels, their textual and tropological play with multiple modes of spectatorship and engagement, and their distinctively different braiding of the factual and the evidentiary in comparison with genres of the visual.

Humanity

HumanityStarting this month, I’ve joined the Editorial Board of the journal Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development.  It includes a host of people whose work I admire, including Costas Douzinas, Samera Esmeir, Didier Fassin, James Ferguson, Barbara Harlow, Paul Kahn, Thomas Keenan, Martti Koskenniemi, Andrew Lakoff, Liisa Malkki and Mariella Pandolfi, so I’m really excited about all this.

Here’s the Mission Statement (the journal started in October 2010):

In recent decades, the traditional politics of ideological contest has been displaced by a politics of humanity. In many realms, left and right have given way to life and death. In both domestic and international contexts, the languages of human rights and humanitarianism are often spectacularly marshaled as moral claims to bolster multifarious policies and practices. And development—a central Cold War discourse—has evolved beyond strictly economic or institutional concerns to encompass matters once targeted in human rights activism and has expanded to address the acute humanitarian crises once treated as more episodic and temporary conditions.

The distinctions among human rights, humanitarianism, and development—which were once largely discrete categories—have blurred under the pressures of contemporary international politics, resource wars, and global policy. The integration of human rights, humanitarianism, and development under the rubric of “humanity” has meant, for better and worse, the erosion of the traditional meanings and applications of each. This convergence of the three concepts within a larger politics of humanity is arguably one of the signature phenomena of our time.

The global politics of humanity legitimates itself not on the old foundation of international humanitarian law or the more recent elaboration of international human rights; rather, it derives its legitimacy from its promise to generate new legal and political orders, to shape new social realities and relations, to establish new economic imperatives and interests, and to forge new cultural connections and values. And while the global politics of humanity is emphatically a politics of redemption, at least in its urge to mend, ameliorate, or even transform circumstances of disorder and atrocity, the very aspirational quality of the politics of humanity that lends it appeal often immunizes it from critical inquiry. The humanity to which activists and governments appeal—or hope to bring about—is never the same in each context, or even for all actors in the same project. These unacknowledged tensions, indeed, help define this novel form of global politics.

The goal of Humanity is to provide a single forum for the dispassionate, analytically focused examination of these trends and the political transformations that have reshaped the terms of liberation and idealism as well as the practices of domination and control.

For a number of years now, scholars working in their respective fields, publishing mostly in disciplinary journals, have been analyzing this convergence—its formative history and future implications. Many powerful insights about these ongoing transformations have emerged from diverse fields such as anthropology, history, law, literature, philosophy, and sociology. Too often, however, this work has remained cloistered from scholars in other fields and the world of practice, even though much of it shares a common intellectual genealogy; and the centripetal force of the disciplines has tended to perpetuate these divisions, even though all of them have a common stake in the world. By encouraging novel approaches to the problems of “humanity” and inviting our readers and contributors to venture beyond their usual disciplines, we hope to clear some of the obstacles to conversation among scholars in various disciplines and between academics and practitioners. Humanity will provide an interdisciplinary forum to facilitate inquiry into the movement of human rights, humanitarianism, and development towards a politics of humanity—because “humanity” itself is a multidisciplinary question.

Most treatments of human rights, humanitarianism, and development—popular, scholarly, and activist—tend to remain tightly tethered to the agendas of the causes that gave them their original purpose and continuing energy. Our belief, as the editors of Humanity, is that the purposes of reflective activity and critique are not necessarily to refine and reform policies and to discover best practices. Advocacy and reform have their place, of course; but so too should analysis and critique, not just of methods, metrics, and goals but also of ideals and ideologies.

The mission of Humanity is to explore, from as many perspectives as possible, the multiple ways that invocations of “humanity” never tell the whole truth about the practices and people they defend or advance. For Humanity, “humanity” will always be a problem.

You can find out much more from Humanity Online here, which includes a preview of the latest issue on Visual Citizenship, featuring a downloadable introduction by  Jennifer Telesca, and a lively blog:

Humanity:2

Wall Street, War Street

HARDT Wall Street, War StreetThe latest issue of Tidal:Occupy Theory, Occupy Strategy (open access online) includes a brief (two-page) article by Michael Hardt that offers a sharp reminder:

‘To organize against the debt society in the US today we have to find a way also to challenge the war machine.  The war business is a permanent profit maker for Wall Street… War funds are raised primarily through debt.  So when you hear about troop withdrawals from Iraq or Afghanistan, don’t be fooled into thinking that war is yesterday’s issue or that the US war machine is declining or that you can expect a peace dividend next year. The United States is engaged in a “long war,” a seemingly permanent military project for which Osama Bin Laden or Al Qaeda or the Taliban or Saddam Hussein temporarily serve as the prime targets but are really stand-ins for a more vaguely defined enemy and much broader objectives.’ 

Hardt identifies three drivers (or ‘logics’) of the war machine – imperialist, neo-liberal and humanitarian – that will be familiar to most readers (at least in this capsule – pod? – form).  He concludes:

‘There are many reasons to oppose the US war machine, with its complex of military and security operations, installations, and institutions. It is a killing machine, a racist machine, a misery machine, and much more. It’s also a debt machine, and thus perhaps, when engaged together with other contemporary issues posed by debt, a movement can also begin to erode the foundations for our seemingly permanent state of war.’

