UNMEDIATED / JOURNAL OF POLITICS AND COMMUNICATION
LOWELL GASOI ANGELS MIRALDA CLEMENS POOLE JOÃO INADA YARA FARRAN SAM LAWYER SARA SAGAII SOPHIE CHAUVET KARISA SENAVITIS BELEN FEBRES-CORDERO YASUHITO ABE OLIVER CASE ADAM FISH BRADLEY GARRETT EUGENIA STAMBOLIEV JOSHUA McNAMARA ANA RAMOS CHANTAL MENG VIRGINIA STAGNI BEN ANDERSON MICHAEL LIVESEY
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ISSUE 01 VOL 01
U N M E DIATE D Issue 01 Vol. 01
E DITORS-I N- CH I E F Tomas Borsa Christina Russell
BOAR D Tazkiah Baaquie Luca Bertuzzi Sophie Chauvet Yara Farran Aylin Elçi Fatma Khan Sam Lawyer
M E M B E RS-AT-LARG E Husseina Ahmed Jae Aron Noémie Battini Esteban Bertarelli Casey Costello Beatrice Di Caro Tim Huang Monica Ibrahim Aarshin Karande Jenna Quilalang Karim Shukr
VE RY S PECIAL THAN KS Nick Anstead Bryn Becker Cath Bennett Rodney Benson Joan Borsa Jim Brogden Bart Cammaerts Nick Couldry Andrew Feenberg Nicole Garnier Myria Georgiou Dymphna Harriss Julian Harriss Lily Harriss Ruhi Khan Siwin Lo Jessa Lingel Diska Pamungkas Jean- Christophe Plantin Paul Stob Ambika Tandon Emily Tat Shan Thiel Laura Underwood Alice Walker Wendy Willems Jun Yu
Cover Photo by Clemens Poole Design by Laura Underwood 1
FOREWORD I We are all plotted on a continuum stretched between the poles of the ‘perfect tourist’ and the ‘vagabond beyond remedy’ – and our respective places between the poles are plotted according to the degree of freedom we possess in choosing our life itineraries — Zygmunt Bauman, Tourists and Vagabonds The inaugural issue of UnMediated goes to print almost exactly one year and three months after the journal first began to take shape as a nebulous and as-yet-unnamed student-led initiative. The issue’s central organising thematic - communication on the margins - seemed at the time a malleable, inclusive, and perfectly concise means of generating new thinking and action on issues of personal and political import. Needless to say, political developments since then have provided no end of examples as to both the productive and destructive potentials of marginality. It has not always been a pleasant backdrop against which to write. As the destabilisation of established political institutions has given way to reactionary enclaves and the politics of until-recently peripheral movements creep nearer to normalisation, the very bounds of public life seem to writhe and contort with an unfamiliar and frenetic energy. That the mediation and mediatisation of politics have compelled this moment into being is something of an understatement. The format of UnMediated reflects this state of disorientation. Where other journals privilege exhaustiveness and speculative inference, we substitute brevity and dynamism. In curating this issue, we have thus aimed for a non-canonical and agitative tone, enjoining textual and visual modalities wherever possible. After all, the intersections of politics and communication are as much rational as they are corporeal, performative, emotive, and oblique. Whether based on conversation, self-reflection, empirical analysis or lived experience, the contributions in the pages that follow are linked by the understanding that both words and images can be put to the service of critical inquiry, and that changes in the social and material environment at once influence and are influenced by divergent communications practices. We’d like to think there’s something for everyone. Tomas Borsa
FOREWORD II Where we speak (the point in space where our speaking body is situated) is not the same as where we speak from (the point in discursive, relational space from where our words have to find connections to the realities of others, in order to be heard). What happens then, when someone has no choice but to speak in a nonspace (as anthropologist Marc Auge put it), a zone designed not to register voice at all, except as the accumulation of noise? The refugee’s voice emerges, if at all, in a nonspace far from the state’s interests in listening. So the margins of the major discursive spaces where voices are produced (nations, communities, regions) become important as spaces from which to think differently about voice, to enact different possibilities for voice. Meanwhile, there has been a resurgence of populism, a mode of politics that aims to reduce civic space to an echo-chamber for the loudest voices, and for the illusion that shouting loudest means speaking ‘for the people’. But where populism speaks, individual voices, different voices, are compelled to silence. If democracy today risks become a nonspace where individual voices fall away into silence, then, again, invoking democracy’s margins becomes important, necessary. Speaking of, and from, ‘the margins’ means saying what is never said, no longer said, not yet said. Margins refuse the refusals of mainstream discourse, of the institutions that appropriate the power to ‘mainstream’ discourse. This issue of UnMediated makes me particularly proud of two things: first, that it has been the students of LSE’s Department of Media and Communications who conceived and launched the project and second, more important, that they chose to conceive it in such an open and welcoming way. The ‘margins’ that, through particular forces, open up from any particular institution need not be limited, in their valence, to that institution. A wider space of encounter, imagination and recognition is opened here. Please read on and think of what you might next time contribute in the space that opens. Nick Couldry UnMediated is a student-led journal of politics and communication founded and published in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics. For more information, see www.unmediatedjournal.com.
CONTENTS Who tells your story: Hamilton in an age of political excess LOWE LL GASOI
Documenta 14: Athens – Empty promises and contradictions ÀNG E LS M I RALDA
Kosovo: A photo essay CLE M E NS POOLE
Reframe Iran: Nicky Nodjoumi reﬂects on the Iranian art diaspora JOÃO I NADA
Digital imposters and mediated Violence: A Gay Girl in Damascus (and a straight man in Edinburgh) YARA FAR RAN
Girls in Grime: Britain’s cultural movement, as told by women SAM LAWYE R
Against the labour of love: Porn 2.0 and the crisis of social reproduction SARA SAGAI I
In conversation with: The English Collective of Prostitutes SOPH I E CHAUVET
#Embawdied: A design study for transfeminist and queer digital research ethics KAR ISA SE NAVITIS
Social change through community radio: Voice and performance from the margins of Ecuador B E LE N FE B R ES - COR DE RO
The fresh perfume of freedom: in conversation with Paolo Borrometi VI RG I N IA STAG N I
Minna no Data Site (MDS) and the culture of measurement after Fukushima YASH U H ITO AB E
Drone sense OLIVE R CASE, ADAM FISH, & B RADLEY GAR R ETT
Visualising the ordinary: On Pierre Schoeller’s ‘The Lost Time’ E UG E N IA STAM BOLI EV
Is the documentary dead? Some thoughts on documentary experience in a post-truth world JOSH UA MCNAMARA
A sense of place ANA RAMOS & CHANTAL M E NG
Project or program: Preﬁgurative politics, folk politics, and the struggle for change B E N AN DE RSON
Bombs, blankets, and ballot boxes: the territory of politics in the 1981 Maze hunger strike M ICHAE L LIVESEY
WHO TELLS YOUR STORY: HAMILTON IN AN AGE OF POLITICAL EXCESS
LOWE LL GASOI Lowell Gasoi is a 2017 Vanier Scholar and PhD candidate in Communication at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. A 25-year veteran of theatre and arts administration, he holds a BA in Communications Studies and an MA in Media Studies from Concordia University. He thinks and writes about performativity, rhetoric, mediation theory, and the fascinating relationship between artists and the Canadian state.
ike all good 21st century scholarship, my exploration of the discourse around the mega-musical Hamilton started with a Facebook post. The question of how Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway hit has impacted the civic conversation in the United States is more fundamental than one theatrical event. Hamilton has dropped into the midst of a polarised and increasingly mediatised political sphere where upheaval is often framed in highly theatrical terms through media reports and heightened rhetoric. Language fragments such as “alternative facts” and “Brexit” become weapons deployed by factions across the political spectrum to metonymise complex interactions for a public seemingly addicted to sound-bites and reality television tropes. Hamilton’s impact, as well as the question of its theatrical distance from the public, was first sparked in my mind when a Facebook friend posted a cheeky question. What was this musical, Hamilton, that everyone was talking about? Everyone seemed to have seen it, and yet its popularity and exorbitant ticket prices meant that very few of our mutual friends could have attended a Broadway performance of the show.
I have not seen Hamilton. For me, the questions start there. Despite the much ballyhooed #Ham4Ham performances (street theatre performances by members of the Hamilton company and associated artists) outside the Richard Rodgers Theater, meant to connect the show to the ‘man on the street’ and mediated on YouTube, the Broadway performance remains a privileged happening. Hamilton will almost certainly begin touring across the US and internationally in the near future, but for now, a trip to New York or London (as of November, 2017) marks a further barrier to accessing the live moment. Despite its apparent impact, the lack of broader outreach to peripheral communities outside of these major cultural centres demonstrates a challenge to immediate participation by many citizens whose movement may be restricted in numerous ways - not only economic, but political as well. Because the show is masked behind the velvet ropes of US$250 tickets, along with the attending cultural and social power dynamics at play around such a performance, I offer a look at the mediated discourse around the
Figure 1. 1943-4 Theatre Guild production still of Oklahoma! Photo courtesy National Public Radio.
show. What follows is an admittedly cursory overview of some of the mediations of the musical: books, video clips, and interviews. In these fascinating political times, they play their roles in evolving this phenomenon that is stretching and deforming the fabric of the American civic conversation, and the expanded universe of alternative narratives and histories employed by politicians of varied ideological stripes as they ascend in power across the western world. My primary source is the book, Hamilton: The Revolution, written by Miranda himself, along with theatre producer and director Jeremy McCarter, published in 2016. The book, lovingly referred to in the fandom as the ‘Hamiltome’, not only contains an annotated libretto of the entire play, but an exhaustive behind-the-scenes history of the process of its creation leading up to the opening night on Broadway (2016). Along with the Hamiltome, I want to look at the relationship between the development of the musical and the presidency of Barack Obama through some informative Youtube clips. I will also touch on the recently aired PBS documentary on the making of the musical1. These sources,
purposefully excluding the performance of the show itself, will offer an argument for the power that discourse has in creating the moments and rituals that give Hamilton such force as a piece of civic media. Hamilton, as a cultural marvel, is still young, and so it has little place in current research. Just as it was with Miranda’s creation, history must be my guide into this most present of examples. John Bush Jones’ work on the American musical makes a case for the importance of the form as a political and historical touchstone. Jones’ concern is with what he terms, ‘theatrical vehicles that intended to transform, not just report, the tenor of our times2.’ In his Our Musicals, Ourselves, Jones traces that transformative ability of the musical even as Broadway moved from a populist, common entertainment in the 1920s and 30s, to the post-war period that saw massive increases in ticket prices and social stigma that tended to exclude all but wealthy, older, white patrons. Despite this loss of connection to the marginalized in America, Jones argues that Broadway musicals
Horwitz, A. (2016). Hamilton’s America. PBS Fall Arts Festival. New York, NY: Public Broadcasting Service. Jones, J. B. (2004). Our Musicals, Ourselves: A Social History of the American Musical Theatre. UPNE. 1.
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maintained a certain ability to effect, and reflect, social change. Broadway musicals are not always interested in progressive reflections and social advancement. Citing jazz as an analogue, Maslon and Kantor follow Jones in their assertion that the musical is somehow uniquely American3. Bruce Kirle echoes this sentiment and takes it further in his discussion of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! As Hitler was rising in Germany, Oklahoma! offered a narrative for Americans to ‘bond together to fight the enemy’4. Kirle sees the musical as a ‘mythologization of the American community’, doing similar work to Hamilton, and encountering some of the same questions regarding dominant narratives of the settling of the country. I suggest that these numerous histories of the musical live within a theoretical web that encompasses the discourse of Hamilton. Looking at these histories in terms of communication and media studies, the web comprises notions of imagined community and media events and rituals as defined by Benedict Anderson5 and Nick Couldry6, respectively.
When I received my copy of the Hamiltome, it became immediately apparent why it is referred to as a tome. The look and the feel of the book is at once impressive and just a little cheesy: large and authoritative, parchment coloured with striking black and blue titles, the pages use what is referred to in the book design world as deckled edges, rough cut and meant to imply age (perhaps gravitas). The fonts and language of the titles are designed to induce the standard imaginary of the US Constitution, or some similar founding document. This is a book that is meant to be revered, savoured and pored over, not just read. As such, it suggests a communicative force that is ritualistic. The Hamiltome demands a solemnity that speaks to the fandom, but also ties Hamilton to an imagined past of flowery prose, copperplate lettering and rough paper. But what of the actual stories and the language used in the book? What work is being done by the Hamiltome to further, and even extend, the work of the musical? America is a revolutionary nation, formed in protest that led to war that led to emancipation from British rule. The Hamiltome presents the development of the musical in a similar, if not quite so
Figure 2. Cover and first page of Hamilton: The Revolution.
Maslon, L., and Kantor, M. (2010). Broadway: the American musical. Milwaukee, WI: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. Kirle, B. (2005). Unfinished show business: Broadway musicals as works-in-process. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. 129. 5 Anderson, B. (1991). Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Verso. 6 Couldry, N. (2008). Form and power in an age of continuous spectacle. In D. Hesmondhalgh & J. Toynbee (Eds.), The media and social theory. New York: Routledge. 3 4
Like much of the Broadway musical canon after those heady days of Oklahoma!, Hamilton represents a tradition of the appropriation of dissent and subculture by mainstream media power. brutal, fashion. The fusing of rap and hip-hop with musical theatre, ‘changes the way Broadway sounds,’ says Jeremy McCarter, who co-authored the Hamiltome with Miranda. McCarter suggests that he will, ‘trace two revolutions in tandem’7, and indeed, much of the introduction follows this line of persuasion. Citing the diversity of the cast, Miranda’s creative genius in conceiving the work, and the forming of a community of committed artists to realise an expression of national pride and unity, McCarter ties these actions to those of the founding fathers, including George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. A few further examples illustrate this link between the development of Hamilton and that of the civic American ideal. Historical characters are recast, but maintain connections to an idealised past. As Anderson (1991) suggests, nations are too vast for us to know our fellow citizens, and so we must imagine them through media, not only collapsing space, but also time. Portraits and descriptions of George Washington can provide a template, but it is the artist’s body and their mediated, performative choices that give the present nation an updated embodiment. In a discussion of Chris Jackson’s portrayal of George Washington, McCarter observes how the tall, athletic, black man became a leader of the cast and crew, bringing them together with almost religious fervour. In the PBS documentary, Hamilton’s America, we are once again presented with a vision of Alexander Hamilton’s story, and in a few short minutes, it is tied to the story Lin-Manuel
Miranda and his Puerto Rican immigrant father, Luis; to rap superstars Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur; to progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren, and decidedly less progressive former U.S. President George W. Bush. A last connection is made, one that will come to encompass much of the media narrative around Hamilton’s success, to then President Barack Obama. Obama is featured extensively in the documentary, in warm scenes of conversation with Miranda, and as master of ceremonies during performances at the White House. The link back to Obama – then the symbolic leader of the US government – reveals itself in a series of YouTube clips. As YouTube and the social media landscape in general have become increasingly central to the construction of our social reality, shifting my focus to YouTube gives me an opportunity to explore Couldry’s productive frame for analysing the link between mediations of Hamilton and the American civic conversation. Couldry defines his media rituals as, ‘any actions organised around key media-related categories and boundaries, whose performance reinforces, indeed helps legitimate, the underlying “value” expressed in the idea that the media is our access point to our social centre8’. It is not necessarily attendance at rarefied events but rather the actions around them (viewing a video, commenting on social media, reading a book, and engaging in water-cooler conversations) that bind us together. Put differently, Couldry, through deployment of Dayan and Katz’s9 notion of the media event and Durkheim’s10 theories around ritual and social cohesion, asks in what ways media rituals hold our society together. The office of the US presidency is one such ritualised gathering point. The president, like a Broadway show, is almost always mediated, curtained off from direct public access. A foundational story of the development of Hamilton as tied to the presidency of Barack Obama is a striking example of this discourse inserting itself into the popular imaginary while remaining absent from public reality. In May of 2009, the Obama White House held a spoken word event in the East Room, an evening meant to celebrate the diversity and vibrancy of the American arts community. As the story is told in the Hamiltome, Obama invited Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was enjoying enormous success with his first Broadway show, In the Heights, to deliver what he supposed would be a song from that musical. Instead, Miranda decided to share the first song he had written for what would eventually become Hamilton. The images of Miranda rapping before a grinning and snapping First Family, the raucous crowd reaction, and Miranda’s electric performance all appeared on
Miranda, L.-M., and McCarter, J. (2016). Hamilton: The Revolution (First Edition). New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing. 10, 11. Couldry, N. (2005). Media rituals: a critical approach. London; New York: Routledge. 2, 5. 9 Dayan, D, and Katz, E. (1994). Media Events. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 10 Durkheim, É. (2008). The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. (C. Cosman, Trans.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. 7 8
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Figure 5. Lin-Manuel Miranda with Barack Obama at the White House. Screengrab from YouTube.
the White House YouTube channel. It went viral, and as of July, 2017, the clip had been viewed over 4.3 million times. As Miranda says in the PBS documentary, it was partly this amazing reaction on YouTube that told him and his team, ‘we were off to the races’. YouTube was thus an integral part of the discourse around Hamilton, and in reifying the link between the success of the musical and Barack Obama’s presidency. In a widely circulated clip of the aforementioned performance, Obama is seen welcoming the cast and crew of the show as they prepare to perform a special showing at the White House, organised by Michelle Obama for what appears to be an audience of Washington D. C. area school children. The clip demonstrates a number of tensions I have identified in this paper so far. First, Obama’s remarks make it clear that this special performance had been arranged in order to give these children access to the educational, historical, and civic engagement message of the show, a message that is entirely inaccessible to them under normal circumstances due to the exclusive nature of the Broadway experience. Second, Obama actually takes credit for starting the ‘revolution’ of Hamilton by symbolically tying himself to that first performance back in 2009. By suggesting that he gave Miranda and his collaborators their big break, Obama implicates the political present into this imagination of a glorious past, while simultaneously casting himself in the Hamilton role. Like much of the Broadway musical canon after those heady days of Oklahoma!, Hamilton represents a tradition of the appropriation of dissent and subculture by mainstream media power, and yet this is much more complex than Disneyfying Indigenous stories or commodifying hip-hop while 10
erasing anything that might offend the typical Broadway audience. In the post-Obama American conversation, where #BlackLivesMatter and the birther movement go to war daily on social media, the specific choices made by Miranda, director Tommy Kail and the team of producers cannot be so easily boxed into pro- or anti-establishment narratives. Fundamentally, these examples demonstrate the ability of a media event like Hamilton to ritualize and thereby produce belief. In his ‘Form and power in the age of continuous spectacle’, Couldry offers a critique of actornetwork-theory for the understanding of media ritual in part because the process of legitimising these symbolic gathering points does not occur through brief moments of mediation, but through long-term integration into the
YouTube was thus an integral part of the discourse around Hamilton, and in reifying the link between the success of the musical and Barack Obama’s presidency.
Reimagined histories are important tools for framing political upheaval, and Broadway provides some of the grandest examples of reimagined histories in the world of artistic and cultural production.
claim, in the Hamiltome, that the show represents, ‘America then, told by America now’13. As much as the ‘then’ is an imagined history of glorious and bloody battles, majestic generals, and the immigrant prodigy Alexander Hamilton (who ‘rewrote the game’), the ‘now’ is an equally imagined and mediated discourse of improbable success, artistic genius, long-sought diversity, and collective storytelling linking a musical to a revolution. Reimagined histories are important tools for framing political upheaval, and Broadway provides some of the grandest examples of reimagined histories in the world of artistic and cultural production. Hamilton must be viewed in light of the political situation from which it was born, and also the work it attempts to do in the public sphere. Questions of its exclusivity, its commodification by culture industry forces, and the discourses produced by those who would use it for political ends are vital as corollaries to its profound artistic achievement and the connections and mediations that allow it to seep across social and demographic boundaries. █
‘full expanse of daily life’11. Couldry calls upon Bourdieu’s ‘production of belief’ that he likens to the work that events like a Broadway musical (or major charity concert) can do to effectively make the audience feel part of a message with which they have no direct connection and certainly no deep understanding. This does not happen ‘live’, as it were, in the sense that those in the theatre have a transformative experience in one place and time, but rather through an elaborated process of repeated mediation that is weaved through daily experience. In an article written for the Cornell University Chronicle, Ron Chernow quotes AfricanAmerican performer Leslie Odom Jr., who plays Burr in the musical: ‘now my people will get a piece of this history’12. I’d like to think Odom Jr. was referring not only to AfricanAmericans who might find themselves sitting in a Broadway theatre, but to a much larger community of people who will have an opportunity, through mediation, to ‘tell their story.’ Thinking about the discourse around Hamilton in this way is how director Tommy Kail can make the extraordinary
Couldry, N. (2008). 3, 8-9. Odom Jr. quoted in Black, J. (2016). Author Ron Chernow discusses hip-hop musical “Hamilton”. Cornell Chronicle. See: http://www.news.cornell.edu/ stories/2016/03/author-ron-chernow-discusses-hip-hop-musical-hamilton. 13 Miranda, L.-M., and McCarter, J. (2016). 33. 11 12
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DOCUMENTA 14: ATHENS – EMPTY PROMISES AND CONTRADICTIONS
ÀNG E LS M I RALDA Àngels Miralda is an independent curator, writer, and Associate Director at House of Egorn, Berlin. She has organised exhibitions and events at Podium, Oslo; Arebyte, London; and Atelier 35, Bucharest among others. She contributes writing to Sleek, AQNB, Revista Arta, and Contemporary Art Stavanger. Àngels studied in the PhD course in Critical and Historical Studies at the Royal College of Art, and holds a BA in Art History & Philosophy from John Cabot University.
dam Szymczyk opened the controversial Documenta 14 in Athens, rather than its traditional seat in Kassel. Entitled “Learning from Athens,” the exhibition is full of internal contradictions. On one hand, visitors were asked to be active participants but were given little information before the opening and provided with information difficult to navigate. Documenta
claimed to be about inhabiting the city and inverting the institutional structure, but the main venues – EMST, Athens Conservatoire, and The Athens School of Fine Arts – are curated in a hyper-conventional biennial style of historical exhibition plus commissions. Little information is provided about individual works, many just list the artist’s name un-ironically on a “marble” brick.
The small print on the last page: “printed in Germany” finishes destroying the illusion that the move to Athens might have been an attempt to move cultural money to Greek producers. 12
Bouchra Khalili, The Tempest Society, 2017, digital video, installation view, Athens School of Fine Arts (ASFA)—Pireos Street. Photo: Angelos Giotopoulos.
AN EVE NT OF CONTRADICTION S The biennial demands that art interact with activism. But the works presented at Documenta fail to make a convincing argument for art activism’s efficiency. When Szymczyk first presented his proposal in 2013, the word “crisis” was on trend. The Greek capital was in the German press on nearly a daily basis. Four years later, Athens becomes an irrelevant backdrop to new global crises and acts a reminder of the naive vision of how the crises of 2013 would eventually shape the populist and xenophobic reality of today. The location of Kassel could be just as relevant to contemporary crisis with the rise of AfD and anti-immigrant actions throughout Germany. The move to Athens is a strong geographical statement placing the politics of Documenta against the Troika enforcement of un-democratic austerity measures on the southern states of Europe. Yet, barely any works in the biennial directly relate to what is happening in the
city, and the biennial certainly had no positive impact on these political conditions. Like the media attention that faded after 2015, Documenta looks elsewhere for the new applicable crises of our time. “The Tempest Society” by Bouchra Khalili is one of the works that directly mentioned the “Greek crisis.” The single-channel video combines historical research from activist groups in the 1970s in Paris, Greek ideas of constellations and cosmos, and the singularity of the political body in Greece after the rejection of anti-austerity vote. The curators did not commission a Greek artist to speak about the process but rather had Khalili’s own experience with immigration to France as the narrative to create a European immigrant identity. “Al Assifa” is the Arabic term for “The Tempest” and assigns this singularity of demands and identity across countries and generations. The film works in this context because the subject is exactly what people want to see; but the message and scope starts with the Greek situation and applies globally. M I R ALDA
Artur Żmijewski, Glimpse, 2016–17, digital video transferred from 16 mm film, installation view, Athens School of Fine Art (ASFA)— Pireos Street. Photo: Yiannis Hadjiaslanis.
WH E N GOOD I NTE NTION S BACKFI R E At the initial press conference, the curatorial team emphasized that there is no official statement of Documenta 14 because of the multiplicity of authorship. Each curator and artist entitled to their own opinions. Unlike Khalili’s concept of “Al Assifa” which brings the multiple into a singular claim, the curators of Documenta seem to want to achieve the opposite. When author, artist, and curator write their own mission, the exhibition as a whole becomes a confusing mass of claims without any official statement. A collection of vitrines about historical soundart float without any connection to the Socialist paintings from the Museum collection in Tirana. The reader that accompanies Documenta 14 is a 708 page publication with contributions by the active members of the curatorial team as well as inserted fragments or chapters by theorists, poets, and artists. The selection of texts is valuable but does not explain the mission of Documenta or offer a solution, but simply creates a document of disparate crises. The small print on the last page: “printed in Germany” finishes destroying the illusion that the move to Athens might have been an attempt to move cultural money to Greek producers. 14
Located close to Khalili’s video in the Athens School of Fine Arts is the 20-minute black and white film “Glimpse” by Artur Zmijewski. The film is made after the style of SS Nazi documentation of people living in camps. Zmijewski uses the same aesthetic techniques to film families living in the Calais jungle, under the Ubahn tracks in Berlin, and at the Tempelhof encampment in Neukölln. The people being filmed look uncomfortable, confused, and they are treated like an object for study, slowly turned and inspected by the white hands of the artist. However, the intention of the film is absent in the exhibition’s mediation. Once the intention of replicating the Nazi films was explained by an invigilator, the audience is left to think whether it is worse to naively make this type of exploitative work, or to knowingly reproduce it for an unmediated context. CAN TH E LOCAL R E PR E S E NT TH E G LOBAL? Documenta does well in commissioning and exhibiting artists who are directly related or involved with the conflicts they approach. And yet, it is a specific kind of artist who is able to speak in a multiplicity of aesthetic languages who is admitted into the exhibition. Not only must the artist have insight into particular struggles or conditions, but
Hans Haacke, Wir (alle) sind das Volk—We (all) are the people, 2003/2017, banner, EMST—National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens. Photo: Mathias Völzke.
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Rasheed Araeen, Shamiyaana—Food for Thought: Thought for Change, 2016–17, canopies with geometric patchwork, cooking, and eating, Kotzia Square, Athens. Photo: Yiannis Hadjiaslanis.
What a full interaction would have been is still up for interpretation – but Athenians needing to pay full price for a ticket while accredited visitors got in for free is not the most inviting gesture. they must also be fluent in the artistic language of the Western Biennial format. Hiwa K’s concrete installation in the courtyard of the Benaki museum is a single stair leading up to an exposed bed frame providing a stage, rather than privacy. Entitled “One Room Apartment” the piece refers to the new architectural necessities that emerged in Iraqi Kurdistan after the Gulf Wars. Born in Iraq, but based in Berlin, K was initially a realist painter but no longer paints. With his new practice in film and installation K is well adapted to the traditional biennial 16
format while offering a perspective and insight into the specific Iraqi situation. On the other hand, repeat-Documenta participant Hans Haacke produced “We (All) Are The People” which did not go over well with residents of Athens. The poster translates the title phrase into a number of languages. It was printed 10,000 times to be plastered all over Athens in poster-sized editions. The gesture seems to play exactly into the obvious interventions that Documenta seems to encourage, with a rainbow gradient, a single phrase of unity translated in a democratic way and without making a single political demand. This begs the question: who has the right to proclaim themselves “the people?” Haacke, known for his critique of the corporate-institutional partnership while remaining a staple artist of the biennial, uses the advertising structure to make claims in a similar way that Documenta appears as a brand imposed on the city of Athens to legitimate its artistic relevance. On the second day of the Documenta opening, a series of posters began to appear surrounding the two campuses of the Athens School of Fine Arts. Covering up the Hans Haacke intervention, new papers were instead printed with slogans such as “currently based in Athens” in Helvetica font,
This begs the question: who has the right to proclaim themselves “the people?” or “Emerging Economies” in front of an image of refugees in a raft. This anonymous intervention responds to the disconnect between the art world and people’s lived realities as well as referencing the initial suspicion with which the art students interacted with the curatorial team. One poster reads “South is the new North” with a Northern European landscape behind the letters. The landscape is a printed wallpaper with an air conditioner attached on top and an office desk in front of it. In small letters the poster says “make yourselves at home” in an ironic gesture that references the isolation of the curatorial team from Athens and the difficulty of learning from a city without interacting with it fully. What a full interaction would have been is still up for interpretation – but Athenians needing to pay full price for a ticket while accredited visitors got in for free is not the most inviting gesture. The campaign against the Haacke posters effectively made them disappear after only 2 days up in the city, which is probably the political fate of the event as a whole. TH E OPPORTU N ITI E S OPE N E D U P BY FR E E E NTRANCE One work that had the most potential to successfully integrate into the Athenian context was Rasheed Araeen’s public daily lunches. The founder of the journal Third Text, has been a constant anti-racist and immigrant rights activist. His intervention for Documenta is an outdoor pavilion directly across from the Athens town serving simple food to the public. During the VIP days of Documenta this was one of the only locations where art world insiders could have sat down and mingle with the Athenian public if the venue wasn’t so segregated. During the rest of the event, the work might simply become an empty charity gesture; but at least during the opening it was the only place accessible without accreditation. Among the many artists shown in Athens, a minority were Greek. Although the curators have promised to feature Greek artists in Kassel, few of the new commissions went to local artists. Angelo Plessas’ contribution was easily one of the most context-appropriate pieces. The installation
refers to the Greek situation using local history and folklore. Known for his early works in net-art during the 2000s, Plessas makes connections between internet culture and the Oracle of Delphi. Inspired by the life of his neighbour Maria Zamanou-Mickelson who had acted as a spy for the Greek Secret Service during the German occupation, Plessas develops a documentary film and series of workshops based on traditional forms of knowledge and education. Zamanou-Mickelson’s methods of relating information lead Plessas to question the validity of institutionally taught learning which he claims, has led to the disasters of the last century. In a series of workshops conducted in Delphi, ancient knowledge is reclaimed and studied without the necessity of scientific precision but as an experiment to open and de-institutionalise knowledge. The piece manages to stay away from the tropes expected from Greek artists in Documenta while the character of Maria might be more significant than at first glance. With Documenta’s focus on “Aneducation” the knowledge of the sibyl is not one that can be imparted but one with which you are discovered and respected, however much we can really learn from Athens there is always the position of the spectator which is not transgressed in the institutional-style exhibition. E M PTY PROM I S E S AN D CONTRADICTION S Documenta 14 is composed of a number of empty promises and contradictions. The institution was not dissolved and there was not audience participation in any unusual way. The institution of Documenta does not appear to recognize its own self-referential quality and remains content as a check mark for the art world to pat itself on the back and say, “we did a good thing.” During the press conference, Szymczyk invited Syrian filmmaker Charif Kiwan to represent the Syrian television collective Abounaddara. The opening words of his talk began with the following statement: “Our collective is not supposed to participate in contemporary art exhibitions, because we are not artists, we are artisans working in a society fighting for dignity.” The refusal to show in biennials or even identify as an artist is a strong statement claiming that while our current political climate makes Documenta demand a political imperative from art – it is unable to go far enough. The institutional format of making exhibitions has proved to have little political impact and if Szymczyk had wanted to make a difference in Athens a completely new form of working should have been reached, outside the ESMT, The Benaki Museum, the Art School, and outside the Music Conservatoir. Documenta 14 takes place in Athens, Greece, from 8 April to 16 July 2017 and in Kassel, Germany, from 10 June to 17 September 2017. This article originally ran in SLEEK Mag. You should read their stuff. █ M I R ALDA
KOSOVO: A PHOTO ESSAY
CLE M E NS POOLE Clemens Poole is an American artist and curator. His recent work has focused on the tensions between the historical, legal, and political elements of state formation and disintegration in post-communist eastern Europe. Notable projects include #onvacation and Architecture Ukraine: Beyond the Front which exhibited at the Venice Biennale for Art (2015) and Architecture (2016). Clemens received his BFA from the Cooper Union School of Art in New York, and is currently studying international history at Columbia University and the London School of Economics.
n Kosovo: A Photo Essay, two discrete worlds intersect. Images of Pristina, the capital of the partially recognized state of Kosovo, are overlaid with essay footnotes providing academic and legal materials related to Kosovoâ€™s complicated legal status. Rather than being directly illustrative of these issues, these images depict an aesthetic landscape defined by invisible presences. They speak to another vision of Pristina, one that resists the hyperpoliticized status of discussions that continue to haunt the region.
Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Trans. Daniel Heller-Roazan. Stamford: Stamford University Press, 1998, pp 18–19 2 Kosovo AO, Summary 2010/2 p. 1 3 ICJ Order, General List No. 141 (2008) 4 ICJ, Press Release No. 2010/21 5 CIA World Fact Book, based on 2011 census. Note: census “excluded Northern Kosovo and was partially boycotted by Serb and Roma Communities”Ц 6 Dossier No. 8 7 Kosovo AO, IV para. 108 p 447 / 48 8 UN General Assembly Verbatim Record, A/63/PV.22, p. 2 9 Kosovo AO, General List No. 141 para 122, (2010) p. 53
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Presentation of Romania, para. 8, CR 2009/32, p. 19 For more on the legal literature, see chapter 6.3 Crticism in this paper. For one of the most comprehensive legal and historical volumes, see Marko Milanovic and Sir Michael Wood’s The Law and Politics of the Kosovo Advisory Opinion, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) 12 Mark Mazower, Governing the World: the History of an Idea, New York; London: Penguin, 2012 pp. 65–93 13 ICJ, “History of the Court” http://www.icj-cij.org/court/index.php?p1=1 14 UN Charter, XIV:94 15 ibid:96 16 “Publications of the Permanent Court of International Justice (1922–1946),” ICJ, http://www. icj-cij.org/pcij/index.php?p1=9
24 25 26
Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (1933) United Nations Treaty Collection, https://treaties.un.org/pages/LONOnline.aspx?clang=_en 19 Pellet, The Opinions of the Badinter Arbitration Committee, p. 180 20 e.g. the Written Statement of the UK, 2.9, p. 30 21 Noam Chomsky, “Crimes of ‘Intcom’” p. 35 22 Fukuyama, “The End of History?” p. 3–4 23 PBS NewsHour, “The Blair Doctrine” (22 April 1999) http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/ international-jan-june99-blair_doctrine4-23/ 24 A/63/PV.22, p. 15 25 CIA World Fact Book, based on 2011 census 26 Robert Bideleux and Ian Jeffries. The Balkans: a Post-Communist History, London; New York, Routledge, 2007, pp. 515–517
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ibid, 531 ibid, 526–529 29 Slobodan Milosevic, St. Vitus Day Speech (28 June 1989) 30 General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovian, aka the Datyton Accords established in Dayton, Ohio between Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and the FRY (21 November 1995) 31 ICTY Judgment List, http://www.icty.org/en/cases/judgement-list 32 Bideleux, 537–541 33 Ivan Ingravallo, “Kosovo after the ICJ Advisory Opinion: Towards a European Perspective?” International Community Law Review 14 (2012) p. 221
Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) General Assembly Resolution 63/3, A/63/3 (2008) 36 Gregory Shank, “Not a Just War, Just a War—NATO’s Humanitarian Bombing Mission” Social Justice, 26:1, p. 9 37 Presentation of Serbia, para. 9 CR 2009/24, p. 33 38 Ker-Lindsey, Kosovo: The Path to Contested Statehood in the Balkans, pp. 26–44 39 Ker-Lindsey, The Path… p. 64 40 Security Council Report, S/2007/723, para. 3, p 2 41 Ker-Lindsey, Kosovo: The Path… pp. 110–112 42 ibid, p. 116 43 Written Statement of Kosovo, 6.07, p. 111
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ibid, 6.09, p. 111 Regulation No. 2001/9 on A Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government in Kosovo, 1.5, UNMIK/REG/2001/9 (15 May 2001) (Dossier no. 156) 46 Written Statement of Kosovo, 6.06, p. 110 47 Question of Judge Bennouna, CR 2009/33, p 24 48 Dan Bilefsky, â€œKosovo Declares Its Independence From Serbiaâ€? New York Times (18 February 2008) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/18/world/europe/18kosovo.html 49 Written Statement of Kosovo, 6.12, p 113 50 Security Council Verbatim Record, S/PV.5839 (19 February 2008), p 2 51 ibid, 3 52 ibid, 4 44 45
ibid, 4 e.g. the comments of the US and France, ibid, 18 55 Security Council meetings 5850 (19 February 2008), 5917 (20 June 2008), 5944 (25 July 2008) 56 A/63/PV.22, pp. 10–11 57 ibid, 2 58 author interview with a member of the Serbian delegation. 59 A/63/3 60 A/63/PV.22, p. 2 61 BBC News, Hard talk w Stephan Sackur “Vuk Jeremic” (7 December 2007) 62 Kosovo AO, Declaration of Vice-President Tomka, pp. 455–456 63 A/63/PV.22, p. 3
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ibid, 3 ICJ, General List No. 91 (26 February 2007) 66 ibid, p. 238 67 A/63/PV.22, p. 4 68 ibid, 3â€“4 69 ibid, 4 70 ibid, 10â€“11 71 ibid, 11 72 e.g. comments of Canada, ibid, 11 73 e.g. comments of Germany, ibid, 12 74 A/63/PV.22, p. 2 75 ibid, 15
Photographs by Clemens Poole, 2017 ibid
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REFRAME IRAN: NICKY NODJOUMI REFLECTS ON THE IRANIAN ART DIASPORA
JOÃO I NADA João Inada is a Brazilian Virtual Reality director and documentary filmmaker based in Shanghai, China. His debut VR film, Reframe Iran, examined the lives of Iranian artists living in the diaspora, and won the Grand Jury prize at the 2016 World VR Forum. João holds an MSc in Journalism from Columbia University, and has directed and produced videos for The Guardian, AJ+, BBC, and mostly recently Culturunnners, an organisation that empowers and mobilises international artists to tell stories using video and virtual reality.
short-bearded man with thick, round glasses tapes newspaper cut-outs to a large canvas inside a grim-looking Brooklyn warehouse. Loose article clippings are scattered on a table-top. Some are pinned to the walls. Thousands of droplets of dried paint cover the floor, and throughout the room, paintbrushes lie scattered on every surface in sight. But among it all, set upon a small round table, a bowl of cashew nuts and dried apricots sit untouched. He politely tells us to dig in. This is the studio of Nikzad Nodjoumi (or Nicky Nodjoumi), aged 69. The walls are draped in huge canvases, each of them featuring oddly-familiar but decidedly surreal scenes of political upheaval, transition, and power. On one such canvas, a group of suited men struggles to tie a horse to the ground while Persian warriors look on from the periphery. Another shows what looks to be a school building turned sideways, while masked Wall Street-types watch a bundle of tires go up in flames. ‘I like art that has a purpose,’ says Nodjoumi. ‘I like art that has a meaning, [or] art that has
drama, that tells you a story, even though it may not be clear.’ Nodjoumi, who has spent more than a quarter century of his life in exile, has transcended the geopolitical barriers so often used to categorise and describe art from the Middle East. Artists like him have long inhabited a space within American art culture that is difficult - and sometimes problematic - to define. His large scale paintings cannot be pigeonholed as simply ‘Iranian’, as many curators and critics have often branded him. Although his work is political and evokes Persian minimalism, its allusions are as much directed at New York as they are Tehran. ‘The problem now about working in the US is that you are faced with this duality, with this dilemma that you are truly an artist without the notion of being from Iran or any other place,’ says Nodjoumi. ‘Or if you are, then you have to show some symbol of identity in order to be accepted not as a universal artist but as, for example, an Iranian artist.’ The works of Iranian and Middle Eastern artists, Nodjoumi points out, are buried under layers of identity in ways that Western artists’ work isn’t. ‘[A] long time ago I put [my
Nicky Nodjoumi, Cat’s Cradle, 2013, oil on canvas, 96” x 60”. Photo courtesy the artist.
identity] aside,’ Nodjoumi explains. ‘I didn’t want to bother. I thought it’s a mechanical approach. It’s not genuine just in order to show I am Iranian I have to put up some writing in Farsi in order [for] Americans [to] accept me. Not as an American or universal artist, but as an Iranian artist. So the curators, most of them right now, they are looking towards this kind of work. They think if you are Iranian, you have to have some sign of Iranian life in your work.’ Nodjoumi and other Iranians who make art are perpetually grappling with such tags, and are only recognised within this binary context. To a Western audience, they are not simply artists - they are Iranian artists. ‘Artists like Nodjoumi were worldly when they were in Iran, and they are worldly now that they are in New York,’ argues Hamid Dabashi, an Iranian studies Professor at Columbia University. ‘The aesthetic result of this historical fact is the formation of a palpable trans-social signature that defines each and every one of their multiple and varied work.’ Born in 1942 in Kermanshah, in the westernmost region of Iran, Nodjoumi’s career trajectory was hardly traditional. Already beginning to show signs of artistic aptitude at an early age when a schoolteacher noticed how detailed his drawing of a rooster was, Nodjoumi asked his older cousin, who also painted, to introduce him to the craft. ‘I was probably a teenager, 14-15 years old,’ says Nodjoumi. ‘My cousin, who was older than me, knew how to paint. I finally got ahold of him and said ‘I’d like to work with you’. That was when he took me to paint landscapes.’ From landscape painting, Nodjoumi moved to Russian realism, and began to teach himself the techniques of the only art movement immediately accessible to him. At the age of 19, Nodjoumi took a national exam for admission to Tehran University. Ultimately failing to be accepted into Law School, he was accepted to the Fine Arts Institute and moved to the capital. For the first two years of his time in Tehran, Nodjoumi worked day and night at the school’s art studio. But the money wasn’t enough. It was then that Abbas Kiarostami - back then a little-known movie director who would ultimately go on to become one of Iran’s most celebrated directors - invited him to work at a graphics studio. ‘So I asked Kiarostami, you know, if he could you find me a job, he worked at this graphics studio. He said ‘fine, come this afternoon, but you’re not going to be getting paid because the owner just got out of jail and doesn’t have any money. You’re working for free until we sell something.’’ During this period Nodjoumi produced illustrations for children’s books that would go on to win prizes in Italy. As he continued to experiment with different production techniques, he began to produce posters, a technique he would later lean upon when making the transition to more politically-charged works. ‘Up until probably [my fourth year] of university, I wasn’t involved with politics. Then one day there 30
‘I wasn’t involved with politics. Then one day there was a demonstration inside Tehran University. Huge groups of student got together. The whole school was participating except the faculty of Fine Arts. The Fine Arts students were antidemonstration. And I did not like that.’ was a demonstration inside Tehran University. Huge groups of students got together; the whole school was participating except the faculty of Fine Arts. The Fine Arts students were anti-demonstration. And I did not like that. I took this friend of mine and together. We ran to the demonstration. By the end of the day, the police attacked and I got beat up with a lot of other students. That was how it all started.’ As one of the top students of his class, Nodjoumi was awarded a scholarship to study at the eminent École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. But as the 1968 uprising intensified, his scholarship was cancelled and he moved instead to New York, where he enrolled at The City College. There, he became a political activist within the Iranian community. At one point, Nodjoumi stopped painting altogether to commit his time toward activism against the Iranian Shah’s regime. As Nodjoumi explains, ‘During three years I almost didn’t work. I was debating with myself that the painting wasn’t enough. It didn’t say enough to change anybody’s mind.’ Shortly after receiving his Master’s degree in 1974, and sensing that a political shift was on the horizon, Nodjoumi began to travel in and out of Iran, each time bringing his artwork with him. As the days grew nearer to the fall of the Shah, he began producing political posters at an evergreater rate.
Nicky Nodjoumi in his Brooklyn studio. Photo courtesy Matteo Lonardi.
‘During the revolution, me and another 30 students occupied the main hall of the building and established a political cartoon and posters workshop. We printed a bunch of posters against the Shah, so we decided to have a show right in the middle of it. Every day 5,000 people would line up outside. It was one of the most successful shows of the time. But suddenly, everything came down and the regime changed. Our workshop was destroyed, our posters were all burned. We were thinking we were working for a much more open society, but we suddenly realised we
[Nodjoumi’s] art resonates with a global nuance that can’t be traced or pinpointed to a specific historical context or geographical boundary.
were losing everything.’ As the revolution took on a conservative tone, artists, academics, and politically-engaged movements found themselves falling under the boot heel of yet another repressive regime. ‘The atmosphere was getting worse and worse. The final strike for me came when the Tehran Museum of Modern Art, which briefly closed during the revolt, decided to have a show. The first show belonged to the leftist groups and the second was a retrospective of my work. I had paintings brought in from the US. The director tells me, ‘We would like to have them all shown in the main hall’. I told him fine, but I didn’t want any problems… He said, ‘It’s fine, you fought against the Shah, you deserve a show’. ‘I didn’t go to the opening. One day later the Islamic Republic Party came - Hesseini Moussavi, who was in house arrest due to the 2011 Green Movement, and who was back then chief editor of the newspaper - and shut the show. His newspaper published an article that called me anti-revolutionary and anti-Islam, saying [that] I betrayed the revolution and stabbed it in the back.’ Nodjoumi left Tehran for good on September 22, 1980, the same day that Saddam Hussein bombed Tehran’s airport. As Nodjoumi recalls, ‘I cried seeing the bombardment. There was nothing I could do.’ Nodjoumi’s political engagement is just as strong today as it was then, and is expressed in art which resonates with a nuance that eludes designation to any given historical moment or geographical boundary. Nicky chimes in: ‘I’m speculating, but this Western mentality of locality when it comes to the Middle East, this attitude towards Iranians that art has to have calligraphy, a carpet, or follow the main Iranian trends like Sarkhoneh, it doesn’t make you a contemporary artist. It doesn’t even resemble modern society.’ █ I NADA
DIGITAL IMPOSTERS AND MEDIATED VIOLENCE: A GAY GIRL IN DAMASCUS (AND A STRAIGHT MAN IN EDINBURGH) YARA FAR RAN Yara Farran is a postgraduate student in the MSc Media & Communications programme at the London School of Economics. Her interests lie in justicebased issues related to media identity, (self)representation, power and conflict, and international affairs. Outside of academia, much of her past work has been focused in community development, youth engagement, arts and culture, and education. Yara holds a BASc in Arts and Science from McMaster University.
he events [in the Middle East] are being shaped by the people living them on a daily basis. I have only tried to illuminate them for a Western audience” (emphasis my own). This was what Tom MacMaster told The Guardian in 2011 after months of masquerading as Amina Abdallah Arraf al Omari, a young, queer Syrian activist, on his popular blog A Gay Girl in Damascus (AGGD)1. As MacMaster – a 40-year old, heterosexual white American man studying at the University of Edinburgh – ‘roleplayed’ Amina, he took it upon himself to establish her as an offline agent as much as an online persona. With a precedence set by the likes of Salam Pax, the famed ‘Baghdadi Blogger’ who chronicled life during and after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, blogging had been established as a journalistic genre
through which personally-narrated yet politically-charged exposition could lead to civic intervention2. In keeping with this spirit, MacMaster began his inventive chronicling of Amina’s daily life, weaving the mundane and anecdotal alongside pointed political commentary to a captivated, empathetic global audience. His more passive readership aside, MacMaster’s positioning of Amina as a gay activist in the Middle East allowed him to foster links in activist networks in which he became privy to potentially sensitive information. More specifically, through social media profiles that ‘belonged’ to Amina and her fabricated cousin, Rania Ismail, MacMaster connected and exchanged information with activists considered to be part of ‘the solidarity movement’3. In addition, through appropriation of Facebook images belonging to an unknowing British woman,
Addley, A.A. (2011, June 13). Syrian lesbian blogger is revealed conclusively to be a married man. The Guardian. Drezner, D.W., and Farrell, H. (2004). Web of influence. Foreign Policy. 32-41. 3 See: Doherty, B. (2011, December 29). Whatever happened to Tom MacMaster, the ‘Gay Girl in Damascus’ hoaxer? 1 2
MacMaster afforded Amina a physical presence and subsequently developed an online relationship with a (bonafide) Canadian LGBTQ+ activist4. The lines between fact and fiction became blurred to the point where other individuals, inducted into the AGGD plotline as characters, became public collateral on both a discursive and material level. The precariousness of living in a conflict zone momentarily shielded MacMaster from scrutiny, up until the moment he feigned Amina’s kidnapping, thereby sparking an international rescue mission and the subsequent collapse of his imaginary world. MacMaster confessed only once Amina’s identity was uncovered as a work of fiction situated in a context that was anything but. This led to both a maelstrom of media attention, and an interrogation of the ethical fault lines ripe for exploitation in the hyper-contested and hyper-mediated transnationalism that defines the present-day mediascape. A retroactive examination of MacMaster’s hoax provides a contemporary example of ‘identity tourism’ as part of the (post)modern condition underlined by a loss of ontological security. Through such digital posturing, imperial notions are quietly perpetuated, and while ostensibly harmless, these mediations must be examined and challenged as an extension of a historical corpus of violence. IDENTITY TOURISM AS A RESPONSE TO ONTOLOGICAL (IN)SECURITY Just as the internet was emerging as an instrument for daily use, Nakamura (1995) made an interesting observation about the social mores of budding online spaces. Analysing online chat rooms, Nakamura looked at how race was constructed in users’ online profiles by studying their biographies and display pictures. Writing nearly a decade before the launch of most major social media, she noted that ‘The technology of the Internet offers its participants unprecedented possibilities for…controlling the conditions of their own self-representations in ways impossible in face to face interaction’. An especially notable feature of online behaviour, Nakamura wrote, was the tendency for white users to perform and present themselves as characters of another race and ethnicity – and more disconcertingly, to rely on tired stereotypes of the ‘other’ in creating their own version of a new racialised ‘self’5. In what she dubbed ‘Orientalized theatricality’, white users attached themselves to external identities 4 5 6 7 8
The precariousness of living in a conflict zone momentarily shielded MacMaster from scrutiny, up until the moment he feigned Amina’s kidnapping. and acted out the experience of conquest in cyberspace (in which new iterations of national boundaries are produced, while class and racial divisions present in the offline world are simultaneously reproduced). These projected selves are cinematic illusions and intrinsically, part of an ’ideology-machine’ where control and order are established, and whiteness is acclaimed as the norm, perceived as it is as the default position from which difference is enunciated. The pursuit of order is particularly pertinent when we consider Giddens’ notion of ontological security, or more aptly, the inverse ontological insecurity6. To be ontologically insecure is to distrust ’the constancy of surroundings, the continuity of self-identity, and in the functional reliability of material objects used in the practice of the routines of daily life’7. In looking at the insecurity that underscores this contemporary moment, the digital – in this case, the internet – can embody both a field of possibility and risk. In one vein, the internet, both as a material entity and a metaphorical concept, can be a tool through which the unknown can be known, or at least, abstracted. The fearsome and foreign, the galactic and seemingly infinite, can be accessed through one click or modulated through strings of code. In reference to Redfield (2002), Jandrić and Kuzmanić 8 argue that ‘the digital worlds created by the Internet represent a kind of ‘stabilization’ of elsewhere’ much like outer space exploration. Thus, through the digital sphere, acts of exploration, travel, tourism and on the extreme end of the spectrum,
See: Brekke, K. (2015, July 30). I Was Catfished By The Poser Behind ‘A Gay Girl In Damascus’. Huffington Post Nakamura, L. (1995). ‘Race in/for cyberspace: Identity tourism and racial passing on the Internet’. Works and Days, 25, 26. 2,3,7,13. Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and self-identity: Self and society in the late modern age. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press. Dupuis, A., and Thorns, D. C. (1998). ‘Home, home ownership and the search for ontological security’. The Sociological Review, 46, 1. 24-47. Jandrić, P., and Kuzmanić, A. (2016). ‘Digital postcolonialism’. IADIS International Journal on WWW/Internet, 13, 2. 34-51. FA R R A N
conquest, are more accessible and even permissible. Though one might argue that the internet is meant for gaining access to new knowledge, ideas and people, when explicitly framed in relation to conquest, the act of exploring that which is not your own can take on a more pernicious form: violence. Ultimately, the ‘digital spaces of the internet reflect a practical shadow of the empire’, an ideology deeply-embedded within the logic of AGGD9. Of course, the internet could just as easily be positioned as a space of volatility, that is, a digitised extension of the risk society and not the antidote to wide-reaching societal anxiety. While this view may be legitimate, it does not negate the fact that the internet acts as a networked conduit for knowledge production and exchange – the digital motor of our much-availed ‘information society’. Ultimately, the internet emerged from a heavily politicised context, and its historical roots cannot be dislocated from discussions around the internet’s role(s) in unstable times. Cyberspace was developed through the cybernetics project managed by the Department of Defense, as a fundamental pillar to what was dubbed a ‘new science of control in which the exchange of information would play a central role’. The etymological underpinning of the word ‘cybernetics’ – literally meaning ‘the study of control from a distance’ – is further illustrative of the project’s intention10. With this in mind, I argue that implicit within the design of our online spaces is the assumption that what is ‘unknown’ can be controlled
[MacMaster] objectified the experience of marginalisation, commodified bodies and subjectivities, and eclipsed the voices of others.