What interests me is not simply the neoliberal ‘logic’ pursued by our masters of war – and Jamie Peck‘s work surely shows that we need to be assiduous in unpacking its multiple logics and (trans)formations – but also the way in which it reaches deep into the practices of military violence.  We need to expose not only the ‘business of war’ – the parasitic synergies between advanced militaries and the corporations of the international arms industry (‘Big Arma‘), and the deadly embrace between advanced militaries and the private contractors to whom more and more tasks are outsourced – but also the ways in which (at least since the days of McNamara’s ‘technowar’) advanced militaries have increasingly internalized the language, models and metrics of the Corporation. Fans of Joel Bakan will know why I use the capital – I’m talking about more than PowerPoint.

Security and development

Stability coverMany readers will already know of Taylor & Francis’s Conflict, security and development and perhaps of Oxford’s Journal of conflict and security law  (whose recent issue focuses on Cyberwar and International Law and includes time-limited open access articles from Mary Ellen O’Connell and Michael Schmitt, who have made prominent – and different! – contributions to the current debate over drones).

Now there’s a new entrant to this rapidly expanding field. Started late last year, Stability: international journal of security and development is available on open access here; the journal publishes contributions on a continuous basis, grouped into two issues at the end of May and the end of November.  The international editorial board includes Mary Kaldor.

Contributions to the second issue have now started to appear.  The editors write:

Stability: International Journal of Security & Development is a fundamentally new kind of journal. Open-access, it publishes research quickly and free of charge in order to have a maximal impact upon policy and practice communities. It fills a crucial niche. Despite the allocation of significant policy attention and financial resources to a perceived relationship between development assistance, security and stability, a solid evidence base is still lacking. Research in this area, while growing rapidly, is scattered across journals focused upon broader topics such as international development, international relations and security studies. Accordingly, Stability’s objective is to foster an accessible and rigorous evidence base, clearly communicated and widely disseminated, to guide future thinking, policymaking and practice concerning communities and states experiencing widespread violence and conflict.

The journal will accept submissions from a wide variety of disciplines, including development studies, international relations, politics, economics, anthropology, sociology, psychology and history, among others. In addition to focusing upon large-scale armed conflict and insurgencies, Stability will address the challenge posed by local and regional violence within ostensibly stable settings such as Mexico, Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia and elsewhere.

Stability is an open-access and peer-reviewed journal. It cultivates research and informed analysis and makes it available free of charge and without the delays commonly encountered in traditional journal publishing.  Stability’s content combines the best of academic research with insights from policy-makers and practitioners in order to have a tangible and timely impact.  The journal features research into those interventions, including stabilisation, peacekeeping, state building, crime prevention, development cooperation and humanitarian assistance, which address conflict, criminality, violence and other forms of instability.

I’m interested in the content, obviously, but also in the continuing search for new platforms that seek to reach wider audiences than conventional academic journals.

Political concepts

A new edition (in fact the second) of Political concepts, an online magazine, includes – among many other fine things – essays by Susan Buck-Morss on Civilization, Ariella Azoulay on Revolution, Hagar Kotef on Movement and Uday Mehta on Violence.

The first edition included Ann Laura Stoler on Colony (a must-read, dazzling combination of economy and brilliance) and Adi Ophir on Concept (a characteristically artful, original and lapidary contribution).

Buck-Morss Civilization

The editors explain the project like this:

Political Concepts: A Critical Lexicon is a multidisciplinary, web-based journal that seeks to be a forum for engaged scholarship. Each lexical entry will focus on a single concept with the express intention of resituating it in the field of political discourse by addressing what has remained unquestioned or unthought in that concept. Each entry will serve as a short defining essay for a concept. Through their argumentative strategies and employment of the concept in question, entries will aim to reconfigure a concept, rather than take for granted the generally accepted definitions of that concept or the conclusions that follow from them.

Political Concepts does not predetermine what does or does not count as a political concept. Our aim is to expand the scope of what demands political accounting, and for this reason we welcome essays that fashion new political concepts or demonstrate how concepts deserve to be taken as politically significant. It is our view that “politics” refers to the multiplicity of forces, structures, problems, and orientations that shape our collective life. Politics enters the frame wherever our lives together are staked and wherever collective action could make a difference to the outcome. As no discipline possesses an hegemony over this critical space, we welcome submissions from all fields of study.

We consider Political Concepts to be “a critical lexicon” because each contribution resituates a particular aspect of political meaning, thereby opening pathways for another future—one that is not already determined and ill-fated. The term “critical” in our title is also meant quite literally: Political Concepts is a forum for conversation and constructive debate rather than the construction of an encyclopedic ideal. Each entry will therefore be appended by a curated Replies section that will be updated frequently in order to maintain an ongoing exchange.

I suspect this is – or rather ought to be – the model for any future dictionaries of geography…

More to the point, though, there is now such a wealth of these online platforms that it seems clear that more and more of us want to engage with audiences beyond disciplinary boundaries and beyond the academy altogether – look, for example, at berfois, books & ideas, fast capitalisminterstitial, laterallimn, or warscapes – and that, as we become dissatisfied with conventional modes of publishing (and their often grotesque marketing models) and with ill-designed, textist forms of presentation, the death-knell of the old-style (not even retro) academic journal is sounding loud and clear.