by the designer, such that it is consumable, intelligible and reduced to a constant, under the mobilisation of power deployed from a safe distance. Identity tourism affords the user the same sort of control, via the theatricality of an Othered self intended to superficially disrupt yet systematically maintain social order, without ‘leaving one’s armchair to go on vacation’11. Irrespective of MacMaster’s intentions, his voyage as an identity tourist is an act of reclaiming (read: re-monopolising) power. Through Amina, MacMaster attempts to claim something that is not his, simply because he can or believes that it is within his paternalistic right to do so. Questions of paternalism, power and social positioning require a nuanced lens of analysis and Ponzanesi’s (2011) work on the ‘politics of encounter’ allows us to adopt this lens. Through this concept, we can shift our thinking on digital construction and control from a more technologically deterministic view to one that appropriately allows for the discussion of the sociopolitical dimensions of representation. In the context of migrant cinema, Ponzanesi’s claim is clear: the foreigner is encountered by the Western, and is then represented in relation to the Western subject’s own encountering of heightened difference. Migrants are represented in relation to non-migrants. Queer people are constructed in terms of heterosexism. Dominant formations, in the wake of what is deemed to be a state of disarray, provide the organising logic for society, and the source of knowledge from which identity is legitimated (or not)12. NARRATIVE CONSTRUCTION AS IMPERIAL VIOLENCE Though MacMaster claims to have done no harm by posing as Amina, he objectified the experience of marginalisation, commodified bodies and subjectivities, and eclipsed the voices of others. Moreover, he rationalised his rouse by claiming that Amina was not a fabled heroine but a meticulous construction substantiated by fact, borrowing from the very real experiences of LGBTQ+ activists embedded within and embattled by the Syrian conflict13. However, this essentialist logic of speaking ‘truth’ to ’fact’ and electing oneself as both the producer and interlocutor of external knowledge is part and parcel
Jandrić, P., and Kuzmanić, A. (2016). 39. Lessig, L (2002). Code and other laws of cyberspace. New York: Perseus Books Group. 4, 5; Galison, P. (1994). ‘The ontology of the enemy: Norbert Wiener and the cybernetic vision’. Critical inquiry, 21, 1. 232. 11 Nakamura, L. (1995). 4. 12 Ponzanesi, S. (2011). ‘Europe in motion: migrant cinema and the politics of encounter’. Social identities, 17, 1. 73-92. 13 Flock, E. and Bell, M. (2011, June 13). Tom MacMaster, the man behind ‘A Gay Girl in Damascus:’ ‘I didn’t expect the story to get so big’. The Washington Post.
of the Imperial mind set14. MacMaster’s defense is to seek out a claim to truthful representation – that is to say, to argue that his interpretation of what it means to be a Syrian, lesbian, female activist was in some manner ‘objective’ and in-keeping with legitimate, lived experienced of apparently static identities. Even a cursory understanding of the literature on identity challenges the idea that identity is perceptible, fixed or intrinsic. I have already discussed how the digital arena is in part associated with conquest, control, and imperialism as is the act of identity tourism. This matters because within such an intersection is the possibility of violence. In MacMaster’s case, his online project posed a visceral threat to the safety of on-the-ground activists who made themselves vulnerable both to him and the public in their quest to find Amina15. Similarly, MacMaster absorbed substantial media coverage and tangible resources that could have been utilised to amplify real facets of the conflict. Moreover, as Amina was evoked during the Arab Spring and the emerging
MacMaster’s defense is to seek out a claim to truthful representation – that is to say, to argue that his interpretation of what it means to be a Syrian, lesbian, female activist was in some manner ‘objective’ Syrian conflict, the persona became a haphazard emblem of dissidence, a crack through which to peer and understand an intersectional and complex conflict. With Amina as an expert orator, MacMaster thus became the storyteller of a history still being deliberated. Even if he believed himself to be doing
good, MacMaster’s work amounts to nothing more than a technologically-weaponised iteration of the White Man’s Burden. Given MacMaster’s attempt to intervene in the Syrian conflict and repackage complex foreign affairs for a decidedly Western audience, I look to Boehmer’s16 argument on how imperialism was legitimated first as a ‘writing exercise’. With that, I position MacMaster’s own writing exercise via the blog as a form of mediated conflict becoming of this traditional Western-centric lineage of violence. Boehmer’s account of the travel logs, journals and diagnostics written by colonial stakeholders evidence the colonial desire to know, understand, categorise, and conquer the ‘noble savage’ and highlight the reality that such brutal militaristic missions were founded on textual exploration. Six years after AGGD found fame and infamy, it retains its relevance and serves as a cautionary tale of communication which purports to speak from the periphery, despite its enunciation from the centre, for the centre. The digital death of MacMaster’s cultic alter-ego does not end the practice of deceptive narrative construction, nor the reality that the digital can mediate violent action; we must remember that colonisers are, first and foremost, storytellers. In the same vein, it is critical that we interrogate the different ways in which the digital can be a disciplinary mechanism of control, while still navigating the chaotic planes of conflict to which the online world contributes and exists. In an ironic turn, the online space MacMaster used to create AGGD was also the one leveraged to uncover his lie, and marginalize his own project and public subjectivity. Within this contemporary moment, where ‘fake news’ challenges the sustenance of a healthy public sphere and discussions around the impact of cultural appropriation are en vogue, dredging up AGGD from the archives of our collective memory is not without value. MacMaster is not an aberration. Intentional misinformation that serves to entertain while hindering critical analysis is not novel. Fake news has always been a part of discourse – online, offline, and everywhere in between – and thieveries of voice and experience continue to play out across each. It’s only when we situate the discursive struggles of the present with those of the past that we are best equipped to challenge broken systems of communication and iterant forms of violence. █
Hall, S. (1990). Cultural identity and diaspora. Brekke, K. (2015, July 30). 16 Boehmer, E. (2005). Colonial and postcolonial literature: migrant metaphors. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 14 15
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GIRLS IN GRIME: BRITAIN’S CULTURAL MOVEMENT, AS TOLD BY WOMEN
SAM LAWYE R Sam Lawyer is a postgraduate student in the MSc Media & Communications programme at the London School of Economics. Sam hails from the suburbs of Boston, and previously worked in digital analytics. She coedits the monthly newsletter for the Children’s Media Foundation, a group of academics and industry producers promoting research and informed discussions surrounding children’s media in the UK, and holds a BA in English Language & Literature from the University of Pennsylvania.
n 2014, Noisey contributor Sian Anderson posed a troubling question: “Why Did Grime Never Go Right for Women?” 1 Anderson, now a 25-year-old grime ambassador with a special DJ slot for BBC 1Xtra, is widely considered to be the female authority on the genre, which was born from the streets of London in the early ‘00s. Ever elusive and resistant to categorisation, grime is both the UK’s response to American hip-hop and a cultural pastiche in its own right, merging elements of Jamaican dancehall with the quintessentially British genres of jungle, drum and bass, garage, and punk. As male grime MCs such as Skepta and Stormzy were becoming household names around the world, Anderson pleaded to ‘all the ladies who are on the come up, all the ladies who have taken a break, all the ladies who are doubting their point on this musical industrial earth’ to reach out to her for their own shot at success. ‘I’ll
make it happen for you I promise,’ she wrote. Earlier that same year, Erik Nielsen asked a strikingly similar question of the American rap scene in his article for NPR’s Code Switch “Where Did All The Female Rappers Go?”2 Nielsen, an Associate Professor at the University of Richmond who teaches courses on African- American literature and rap music, argued that the number of women in hip-hop had declined sharply since the ‘90s and early ‘00s, when the likes of Salt-n-Pepa, Lauryn Hill, and Missy Elliott reached peak fame in the U.S. Since then, with the notable (and problematic) exception of Nicki Minaj, he says that female rappers have become practically non-existent. ‘I find this even more disturbing in 2017 than I did in 2014,’ he tells me, ‘primarily because the business models have changed significantly. Reflecting on the
1 See: Anderson, S. (2014). https://noisey.vice.com/en_uk/article/rpdepn/why-did-grime-never-go-right-forwomen 2 See: Nielsen, E. (March 4, 2014). ‘Where Did All The Female Rappers Go?’ NPR.
Radio presenter Julie Adenuga pauses for a moment. Photo courtesy Olivia Rose.
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dearth of women, Nielsen argues, ‘I think after decades of being denigrated in the music and the industry generally, women are seen as less credible performers. Rap is in many ways about projecting power and confidence. It becomes harder to do that—and for audience members to buy it—when women are routinely depicted as objects of male desire.’ If the commercial music industry is seen as responsible, at least in part, for the marginalisation of female rappers in the U.S., it is worth asking how things might be different in the U.K. Not only has grime culture distanced itself stylistically from American hip-hop, but it also remains far more outspoken about its roots as a distinctively British, class-based movement with fierce ties to its local communities. This is especially evident now, as leading artists attempt to shun commercial influences from an industry increasingly eager to appropriate the genre for a global market. Amid such a culture of resistance, can women play a larger role? Or has grime, as Anderson suggests, really never gone right for them? After speaking with a variety of women involved - from MCs to journalists, fans and photographers - a complicated picture emerges. While women from within the community (as well as those outside of it), have played a vital role in shaping grime, their perspectives have all-toooften been obscured from view. Georgia Bowen-Evans grew up listening to grime and went on to study music at Durham University. To her, grime is both a deeply personal and meaningful facet of contemporary British culture. She explains that, ‘One of the things that they teach you at university is the definition of folk music, and that means ‘music of the people.’ I think a lot of people think of folk music as country, you know one man with a harmonica, but folk music literally means ‘music of the people,’ and that’s what grime is. It’s music of this generation, of my people, and of this society that we grew up in.’ While at university, Bowen-Evans began writing for GalDem, a UK-based magazine for women of colour, where her work on grime prompted her to note the stark lack of female artists. She recalls listening to grime MCs since her days on the playground and confesses, ‘if I’m honest, I didn’t even think that ‘Oh, this might be something that women can do as well,’ because it was so male-dominated’. Nikita Rathod, who covers grime and hip-hop for a variety of publications, feels that this is less a matter of male rappers actively shutting out female competition, and more a matter of socialisation – as she puts it, ‘a bit like sports.’ Just as certain sports remain male-dominated, Rathod argues, ‘if you think about it more in terms of a culture, it’s what groups of young men might just do for fun, go and spit some bars together. For them, it’s more seen as a hobby, what you would put on the same level as a competitive sport and probably a spectator sport. With women, you don’t 38
traditionally put those things together, and I think that’s why it’s always been men.’ That hasn’t stopped a long list of women - NoLay, Lady Leshurr, Shystie, Amplify Dot, Lady Chann, Ms. Dynamite and Mz. Bratt, to name a few - from making waves as talented lyricists and performers. Mz. Bratt, who now goes by the stage name Cleo, started rapping at the age of 14 and tells me she was drawn to grime because she ‘really connected to the energy of the music as I had so much bottled up inside.’ She gained exposure to the British commercial music industry just two years later, and in 2009 released her first single, brashly titled ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ Full of cheek and defiance, the chorus warns, ‘Who do you think you are pulling on my hair? / Don’t even pull my arm ‘cus you’ll get air.” She explains that at the time she wrote the lyrics she was young and new to the music industry: “I would get lots of guys trying to chat me up and sometimes they could be quite bullish with their approaches. This song was more about me standing my ground and letting them know who was boss.’
Not only has grime culture distanced itself stylistically from American hiphop, it remains far more outspoken about its roots as a distinctively British, class-based movement with fierce ties to its local communities. Since her career has taken off, Cleo has performed with acts as popular as Bruno Mars and The Count & Sinden, and at venues as large as Glastonbury Festival, but has remained conscious of what she feels is a responsibility to make a positive impact with her voice. She traces this back to 2015 when she changed her name from Mz. Bratt to Cleo - an important transition, she reckons, because ‘I was no longer that little brat anymore. Even as a musician I could feel myself maturing and wanted to write more meaningful songs, rather than club or hype songs.’ Cleo’s songs offer a distinct perspective from her male counterparts in their salience for women, particularly those in the urban community she grew up in. With tracks such as ‘Falling Down,’ which tells the story of a sixteen-year-old girl facing domestic violence, Cleo says she “wanted something
‘I would get lots of guys trying to chat me up...This song was more about me standing my ground and letting them know who was boss.’ hard-hitting that spoke to anyone that was going through or had been through something similar.’ Of her creative process in general she tells me that, ‘Sometimes I have a subject matter that is heavy on my chest that I need to speak about, and I will then pick a particular instrumental to best suit the topic. A lot of my lyrics, especially later on in my career, were all from personal experiences’. Cleo isn’t the only female MC using grime to specifically address issues of importance to women, but the relationship between these artists is far from one of perfect solidarity. Earlier this year, NoLay released This Woman, an album tackling domestic violence, misogyny, and sexism in the music industry. At the same time, she’s also been outspoken in refusing to participate in all-female remixes, which she believes counterproductively place artists in a gendered category. That’s exactly the type of environment that Lady Leshurr, a leading MC from Birmingham, tried to create with her ‘Girls in Grime’ studio session in December 2016, which brought together six women billed as the ‘the hottest new up-and-coming talent from the UK.’ Rathod tells me she appreciates such efforts, since ‘with women, and I don’t think this is alone in music, we’re pitted against each other so quickly and so easily.’ While she argues that there is ‘nothing lost by them showing some unity,’ she acknowledges that any sense of unity is convoluted, since the success of any MC is dependent on the belief ‘in yourself to the point that you know that you’re better than others… like a competitive sport. You need to know that you have better bars than the other person.’ Of course, to focus solely on the contributions of MCs would be to miss some of the most significant ways that
women have made their mark on grime. Olivia Rose, an award-winning photographer and co-author of This is Grime3, tells me that, ‘when you’re an insider to this particular gang, what you quickly realise is that it’s almost like the women are the lynchpins of all of this. And I mean that, strongly. I’m not necessarily talking about female MCs, I’m talking about the Julie Adenuga, Sian Anderson and Hattie Collins’ of the world.’ (Adenuga is a DJ and the sister of Skepta, while Collins is a music editor at i-D magazine and co-author of This is Grime). She adds, ‘For some reason there seems to always have been an incredibly supportive woman at every part of the rebirth of grime.’ As an outsider it might be easy to make assumptions based on the treatment of women within individual songs, but she says that ‘I think that’s something that’s really quite often misrepresented, when people listen to a lyric and then make an assumption on the whole scene based on that.’ She also notes that as a female photographer embedded within the grime scene, she is afforded a certain degree of accessibility to her subjects. When shooting male MCs, Rose explains ‘I have different guises that I put on: you know with the younger MCs, I come as Mum, and I’m the nice lady that they don’t want to be mean to because I’ve been nice to them and I remind them of their Mum. Other MCs, you come at it and you can flirt. And that’s an amazing tool, I think, for photography. It’s not even necessarily anything sexual or untoward. It’s just a flirt that can be understood between these guys and a girl like me that sort of brings out something else in them.’ Like Olivia Rose, Georgia LA recognises how her position in the grime community as a white middle-class woman has been both challenging and an asset for her career. LA is a former broadcaster for SBTV, a leading grime YouTube and media network, and saw her face on its pop-culture arm as a calculated move on behalf of the channel. She recalls a 2011 interview with MC Giggs4 that was instrumental for both her journalistic career and the SBTV network for her ability to bring out a side of the rapper that hadn’t been seen before. She notes, ‘I never would have gotten away with finding out that he liked watching Desperate Housewives if I had been a guy. I have more wiggle room to ask those silly questions. Especially in an industry that can be so homophobic and so macho and all about bravado, I think it [my gender] mostly worked to my advantage.’ What stands out in every conversation with these women – more than the scene’s complicated and occasionally ambivalent relationship toward gender – is pride for the
See: Rose, O. and Collins, H. (2016). This Is Grime. London: Hodder & Stoughton. See: SBTV - Giggs Interview (2011). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wl-efdMxbVY.
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Mz Bratt, who got her start in Bow, Tower Hamlets. Photo courtesy Olivia Rose.
entire community. This is partly because, as Olivia Rose explains, of how much of a family it is, with many of those involved being quite literally related. Rose elaborates, ‘I think that’s the most beautiful and touching thing about it - the interconnected relationships between not only the guys who started it, but everything that’s happened since then.’ Beyond this, there’s a palpable sense of admiration for the artists who started rhyming in council flats and worked their way up through pure grit and determination. Grime as a genre, in Rathod’s point of view, is really ‘about the struggle, and knowing that the odds are against you. It’s about knowing that you haven’t been given all the best tools in life that some other people might have, but persevering.’ In that sense, grime may be more about the female experience than first meets the eye.
There’s a palpable sense of admiration for the artists who started rhyming in council flats and worked their way up through pure grit and determination. The word that comes up most often in these conversations is ‘resilience’, which is how grime’s leading men have risen from performing in the streets of East London to the international stage, and how many people believe women can find a broader platform within the genre. ‘Stick in there!’ is Cleo’s message to aspiring female MCs. ‘It may get tough and you may feel like the world is on your shoulders, but if it’s something you truly love then persistence and good work is everything!’ Her advice echoes Anderson’s words in 2014 that grime can go better for women, and indeed needs women, to tell the entire story of the British community it is finally beginning to champion for a global audience. █
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AGAINST THE LABOUR OF LOVE: PORN 2.0 AND THE CRISIS OF SOCIAL REPRODUCTION SARA SAGAI I Sara Sagaii is an Iranian scholar and activist currently settled in North America, pursuing an MA in Communications at Simon Fraser University (SFU). Her research focuses on reviving a Marxist feminist analysis of neoliberalism in the context of contemporary social movements, and she is engaged in grassroots organising against poverty and homelessness throughout British Columbia. Sara holds a BSc in IT Engineering from Amir Kabir University and an MSc in Computer Science from SFU.
very 39 minutes, a new pornographic video is created in the United States. Every second, more than $3,000 is spent on porn. To a large extent, the ubiquity of porn can be ascribed to the proliferation of digital public spheres made possible by advances in communications technologies. Pornographic images, videos, and texts are ever-more mobile while pornographic aesthetics have never been more commonplace1. What was once obscene (in the literal sense, kept ‘off’ [ob-] the public scene) increasingly takes centre stage and has become ‘on/scene’2, signaling both the proliferation and increased public accessibility of porn. But the on/scenity of pornography has not brought forth the end of the obscene; while digitally-mediated sexuality is breaking apart old conceptions of sex, a crisis of paradigms
Clearly, women’s entry to the workforce has neither eliminated the devaluation of feminine labour, nor diminished its naturalisation. remains3. Nonetheless, behind our collective silence, inhibition, and discomfort, the social stigma around sex work persists and costs heavily on the lives and labour conditions of those involved in its production. Even a cursory look at the structure of the porn industry reveals a highly-concentrated, monopolistic, and secretive industry which is fundamentally anti-democratic and frequently violates workers’ rights4.
Attwood, F. (2006). ‘Sexed Up: Theorizing the Sexuality of Culture’. Sexualities, 9(1). 77-94. Williams, L. (ed) (2004). Porn studies. Durham: Duke University Press. 3 Simon, W. (1996). Postmodern Sexualities. London: Routledge. 4 Consider, for example, that the majority of the world’s porn ‘tube’ websites (Pornhub, YouPorn, etc.) are privately owned by MindGeek, a little-known company which consumes nearly as much internet bandwidth as Netflix and YouTube. See: http://slate.me/12rE1HS. 1 2
Rather than embracing the popularisation of pornography as evidence of the ‘democratisation’ of sexual discourses5, porn scholars have in recent years challenged the moralistic orientations of earlier studies by turning toward the industry’s labour aspects. In particular, McKee has challenged the exceptionalist approach to porn by identifying similarities in
The imperative to perform authenticity reinforces the myth that this is not labour, nor even role playing, but an acting-out of one’s true self and desires. the labour conditions of the porn industry and other cultural industries (e.g. film, television, and radio); among these are its precarity, nomadic character, exploitation of creative labour, and the tremendous gap between the earnings of producers, performers, and other creative personnel6. As McKee contends, perhaps the single factor that sets the porn industry apart from other creative industries is the social stigma attached to it, which comes with substantial material impacts on the health and labour conditions of all those involved. In this article, I build on attempts to orient porn scholarship toward a study of labour, with a view to contextualising this orientation within a broader analysis of how labour itself has been transformed in the post-Fordist era. I will illustrate how the anchoring of sex work at the intersection of productive and reproductive labour can historicise and elucidate some of the characteristics of new regimes of sexuality and point us toward new directions in critique of and resistance to the commodification of sexuality. In the Marxist-feminist literature of the second wave,
the household is regarded as the reproductive sphere: the sphere of labours and relations that maintain and reproduce human labour-power. This is contrasted with the productive sphere, the market in which human labour is applied directly to the production of commodities and creation of surplus value. Feminist scholars of this era extended the Marxist critique of capitalism to include the labour of housewives on the basis that, even though such labour was unwaged, it remained a part of the relations that facilitated the accumulation of capital. In contrast to the productive sphere, which is managed by capitalist ideology and relations of production, the reproductive sphere was argued to have been shaped and controlled by patriarchal ideologies. These ideologies served to justify the extraction of the free labour of women through the contract of marriage - itself a labour contract7 - by disguising it as a ‘labour of love’. Instead of demanding equality on the job market, Marxist feminists rejected such naturalisation and campaigned for ‘wages against housework’8, which demanded wages and labour status for houseworkers. In contrast to the waged-labour economy, which is centred on the figure of the ‘free labourer’, the gendered ideology behind the ‘labour of love’ narrative masks reproductive labour as a ‘natural attribute of our female physique and personality, an internal need, an aspiration, supposedly coming from the depth of our female character’. This naturalisation is necessary for keeping such work unpaid, and out of conventional wage-labour relations. A job that’s naturalised, devalued, and unwaged is one which becomes inseparable from quotidian existence, and thus, inaccessible to it are the avenues of resistance available to wage-labour. Housewives who complain are not seen as workers in struggle, but as ‘nagging bitches deserving of ridicule’9. Clearly, women’s entry to the workforce has neither eliminated the devaluation of feminine labour, nor diminished its naturalisation. In today’s job market, women remain overrepresented in relational jobs and underrepresented in technical jobs. Many jobs and positions still carry a de facto sex-type (both horizontal and vertical), while a gendered wage gap persists10. However, in the aftermath of women’s entry to the workforce, and in conjunction with the shift in Western capitalist economies from material to immaterial labour and commodities11, the distinctions between what facilitates the
McNair, B. (2002). Striptease Culture: Sex, Media and the Democratization of Desire. London: Routledge. McKee, A. (2016). ‘Pornography as a creative industry: challenging the exceptionalist approach to pornography’. Porn Studies, 3(2). 107–119. 7 Delphy, C., & Hills, R. (2016). Close to Home: A Materialist Analysis of Women’s Oppression. (D. Leonard, Trans.). London: Verso. 8 Federici, S. (2012). Revolution at point zero: Housework, reproduction, and feminist struggle. Oakland: PM Press. 9 Federici, S. (2012). 16. 10 Guy, M., & Newman, M. (2004). ‘Women’s Jobs, Men’s Jobs: Sex Segregation and Emotional Labor’. Public Administration Review, 64, 3. 289-298. 11 For the importance of foregrounding gender and feminism in immaterial labour, see McRobbie, A. (2011). ‘Reflections On Feminism, Immaterial Labour And The Post-Fordist Regime’. New Formations, 70, 1. 60-76. 5 6
relations of production and what produces commodities, and between what is waged and unwaged, are dissolving. The borders between public and private, production and reproduction, producer and consumer, and labour of love and labour of wage have become porous. Productive and reproductive labour have converged into an indistinguishable whole. No longer operating in separate spheres, capitalism and patriarchy have merely become more finely intertwined, synchronised, and optimised. They emerge as a unified system which in Althusser’s words, ‘reproduces [its own relations of production] at the same time as it produces’12. Indeed, the proliferation and diffusion of pornographic imagery and content provides a useful illustration of the disruption of old boundaries. The convergence of productive and reproductive spheres is embodied in the multiplicity of modes by which sex and work – that is, the archetypal acts of reproduction and production – have combined to give birth to a growing industry of ‘intimate labour’13 including but not limited to porn and sex work. Looming in the periphery of this dialectical shift is the troubling reality that women have not been liberated from reproductive labour so much as reproductive labour has been liberated from private, informal, and non-commodified spaces, and has become subsumed into the marketplace. The commodification of reproductive labour serves to foreclose access to socially reproductive practices and processes, including all communicative processes. Framing social communication as a central component of social reproduction, Thorburn describes the ongoing commodification of communication technologies as a symptom of the subsumption14 of social reproduction into the capitalist circuit. This subsumption signals a reorganisation of the reproductive aspects of life according to the mandate of capital growth, which coupled with the continued undervaluing of all reproductive labour, is causing a generalised crisis of social reproduction15. From the standpoint of communication, this crisis can be described from two opposing but complementary angles: 1. Communication as labour: Subsumption turns communication into a labour process, such that the production of (immaterial) commodities becomes its
central aim. When the goal of communicating is to produce commodities, the activity ceases to be reproductive in the sense of providing a refuge from the alienation of wage-labour relations or of replenishing labour-power. Instead, it becomes alienating in and of itself. 2. Labour as communication: Once communicative activities are captured and reorganised to fit into the capitalist circuit, they become an expected (but unwaged) component to waged jobs, be it out of social pressure or, as is often the case in the creative industry, as a ‘labour of love’. The imperative to communicate, to check emails after work, to express oneself, and to commodify one’s identity and maintain an online presence intensify this exploitation. The ideology that demands such unwaged reproductive labour should be seen as an evolution of the ideology and discourse that used to trap housewives into unwaged non-jobs16. Reproductive labour involves the production and constitution of human beings as subjects. Accordingly, the subsumption of reproductive labour means that relations of production enter the human subject on a deeper and more intimate level, ultimately making the human subject a commodity through and through. The crisis of reproduction speaks to our inability to find solace from these exploitative relations and enjoy a human existence free from the imperatives of the market. As the entire cycle of the human (re)production is appropriated by the impulses of capital accumulation, aspects of human existence that do not fit the capitalist frame are pushed further into the terrain of obscurity and irrelevance. Only subjectivities whose production is profitable (that is, which are effective agents of capital growth) are (re)produced. The result is a harkening back to Tronti’s notion of the ‘social factory’, whereby ‘the whole of society becomes an articulation of production or lives as a function of the factory’17. Now let’s consider how this frame might apply to the extractive ideologies underlying the porn 2.0 model18. This model is exemplified both in the generic ‘tube’ platforms, where users upload their own content and interactively consume others’, and in ‘alt porn’ websites, which feature subculturally-themed amateur or indie porn. The 2.0 model
Althusser, L. (2014). On the reproduction of capitalism: Ideology and ideological state apparatuses. London: Verso. Parreñas, R., & Boris, E. (2010). Intimate Labors: Cultures, Technologies, and the Politics of Care. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press. 14 Note: In Marxist theory, “subsumption” refers to the dialectical process whereby capital first takes control of an organically existing (labour) process (i.e. subsuming it), then reorganises the process internally so that it becomes enclosed within and dependent on the capitalist structure and cannot exist outside it. 15 Thorburn, E. D. (2016). ‘Networked Social Reproduction: Crises in the Integrated Circuit’. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique, 14, 2. 16 While fewer women are ‘trapped’ into housewifery, most married women still perform a disproportionate share of housework. 17 Ibid, p. 383. 18 While the foregoing analysis can potentially be applied to any genre of porn, in this text the focus of analysis is on what is commonly perceived and consumed as heterosexual pornography. 12 13
is founded on the notion of the “prosumer”, where producer and consumer roles merge into an indistinguishable whole, promising a ‘participatory’ paradigm. That a participatory ethos has been woven into the fabric of porn has led some to assume a celebratory outlook on the new sexual regimes. The democratisation of the means of production and mediation apparently ensured by the 2.0 paradigm is used to counter the crude, top-down view espoused by anti-porn feminists; a view that rejects the porn industry in toto for its open misogyny, racism, and heterosexism. However, from the standpoint of the ‘democratisation’ narrative, the moral corruption of mainstream porn is not so much denied as it is dismissed due to the mere existence of alternatives. While purporting to counter the moralism of the anti-porn camp, this celebratory narrative merely puts forth a surrogate moralistic assessment in
Today, the emancipatory potential of porn 2.0 only holds fast for the owners of platforms whose empires are built off of the unwaged labour of selfmaintaining, selfsufficient workers.
which independent porn is categorised as ‘good’ and mainstream porn as ‘bad’ (that is, formulaic, un-erotic, and unimaginative19). The continuance of such moralism leads to a premature conception of subversive and counter-hegemonic practices to the exploitative control of the mainstream. As a result, neither mainstream nor alternative porn are critically engaged with and the hierarchical relationship between them is presumed rather than analysed. Far from emancipatory, porn 2.0 platforms are factories of what has elsewhere been deemed ‘immaterial labour 2.0’. Writing on the commodification of social capital on Myspace (then the largest social networking site in the world), Coté and Pybus described immaterial labour 2.0 as emanating from ‘the active and ongoing construction of virtual subjectivities’ embodied in a virtual profile20. The leap from Myspace to porn tubes rests on the introduction of sexuality into the construction of subjectivities. The immaterial labour of porn prosumers produces the immaterial commodity of a sexually appealing and ‘authentic’ subject. The amateur pornographer plays a ‘fully formed subject’, whose performance is more convincingly ‘real’, ‘authentic’ and ‘spontaneous’ than their professional counterparts. The non-professional and amateurish production quality of such porn only serves to enhance its appeal. In a telling analysis, Mowlabocus analyses the tips for success afforded to amateur performers on XTube, one of the more popular porn 2.0 platforms21. The recommendations often concern the need for the delivery of an ‘authentic’ performance and maintaining the viewer’s ‘fantasy of talking to a real person’. The performer is compelled to perpetuate the myth of a real and authentic subject and lure their audience into suspended disbelief. Similarly, performers’ bios feature enthusiastic, sex-positive language (e.g. ‘I absolutely LOVE sharing myself with you all’) in order to further the impression that their labour is given freely and out of love. Skirted from view is the fact that the production of such performative subjectivities demands a significant amount of planning and upkeep, just like any other business. The imperative to perform authenticity reinforces the myth that this is not labour, nor even role playing, but an acting-out of one’s true self and desires. Naturalised as an aspect of self-expression, the performance is taken to be done for oneself and for one’s own fulfilment. The impulse toward the ongoing performance of immaterial labour means that sites like XTube can rely on a regular
Maddison, S. (2013). ‘Beyond the entrepreneurial voyeur? Sex, porn and cultural politics’. New Formations: A Journal of culture/theory/politics, 80, 80. 102-118. 20 Coté, M., Pybus, J. (2007). ‘Learning to immaterial labour 2.0: MySpace and social networks’. Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization, 7, 1. 88–106. 21 Mowlabocus, S. (2010). ‘Porn 2.0? Technology, Social Practice, and the New Online Porn Industry’. In Attwood, F. (Ed), Porn.com: Making Sense of Online Pornography. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. 78. 19
supply of content from amateur users, free of charge. By exploiting ordinary users’ desires to broadcast and display their sexuality, production costs are virtually eliminated, and creative labour is outsourced. Beneath this structure, amateur and independent productions are effectively made to operate as the ‘research and development’ arm of the mainstream porn industry22, continually supplying it with new batches of fresh ideas to subsume and capitalise upon. As such, the emergence of participatory and amateur porn not only fails to mount an effective alternative to mainstream porn, but facilitates the latter’s expansion by catering to a diversity of market demands with little to no investment in production from the mainstream. In this parasitic relationship of continuous subsumption, capital flows freely from the unwaged, self-reproductive ‘labour of love’ of the prosumers. That the output of immaterial labour 2.0 involves the (re) production of the very subject who performs it forecloses resistance at the point of production. This is not to say that resistance is impossible, but rather, that true resistance would necessitate the breaking of the myth of the authenticity of subjects. Today, the emancipatory potential of porn 2.0 holds fast only for the owners of platforms whose empires are built off of the unwaged labour of self-maintaining, self-sufficient workers. For the rest of us – i.e. the workers – it spells disaster in the form of fewer rights, less job security, and more work for less pay. In return, we are told that we are afforded the privilege of loving what we do, or doing what we love. As we consider the implications of these systems of exploitation, the ‘wages against housework’ campaigns of yesteryear should embolden us to push back against the subsumption of unwaged reproductive labour, which allows for neither true reproduction nor wages to live on. Among performers in the porn 2.0 marketplace, this push back must take the form of demands for regular employee status and benefits, fair and competitive wages, and rejection of the lure of dis-identifying with a worker identity. Moreover, an effective counter to this mass immiseration will necessitate a cultural shift away from the celebration of participatory forms as ipso facto empowering, democratic, and subversive, as well as a denunciation of reactionary and antagonistic outlooks on new forms of porn. It is possible to resist the subsumption of our labours of love into the capitalist circuit without antagonising the labours and labourers themselves. Any view that mythologises porn as either frighteningly oppressive or wonderfully liberating must be rejected. The key is to take back our identities as workers. █ 22 Cramer, F. and Home, S. (2007). ‘Pornographic Coding’, in K. Jacobs, M. Janssen and M. Pasquinelli (eds) C’lick me: A Netporn Studies Reader. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.
IN CONVERSATION WITH: THE ENGLISH COLLECTIVE OF PROSTITUTES
SOPH I E CHAUVET Sophie Chauvet is a postgraduate student in the MSc Media & Communications programme at the London School of Economics. Prior to settling in London, Sophie was based in Latin America, where she helped organise an electronic music festival in Colombia and promoted resilience and sustainable living for an NGO in Brazil. Sophie holds a BA in Political Science from McGill University.
Paulina Nicol and Niki Adams are spokeswomen for the English Collective of Prostitutes, a network of women who work or have worked in different areas of the sex industry, campaigning for decriminalisation, safety, and economic alternatives. Q: Could you tell us a bit about the English Collective of Prostitutes?
can get out of prostitution when they want to, and if they want to. Poverty is the main reason why people enter the sex industry. We also have a large number of students entering sex work in order to pay their student debt and then we have many victims of domestic violence, who in order to leave their abusive partner, enter the sex industry to survive.
Paulina: The English Collective of Prostitutes was formed in 1975 by 2 sex workers. They approached many organisations of women and their spokeswomen, and most of them refused to join. The only person that accepted was Selma James, of Global Womenâ€™s Strike. It was the first person to speak in the name of sex workers and their struggles. Serial killers, violence, arrests, corruption... no one was doing anything to stop it. Since then, the ECP has been campaigning for full decriminalisation of the sex industry, the recognition that sex workers are mostly single mothers, and campaigning for wages so that sex workers
We have a rights sheet which is translated into many different languages. We do outreach with it indoors and outdoors for sex workers to know their rights. We also do case work on the sex workersâ€™ arrest, rape, deportation, or when they suffer violence. We work with pro bono lawyers who are very difficult to find. We work very closely with Women Against Rape, and we actually had the first private prosecution in 1983, where we put a serial rapist behind bars, following rape against two sex workers. It took 3 years for that case to make it to court because the police and the medics refused to take the sex workers seriously. C HAUVET
Protestors rally in support of the ECP in London, in October, 2016. Photos courtesy Theo McInnes.
‘We try to show that sex workers can be anyone: a mum, a sister, a brother, your best friend, your auntie, your next door neighbor, your granny.’ What is the current law regarding prostitution in the UK? Paulina: It’s legal to pay for sex, and offer sexual services. But everything else that’s around prostitution is illegal, such as loitering, soliciting, advertising, kerb-crawling, and more than one person working together, which counts as a brothel, even if they’re not together at the same time. We had a symposium in the house of commons in November, 2015, gathering evidence for decriminalisation of the sex industry. It was the biggest evidence audit put together and presented to the government. We finished the hard copy of it and made it available for parliamentarians on the 3rd of November, 2016. We also, on the same date, launched a movie called ‘Mums’ which is about sex workers struggling as mothers to keep up with the payments and rent with all the benefits, welfare, and disability cuts. What is your opinion on the Swedish model of criminalisation, which has often been applauded? Paulina: They pretend to have been very successful on criminalising clients and also reducing the numbers of sex workers. That’s an absolute lie. We work very closely with Rose Alliance, the sex workers alliance in Sweden. So what is actually happening in the criminalisation system, is that loitering, advertising, kerb-crawling, and working together is illegal, same as in the UK. These laws are placed on top of the criminalisation
of clients. So you’re not only getting clients arrested, but at the same time you as a sex worker you are still criminalised. They also say they decriminalised the sex workers - but which sex workers? The ones that will be found to be sex workers, they are only going to be helped if they have gone to report that they are victims. And if they’re not willing to report that they are victims, they get put into an institution and fed with medicine to be cleaned until they recognise they are victims, or else they get arrested and prosecuted. Because don’t forget - they are still a criminal for loitering, soliciting, advertising, or working together. What about legalisation? Paulina: Under the legalisation system, we have the managed zone, like we have in Leeds. But as soon as you step out of that managed zone, you automatically become a criminal because it’s only this small square that is legalised. When you go home, you’re not working anymore. But if you are known to the police of being a sex worker, then you’ll be arrested, stop-searched and arrested and prosecuted for prostitution. In Germany, under legalisation, you have a card which says you are a prostitute, which you have to wear all the time with you. You have mandatory health check-ups, but let’s not forget that most sex workers do monthly check-ups, so if we want to be saying anything about sex workers, it’s that we are the ones who do regular check-ups. They are the solution, not the problem to sexually transmitted diseases. The only place in legalised areas where you could still work is in those mega-brothels. If you suffer exploitation and violence in the brothel you are registered in, which is likely, you can’t just move on and work somewhere else because you’re not allowed. You must stay there, no matter what. How would decriminalization help the sex workers’ situation? Niki: Decriminalisation of the sex industry will recognise sex workers’ work, but at the same time will remove all the prostitution laws that jeopardise the sex workers’ safety, exiting, health, housing, and education. It will make sex workers able to come forward to report violence because the sex worker will be taken seriously, and not as a criminal anymore. Most importantly, the criminal record will be expunged. What’s happening at the moment in the UK, is that many sex workers started as a part-time job, and ended up working full time, because it’s enough for you to be arrested and prosecuted for prostitution once. That stays in your record forever, and you cannot move forward or find another job. It comes out at any small C HAUVET
DBS1 check. And this is what sex workers want: pay off their student debt, or put their children into a good education system, move on and start a different job. But because of criminalisation surrounding prostitution and mass arrest raids, deportation, violence, stigma, so many of them end up being a full-time prostitute. Why are you named the English Collective of Prostitutes, rather than sex workers? Paulina: We came out with the term sex workers in order to break down the stigma. People tend to consider that sex work happens in a certain way: drinking, drugs, loneliness, not having a family or children. A kind of person in a lonely place with nothing else to do. We try to show that sex workers can be anyone: a mum, a sister, a brother, your best friend, your auntie, your next door neighbor, your granny. Niki: I think most of us would call ourselves sex workers now, but we don’t want to give up our names either. We’ve been discussing whether to change ECP’s name. And most of us felt that while the stigma remained, we weren’t ready to give up the name of prostitute because, as with the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective with whom we discussed this, we are the two oldest, longest-standing sex workers’ organisations. So we use the term interchangeably, but it’s definitely true that the term sex worker has been used to break down some of that stigma. We don’t often say prostitute, we usually say ‘prostitute women’. That’s what we always used to say because we wanted to make the case that we were women like other women. We decided to keep hold of our name until decriminalisation at the very least, and then we’ll think about it. Another big debate is the one opposing choice and coercion. What is your stance on it? Paulina: It depends on what you mean by coercion, because we sex workers, we normally say that the State is the biggest pimp. Sex workers are forced into prostitution because of poverty. But if you mean coercion as in someone being actually forced against their will to enter prostitution, that’s trafficking. It’s a totally different thing from being a sex worker. When we talk about sex workers, we talk about people who chose to work in the sex industry whether it’s because of poverty, lack of resources, to support education, or pro bono work. Yes, they are coerced, but because of their lack of financial resources. But a trafficked person is not a sex worker, and that’s not what decriminalisation or the ECP stands for. We want those people to receive the right help and support. But being 1
under the criminalisation system, real victims of trafficking do not receive any help and support. They end up being arrested and prosecuted for prostitution, the same as someone who chooses to work within prostitution. Niki: Regarding choice, the most useful thing is to compare it to another job. Agricultural work is quite a good example. What would you say about the farm worker who chose this option because it was the best of all his options? You call them a worker and you wouldn’t even engage in a discussion about choice or coercion because they’re just a worker and it would be accepted that they’ve made a decision to go into that form of work in the same way that everybody else made the decision about their employment. And then at some point, if you saw any people who are literally being trafficked, and held in slave-like conditions you wouldn’t call them farmers, you would call them slaves. And you would expect the state to mobilise to protect people from that kind of abuse. That’s the easiest way to get clarity on that issue because other workers don’t even get asked that question.
‘Criminalisation is the signal to violent men that they can get away with it.’ The ECP presses for prostitution and trafficking to be dealt with as different issues. But this has been absent from the public discourse, and a lot of the repressive laws that we are now suffering under have been introduced in the context of a sensationalised campaign which implied that all sex workers are trafficked or coerced. There’s also a new kind of moralism which has really taken grip. It’s an unholy alliance between what we would call the fundamentalist feminists, and the moral religious fundamentalists. And there’s a letter on our website which is an open letter to gay organisations, LGBT organisations,
Disclosure and Barring Services, previously CRB (Criminal Records Bureau)
asking them to support our campaign on decriminalisation on the grounds that who we’re up against is the same enemy. Because the people that are increasing criminalisation on sex workers are the same ones who are homophobic, anti-abortion, anti any-sex-outside-ofmarriage, but it’s been coupled with this kind of new moralism from feminism, which has been reinforced.
‘The International Women’s March was sex worker positive. I think it’s a good sign of the new feminism, unlike the elite feminism who think they know better than us what’s good for us.’ How do sex workers ensure their autonomy? Niki: Decriminalisation helps to work autonomously. Under the criminalisation model, the laws put you in the hands of pimps, people who run premises because it’s very unsafe to work on your own. You have to employ people to look after you. The police will not act even if you’re threatened by gangsters who try to force them to work for them. But since the police raids really increased, the places where women were more in charge got turned over to men, because the men were more gangster types and would face up to the police. It was taken out the hands of the women and put into the hands of men, and then the men would up the level of extortion against the girls. The level of exploitation is
higher, the women are paying much more: the rent, the bills, the cab drivers - and then she’s left with what, 20 percent? The woman is actually coming out with less money than any other person involved, and the police would say that this is proof that prostitution is exploitative, without admitting to the fact that they’re the ones that created that situation in the first place. So safety is the primary reason for us to press for decriminalisation. One of the women from Leeds said that the laws are telling us that our lives don’t count, and that’s true. You really feel like criminalisation is the signal to violent men that they can get away with it. How do you see the future? Niki: A lot of women are saying I’m working harder and earning less money than ever before. There’s more women going into sex work, and wages have definitely gone down. There’s a lot of women in our network who have had their savings, their car, their house, their jewellery just wiped out by the proceeds of crime. Those laws are very draconian. It’s like a lifetime punishment, and it’s very demoralising because women have worked for years and years to put aside money for their retirement. We have been defending a 70 year old woman. She was working as a cleaner in a brothel for the minimum wage. A client collapsed in the doorway, and she was the one that stayed when everybody else ran. So when the authorities arrived, they got her and are now prosecuting her for brothel-keeping. It’s absolutely tragic. That’s been happening over and over again. I don’t think it’s any different from other people though, who are working in precarious work with no pension, on zero hour contracts. Dancers have seen their conditions worsen. Many students are saddled with a £40,000 debt and work in the sex industry to pay it off. The movement is coming up though. The International Women’s March was sex worker positive. I think it’s a good sign of the new feminism, unlike the elite feminism who think they know better than us what’s good for us. First of all, you have to ask the women what she wants and needs, and I can guarantee she does not want the criminalisation of her or the client. You have to tackle the issue of why she is here in the first place. █
#EMBAWDIED: A DESIGN STUDY FOR TRANS-FEMINIST AND QUEER DIGITAL RESEARCH ETHICS Reflections from the Queer Internet Studies Workshop KAR ISA SE NAVITIS Karisa Senavitis is a researcher, writer, and designer based in New York City and the Jersey shore. A co-founder of the design studio Will Work for Good (Brooklyn), Policy People (Jan van Eyck Academie), and Bodies + Data (Philadelphia), she works at the intersection of culture and care. Her study of digital tools of collective care will appear in Steven Heller’s forthcoming book ‘Citizen Designer.’ Karisa holds a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art and an MA in Design Research from the School of Visual Arts.
he Queer Internet Studies Workshop held in February 2017 was the second iteration of Jessa Lingel and Jack Gieseking’s1 day-long gatherings of conversation, brainstorming, panel talks, and snack breaks, assembled with the purpose of imagining 1) what a queer internet might look like 2) what research is being done in this area and 3) how to collaborate on artistic, activist, and academic projects within this space. T.L. Cowan’s afternoon maker session, “Internet of Bodies/Internet of Bawdies” was premised on the notion that not all trans, feminist, and queer (TFQ) data is for everyone. Cowan suggests that you’re a bawdy if you have ever performed without clothes, published a zine, done spoken word, or shot “nekkid” pics for a TFQ audience. The affect and ephemera made by bawdies is read as queer within close epistemological spheres, but queerness begins to disappear as it moves further away. Codes of survival rub up against the danger of oblivion.
I was asked to produce a photo-essay in response to Cowan’s maker session. I entered the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, where the session was held, with the contextual frame of documenting/ re-presenting. Cowan’s session addressed my task explicitly: to document queer content responsibly and to implicate designers of systems. Cowan, a Toronto-based performer, activist, and professor studying cultural and intellectual economies of TFQ communities, introduced her work as “for who the research is about, without being prescriptive.” She strives to do justice to an underserved community in her research and to practice radical generosity in her teaching. Cowan immediately offered steps toward that end by acknowledging the emotional, domestic, and intellectual labour of others that support her study, and by recognising our collective condition as settlers on Lenape lands. The two-hour session was premised on the question: When participating in—and also
More info about the event can be found on the QIS website (see: http://jgieseking.org/qis2/).
researching—TFQ communities, what care is taken to protect the digital artifacts produced by and for the community? We were in a room full of laptops and smart devices. While our interactions were being photographed, tweeted, and blogged, the maker session itself was unplugged, and consisted of conversation clusters. We huddled around big sheets of paper and smelly markers used to map our efforts. The data we produced was for the community that collaboratively produced it.2 A general atmosphere prevailed: that nothing goes unnoticed, that it all finds its way online. The paranoia of the surveilled/studied is baked into the development of the internet, even as people strove for community and world-changing connection. As Donna Haraway wrote, “Paranoia is the belief in the unrelieved density of connection, requiring, if one is to survive, withdrawal and defense unto death. […] paranoia is the condition of the impossibility of remaining articulate.” She adds, “In virtual space, the virtue of articulation—i.e., the power to produce connection—threatens to overwhelm and finally to engulf all possibility of effective action to change the world.”3 The paradox of internet engagement, as producing both misrecognition and potential self articulation, is common amongst marginalised people’s (self) representation, and manifests in multiple ways. The complexity of such trouble cannot be fully represented nor disentangled here, but I’ll suggest four areas where study is taking place. 1) The (digital) labour undertaken to produce community can expose that same community to exploitation, whitewashing, outing, and discrimination. Any form of data produced in social formations can be absorbed into the “affective industry of Web 2.0 data mining,”4 which necessarily invites unintended and unpredictable consequences for the producers. During her maker session, Cowan cited Tara Robertson’s critical response to the open, digitised archive of the lesbian porn magazine On Our Backs as an unethical act of exposing-without-consent. As she notes, ’Consenting to appear in a limited run print publication is very different
than consenting to have one’s sexualized image be freely available on the internet. Who in the early 90s could imagine what the internet would look like in 2016?’5 Robertson deems digitisation without consideration for the ‘right to be forgotten’ unethical, and suggests that we might learn from the code of ethics used by zine librarians, who take care to balance availability of content with the safety of its creators/culture by recognising that zines are ’often weird, ephemeral, magical, dangerous, and emotional.’ As custodians, they strive to make the material ’discoverable’ rather than ‘open’ content. Crucially, the code includes a right of refusal for zinesters. 2) Technologies like racism and gender are reconstructed in the biases of facial recognition and AI. Categories of race, gender, and sexual orientation are tools to construct differences that determine systems of capital, biology, and law. Simone Browne’s work in black surveillance studies offers evidence that physical identifiers have historically predisposed certain bawdies to systemic devaluation6. Race technology registers persons of colour in “vectors of risk” according to their proximity to
A general atmosphere prevailed: that nothing goes unnoticed, that it all finds its way online.
Of course, by expanding on the event within this journal, I bring to the fore and confront the same questions in negotiating the boundaries of TFQ community artifacts. 3 Haraway, D. (2014). ’The Promises of Monsters: A Regenerative Politics for Inappropriate/d Others’. In The Haraway Reader. London: Routledge. 107. 4 Cowan, T.L. and Rault, J. (2014). ‘The labour of being studied in a free love economy.’ Ephemera Theory & Politics In Organization. Vol 14, 3.471-488. 5 Tara Robertson, T. (2016). “’digitizationDigitization: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”should’. Web post. 16 March 2016. Viewed 6 June 2017 https://tararobertson.ca/2016/oob/. 6 Browne, S. (2015). Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness. Durham: Duke University Press. 2
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CAMERA DATA: Make: Panasonic Lens: LUMIX G 20/F1.7; S/N: 12AG3262856 Exposure: 1/30 sec; f/1.7; ISO 160; Normal program; Pattern metering Image Size: 4000 x 2672 Orientation: 1 (Normal) Resolution: 180.00 Pixel per inch Flash: Did not fire Date of Photo: 2017-02-17 08:32:18*
PHOTOGRAPHER DATA: Name: Karisa Senavitis Intent: to document QIS event Consent: event organizers requested documentation but attendees were not asked permission by Senavitis Cost: attendance to QIS was free, cost incurred in travel aprox $25 Terms of Distribution: the image, as altered by Karisa Senavitis and Kevin Oâ€™Neill is intended to be produced/ distributed with the accompanying text for the journal UnMediated. No money has been exchanged in the making of this work nor should anyone profit financially from its distribution.
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Given the complexity of Queer Internet Studies, how might we engage in ways that honor and protect vulnerabilities and circles of community? whiteness. In their7 essay Black Data8, Shaka McGlotten states “black queer lives are often reduced to forms of accounting’ within ‘cruel systems of value’. Debunked and violent methods of measuring for race, gender, and other social constructs are reanimated in contemporary AI programming and analytics of biometrics.9 In response to
the danger of facial recognition software being leveraged by surveillance apparatuses to inscribe criminal tendency and sexual orientation, McGlotten cites artist-theorist Zach Blas’s Facial Weaponizing Suite10. Blas’s project exposes the damaging effects of technologies that rely on stable/normative identities by either actively refusing or retreating into the “fog” of queer misrecognition. 3) Efforts to untangle misrecognition further expose those whose hypervisibility has historically not benefitted from nostalgic notions of privacy.11 When users do not fit the assumptions informing an interface design, or when users’ experiences with digital tools are extractive,12 they are most likely not afforded the option of privacy or protected by privacy policies. McGlotten writes, “details about a person’s life / are coded as data that do not / belong to them and which are put to use by states and corporations in ways over which that person may have little control.”13 Crawford and Steyerl recently characterised this as the fundamental paradox of our time: “If you are currently misrecognized by a system, it can mean that you don’t get access to housing, you don’t get access to credit, you don’t get released from jail. So you want this recognition, but, at the same time, the more the systems have accurate training data and the more they have deeper historical knowledge of you, the more you are profoundly captured within these systems. And this paradox—of wanting to be known accurately, but not wanting to be known at all— is driving so much of the debate at the moment.” 14 4) As researchers connected to these communities, we must recognise that we are both extracting value and inflicting harm upon our subjects of study. Often, the subjects of study provide unwaged, immaterial, and affective labour that sustains both digital capitalism and academic/artistic TFQ communities. Cowan and Rault understand that by working with donated labour and content, “academic researchers are compelled to enforce rather than resist these labour conditions” as perpetuating the ongoing colonial modernity and “normalizing self-exploiting tendencies.”15 As TFQ researchers, we
‘They’ is McGlotten’s preferred pronoun. Shaka McGlotten was also the keynote speaker at QIS2 and participated in Cowan’s maker session. McGlotten, S. (2013). Black Data. From https://www.academia.edu/16303256/Black_Data. 9 Abreu, M.A. (2016). ’Transtrender: a meditation on gender as a racial construct.’ Newhive. 10 See: http://www.zachblas.info/works/facial-weaponization-suite/ 11 Browne, S. (2015). 12 Eubanks, V. (2011). Digital Dead End Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age. Cambridge: MIT Press. 13 McGlotten, S. (2013). 271. 14 Steyerl, H and Crawford, K. (2017). ’Data Streams’. The New Inquiry. 15 Cowan, T.L. and Rault, J. (2014). 471- 488. 7 8
are accountable to our communities of study to reduce harm and provide sensitive, contextual representations of cultural production. Given the complexity of Queer Internet Studies, how might we engage in ways that honor and protect vulnerabilities and circles of community? The texts I’ve drawn from all offer generative readings of internet studies, or ways to construct TFQ positive digital culture. In addition, studying projects like Mukurtu’s Traditional Knowledge Labels16 and artists’ engagement with ’tracking forensics’17 can further direct our approach to addressing issues of provenance, ownership, remuneration, and levers to access. Back in February, we organized our tasks as the following: A) For keeping things off the internet, to design protocols for digitisation and online circulation of TFQ viscera and ephemera B) If something shouldn’t be ’public’, to design TFQ protocols for permission/consent/agency/filtering C) Considering the harms and benefits of data mining/scraping of TFQ born-digital materials, to prototype a TFQ harm reduction model which we can implement toward a QIS code of ethics In our rapid prototyping teams, participants in Cowan’s maker session imagined queer hacks, access tiers, resource redistribution, queer love badges, embawdied tags, and “mesh bubbles of community.” How data is made, collected, analysed, and stored are all designed processes: designers place limits on choice and determine what is revealed or hidden to system users. The images that correspond with these notes offer a way of testing a possible design approach. Some of the content is useful to make available to a broader audience while some of it has been protected or gets a bit blurry. The attendant visual essay is primarily about my methods of sorting what information is shared or redacted. It limits the possible interpretations of artifacts I’ve made available to the reader, and emphasises my intention not to present a record of facts but of mediation. It represents none but my own approach to documenting QIS’s “Internet of Bawdies.” It’s not for everybody. █
See: www.localcontexts.org/tk-labels/ See, e.g. ’Tracking Forensics’ workshop taught by Joana Moll and Andrea Noni (http://bit.ly/2ewXzFm).
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SOCIAL CHANGE THROUGH COMMUNITY RADIO: VOICE AND PERFORMANCE FROM THE MARGINS OF ECUADOR B E LE N FE B R ES-COR DE RO Belen Febres-Cordero is a PhD student in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University and a Community Lead at Global Voices. Her research interests include community and alternative media in Latin America, health communication, human rights, and participatory research methods. Belen holds an MA in Anthropology from Simon Fraser University and a Double BA in Multimedia Journalism & Liberal Arts from Universidad San Francisco de Quito.
esides the colourful flag hanging on the wall alongside pictures of Quino’s Mafalda (a comic strip that shaped both my initial understanding of politics and my original distrust of soup) the cabina of Wambra Radio – an online community radio station situated in Quito, Ecuador – did not seem altogether unfamiliar. Tables, chairs, microphones, control panels: as a journalist, I was used to spaces of this kind. However, differences became apparent as soon as, from behind the console, Jorge bowed his head to let us know that the feminist program Voces Irreverentes (Irreverent Voices) was about to start. Silently observing from one corner of the cabina, I turned my eyes to Anita, one of the creators of Wambra Radio, in expectation that she would soon begin speaking. But Anita did not open or lead the program, nor was she interviewed. In fact, as I realised later on, she did not even have a microphone in front of her, reserved as they were solely for the members of the
feminist collective with whom the program was conducted. ‘To truly serve communities’, Anita later told me, ‘the programming must come from their needs, demands, and projects. Nobody can tell feminists what they should do; they need to figure it out by themselves. We are here to provide them with the space and the communication knowledge to express their own views, and to help them connect their experiences with those of other social groups’. Her words seemed at odds with the objectives of Ecuadorian community media I had heard articulated elsewhere. During an interview with communication scholar and practitioner José Ignacio López Vigil1, I began to understand why. Among Ecuadorean community media producers, the conceptualisation of marginality had started to shift, and accordingly, the goals pursued in relation to it had taken on a different look. Since the 1970s, community media in Ecuador had positioned its role as giving
Foro Radiofónico. (2017). José Ignacio López Vigil (Cuba). See: http://bit.ly/2sOZWGE
Members of Radio Intag gather outside the studio. Photo courtesy Radio Intag.
A volunteer for Colectivo El Churo assists in the production of a short documentary. Photo courtesy Colectivo El Churo.
voice to the voiceless2. However, as López Vigil explained, this carried the implication that those who had or have not been heard do not have a voice, and that community media can provide them with one. This is, of course, far from true. Increasingly, community media in Ecuador has rejected the notion of voicelessness, and instead understands marginality as a silencing, a dispossession of voice. The goal of community media is therefore not one of giving voice, but of returning to people the voices that have been taken away so that they may speak for themselves. This is a fundamental shift, as it acknowledges the historic, systemic, and systematic erasure and exclusion of certain voices from hegemonic platforms of participation, communication, and political decision-making3. In other words, if marginalised groups have not been heard, it’s not because they have not been speaking, but because their voices have been repeatedly neglected, erased, and rejected by dominant groups – and omitted or barred from their attendant communicative spaces. As a result, the personal and political existence of such groups has been neither adequately recognised nor taken into account, as it is only when others receive a message sent and agree to hear and understand its contents that the process of speaking is truly completed4.
(2012), from September to December, 2013, I collaborated with and participated as a co-performer in Wambra Radio, where I helped to conduct interviews, run workshops, and write articles as a member of the team. I also interviewed the creators of other urban and rural radio stations throughout Ecuador, as well as the community members and activists with whom they co-produce content, to better understand their ascriptions of importance in community media. Based on these experiences, in the following pages I describe how community radio stations in Ecuador are contributing to the return of voices which have been historically and systematically dispossessed. THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF COMMUNITY RADIO STATIONS As Anita noted, Ecuadorian community radio stations are, by virtue of their design, inherently generative of community participation. Rather than disseminate content in a vertical fashion (from journalist to audience), community radio producers in Ecuador invite community members to actively participate in all processes of content creation. What emerges is an increased welcoming of the knowledge and lived experiences of community members, and a slate of content more responsive to their needs8.
PERFORMANCE AND MARGINALITY To better comprehend how marginalised groups in Ecuador (and elsewhere) utilise voice as a form of expressive resistance in the service of alternative imaginaries to social justice, it is useful to think of communicative power in terms of performance. From this perspective, ‘embodied and performed acts generate, record, and transmit knowledge’5. In other words, performance understands knowledge as being transmitted through modes other than the spoken or written word6 (both verbal and non-verbal) – and includes the dances, songs, artistic interventions, poetry, or street protests that such groups have found to express themselves in light of their exclusion from dominant spaces of communication and participation7. Informed both by this performance approach and the methodology of critical ethnography described by Madison
Community radio producers in Ecuador invite community members to actively participate in all processes of content creation.
2 Acosta Buenaño, A. M. et al. (2017). Medios comunitarios y democratización de la comunicación en Ecuador: aporte para el debate sobre el Concurso Público de Frecuencias. Quito. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2w0tTVi 3 See, e.g.: Dutta, M. J. (2011). Communicating social change: Structure, culture, agency. New York: Routledge; see also Huesca, R. (2001). ‘Studying New Social Movements to Renew Development Communication Research’. In A. Gumucio- Dagron & T. Tufte (Ed.), Communication for Social Change Anthology: Historical and Contemporary Readings. South Orange, N.J. 750-762. 4 Derrida, J. (1985). The Ear of the Other. (Christie V. McDonald, Ed.). New York: Schocken Books. 50-52. 5 Madison, S. (2012). Critical Ethnography: Method, Ethics, and Performance. Thousand Oaks: SAGE. 183. 6 See, e.g. Krolokke, C. (2009). ‘Performance Theories’. In Foss, K. and Littlejohn, W. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Communication Theory. Thousand Oaks: SAGE. 740-744. 7 Dutta, M.J. (2012). Voices of Resistance: Communication and Social Change. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press. 8 Freire, P. (1970). ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’. In A. Gumucio-Dagron & T. Tufte (Eds.), Communication for Social Change Anthology: Historical and Contemporary Readings. South Orange, N.J. 44-48.
To achieve this goal, community radio stations adopt several strategies. First among these is an emphasis on creating content for and with groups who typically have the least access to other forms of communication, such as children, elders, and women. To this end, Ecuadorian community radio stations open their spaces and support the production and mediation of self-expression among a diverse array of peoples. This is a particularly important contribution of rural community radio stations, whose geographical isolation can make transportation and conventional (mass) communication extremely difficult. Feminist collectives, Indigenous communities, and others who may not have access to other media are invited to produce their own content, and are given technical support and feedback by the radio’s staff, who provide their equipment free of charge. Alongside their majority Spanish programming, many rural community radio stations also produce content in Kichwa, more widely spoken by Ecuador’s Indigenous peoples. This contributes to a strengthening of Indigenous people’s syncretic customs, the mediation of their distinct histories, and the chance to broadcast their language (or dialect) to a mass audience, opportunities rarely extended in other types of media. Beyond the confines of the cabinas, community radio stations extend their contributions by encouraging content creation by transporting portable voice recorders, megaphones, and microphones to community members using bicylces and vans. Since 2005, projects such as El Collectivo El Churo’s ‘Churo Movil’ have toured local communities in the promotion of cultural and civic communication projects, and have co-produced radio programs, short documentaries, and community events. Here, there is clear overlap with the participatory approach of other community media projects around the world, such as the Wapikoni Mobile9, an itinerant film production studio which provides mentorship and training to Indigenous youth in Canada. In these multiple ways, community radio stations contribute to a rich and eclectic slate of programming led by diverse and rarely-heard peoples. Further examples of Ecuadorean community radio’s capacity for strengthening and making visible ongoing community struggles are provided by Radio Intag, situated in one of the many Ecuadorian communities engaged in resistance toward oil extraction and mining projects on their
territories. Since 1990, the people of Intag – a small rural community in the mountains of the Province of Imbabura – have engaged in protests, direct actions, and industrial sabotage in resistance to copper extraction projects implemented by Bishmetals (a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corporation), and the Canadian-owned Copper Mesa Mining Corporation10. Run by a small and ever-changing group of volunteers from the community, Radio Intag has strengthened and increased the visibility of this resistance in a number of ways. When I was conducting fieldwork, for instance, a group of volunteers from the radio station hosted a cultural event in which local musicians, artists, and poets were invited to the cabinas for the express purpose of broadcasting their resistance through songs and performance. As one group sang: ‘As they dug in Zaruma, and in the jungle as well, they think that here they can do the same. They are very wrong, they cannot do that, because we are united and we are going to defend ourselves. We ask the mining companies to go away, and to leave our air, our rivers and our hillsides in peace11’. Carmen Yamberla, one of the creators of Radio Ilumán, another rural radio station situated in Imbabura and which is now run by almost 20 people from the community, explained that the station has played a crucial role in defending their interests. Tracing its history back to 1986, Carmen emphasised that the radio station was a vital node in the community’s repertoire of contentious action12 when the Ecuadorian government attempted to expropriate an aquifer vested with deep symbolic and cultural significance for the region’s inhabitants: ‘We perform several rituals in this aquifer, such as weddings, healings, and traditional celebrations. Hence, we needed to defend it however we could. In the fight for our water we saw the huge need for our people to have a medium of communication. We already had the strength, but we did not know what else we needed to do, where we needed to go, or who could speak for us. We soon realised we needed to speak for ourselves, and that is how we created the radio station’, Carmen recalled. As she continued, she noted that Radio Ilumán has allowed community members to sharpen their own resistance efforts: ‘Before, people had to walk from distant locations to let a coordinator know about a project or a problem, so that
See: www.wapikoni.ca. Until 2008 known as Ascendant Copper Corporation. See: Zorrilla, C. (2010). Breve historia de la Resistencia a la mineria. From http://www.decoin. org/breve-historia-de-la-resistencia-a-la-mineria/ 11 Como en Zaruma cavaron y en el Oriente también, piensan que en el Occidente también lo pueden hacer. Están muy equivocados, eso no lo pueden hacer, porque la zona está unida y vamos a defender. A las empresas mineras les pedimos que se vayan y dejen libre nuestro aire, nuestros ríos y laderas. 12 Tilly, C. (2008). Contentious performances. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 9
they could communicate it to the leaders of the community, to then organise a convention to transmit the information and make plans or decisions. It was a complex process, and who knows how the content of the message traveled, who knows if in this process they made the message bigger, smaller, or if they changed it completely. Now with the radio station, anyone can come and talk directly to the whole community,’ she explained. In an instrumental sense, then, the radio stations play a vital role in magnifying and disseminating marginalised voices by way of their co-production and sustenance of varied programming. Crucially, these contributions are neither confined to the cabinas, nor limited to notions of resistance. As a communal focal point, the radio stations encourage civic participation through regionally-specific events that include soccer games, music contests, concerts, and exhibitions with local visual artists.
“We need to take advantage of new information technologies to complement our work without losing contact with the communities with which we work”.
The overlap of these instrumental and constitutive dimensions is apparent in the blurred lines which exist between producers and participants. In many cases, community radio producers help to organise public events and take an active role in them, and thereby overcome what has elsewhere been deemed the ‘ally industrial complex’14, to become proactive and agentic accomplices. Here, the performativity of expression is again of note, as both verbal and non-verbal communicative practices are given space in the resultant public demonstrations. In this way, community radio stations make space for content that emerges from parallel ontologies which are at once culturally distinct and syncretic, and thereby challenge existing social imaginaries and hegemonic representations of the communities in question.
networks and those in other countries of Latin America (and indeed, the world) is established through the sharing of content through websites and social media (via Facebook, in particular). During my fieldwork, for instance, Wambra Radio supported Yasunidos, a non-profit organisation which aimed to defend the protected Ecuadorian area of Yasuní from oil extraction, by inviting members of Yasunidos to the cabinas to formulate a communication plan together with the members of the station. Over the course of a month leading up to the event, the creators of Wambra Radio (Jorge, Anita, Verónica, and Roberto) not only proposed ideas, slogans, and strategies, but actively sought out and recruited others on Yasunidos’ behalf. Moreover, aside from broadcasting the event, Wambra Radio contacted other community media and activist networks across Latin America to encourage re-transmission of the event. In this way, Wambra Radio connected local struggles to ongoing, neighbouring battles at both the national and transnational levels. Still, for all their affordances, online social networks do not and cannot replace in-person social interactions and political participation15. For this reason, staff and volunteer members of community radio stations in Ecuador continue to develop novel uses (and non-uses) of online tools to strengthen their offline community-building efforts. As Nelsy Lizarazo, Executive Director of the Latin American Association of Radio Education (ALER) emphasised over the course of my interview with her:
This constitutive dimension further extends to the online operating logics of community radio stations, in which collaboration between Ecuadorian media and activist
‘While the Internet offers a great opportunity for communication, we must not think that because we are virtually connected with the audience, we are really
In this way, community radio serves an equally powerful constitutive purpose, insofar as the many spin-out events and community-oriented gatherings contribute to feelings of belonging, identity, and solidarity, and thereby consolidate and support the varied goals of these many communities. As analysts of alternative media and social movements have argued elsewhere,13 a crucial contribution of community radio in Ecuador is thus the strengthening of social relations and community-building through everyday social and communicative processes.
See: Atton, C. (2002). Alternative media. London: SAGE; Barassi, V. (2013). Ethnographic Cartographies: Social Movements, Alternative Media and the Spaces of Networks. Social Movement Studies, 12, 1. 48–62. 14 See: Indigenous Action Media. (2014). ‘Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing The Ally Industrial Complex’. From http://bit.ly/1kPWq5H. 15 See: Dahlgren, P. (2014). Political participation via the web: Structural and subjective contingencies. Interactions: Studies in Communication & Culture, 5, 3; Juris, F. S. (2008). Networking Futures: The Movements against Corporate Globalization. Durham: Duke University Press. 13
A volunteer for Colectivo El Churo conducts an interview in the midst of a march. Photo courtesy Colectivo El Churo.
connected with them. We need to take advantage of new information technologies to complement our work without losing contact with the communities with which we work.’ In shifting the conceptualisation of marginalisation from one of voicelessness to one of dispossession, Ecuadorian community radio acknowledges historic, systemic, and systematic exclusion from hegemonic platforms of participation, communication, and political decision-making. Thus, the work of community radio is a reminder that, as bell hooks has noted16, more than a site of depravation, marginality is a space of resistance – a place of opportunity for growth, creative solidarity, and radical possibility from which new bridges can be built. This vital turn highlights the productive possibilities of community media as a means of restoring agency through diverse and contextually-informed mediums that can help return voice to the communities from which it emanates – and where it belongs. █
As a communal focal point, the radio stations encourage civic participation through regionally-specific events.
bell hooks. (1990). ‘Choosing the Margin as a space for radical openness’. In Yearnings: Race, Gender and Cultural Politics. New York: South End Press. 341.
THE FRESH PERFUME OF FREEDOM: IN CONVERSATION WITH PAOLO BORROMETI
VI RG I N IA STAG N I Virginia Stagni is the founder and director of Revolart, an international arts and cultural magazine. She is a passionate cultural writer, freelance reporter for La Stampa, and motorbike enthusiast. Virginia holds a BA in Economics and Management for Arts, Culture and Communication from Università Bocconi, and an MSc in Media & Communications from the London School of Economics.
icily is a tapestry of peoples, publics, and personal histories. Complex and beguiling, to the attentive spectator the land offers up a new portrait at every glance, as a flurry of human activity plays out across it. Every now and then, a single drop on the regional canvas screams forth louder than the rest, momentarily stealing one’s gaze. Enter Paolo Borrometi, a thirty-four year old journalist born in Modica, Ragusa. Paolo is perhaps best known as the founder of La Spia (The Spy), an online investigative newspaper launched in 2013, which he rolled out while working as a reporter for Agenzia Giornalistica Italia (AGI). Now, as then, Paolo’s mission is straightforward: to show and tell things as they are, blemishes
and all, and thereby contribute to the betterment of Sicilian society. The bravery of Paolo’s work has been met with praise by the Italian President of the Senate and the President of the Italian Republic, but his uncompromising stance has not come without consequences. Following an assault by two hooded men on April 16, 2014, Paolo lost mobility in one of his shoulders. Then, in August 2014, the door to his mother’s home was burned down. Today, Paolo lives under constant police protection1. In the spring of 2016, I sat down with Paola to discuss his values, his motives, and what the future holds. What follows is a translated excerpt from our conversation.
1 Unfortunately, he is by no means alone in this regard: all told, 30 Italian journalists currently live under such conditions. Between them, 3,000 threats were received in 2016 alone.
What does it mean to be a reporter today, in Sicily? As a journalist under guard, my writing and coverage has attracted a lot more attention and it has become a clear marker of my ‘civic action’ as a journalist. But before, it was much more difficult. Judge Falcone2 said that you can kill a man in two ways: physically or through isolation. Unfortunately, I have experienced both. I face the latter every day, while I was introduced to the former following one of the most terrible moments of my life. I was attacked in 2014 and I still carry the consequences today. All of this because I was telling the truth, I was doing my job, reporting and writing. What were you saying or seeing that was different from others? I was reporting the illegal actions of illicit organisations acting in the public spaces of my region, Sicily. But, you know, there is a saying that everything in Sicily can be justified in one of two ways: the fault is either of women or of the traffic. The focus on traffic stems from a joke made in a movie by Roberto Benigni’s alias Johnny Stecchino, in which he says that traffic is ‘the scourge that slanders Sicily, and in particular Palermo, in the eyes of the world’. Women, meanwhile, are said to be the reason why men argue. But you’ll never hear open discussions about the mafia. Here, the Mafia would seem not to exist – as though the Cosa Nostra were just gossip. And what has changed, after four years? It has become more difficult for people to say that what I’ve been telling is false or that the mafia ‘doesn’t exist’. Not only because of institutional recognition, but especially because my investigative reports, which have had political effects. [For example], the municipality of Scicli, as a result of my findings, was disbanded because of its involvement with mafia. The Vittoria food market, the biggest in the south of Italy, has been repeatedly investigated because of its involvement with the mafia as well. Mafia boss Gionbattista Ventura has been arrested and is now on trial, while other bosses from Vittoria have already been convicted. Some of my inquiries into homicides have provided evidence or, at very least, have disrupted the general silence on some deaths left unresolved. I – or rather, my journalism – have begun to provide answers in place of the silence.
And what have been the consequences of this? Well, I always say that I’m neither a hero nor a role model. It’s a flaw of Sicilian thinking that we try to find heroes and we cry when they are gone. I think Sicily, as any place, needs people who simply do their jobs, with dignity, just as I try to do by practicing journalism within the bounds of ethics and while respecting the rules of my role. It could be the same with entrepreneurs, politicians, managers… being ethical and respecting the law, not accepting compromise. Obviously, it is a lot more difficult on a practical level, but that’s why I’m here. It is possible and it is worth doing. You decided to share information through independent media, the newspaper La Spia. How did this adventure begin? La Spia was born on September 1st, 2013, when I was 30 years old. The way La Spia came to be can’t be detached from the history of Ragusa, the richest province of Sicily. [Ragusa] is probably best known in the media for its beauty and economic growth, but it’s also a province that has yet to muster the courage to speak openly about the death of Giovanni Spampinato3, one of the first reporters killed by criminal organisations. Even now, his death is state-less; his name isn’t associated with any particular city, and you never relate Giovanni Spampinato to the province of Ragusa because his death has never been claimed by it. I grew up hero-worshipping him, wanting to understand why nobody would talk about him
It has become more difficult for people to say that what I’ve been telling is false or that the mafia ‘doesn’t exist’.
2 Giovanni Falcone was an Italian judge and prosecutor. Based in Palermo, he spent most of his professional life trying to overthrow the power of the Sicilian Mafia. After a long and distinguished career, he was assassinated by the Corleonesi Mafia in May 1992. 3 Giovanni Spampinato (1946-1972) was an Italian investigative journalist in Ragusa for the newspaper L’Ora (The Hour). Under the leadership of Vittorio Nisticò, the paper became famous for its publication of anti-Mafia reportages. He was murdered after he began to ‘know too much’ about the connections between organisations in Ragusa and Catania. Alberto Spampinato, Giovanni’s brother, honouring his beloved and his profession, founded Ossigeno per l’informazione Osservatorio (Oxygen for Information Observatory) which monitors the journalistic environment in Italy in terms of safety and security.
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in my hometown and, if they did, why someone would still say ‘well, he had it coming’. Most citizens of Ragusa have never heard of [Giovanni Spampinato] and those that have generally speak ill of him and shut down any further conversation. To talk about the mafia in Ragusa was a taboo when I was a kid. I wanted to help end that. You’ve been accused of sullying Ragusa – its beauty, its architectural richness, of interfering with its peace and the apparent distance it enjoys from crime. I’m convinced that investigating what is wrong doesn’t place a burden on the city, but rather, it makes the area real and therefore admirable. I think you can only love someone when you truly know him/her, with his/her flaws, including their dark and complicated sides. Actually, I’m convinced that we especially love those. Well, I think the same thing can happen with a city like Ragusa –that should have been investigated as much as it deserved to. I started La Spia in order to dispel this myth - the one that depicts it as a province immune to criminal activity. It’s a project shared with many others – not necessarily just journalists, who open their own spaces and talk about what they see, from their point of view. I have always insisted on this, as the director (as I’ve been appointed by the team of La Spia): I won’t ever censor what you write, but I will force you to tell what you see with your own eyes, because this is what we need to do. La Spia offers viewpoints with which you don’t need to necessarily agree. What were your dreams when you were 20 years old? I got my law degree. I come from a family of lawyers and could have easily become a lawyer and, if this were the case, I certainly would have had a more stable financial and personal life to the one I have now. But I’ve always loved journalism, and when I was young, I used to say ‘when I grow up I want to write what I see’. Everything started coming together when I was at university, writing cultural pieces for local papers. I talked about the beauty that surrounded me, without filters. I think that to this day I still convey a lot the ‘purity’ of my narrative gaze, because I try to escape from any compromise, even legal and financial considerations, when I carry out my reporting. By way of example: on our website, we maintain only one advertisement, which we keep in order to pay for the site’s annual domain hosting. As much comes in, goes out. I think that searching for institutional or commercial backing, even if there is nothing wrong with it, has an influence on what you write; it introduces an implicit psychological bias to the way you approach certain topics. Consequently, my journalistic dream has always been about pure reportage, free of compromise. 66
You need to provide last names, first names and give photos, so that nobody can claim ‘I didn’t connect the dots, I didn’t know, I didn’t understand until now’. The notion of compromise is a fundamental one in your work. How would you explain it to someone like me? I’ll use Sicily as an example. It is a land of 5 million people that has been held hostage by 7,000 Mafiosi for too long. This has been the compromise that has brought Sicilians to live in a state in which omertà is in force - looking the other way because the matter doesn’t concern you firsthand. It is a watered-down compromise of selling out the interests of your own land, in which your kids, your nephews, and other Sicilians will grow… acting as if you can’t see. This is how I explain the word ‘compromise’ in schools, which are some of my favourite places to visit. Do you follow a specific journalistic method? In my investigative reports I always use first and last names and, in particular, I use photos, which can be rather dangerous. I am absolutely convinced that the importance of photography is more difficult for a Milanese or a Roman citizen to understand than it is for a Sicilian, a Calabrian, or a Neapolitan. Often, you’ll meet people who we talk about in local stories at the bar, around the city, at the barber shop. You can recognise them. As a matter of fact, many locals will already know of these people even without reading my articles, but are able to claim ignorance. This is what makes me so convinced of the importance to show, and not just tell. You need to provide last names, first names and give photos, so that nobody can claim ‘I didn’t connect the dots, I didn’t know, I didn’t understand until now’. The alibi needs to be removed. This is the first step in defeating omertà and, by extension, the mafia.
You’re aware that there is a price to pay for your beliefs and mission. When you go to sleep do you feel able to say ‘Today it has been worth it’? Yes, the price is high - at times extremely high - and I know that. But you can’t let it stop you. I’ve always said that I’m just trying to do my job. My job requires that I respect an obligation, that is to say, to share what I see. I live in Rome, a city that belongs to someone else, now that I’ve had to leave Sicily after all the death threats I received - verbally, on walls, through social media, by email, by post - as well as the assassination attempts. But I keep working. My job is to talk about my Sicily, all of it. The black and the white, the fascinating and the disgusting. I try to view everything with an honest gaze, without concession. When I go back home at night, my guardian angels are waiting for me; they are the last people I see at night and the first I see in the morning. I often find myself alone, in front of me nothing more than a blank page or the screen of my laptop and I wonder if it’s worth it. I think it’s human to be afraid, to be angry for what you are forced to live through. At the same time, when you receive messages and letters from people saying thing like, ‘I am strong enough to report’ or ‘thanks for what you are doing’, that’s the moment you look at yourself in the mirror and think yes, even alone, with all the pain, fear, blues, and at times melancholy life that you do not have and cannot gain back, you can say ‘it is worth it’. I am proud to do a job, my dream job, and also to do it in the way I wanted to do it. The price is high but, if I might use the metaphor of a blackboard with columns of pros and cons, the pros are evidently far more numerous than the cons. This is why I keep going with my head held high.
I cannot help but note that as we speak, Paolo reaches for his cigarettes whenever the topic becomes arduous; the habit has aged him, his candid face and chipper voice having tired somewhat. Behind the thick lenses of his glasses (which would seem to be as much for the sake of vision as a buffer to the incessant plume of cigarette smoke emanating from his mouth), there is a purity, perhaps even a glimmer of naivety, in his eyes. The job has taken its mental and physical toll, but his optimism and resolve seem as sturdy as ever. █
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MINNA NO DATA SITE (MDS) AND THE CULTURE OF MEASUREMENT AFTER FUKUSHIMA YASU H ITO AB E Yasuhito Abe is Assistant Professor in the Department of Media, Journalism and Communication at Doshisha University, Japan where he focuses on citizen science in the digital era. Yasuhito holds an MA in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University and earned his PhD at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Acknowledgement: This work was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 16K21476.
On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In the immediate aftermath, the active reactors automatically shut down. So too did the emergency generators, intended to provide power to control and operate the plant’s cooling pumps. As a result, the reactor core experienced three meltdowns, and radioactive material billowed from Units 1, 2, and 3. Following the earthquake, the United States Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) mobilised to measure contamination within a radius of 30 kilometres from the power plant, and reportedly shared the resulting data with the Japanese government1. Unfortunately, the Japanese state failed to provide the Japanese public with an effective source of information on the resultant radiation and
contamination. In response, a wide berth of citizens – from experts to laypersons with no previous technical expertise – assembled to measure radiation, and thereby created an alternative space for citizen-led communication practices2. Measurement practice necessarily involves both human and nonhuman actors. Consciously or otherwise, the decisions of measurement instrument users determine where and when a given space should be measured, and by the same token, the design and technical characteristics of measurement instruments (to say nothing of the materials themselves) dictates what sort of data can be compiled and how it can be represented. Each of these considerations contributes its own distinctive set of constraints to public understandings of the Fukushima disaster3. Still, more important
Sawano, N. (2013). Hontō ni Yakudatsu ‘Osen Chizu.’ Tokyo: Shūeisha. See: Abe, Y. (2015). Measuring for What: Networked Citizen Science after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster (Doctoral Dissertation); Fukushima Gempatsujiko Dokuritsu Kenshō Iinkai. (2012). Fukushima genpatsujiko dokuritsu kenshō iinkai: Chōsa houkokusho. Tokyo: Discover. 3 For example, while measurement instruments provide the means to quantify radiation levels, it is only once this data is qualified and categorised in terms of levels of safety that it can be publicly digested. 1 2
than measurement activity per se is the manner in which Japanese citizens have disseminated the resultant data through the tactical use of the Internet and social media. While many scholars have examined the role of everyday citizens in producing data on radiation after the Fukushima disaster4, this paper explores post-Fukushima measurement practice as a cultural practice in Japanese society. Following Williams5, this study takes the view that culture is ‘ordinary’, and investigates the everyday aspects of post-Fukushima radiation measurement practices. Rather than viewing measurement practice as the exclusive domain of experts, this paper investigates how citizens have engaged with one another in a process of meaning-making about post-Fukushima Japanese society through measurement and digital media. In doing so, this short essay attempts to sketch out the emergence of what might be deemed ‘measurement culture’. As Clifford describes, ‘If ‘culture’ is not an object to be described, neither is it a unified corpus of symbols and meanings that can be definitely interpreted. Culture is contested, temporal, and emergent. Representation and explanation – both by insiders and outsiders – is implicated in this emergence’6. As such, measurement culture should be understood as contested, temporal, and emergent – by no means permanent and monolithic – and eluding a comprehensive or singular definition of the measurement culture. In elaborating the concept of measurement culture, it is worth drawing on three theoretical frameworks in particular: Althusser’s notion of the Ideological State Apparatus (ISA, hereafter), Scott’s notion of state legibility, and Carey’s ritual view of communication. In his influential Idéologie et appareils idéologiques d’État, Althusser drew on Marx’s argument that the state is essentially and fundamentally repressive to advance the argument that ISA functions by ideology rather than violence, in order to shape the political space for communication7. Althusser’s notion of ISA is useful, as it serves as a reminder that the measurement of culture takes place alongside and in relation to the Japanese state’s own communicative and risk management practices. The notion of measurement culture is given fur-
MDS created an alternative space for citizens to cope with, understand, and most importantly express the consequences of the disaster. ther weight by Scott, who has examined ‘relations between local knowledge and practices on one hand and state administrative routines on the other’ and maintained that the state seeks to simplify and manage diverse and complex local social practices and ways of knowing through the imposition of its own ideological grids8. In post-Fukushima Japanese society, the state has literally and explicitly restricted local imaginations and cultural practices, and has made efforts to subsume them into its own systems of bureaucratic knowledge in order to establish state legibility. Finally, unlike the Japanese state, Japanese citizens did not merely seek to mitigate risk by way of the benign transmission of information; rather, they sought to provide a distinct and nuanced representation of post-Fukushima Japanese society alongside that offered by the state. MINNA NO DATA SITE Minna no Data Site (in English, the ‘Combined Database of Independent Radioactivity Measurement Labs’, hereafter MDS) is an umbrella organisation consisting of thirty-two citizen-run radiation measurement stations around Japan, which publishes volunteer-compiled radiation data on its website for free. MDS emerged as a response to the perceived failings of the Japanese state to provide adequate data on radiation contamination through established institutional knowledge infrastructures. While extant institutionalised data infrastructures provided some degree of information9, the technicality and bureaucracy attached to
4 e.g., Hemmi, A., & Graham, I. (2014). ‘Hacker Science versus Closed Science: Building Environmental Monitoring Infrastructure’. Information, Communication & Society, 17, 7. 830-842.; Plantin, J. C. (2015). ‘The Politics of Mapping Platforms: Participatory Radiation Mapping after the Fukushima Daiichi Disaster’. Media, Culture & Society, 37, 6. 904-921. 5 Williams, R. (1989). ‘Culture is Ordinary,’ in R. Gable (ed.) Resources of Hope: Culture, Democracy, Socialism. London: Verso. 6 Clifford, J. (1986). ‘Introduction: Partial Truths,’ in J. Clifford and G. E. Marcus (eds). Writing Culture: the Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Berkeley: University of California Press. 19. 7 Althusser, L. (1971). Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. New York: Monthly Review Press. 8 Scott, J. C. (1998). Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven: Yale University Press. 24. 9 For instance, in order to disseminate data on air and soil contamination, maps detailing the spread of cesium have been made available by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology since October 18, 2011.
Contaminated soil sits ready for collection. Photo courtesy Andrew McConnell.
such knowledge obviated the need for citizens to create an alternative data infrastructure which articulated radiation contamination in an altogether different capacity. The development of MDS stems in particular from a series of workshop on radiation measurement funded by the Takagi Fund held between March and July, 2012, as well as a July, 2011 summit held in Tokyo, at which more than a hundred local organisations established Kodomotachi o Hōshanō kara Mamoru Zenkoku Nettowāku (the ‘Network of Parents to Protect Children from Radiation’). Before and after these events, a multitude of local organisations began to monitor radiation and collect radiation data. Unfortunately, the degree of comparability and ability to integrate, migrate, configure, and display the resultant data was hindered by the fact that each organisation used different measurement devices, and that there was
neither an agreed format or comprehensive database for their files. In an effort to standardise data production and methods of representation across the organisations, MDS was launched on January 14, 201310. The combined database allowed users to capture a more cohesive and comprehensive snapshot of radiation contamination, and became a vital resource for citizens to visualise the impacts – both cultural and geophysical – of the Fukushima disaster. While MDS initially focused its efforts on food safety, it gradually refocused its energies toward the issue of soil contamination including cesium-134. This was owing to at least two separate factors. First, as the half-life of cesium-134 is approximately two years, citizens had a limited window of opportunity to collect data on soil contamination11. Moreover, the sense of urgency surrounding soil
Oyama, K. (2015a). ‘Zenkoku no Sokutei Dēta o Ikkatsu de Mitai: Minna no Deta Saito no Tanjō’, in Tokutei Hieiri Katsudō Hōjin Takagi Jinzaburō Shimin Kagaku Kikin Shimin Hōshanō Sokutei Jigyō Puroguramu Kōdinētā Oyama Kiyumi (ed). Dēta ga Tsunagu Netto Wāku Shimin Hōshano Sokutei. Tokyo: Tokutei Hieiri Katsudō Hōjin Takagi Jinzaburō Shimin Kagaku Kikin; Takagi Jinzaburō Shimin Kagaku Kikin, (n.d). Shimin hoshanō souktei shien jigyō. See: http://www.takagifund.org/activity/sokutei/index.html 11 Oyama, K. (2015b). ‘Hontō no Osen Jōkyō ga Shiritai! Higashi Nihon 17 Token no Osen Chizu o Shimin no Te de Tsukuru: “Higashi Nihon Dojō Bekureru Project” Shidō’ in Tokutei Hieiri Katsudō Hōjin Takagi Jinzaburō Shimin Kagaku Kikin Shimin Hōshanō Sokutei Jigyō Puroguramu Kōdinētā Oyama Kiyumi (ed). Dēta ga Tsunagu Netto Wāku Shimin Hōshano Sokutei. Tokyo: Tokutei Hieiri Katsudō Hōjin Takagi Jinzaburō Shimin Kagaku Kikin. 10
Surveying the Japanese countryside. Photo courtesy Andrew McConnell.
contamination was magnified by the potential impact on children, whose play habits put them at far higher risk of coming into contact with radioactive materials. Initial work in this area was spearheaded by the grassroots organisation Dojō Chōsa Purojekuto Iwate (‘Soil Investigation Project in Iwate’), which compiled data from 316 sites throughout Iwate Prefecture alongside other citizen-run radiation measurement stations from Iwate, Miyagi, and Aichi Prefectures from 2012 to 2013, and mapped radiation levels using a colour coding index. Up until this point, both the Japanese state and MDS employed individual maps to represent soil contamination, though the Japanese state – and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, in particular – tended to focus its efforts on 11 prefectures on the basis of previous survey results12. As such, citizens outside of these prefectures were in many ways marginalised and left to find their own ways of remaining informed. This, along
with the success of Dojō Chōsa Purojekuto Iwate, provided MDS with the impetus to launch the East Japan Soil Measurement Project in 2014, which began collecting data in 17 prefectures in East Japan13. In doing so, MDS created an alternative space for citizens to cope with, understand, and most importantly express the consequences of the disaster in their respective prefectures. In crafting its data collection strategy, MDS carefully referred to the state’s institutionalised data collection practices. Indeed, the Japanese Ministry of Environment issued a guideline in September 2013 which detailed proper data collection practices and demarcated the space for data collection. In the guideline, the Ministry specifically indicated that it was not advisable to measure radiation in hotspots – that is, areas where radioactive materials are likely to accumulate at especially high levels, such as drains and ditches – so as not to inadvertently overstate the health risks of in areas that citizens were unlikely to
Nihon Genshiryoku Kaihatsu Kikō (2013). Fukushima Daiichi genshiryoku hatsudensho jiko ni tomonau hōshasei busshitsu no dainiji bumpu jyōkyō nado ni kansuru chōsa kenkyū. See: https://fukushima.jaea.go.jp/initiatives/cat01/entry05.html 13 Namely: Aomori, Iwate, Akita, Miyagi, Yamagata, Fukushima, Tochigi, Gumma, Ibaraki, Chiba, Saitama, Tokyo, Kanagawa, Yamanashi, Nagano, Niigata, and Shizuoka. 12
encounter on a frequent basis14. As such, MDS followed the state’s instruction and discouraged its volunteer users from collecting soil in some cesium hotspots. Likewise, MDS sought to replicate the state’s soil collection method by instructing volunteers to use a shovel to gather one liter of soil at a depth of five centimetres15, to use standardised labels providing information on the longitude and latitude of the collection spot, and to indicate both the area category (e.g. park, road, playground), and the characteristics of the soil (e.g. silt, chalky, peat) before sending the soil to one of the nearby citizen-run radiation measurement stations.
Citizens outside of these prefectures were in many ways marginalised and left to find their own ways of remaining informed. Furthermore, MDS supplemented more conventional representations with a comparison of contamination levels across East Japan with those in Chernobyl – an area which retains its salience in the social imagination. To this end, MDS mapped and categorised its data into twelve coloured layers. The result provided a novel means of appreciating the impact on Japanese soil in relation to post-Chernobyl Ukrainian and Belarusian evacuation zones. According to the map, for instance, orange data points were used to indicate areas in which, according to Ukrainian and Belarusian laws of 1991, residents would have retained their rights of migration. (Incidentally, such orange data points exist in parts of Iwate, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, and Chiba prefectures). The qualification of specific areas in terms of health and safety in historical context thus provided an alternative means of visualising and appreciating space post-Fukushima. It is important to acknowledge that both MDS’s decision to standardise soil collection and its subsequent visualisations of data were as much rhetorical as they were pragmatic,
serving both as a means for making ‘good’ (which is to say reliable and comparable) data and a means to curate persuasive and politically impactful data. As Gregg and Nafus write, ‘…a datum does not stand on its own, but requires other datums to mean. They come together to say something. But to do so, first they must be assembled. This work of crafting association is necessarily rhetorical, since it is never possible to capture all information adequately. For data to mean something, the network of association at some point must be cut.’16 By standardising collection methods, MDS not only sought to ensure the validity of each datum, but created its own data infrastructure that could be seen as ‘legible’ to the state. In this sense, MDS’s representation of the disaster challenged the state’s risk management space by way of its indication of areas with no soil contamination data – that is to say, areas which the Japanese state had not adequately accounted for in its post-Fukushima risk governance strategy. As Rosenberg rightly points out, data are not ontological, but rather rhetorical resources for making an argument17. In recognition of this, MDS has used data to create an alternative shared view of post-Fukushima Japanese society, integrating and incorporating its volunteers’ insights and imaginations into a political and cultural space operating in tandem with (and occasionally in opposition to) the dominant view proposed by the Japanese state. In doing so, MDS sought to make citizen-led ways of knowing ‘legible’ to the state through a collective record of data as media. There is no such thing as measurement in isolation from culture. By examining post-Fukushima Japanese society through the lens of measurement culture, we can begin to appreciate how citizens’ measurement and mapping of radiation necessarily involves a measurement of the culture of the state’s risk management assemblage. As Carey rightly points out, the ritual component to communication enables both ‘the maintenance of society in time’ and ‘the representation of shared beliefs’18. By engaging with measurement practice as ‘semiotic resistance’19, Japanese citizens did not merely articulate their shared view of post-Fukushima Japanese society through tactical means, but revealed the state’s strategic maintenance of society through institutionalised measurement practices. █
Kankyōshō. (2013). Josen kankei gaidorain. See: http://bit.ly/2wslD0t Minna no Data Site & Higashi Nihon Dojō Sokutei Purojekuto. (n.d.) Komikku ban shimin ni yoru higashinihon dojō bekureru sokutei projekuto toranomaki. See: http://bit.ly/2wdT8Et 16 Gregg, M. and Nafus, D. (2017). ‘Data,’ in L. Ouellette and J. Gray (Eds). Keywords for Media Studies. New York: NYU Press. 53. 17 Rosenberg, D. (2013). ‘Data before the Fact,’ in L. Gitelman (Ed.). ‘Raw Data’ is an Oxymoron. Cambridge: MIT Press. 18 Carey, J.W. (1989). Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society. New York: Routledge. 15. 19 Fiske, J. (2011). Reading the Popular 2nd edition. New York: Routledge. 144. 14 15
DRONE SENSE OLIVE R CASE, ADAM FISH, & B RADLEY L. GAR R ETT Oliver Case is a recent graduate of the HighWire PhD programme at Lancaster University. His research uses video platforms and participatory methods to investigate time and vision. Oliver holds a BA in Italian and Film Studies from the University of Reading and an MA in Film and Television Directing from the University of Hertfordshire. Adam Fish is a cultural anthropologist, video producer, and senior lecturer in the Sociology Department at Lancaster University, where he examines digital industries and digital activists. From 2017-2018, Adam is a Leverhulme Research Fellow conducting research titled ‘Opening the Droncode: The Privatisation of Urban Airspace’. Bradley L. Garrett is a Research Fellow in the School of Geosciences at the University of Sydney where he is conducting a 3-year ethnography with groups preparing for the apocalypse. He is the author of four books, including Explore Everything: Place-hacking the City (Verso, 2013), and is a regular columnist for The Guardian.
‘There is therefore a terrestrial fire, water, air, and earth, but there is also an aerial or celestial earth, water, fire, and air. There is a struggle between the earth and sky, with the imprisonment of all four elements at stake’1
his article complements and further contextualises our film Points of Presence (2017), an experimental narrative created as part of the ongoing System Earth Cable project (Fish, Garrett, Case, 2017, 2016). In the film and on the project, we employ a consumer drone to extend our sense of the digitally networked environment by tracking the Internet infrastructure across the North Atlantic from Iceland to the United Kingdom, via its intermediary nodal connections in the Faroe, Shetland, and Orkney Islands. Reading this data as a materially complex narrative, we reveal an emerging stratigraphy where digital mobility is both freed and compromised between vast open spaces and extreme confinements. Through co-reflective editing of the footage with found online sound
and imagery, we speculate that the Internet-drone assemblage forms an enclosure of communication inside of which the digital and the organic merge. We argue that an evolving symbiosis disrupts sense as both affection and understanding and suggests an opportunity for reframing digitally networked communication in material-organic terms. In this short companion piece, we re-present the movement of the film using untitled still frames to evoke a digital-organic levitative sensibility that resonates with Deleuze’s elemental conflict depicted in the opening epigraph. Connected through networked technologies, we live at the margins of sense and sensibility where our self-image feeds back on itself ad infinitum and without reference to material origins. Succeeding an alienating hyper-reality, sense technologies such as the drone may, perhaps ironically, serve to remind us of our entanglement with the elemental by extending the sensory mindbody further into the atmosphere. Whether
Deleuze, G. (1990). The Logic of Sense. London: Continuum.
CAS E, F I S H, & GAR R ETT
employed to measure water retention on treetops in Burma, aid firefighters in saving lives, or discover and attend to rare plants on inaccessible cliff faces, the drone is an expansion of intention that serves negentropy2, the distinctive characteristic of life that resists decay and disorder. As pharmakon, both a cure and poison, the drone may also accelerate the entropic force as a mode of surveillance and destruction. It conjures both a first aid and kill box3, to wield a power that can reconfigure the interface between capital, state, and sense4. In the tech industry, 3D Robotics CEO and ex editor-in-chief of Wired magazine Chris Anderson claims that the drone will give ‘everybody’ access to ‘tools only satellite owners had just a few years ago’5. True to the technoliberal perspective that technological democratisation is both economically and socially beneficial (Fish, 2017), Anderson advises us to seize upon the apparent ‘emptiness’ of the sky.
The drone is a powerful ethnographic tool for exploring margins of society where aerial mobility of vision can mediate otherwise hidden perspectives to a global community. In the domain of artistic research, the drone is a powerful ethnographic tool for exploring the margins of society where an aerial mobility of vision can mediate otherwise hidden perspectives to a global community. A striking example of this can be found in the Unequal Scenes Project6 which communicates an imbalanced world in original, emphatic terms by making bird’s eye flyovers between the
starkest economic divides in modern society. Johnny Miller, the socially subversive pilot behind the project, suggests that the impact of these images may in part arise from the feeling of detachment exerted by drone vision. We also suggest, however, that such detachment is experienced methodologically as a controlled bodily extension and that viewers may experience a distinctive form of contact with the environment through a proxy-sense; a form of detachment beginning with photography and finding potential reciprocity in the digital. Perhaps the most important aspect of the drone is its capacity to mediate real time sense-data back to the body, and by extension, any networked computer. Using a WiFi connection, the acrobatic camera works in parallel to the evolving subsurface megastructure that is the Internet. It is thus tethered to the earth, not only an extension of body but also a node within a sensorial feedback system at an extremity of a planetary computer network. In navigating these elemental boundaries, the drone is positioned to mediate a looming hybridity of digital and organic information. In the film Points of Presence, the posthuman eye observes its own anthropomorphisation as it watches our collective effort to procreate through an emerging body of infrastructural arteries and high security rib cages that surface only fleetingly before burrowing back into private, governmental, and corporate camouflage. As ex-bodies, the Internet and the drone share the same light-encoded information, a circulation of frequencies originating in the control of fire, that promethean gift that transformed humanity’s fragility into its power. This light stream burns sub-aquatically, utilising water as a bridge. The drone, a distinctly aerial body, thus inadvertently reflects a multi-elemental origin and the pilot recedes or ascends to the role of spectre and channel, stretching the space between pyro-political and sub-marine technologies. Perhaps the technical network, this technical body, is not extending itself as famously hypothesised by Marshall McLuhan7, but stretching or expanding so that the space between elements widens and becomes porous to other flows of information. Theory meets science through the mobilised image as we speculate on a digital and organic interdependence, perhaps an eternal return, or Deleuzian superfold8, towards a collective understanding of consciousness. For now, a technological expansion of sense
See: Schrödinger, E. (1943, 1992). What is Life?. New York: Cambridge University Press. A kill box is ‘a temporary autonomous zone of slaughter’, coined by the US military. See, e.g. Chamayou, G. (2015). A Theory of the Drone. New York: The New Press. 4 Shaw, I. (2017). ‘The Great War of Enclosure: Securing the Skies’. Antipode. 1-24. 5 Anderson, C. (31 March, 2017). The Revolution of Drone-carried Sensors. Web Interview. Geomatics International Magazine. 6 Miller, J. (2017). Unequal Scenes. Online project. www.unequalscenes.com. 7 Mcluhan, M. (1994). Understanding Media. Cambridge: MIT Press.. 8 Deleuze’s enigmatic term which arguably signifies an epochal transition where silicon chips and the organic fuse. See:Deleuze, G. (2008). Foucault. London: Bloomsbury. 109. 2 3
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The most important aspect of the drone is its capacity to mediate real time sense-data back to the body, and by extension, any networked computer. necessarily exists within the confines of an atmosphere, a limit of bodily expansion in spherical layers. Crucially, it is here and now that thought and matter exist on such a scale as to render a collective experience of time and insecurity of space. According to the eminent philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy, this life itself is ‘ecotechnical’ and bodies are created ‘to make the sense that we vainly seek in the remains of the sky or the spirit’9. As if bridging dreams, the connectivity and precision of the digitally networked drone suggests that we are in the process of making a revolutionary step in the human quest to explore the universe. The Internet itself may be the vehicle – where ‘vehicle’, from the latin vehere [to carry], is also a channel, medium, and agent. If the body exposes a breakthrough of sense, the drone may serve to repeat this process of exteriorisation. However, when connected to the Internet, a circuit completes between the earth and the sky giving rise to an enclosure of commons that may undermine or annihilate any potential for aerial freedom. To make sense of this, consider the margins of digitally networked communication. An elemental circuit closes within the confines of a climate and, on a far larger scale than alluded to in the epigraph, a war of elements stirs between the movement, space and energy of information. Here, it is useful to turn to Bernard Stiegler’s ongoing project10 which identifies and responds to an automatic, algorithmic society that functions according to the laws of thermodynamics. From this position, Stiegler proposes that we consider life and information
in the same breath and as an essential struggle between entropy and negentropy. In this way, man-made technology therefore disrupts the balance to the extent of exerting an ‘Anthropocene’, a deep-time epoch where human-technical mechanisation is the dominant factor in accelerating planetary entropy. Inseparable from capitalism, Stiegler asserts that the Anthropocene is an age from which we must urgently escape by consciously creating ‘neganthropic’ systems that relay knowledge and time freed by technical automation for contributory social and economic action – that is, the Internet revolution must now trigger a neganthropocene. We are currently in a tempestuous transition from the individual to planetary ego becoming visible in geopolitical transformations and in the recalibrations of media truth (both crises of sense). Perhaps humanity itself is in its awkward mirror stage, politics becoming clumsy as it understands itself anew? Or perhaps the drone is just an image, the introjection of a larger, macro-subjective communication? Speculation aside, the Anthropocene must first become conscious of itself so that it may continue to evolve beyond itself11. With an alternative understanding of digitally networked communication as evolving with the elements12, we may reconsider a global Internet as bound to a hybrid materiality of organic life and movement of information. The availability of advanced digital technology suggests that we, as political bodies, may soon stand together at the margins of our networked communication equipped with a pyrotechnical sense infusing with the earth, sea, and sky. As an attempt to conclude a perpetual automation, we now rotate the expanded view to glimpse a reflection of both body and biosphere. What comes into focus is a society in an age of elemental struggle and integration, and with a responsibility to fulfil ‘the essential function of the universe, which is a machine for the making of gods’13. █
Watch Points of Presence in full at www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTg0KNAHdRM
Nancy, J. (2008). Corpus. New York: Fordham University Press. 89. Stiegler, B. (2016). Automatic Society 1: The Future of Work. Cambridge: Polity Press. 11 Ibid. 12 Peters, J. D. (2015). The Marvelous Clouds: Toward a Philosophy of Elemental Media. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 13 Bergson, H. (2007). The Two Sources of Morality and Religion in Henri Bergson: Key Writings. London: Bloomsbury. 9
VISUALISING THE ORDINARY: ON PIERRE SCHOELLER’S ‘THE LOST TIME’
E UG E N IA STAM B OLI EV Eugenia Stamboliev is a media researcher and PhD candidate in Continental Philosophy at the European Graduate School, Switzerland and in the Digital Humanities (in the CogNovo doctoral training network) at Plymouth University, where she works to unpack traditions of visualising and imagining intimacy. She studied Law, Art History and German-Jewish Literature at Freie Universität Berlin, earened an MA in Communication and Media Studies at University of Arts Berlin, and is editor of ldr@cognovo (Leonardo Digital Reviews).
he Lost Time’ is a rare documentary that offers a glimpse into the Kawergosk refugee camp in Kurdistan, Northern Iraq, as its residents – mostly displaced Syrian refugees – go about the rhythms of daily life in a terrain of physical and emotional limbo. Produced by the Franco-German public service broadcaster ARTE and directed by Pierre Schoeller, ‘The Lost Time’ preoccupies itself with the mundane, and in so doing challenges the visual language of suffering and sensationalist impulses of the European press landscape which so often define mediations of refugee life. More significant still is the collaborative nature in which the film was made. As one of four journalists and creative practitioners commissioned by ARTE for their wider project on refugee camps, Schoeller arrived in Kawergosk in 2014, at a time when thousands of Kurdish refugees were spilling into the camp on a daily basis. Presented with few directives or constraints to production, Schoeller chose to train and entrust his cameras with a handful of refugees, whose round-the-clock footage was only
later pared-down and edited into a cohesive whole. In so doing, Schoeller’s directorial imprints become less apparent, and afford the refugees a greater degree of agency over their own self-mediation and representation. In this manner, similarities might be drawn to Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi’s 2011 film ‘5 Broken Cameras’ (or perhaps, to take a more contentious route, to Renzo Martens’ 2008 film ‘Episode III: Enjoy Poverty’). Though it is unclear at what point Schoeller first invited the camp’s residents into the
Presented with few directives or constraints to production, Schoeller chose to train and entrust his cameras with a handful of refugees. S TA M B O L I E V
…As far as anyone can tell, none of the three refugees involved in filming so much as tacitly indicated their willingness to be included as part of a wider agenda on representational critique. process of filming, the film succeeds at providing both an unfamiliar aesthetic and framing of refugee life. A visual dialogue emerges in which a perpetually shifting point of view – between Schoeller and the refugees, between professional and amateur filmmaker, between static landscapes and frenetic scenes of social life – provide a compelling approximation of what ‘ordinary’ life looks like in Kawergosk. ON THE VISUAL LANGUAGE OF ‘THE LOST TIME’ ‘The Lost Time’ follows a non-chronological structure, organised into a seemingly disparate collection of scenes that are positioned as a ‘post-narrative symbolic’1. In so doing, the film destabilises any presumption that it might stand as a representative medium2. Many of the scenes play out over family dinners, among friends chatting, and as children play or gather food in the centre of the camp. Three scenes in particular bear mentioning, as they point to questions on access, the camera as a mediator/medium, and of ontological shifts between insider/outsider statuses.
ence would have precluded such a degree of intimacy by way of its intrusiveness, the paradox of drawing attention away from the presence of the camera while it simultaneously interferes in the reality it registers is minimised by the provision of auteurial agency to the refugees themselves. The result is a feeling of having been invited as guests into a home, a witness to an apparently daily routine, as well as a glimpse into the refugees’ own visual signature by way of the scene’s framing. Each element to the scene’s composition – be it eye-level close-ups, a lack of high-angled shots, shaky camera movements, loose framing, frequent panning or zooming, and under- or overexposures – further serve to remind us of the amateur nature of the camera operator, and underscore the equal status of audience and subject. Example 2: A conversation between friends (filmed by Rwayda) As the dialogue from 47’00’’ until 52’08’’ unfolds, a similar sense of ease between the camera operator and subject begins to take hold. The scene begins rather unspectacularly, with Rwayda filming her friend Setti knitting on a bed. Setti begins to sing to herself, improvising lyrics that play upon her sense of hopelessness and sorrow. After some time, Setti brings Rwayda into the lyrics, and addresses her self-isolation and shame at being a refugee. Rwayda, caught off guard, begins to sob and is unable to respond. In this scenario, the social function of the camera is particularly salient, inasmuch as the task of filming compels and enables Rwayda to leave her tent, and to gain access to a perspective even she could not have been prepared for. Furthermore, as the exchange plays out, the camera acts as a buffer as the women wrestle with the discomfort of confronting their collective shame – ironically, an encounter made possible thanks only to the camera’s literal and symbolic buffering. Example 3: Camp overview (filmed by Schoeller)
Example 1: Family dinner (presumably filmed by Chorech) From 06’09’’ until 07’02’’, we join a husband, wife, and their three young children inside their tent, as they eat dinner while sat on the floor. The mother feeds the smallest child as the TV runs in the background. At 06’53’’, she notices that the camera, positioned on the floor, is directed towards them. She asks her husband if the camera is on. He nods. She smiles and continues feeding her child. A sense of ease permeates the scene, as the family’s interactions carry on more-or-less uninterrupted. Whereas as Schoeller’s pres-
While the aforementioned scenes focus on the refugees’ film aesthetic and signature, in an exemplary scene from 03’56’’ until 04’08’’, Schoeller’s own auteurial imprints as director and editor become more apparent. In bleak and static scenes, Schoeller focuses the viewer’s attention to the wider structure of the camp by portraying a sense of geographic and emotional distance. This fixation on the periphery of the camp creates an elevated perspective through which Schoeller deliberately positions himself (and the viewer) as an outsider. This is the height to an approach taken for much of the film, whereby Schoeller’s
1 Le Grice, M. (2011). Time and The Spectator in the Experience of Expanded Cinema. In Rees, A. L. et al. (Eds.), Expanded Cinema: Art, Performance, Film. London: Tate Publishing. 166. 2 Mitchell, W.J.T. (2008). ‘Addressing Media’. MediaTropes, I: 1-18. 3.
A family shares a meal as the camera rolls. Screengrabs courtesy ARTE.
view remains exclusive and non-interactive, avoidant of dialogue with residents, and offering nothing but wide-angle surveys and aesthetic impressions on the camp’s geography. The strength of scenes like this lies in their juxtaposition with more intimate, sociable, and interactive scenes filmed by the refugees themselves: while the refugees present us with private encounters and family gatherings which unpack an oftentimes distressing but nevertheless active community life, Schoeller’s outsider status provides a more passive and abstract picture which mirrors the dominant portrayal of refuges in the wider media landscape3.
collaborators as their involvement goes beyond one of ‘gatekeeping’ or ‘handling’, and determines in no small part the very unfolding of the narrative. In this respect, there are comparisons to be made with the production practices of Joshua Oppenheimer’s 2012 blockbuster ‘The Act of Killing’ whose trajectory rests on the protagonists’ literal recreations and performative reminiscence of their involvement in mass killings. While the content of ‘The Lost Time’ could not be more different from ‘The Act of Killing’, Schoeller similarly opts for a non-authoritative production process guided by the very people he initially aimed to portray.
CONTEXTUALI S I NG TH E ‘TH E LOST TI M E’
In sharing camera operating duties with Rwayda, Aziza, and Chorech, Schoeller embeds a critique on the limits of representation and on the exclusion of refugees as media producers. In so doing, ‘The Lost Time’ succeeds at opening space for the symbolic inclusion of refugees as producers within the European media landscape, whose dominant portrayal tends to support a homogenising view of refugees and asylum seekers as singularly passive or victimised6.
Beyond considerations of the film’s visual language, we should also consider the symbolic meanings which emanate from it. First, it must be said that the decision to collaboratively film and produce the documentary4 should not necessarily be taken as an indication that that the refugees’ self-representation was Schoeller’s priority. Indeed, as far as anyone can tell, none of the three refugees involved in filming so much as tacitly indicated their willingness to be included as part of a wider agenda on representational critique any more than they did into ARTE’s broadcasting politics more generally. Schoeller’s enjoinment of their perspectives should be seen as providing a guided integration into an established context that allows a certain degree of controlled access to an ARTE audience. In contrast to Witteborn – who details how asylum seekers have appropriated Facebook as a mode of self-representation in order to proactively engage with the German public5 – the refugees in Scholler’s collaboration are limited both in terms of their agency over modes of production and distribution (though they remain free to determine precisely what content to focus on). Nevertheless, they remain essential
Beyond this, Schoeller’s focus on the ‘ordinary’ and mundane elements of daily life can be seen as an opposing strategy to the more sensationalist discourse of the mainstream press. The result is a deliberate rejection and reversal of the stylised and demonising iconography which pervades in mainstream coverage of refugee crises and camp life. This is neither a withdrawal nor failure to acknowledge the existence of suffering or violence, but rather a constructive refusal to become preoccupied by melodrama by way of endless close-ups of crying mothers or forlorn children. Genuinely cheerful moments are of course few and far between. Still, moments of trauma and suffering are punctuated and offset by moments of happiness, by ordinary encounters and of daily routine, the stubborn persistence of which under such conditions are testament to the refugees’ resilience and resourcefulness.
3 See, e.g. Berry, M., Garcia-Blanco, I., & Moore, K. (2015). Press Coverage of the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in the EU: A Content Analysis of Five European Countries. Geneva: UNHCR. 4 See e.g., Sellors, C. P. (2007). ‘Collective Authorship in Film’. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 65, 3. 263- 271. 5 Witteborn, S. (2014). ‘Becoming (im)Perceptible: Forced Migrants and Virtual Practice’. Journal of Refugee Studies, 28, 3. 357. 6 See, e.g. Berry et al., 2015.
S TA M B O L I E V
Setti sings to herself. Screengrabs courtesy ARTE.
R EALI S M OR VI S UAL N EGOTIATION? Instead of searching for anything approximating the ‘raw truth’ of an image, Schoeller intertwines context, access, and masterful editing to reflect on the representational modes of film as a medium7. In so doing, ‘The Lost Time’ reopens a negotiation on what the ‘ordinary’ could look like when those who account for its mediation dwell circumstances as extra-ordinary as a refugee camp. In so doing, it offers a path to understanding experiences through the eyes of both outsider and insider, which are amplified less by eventful scripting and more so by the instability of the viewpoint. Bruzzi describes documentary as ‘a negotiation between reality on the one hand and image, interpretation and bias on the other’8. In view of this, ‘The Lost Time’ points to a dilemma that exceeds the filmic structure: not only must we as viewers and Schoeller as co-producer negotiate our respective standpoints, but we are simultaneously confronted with the reality that camp residents must negotiate what has become the new ordinary at a liminal moment in their lives. ‘The Lost Time’ invites us to recalibrate our own expectations of suffering, of life in a refugee camp, and of asylum seekers more generally, and demands that we consider who is subject and who is object. It does so in a non-proselytising, gentle fashion, and avoids any prescription of precisely who ‘they’ are. To a certain extent, to so much as search for the ‘ordinary’ seems a cynical and futile venture. Indeed, if any such reality could ever be found, it would be a self-effacing hybrid of the dramatic, dull, sad, and jubilant, somewhere between the aesthetically pre-programmed and first-hand experience, and certainly not capable of fitting into a film of just under an hour. █
7 Flusser, V. (1997). Towards a Philosophy of Photography. London: Reaktion Books; see also Hall, S. (1997). Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: Open University Press. 8 Bruzzi, S. (2006). New Documentary. London: Routledge. 7.
IS THE DOCUMENTARY DEAD? SOME THOUGHTS ON DOCUMENTARY EXPERIENCE IN A POST-TRUTH WORLD JOSH UA McNAMARA Joshua McNamara is a Lecturer at the University of Melbourne, where he explores mixed-method approaches toward understanding urban creativity and visual culture. He teaches across documentary film, media theory and urban studies, and has worked as a producer and scriptwriter in East Africa. Joshua holds a PhD in Media and International Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).
n the opening episodes of Treme, John Goodman’s beautiful rendition of a depressive activist, Creighton Bernette, stares into a webcam and addresses an absent American public. Sitting in the neglected wreckage of post-Katrina New Orleans, Creighton looks into the lens, stabs his finger at our screen and screams: “FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING FUCKS”. While the viral success of Creighton’s video makes him a momentary celebrity, it is inevitably short lived. It was the aesthetic of his vitriol, and not some sudden bloom of public solidarity, that had attracted his fleeting audience. Interest fades into inertia; injustice continues along its seemingly predestined path. Creighton’s eventual suicide drives home a pre-eminent political theme of our time: that behind our multitude of screens, what we so often find is silence. As a celebration of New Orleans’ music culture and a poignant study of communistic solidarity in the wake of the city’s destruction, Treme not only challenges the already crumbling distinction be-
tween documentary and fiction — Can you fictionalise music? Are the musicians’ performances not ‘real’, or the storm-wrecked neighbourhoods in which the show is shot? — but it also offers a moving meditation on the frustrations of aural-visual testimony today. The intention of this short paper is to be both provocative and advocative. In its provocation it seeks to in expose our thinking on documentary film, traditionally so closed about the text, to a broader historical and philosophical language. Much has been written on the history of the documentary1, but less thought has been given to the place of the documentary in history. This paper makes the claim that the special relationship between documentary film and testimonial truth belongs to a particular logic of the modern age, established as part of a rational European enlightenment, which has ‘pictured’ the world as ‘out there’, to be seen, engaged, known. But times are changing;
See, e.g. Rabinowitz, P. (1994). They Must be Represented: The politics of documentary documentary. London: Verso; or Bruzzi, S. (2000). New Documentary: A Critical Introduction Introduction. London: Routledge. 1
the foundation of this conviction shifts restlessly beneath our feet. The modern age was, as the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk notes, an age of truth ‘characterised by a particular style in the production of obviousness’2. The image (and later, the sound) took up its special relation to truth as an early modern mechanism for the claiming of the ‘world’ — a word whose Germanic root, weoruld, is ‘the age of man’ — and of the European colonising male. If a ‘post-truth’ moment is upon us, it is perhaps best understood not as the passage from truthfulness into falsehood, but rather as a transition from the modern age into something else: an age of technological and aesthetic globality, characterised by the rise of a startling and disorienting set of late-capitalist paradoxes such as post-national nationalism and global isolationism, enmeshed in the re-networking of sensations and meanings in which ‘actuality’ has taken on an entirely unfamiliar social and political character. The advocation of this short reflection is its insistence that the striving to understand how our documentary impulses might operate within this age of inverted-enlightenment — as audiences and witnesses, but also as documentarians and creators ourselves — must be made one of our most pressing concerns. To pose the possibility of the ‘death’ of documentary is to raise to our thinking what might constitute its life; it is to ‘make historical’ through the act of proposing an end-boundary. H I STORY I N A S PECIAL R E LATION S H I P The study of documentary has always sat uncomfortably at the edge of formal studies of film, a closer comrade to photography3. As Paula Rabinowitz4 describes in her moving and personal account of the form, documentary has traditionally operated amidst the tension between objective outward gaze and the subjective interior of impressionistic truth. The very term, first coined by John Grierson in his 1926 review of Robert Flaherty’s study of Polynesian youth in Moana5, is rooted in the conceptual and aesthetic gaze of ‘ethnography’ — traditionally: the seemingly objective study of people in their subjective features. (Although ethnography, like so many of our methods, has also had its ‘moment’ of self-reflexive inversion). Yet despite the promise of energetic immediacy in recreating the ‘eye’ (and — so often ignored — the ‘ear’), there was never a time that documentary film had been a ‘natural’ practice. Even in the pre-sonic vision of the early Lumière brother films from the 1890s,
The intrepid explorer, the ethnographer, the white colonising male, always wrapped their reportage ‘back home’ within the language of narrative and fiction. whose original ‘cinematograph’ was an unblinking machine for the chemical transcription of light, their replication of the eye was not fulfilled but rather altered, re-angled, stationary, monochromatic. Political and aesthetic aspiration for the ‘Real’ pronouncements of filmic aural-vision gripped the early proliferation of documentary practice: in Russia, with Dziga Vertov’s ‘Kino-Glaz’ as the quiet extension of the flawed human lens; in North America, with ‘Direct Cinema’ and its fantasy of invisible film crews; in Latin America, with Solanas and Getino’s ‘Third Cinema’, whose political reflexivity sought to overrun the screen, flowing out into the audience and down onto the streets. Yet these were not nostalgic returns to an ‘original form’ reclaimed from the narrativity of fictional cinema, but rather utopian projects whose dream was, in one way or another, what Linda Wiliams has called the ‘impossible archaeology’6 of digging toward truth. This unnatural capacity of captured light and sound to convey ‘truth’ (whether positioned as objective,
Sloterdijk, P. (2013). ‘Expedition and Truth’, in In the World Interior of Capital, Cambridge: Polity. 94-97. I think here of the ‘documentary’ as the moving aural-visual document as an extension of the pictorial. This extension should not be misunderstood as the simple introduction of temporality to a static picture, for of course photography has always played with time in its own ways. The documentary simply offers us a different temporal play, and in doing so invigorates itself as a technology for movement, juxtaposition, transformation and illusion through sound and vision. 4 Rabinowitz, P. (1994). They Must be Represented: The politics of documentary. London: Verso. 5 Grierson, J. (1926). ‘Moana’, New York Sun, 8 February 1926. 6 Williams, L. (1993). ‘Mirrors without Memories: Truth, History, and the New Documentary’, Film Quarterly,, Vol. 46, 3. 15. 2 3
psychological, or historical) partly defines the ‘modern age’ as Martin Heidegger describes it: That beings acquire being in and through representedness makes the age in which this occurs a new age, distinct from its predecessors … The world picture does not change from an earlier medieval to a modern one; rather, that the world becomes picture at all is what distinguishes the essence of modernity.7 This traditional documentary impulse — our creative drive for the ethnographic transcription of the distant into the close; of bringing home political history; of moving the viewer to transformation through evidentiary testimony — is entangled with the ‘production of obviousness’ which distinguished the character of the modern age. The ‘life’ of the documentary is not therefore its special and privileged claim to being ‘real’, ‘honest’, or ‘true’. Its life is the working of this special claim within the formation of a vision of the reality of the world; its role is in the formation of ‘modernity’ as the age of self-imaging. B E I NG S WITHOUT B E I NG The intrepid explorer, the ethnographer, the white colonising male, always wrapped their reportage ‘back home’ within the language of narrative and fiction. Rabinowitz shows us that today’s documentary is usually a ‘reconstruction — a reenactment of another time or place’8. It precisely plays upon the subjectivity — and temporality — of the messy archives of human memory. The traditional documentary’s claim to truth was always narrative, formulated, crafted. Its veracity drew from the deep well of the suspended disbelief of modernity — a willingness to accept aural-visual evidence, should it be convincingly presented: documentary film was that object which sought, to steal words from art critic Michael Fried, to ‘compel our conviction’. The truth of the aural-image is nothing innate, becoming instead a feature of a style of address. The wildlife documentary, operating as it does in the midst of global environmental disaster, presents us with a pertinent example. In David Attenborough’s Planet Earth series, the revelations of editorial tricks triggered public outrage — we see that the bird-mounted camera was not bird-mounted at all; we hear that the polar bear birth was recreated in a zoo; we learn that the incredible tracking shot of a mouse running through tall grass was meticulously staged. This outrage is not the shock of learning that what we are seeing is not ‘real’. Do we not watch this footage full of the knowledge that ‘the wild’ — defined as the absence of
the human — is a fantasy? Our popular discourse overflows with the awareness that the wild is in rapid decline, that in a sense the wild no longer truly ‘exists’ beyond the human.
What happens to the documentary as we move into an age, separate again from its predecessor, in which the picture and the sound no longer need to be ‘of the world’ for them to form the being of an age? The moral catharsis of the wildlife documentary is precisely the stylistic absence of humankind and our effects — a utopian hallucination of a somewhere, out there and in some indefinable past, that the wild lives on. Our anger is not therefore at the ‘revealed untruth’ but rather the broken illusion whose structures were the very premise for our moral visual pleasure. The testimonial power of documentary is therefore its rhetorical power to interpellate us — as witnesses — into the subjects of ‘received truth’. Yet is the ‘picture’ what it used to be? From the evidentiary limitations of police body-cameras in the US — as much a response to the proliferation of civilian cameras as they have been the result of a public ‘panics’ over police brutality — to the spread of ‘fake news’
Heidegger, M. (1938, 2002). ‘The Age of the World Picture’, in Off the Beaten Track, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 68. Rabinowitz, P. (1994). 16.
within closed digital networks which satisfy the catharsis of ideological confirmation, or the ever-looming presence of digital manipulation of the image, do we still believe that beneath the sound or image is a reality we can trust? That the digitality of the global age did not lead to a sudden and explosive revolution is now well accepted — the digitally encoded and virtually distributed aural-visual text has led to as much suspicion as it has precipitated new forms for expressing political change. No sooner had we announced the Arab uprising a ‘Facebook revolution’ than it became apparent that social media’s role was in fact far more complex9. The immediacy of footage from civilian cameras ‘on the ground’ was re-appropriated and recirculated beyond the individualised performative space of the social media feed, moulded into broader mediatising narratives. What happens to the documentary as we move into an age, separate again from its predecessor, in which the picture and the sound no longer need to be ‘of the world’ for them to form the being of an age? If modern beings acquired being ‘in and through representedness’, the post-truth moment as it pertains to the aural-visual might be thought of as a moment for beings that acquire being from the cathartic stylisation of reality in the collapse of the image of the world. We desperately seek out the basis for a new veracity within a world increasingly without trust, while at the same time we paradoxically hunger for the pleasures of the consumption of the performance of the Real. This provocation requires a practical formulation: what strategies for truth are left to the aural-visual artists in a post-truth moment? Is some ‘new’ form of global solidarity emerging — as DeLuca and Peeples10 have seen in the withdrawal of the rational public sphere and the rise of what they call ‘public screens’ — and is this solidarity necessarily one invested in the politics of the left? The central crisis of the documentarian today is not finding the more truthful story, but finding a new language for compelling conviction, even if this pushes at the boundaries of the ‘documentary’ itself; even if it fails to be a documentary at all. Perhaps our work should turn from the archive altogether and take on the character of a utopia, where hallucination replaces the image of the ‘world’ in the global age; where our documents are no longer dug up through an impossible archaeology of the past, but draw down from a future yet to come. █
See, e.g. Cottle, S. (2011). ‘Media and the Arab uprisings of 2011: Research notes’, Journalism, Vol. 12, 5. 647-659. DeLuca, K. M. and Peeples, J. (2002). ‘From the Public Sphere to Public Screen’, Cultural Studies in Media Communication, Vol. 19, 2. 125-151.
A SENSE OF PLACE
words: ANA RAMOS photos: CHANTAL M E NG Ana Ramos is a postdoctoral researcher at Concordia University. Her work engages with affective semiotics and process philosophy inquiry in the field of aesthetics and affect theory as related to art experience and techniques of the body. Ana holds a Ph.D. from the Department of Communication, University of MontrĂŠal, and is a collaborator and member of the SenseLab. Chantal Meng is a researcher, creative director, artist, and PhD candidate at Goldsmiths, London, where she is supported by the Stuart Hall Foundation as a Stuart Hall PhD scholar. In 2015 she was awarded a Fulbright grant to pursue research into aspects of darkness in contemporary society at The New School in New York. Chantal is interested in the notions of space and place (and in particular, their perceptual limits), and is a regular guest lecturer at the School of the Arts Bern + Biel.
andscape, with its power of space-shaping and proposition of place-inhabiting, affects collective subjectivities with an impact on sensing-feeling. Focusing lenses on forgotten and nondescript things, exploring how an unexpected portrayal of our environment may trigger a rethinking of a current surrounding atmosphere, the photographs engage with non-places in order to foster a concern for space and an engagement with the environment.
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CIT Y AI R P ORT On my way to the airport this time – I am absent although present. Crossing bridges and streets, somewhere. There is a way, a way I have to go. In that specific moment I am guided by the given space I cross and I do not notice. More specifically: if I do notice, I do it mostly affectively. Sometimes reflexivity takes over. That is where I force myself to stop. Force myself because in this passing-by-space, I am not quite invited to pause. I notice the construction of Connaught Bridge, which is somehow impressive. I watch out for fellow humans: a futile attempt. The feeling occurs I am out of place. I call the distribution of the sensible the system of self-evident facts of sense perception that simultaneously discloses the existence of something in common and the delimitations that define the respective parts and positions within it.1 The idea of the ‘distribution of the sensible’ arises here as a call for a thinking-with-space that is able to understand
the landscape of the visible as an establishment of sensible forces and a distribution of relationality. This establishment of forces is intrinsically political because it conditions the different modes of a being-together. It acts in a micro-experiential dimension2 as a power of affecting and being affected. Crucially important is to understand politics as a struggle of forces acting affectively to delimit different subjectivities, functions, and belongings. This delimitation arises as a relational field. Here, the singularity of the place imposes itself as a statement, an order. How does the passing-by happen? There is only one way: further. What is the affirmative force thrusting forth to shape the relational-event of passing through? Certainly not what Sueli Rolnik calls a ‘poetic force’ able to ‘activate sensible experiences’3. This is why there is almost no noticing of the place’s singularity, but mainly an acute sensation of passing-by, and a relating that is strictly functional. This feeling is part of a collective ethos. City Airport is a necessity, a moment only present on the edges of reflexivity.
1 Rancière, J. (2004). The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible, translated by Gabriel Rockhill. New York: Continnum International Publishing Group. 12. 2 Massumi, B. (2011). Semblance and Event: Activist Philosophy and the Occurrent Arts. Cambridge: MIT Press. 64. 3 Rolnik, S. (2012). Archive Mania: 100 Notes, 100 Thoughts (Book 22). Berlin: Hatje Cantz. 4.
M I LE E N D An arrangement of architecture and palm trees endeavours a friendly approach. A lurking, lonely and forlorn atmosphere sensed in the middle of the city. Distancing from that setting, a strange loneliness arises. The fences on the path suggest a dead end. A rather absurd arrangement unveils. Here, the sense of place appears somehow beyond reality, in an abstract and surrealistic way. A distribution of the sensible therefore establishes at one and the same time something common that is shared and exclusive parts4. Following Rancière’s vocabulary, the photograph is an ‘aesthetic act’ that brings to our awareness a certain ‘configuration of space’5 through a singular proposition for experience. The proposition itself acts as an apportioning.
In doing so, it creates content. Moreover, we could say that it in-forms it as a poetic density. There is certainly the possibility of “something common” in this patio. Its delimited spaciousness is in counterpoint to the confinement of the apartments in the background. This “common” we witness here carries the delimitations of a long tradition of social inequality. What is at stake in this distribution is the delineation of certain collective subjectivities’ territory. The latter acts as an establishment of both a belonging, and exclusion. The demarcation line is almost invisible, but can be sensed affectively through the cracks. Psychogeography6 proposes an inquiry into how the play of affective forces acts on experience. The main idea being to track differences in the atmosphere of an environment, strolling around town might as well become a way to attune to these cracks.
Rancière, J. (2004). 9. Rancière, J. (2004). 12. 6 See e.g. Debord, G-E. (1955, 2005). Théorie de la derive et Introduction à une critique de la géographie urbaine. Paris: Éditions Allia. 4 5
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D O CK LAN DS The advertisement panel has been long forgotten. Plants are present through the ambition of construction: they merge. The once presumably intended spectacle evolved to a rather empty field. Surrounded by elements of construction that may or may not have had a purpose, the bushes capture the attention as quasi rebels. Sympathy may arise, or a feeling of loss. Plants in the background are overtaking the empty panel. In the middle field, a bush in a reddish glow appears. Somehow, it strikes me: they are calling for attention in that rather absurd context. The way they state their presence, I observe. Were nothing being apportioned out, no world could form. What is being apportioned out, no one is able to say. That which is being apportioned out is in the process of landing. To be apportioned out involves being cognizant of sites. To be cognizant of a site amounts to having greeted it in some manner or to having in some way landed on it7. Of course, the apportioning out of space through different senses of place supposes diverse distributions of virtual forces where the sensing-body lands. In the same manner a
plane lands on different atmospheres ranging from snowy to humid-tropical, every time we go from place to place, we are immersed in different affectivities. In experience’s immediacy, every virtual force present will be directly felt as unmediated thinking-feeling – including past events and tendencies8. On one hand, to apportion means that tendencies are assembling themselves as a relational field, still ‘pure’ in the sense William James gives to this term: ‘a that which is not yet any definite what, tho’ ready to be all sorts of whats’9. Capital, urban planning, permaculture actions, devastating pollution, children playing, grass growing… everything participates on an infinite range of variations. In the in-forming, every ‘minor gesture’10 counts and may shift the tendencies’ directionality at any given moment. These multiple tendencies carry, in their heterogeneous being-together, a singular affective force. On the other hand, ‘what is being apportioned out’ appears11 in experience as it makes sense. The participation in the in-formation of a sense of place invites these tendencies to traverse us, move (ing) us, and to become part of us. To ‘apportion out’ is to acknowledge them as we co-participate in the emergence of an affective proposition. Suddenly, a non-place is alive with affective content.
Arakawa, S. and Gins, M. (2002). Architectural Body. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. 7 Massumi, B. (2015). Politics of Affect. Cambridge: Polity Press. 147. 9 James, W. (2003). Essays in Radical Empiricism. Mineola: Dover Publications. 93. 10 Manning, E. (2016). The Minor Gesture. Durham: Duke University Press. 11 Whitehead, A.N. (1933). Adventures of Ideas. Cambridge: The Free Press. 211. 7 8
F I N S B U RY PAR K A slightly disturbing scenario of a basketball field in Finsbury Park. Sculptural, palpable trees in the background are grown over by ivy. A fence in-between manifests a border. Barriers in the front, deliberately positioned: probably an attempt to supplant the damaged fence’s function. The basketball field is deserted although the presence of people playing is expected. Light condition: unfriendly. The chaos of the barriers, the dejected fence is irritating. A glum-affect insists with a feeling of strangeness. Without knowing neither a “before” nor an “after,” the scene leaves space for interpretations by the beholder. This apportionment of parts and positions is based on a distribution of spaces, times, and forms of activity that determines the very manner in which something in common lends itself to participation and in what way various individuals have a part in this distribution12.
It is a matter of priority. Capital is not infinitely available. That fence must wait, and the basketball player as well. The actual ‘distribution’ states that you either have the capital to cultivate leisure at your will, or you sell your time in exchange of acquiring means to live. There is a playground, but no playmates. Everything seems to wait for better conditions. A sunny day, maybe a Sunday, will be more appropriate for the playing to happen. In any way, the dance of meaningful affectivities is already happening. The basketball player waits for the opportunity to play. Its absence participates in this dance. Strangeness participates as well. Irritation may arise, but the photographer enacts an inflexion all the same: click! But now, it has disappeared: the unexpected portrayal of the environment in a photograph speaks of something else. In its ability to propose an intense aesthetic experience of the world, it pronounces unspoken words. This is art’s micropolitical force. █
Rancière, J. (2004). 12.
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PROJECT OR PROGRAM: PREFIGURATIVE POLITICS, FOLK POLITICS, AND THE STRUGGLE FOR CHANGE B E NJAM I N J. AN DE R SON Benjamin Anderson is a PhD candidate in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University (SFU), where he researches the labour process and entrepreneurial ideology of so-called craft industries. He also serves as an organiser in the Teaching and Support Staff Union and as a Writing Facilitator at the Student Learning Commons at SFU. Benjamin holds an MA from Johns Hopkins University and lives in Vancouver, Canada, on the unceded lands of the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, and Squamish peoples.
ecent political campaigns within the mainstream and social democratic left have been billed (both by themselves and others) as ‘revolutionary’. From Podemos to Bernie Sanders’ so-called ‘political revolution,’ grassroots movements have mobilised the imagery and rhetoric of collective liberation, bottom-up decision-making, and opposition to the status quo. This political development, which evokes a certain reform-versus-revolution synthesis, stands in stark contrast to the operational logics – namely those of refusal, flight, and experimentation with new forms of social organisation – of autonomous and prefigurative anti-capitalist (or at least counter-neoliberal) social movements of the last two decades, from Quebec’s Maple Spring to Occupy Wall Street and beyond. In this essay, I will attempt to tease out some of the tensions as well as commonalities between these prefigurative projects, and the coordinated policy and cultural programs proposed by proponents of less horizontal forms of political organising. The first stage of this inquiry will probe the anti-power, anti-hegemonic principles that guide much of the discourse that characterises these modes of political intervention
and social production. This is followed by a discussion of the limits, especially in terms of reach and mass, that are thought to undermine these prefigurative strategies. Finally, these limits will be weighed against recent calls for organised programs of political plurality based on coordinated efforts at both the cultural and policy level. Before starting down this line of inquiry, however, I would like to introduce two terms that I will utilise throughout this paper to designate each of these political streams: project and program. The term project, in this instance, is intended to encapsulate the experimental, self-generated character of many movements of autonomy. It is intended to emphasise their common underlying goal of the active creation of alternatives. By contrast, the term program is used throughout in relation to coordinated efforts to bring these political projects into closer connection with pre-existing policy and cultural goals. The political program, in this sense, is a compound movement of social production and political organisation that reaches beyond strategies of refusal and attempts to intervene at many points throughout the socio-political land-
Prefigurative actions... simultaneously exist as sites of mass theatre and creation in and of commonality. scape, whereas the project stands out as the generation and rearticulation of alternatives in practice. It will be my goal in the pages that follow to clarify this contrast while simultaneously finding points of agreement and harmony that assist in promoting negotiation and coordination between these two strategic positions. To begin, let’s consider some of the underlying principles and characteristics of the prefigurative project. First, the prefigurative experiments of the past two decades – the global justice mobilisations of the late 1990s, the 2010 UK tuition protests, Occupy Wall Street, Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution, or more recently, the 2017 campus occupations and student strikes in Puerto Rico – were highly participatory mobilisations from below, often coordinated outside of bureaucratic structures, and generally including some alternative or open form of outreach and narrative framing1. Additionally, in most cases these projects are spatially and/or temporally rooted, taking cues from Bey’s notion of the Temporary Autonomous Zone2 or occupation. Generally speaking, with these movements we observe the intentional creation of alternative modes of social life outside of market relations. In the words of Holloway3 , these projects liberate the human ‘power to’ create from the systems that exercise ‘power over’ human creativity and freedom. The goal in this context is not to create an alternative system of power relations but rather to free human socialisation from systems of power writ large. Moreover, in Holloway’s view, these mobilisations can – and often do – challenge capitalist hegemony by exposing and exploiting the cracks in its legitimacy. The Zapatistas4, for instance, continue to operate as a social formation outside
and beyond the Mexican state and the conventions of global market relations. At the same time, the Zapatistas organise oppositional actions outside of their zone of autonomy in order to strengthen the communicative dimension to their struggle. These efforts, ranging from the organisation of strike actions to the now-iconic electronic communiques of Subcomondante Marcos, expand their reach and simultaneously inspire the imaginations of activists in disparate regions and cultural contexts We should note as well that the proliferation of prefigurative movements has coincided, in large part, with that of social media, which stands out in its own right as a powerful tool in the evolution of public discourse5. It is easy, of course, to overstate the causal relationship between social media and social movements, to stray close to a kind of blanketed technological determinism. However, as Cammaerts6 argues, such media present new discursive spaces for network building, platform dissemination, and performative outreach, and have become commonplace features in the repertoires of contentious action7 of a wide berth of prefigurative movements. To take but one of the more salient examples, writer and activist Micah White describes the success of Occupy Wall Street at pushing its discursive platform into the mainstream conscience as owing to a form of ‘meme warfare’. According to White, the lasting influence of the movement was contingent upon a decentralised means of message generation, wherein the editors of Adbusters generated the initial idea, which was then circulated and co-opted by a multitude of activists and organisers. This more organic circulation, in White’s view, led to a greater degree of interaction from actors who built the movement to suit their particular needs, rather than requiring them to fall in line behind designated spokespeople and organisers. As White readily acknowledges, for all its affordances, such horizontalism also came with constraints, and revealed the limits of decentralised decision-making for diverse intended outcomes, such that the movement’s ability to articulate any kind of program for change was seriously hampered8. First, however, let us consider how the messaging of these examples interacts with the project of autonomous produc-
McNally, D. (2006). Another world is possible: Globalization & anti-capitalism. Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing. Bey, H. (1991/2003). T.A.Z.: The temporary autonomous zone, ontological anarchy, poetic terrorism. New York: Autonomedia. 3 Holloway, J. (2002). Change the world without taking power: The meaning of revolution today. London: Pluto Press. 4 ‘Zapatistas’ refers to the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), a horizontally-organised peasant collective behind the Chiapas rebellion in Mexico in 1994. Beyond the original rebellion and the ongoing collective efforts within Mexico, the Zapatistas are commonly credited as a primary influence and inspiration for the Global Justice movements of the late-1990s. 1 2
Cottle, S. (2006). Mediatized conflict: Developments in media and conflict studies. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Cammaerts, B. (2015). ‘Social media and activism.’ In Mansell, R. and Hwa, P. (Eds.) The international encyclopedia of digital communication and society. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. 7 Tilly, C. (2008). Contentious performances. New York: Cambridge University Press. 8 White, M. (2016). The end of protest: A new playbook for revolution. Toronto: Knopf Canada. 6
tion of alternatives. Many thinkers9 cite the ideological and pedagogical influence that decentralised, viral communicative strategies has on other activists, ultimately conceiving their impact as one of exemplar rather than of narrative. Day, for instance, posits that the various physical actions of organising – setting up the autonomous zone, creating the counter-public, and generally prefiguring an alternative – serve an ideological function in their own right, by demonstrating an alternative to the conditions of neoliberal global capitalism10. In this way, the physical and communicative activities of such projects inspires what Haiven calls the ‘radical imagination’ – that is, a collective imaginary that develops through the actions and interactions between and within movements11. In the case of Occupy, the development of the radical imagination came about through the movement’s ability to self-organise, sustain a multitude of autonomous activities, and ultimately help generate a diaspora of related movements (among them Strike Debt and Occupy Sandy).
No matter the struggle, the desperation of the instant is an enemy to the program of egalitarian social transition. In all such cases, prefigurative projects have a markedly communicative dimension. Prefigurative actions – including the occupation of public spaces, the autonomous take-overs of productive facilities, and instances of refusal – simultaneously exist as sites of mass theatre and creation in and of commonality12. These are experiments which both create real instances of new social organisation and engage the imagination in the abstract work of envisioning egalitarian futures. They are, in other words, simultaneously resistant and generative. Take, for instance, the striking visual spectacle of the so-called Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong or the telegenic occupations of foreclosed homes throughout the United States in the wake of the housing crisis. The performative force of these actions stems not just from their
political motivations, but also from their literal demonstration of alternative ways of being and of organising social life. But to what degree does this process of refusal and generation actually challenge entrenched systems of power? In contrast to the anti-power and anti-hegemony views of commentators like Holloway and Day, Srnicek and Williams question the efficacy of political projects that do not directly intervene in the exercise of political power beyond refusal or protest13. In their Inventing the Future, Srnicek and Williams charge that contemporary movements have stooped to an unexacting manner of thinking and have mobilised what they deem ‘folk politics.’ These folk politics, according to Srnicek and Williams, are characterised by individualism, an obsession with the strategies of the past, overdetermined localist ethics, and ultimately an unwillingness to do the hard, longterm work of actively challenging structures of power. This mind-set, the argument goes, instils in the Left an expectation of immediate results and forecloses the struggle for a post-capitalist mode of social organisation. In short, so long as it remains tethered to the anvil of folk politics, the prefigurative project remains backward-facing, and succumbs to a simplistic politics of refusal rather than engaging in a proactive program of social and political change. So, where does this leave us in terms of the potential of creating radical, egalitarian alternatives to the global capitalist order? For Wright, the solution is to be found in the unification of the radical imagination with direct opposition to dominant institutions14. The interstitial project, for Wright, is one which simultaneously generates new potentialities at the margins while stopping short of deconstructing the structures of power which separate those temporally-limited alternatives from true egalitarian social change. The distinction here is between the world we want and the means by which we can create it, recognising the entrenched power of regressive systems that would oppose such a movement. A key first step in such a ruptural program is intervention at those sites of social reproduction that instil both a foreclosed view of alternatives and homogenise political discourse. The corporate media, mainstream educational institutions, physical and virtual workplaces, the home, and the formal halls of government are all such sites of reproduction of regressive power, sites that continually stand out as targets for democratisation, reform, and radical revision. We might note that the flat and inclusionary ethos of the prefigurative project is, for Dean15, one its major failings.
McNally, D. (2006). Day, R. (2005). Gramsci is dead: Anarchist currents in the newest social movements. London: Pluto Press. 11 Haiven, M. and Khasnabish, A. (2014). The radical imagination: Social movement research in the age of austerity. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing. 12 Haiven, M. (2014). Crises of imagination, crises of power: Capitalism, creativity and the commons. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing. 75. 13 Srnicek, N. and Williams, A. (2015). Inventing the future: Postcapitalism and a world without work. London: Verso. 14 Wright, E. O. (2010). Envisioning real utopias. London: Verso. 15 Dean, J. (2016). Crowds and party. London: Verso. 9
When mobilised in social movements like Occupy, this has the effect of neutralising struggles integral to negotiating and directing social change in favour of a paradigm of inclusion. In an illustrative passage, Dean recounts how the crowd of Occupy were at one point faced with the option of securing a new public place en masse or of dispersing; the crowd chose the latter, electing for the pursuit of individual interests and wellbeing above that of the crowd. The voicelessness of the many-voiced thus carries the potential to hamper prefigurative projects’ abilities to intervene in the arenas of social reproduction.
Ultimately, what this exploration of prefigurative projects reveals is not necessarily their inadequacy but their incompleteness. In his acclaimed study of zine culture, Duncombe16 identifies and unpacks a further tendency of note – that of alterity as an end in itself. Many counter-cultural movements, according to Duncombe, self-ghettoize by willingly and enthusiastically assuming a defeatist stance even before they take action. For the zinester, the expression of alterity is the political action itself. This action, however, is nothing beyond an act of refusal, which may succeed at creating an emancipated space for a few (the zinester community, participants in Occupy), but does little to challenge power or the systems of social reproduction that reinforce it. How then might prefigurative projects and their corresponding alternative media ‘scale up’ to such a degree that they might actually affect largescale social change? One answer is provided by Atkinson, who notes that interactivity between social media and social movements can catalyse support for political struggles (at least at the local level)17. As such, political projects which contain a deliberate aim of building solidarity beyond their initial networks are more likely to mobilise support and to disseminate their message on a wider scale. While this is still a far cry from a coordinated program intended to challenge power directly, it does signal a method by which the projects of today constitute and maintain their own collective power. No matter the struggle, the desperation of the instant is an enemy to the program of egalitarian social transition. As
Wright puts it, ‘any plausible strategy for the fundamental emancipatory transformation of existing institutions of power […] has to have a fairly long time-horizon. There is simply no short-term strategy that could possibly work’18. Waiting for the moment of rupture rather than working to bring it about is the ultimate example of inaction. As the case of Occupy demonstrates, every moment carries with it a potential for preparation, pedagogy, and the development of collectivity, even when it lacks the salacious moment of revolutionary rupture19. It is in such moments of mundanity, of calm, of defeat, or of gathering momentum that the business of program building should be done. This means building political efficacy around demands intended to liberate human life and consciousness. Such demands serve two functions. First, they give activists something around which to mobilise. After all, the political demand for something like a universal basic income is neither new nor particularly radical. It is a practical and potentially achievable cause that would have the transcendent effect of freeing time for the pursuit of creative endeavours outside of labour20. Moreover, it is a cause that carries the potential to intersect alliances and bisect old grievances, without falling into the many-voiced voicelessness of movements such as Occupy Wall Street. Ultimately, what this exploration of prefigurative projects reveals is not necessarily their inadequacy but their incompleteness. While they do much to take on one side of the revolutionary equation – that is, the creation of alternatives by way of experimenting with new social formations – they leave the other side – that is, the direct contestation of entrenched systems of consolidated power – largely untouched. This impulse toward experimentation at the expense of contestation may be variously ascribed to localism, individualism, immediacy, or more simply, dropping out. This should not, however, serve as grounds for the automatic dismissal of such projects. To ask whether they are effective in challenging and overturning systems of power is to ask the wrong question. Instead, we should ask how their successes in creating and maintaining alternative social formations can assist in informing political programs against dominant institutions. As Haiven explains, such instances of organisation and creation serve as incubators and have developed ’alternative modes of reproducing ourselves as social beings…’21. They have, in various ways, expanded our horizons of the possible and have helped us build networks of solidarity across the globe. And, in their failures, they provide opportunity for learning, reflection, and regrouping. █
Duncombe, S. (2008). Notes from underground: Zines and the politics of alternative culture. Bloomington: Microcosm. Atkinson, J. (2008). ‘Towards a model of interactivity in alternative media: A multilevel analysis of audiences and producers in a new social movement network’. Mass Communication and Society, 11 (3): 227-247. 18 Wright, E. O. (2010). 300-301. 19 White, M. (2016). 20 Srnicek and Williams, 2015. 21 Haiven, M. (2014). 19. 16 17
BOMBS, BLANKETS, AND BALLOT BOXES: THE TERRITORY OF POLITICS IN THE 1981 MAZE HUNGER STRIKE M ICHAE L LIVESEY Michael Livesey is a graduate of the University of Oxford and the LSE. He has published work on a range of topics, from the representation of Muslim women in Western media, to Frantz Fanon’s theories of anti-colonial violence. His interest in the Northern Irish troubles derives from his family heritage – with links to both halves of the island of Ireland.
n 16th September 1976, nineteenyear-old Provisional IRA (PIRA) volunteer Ciaran Nugent arrived at Her Majesty’s Prison The Maze to begin a three-year sentence for vehicle theft. A Belfast resident who, at the tender age of fifteen, had been the victim of a loyalist drive-by shooting, Nugent was about to become a major figure in the history of the Troubles. As the first PIRA prisoner to be convicted of an offence occurring after 1st March 1976 - the cut-off date for the end of ‘special category’ prison status in Northern Ireland (de facto recognition of ‘political’ imprisonment) - Nugent was offered standard-issue uniform upon entering The Maze. In defiance of this ‘badge of criminality’, Nugent rejected the uniform with the riposte that the guards would ‘have to nail that to my back’.1 Naked, Nugent wrapped himself with his prison bedding – becoming the first of the ‘blanketmen’ who refused to don official prison wear. By 1980, 340 Maze detainees were ‘on the blanket’.2
As Beresford notes3, Nugent’s act of rebellion marked the initiation of a ‘confrontation between prisoners and the Government [that] became, symbolically at least, the testing point for the Government’s [Northern Irish] policy’. For the next six years, prison facilities at the Maze were the site of a struggle between Irish republicanism and the British State – culminating with the death of ten republicans during the hunger strike of March-October 1981. An apparently superficial linguistic distinction between ‘criminality’ and ‘political’ violence thus became the crux of two ideological camps’ bid for material advantage in the unruly province. The story of the Maze protests, and its pivot upon distinctions between ‘crime’ and ‘politics’, offers valuable avenues to explore the discursive texture of politics. By considering the centrality of discourse in the modern state’s attempts to monopolise the terrain of the political, this article seeks to make use of one such opening.
Hennessey, T. (2014). Hunger Strike: Margaret Thatcher’s Battle with the IRA. Newbridge: Irish Academic Press. 15. See: Mulholland, M. (2002). The Longest War. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 132. 3 Beresford, D. (1987). Ten Men Dead. London: Grafton Books. 16. 1 2
It is worth clarifying the context in which events at the Maze took place, as the conditions prevailing in the province more broadly were a necessary prerequisite for the prison protests. The prime feature of these conditions was the loss of the British State’s hegemony in Ulster. In Weber’s classic dictum, ‘the specific feature of modernity is that the right to use physical violence is attributed to any and all other associations only to the extent that the state for its part permits this to happen. The state is held to be the sole source of the ‘right’ to use violence’.4 Such a monopoly on violence was notable only by its absence in Northern Ireland in the turbulent years following the 1960s civil rights marches. Marc Mulholland, for one, describes the proliferation of ‘‘no go’ area[s] effectively outside the direct control of the state’. These included parts of Derry and Belfast, but also vast swathes of countryside – like County Armagh, which Harold Wilson famously labelled ‘bandit country’. In this vein, one government report of 1969 states how ‘the police were exhausted. They failed to control the violence…. It has to be admitted that the police were no longer in control’.5
The story of the Maze protests, and its pivot upon distinctions between ‘crime’ and ‘politics’, offers valuable avenues to explore the discursive texture of politics. In response to the disintegration of its authority in Northern Ireland, the British State opted to contain dissidence discursively. Hence the tripartite policy of ‘Ulsterisation’, ‘normalisation’, and ‘criminalisation’, which the minority Labour government adopted in 1975. Under that policy, the conflict in Northern Ireland was reframed as an issue of law and order – and specifically not a civil war. In Beresford’s words, ‘great emphasis was placed
4 5 6 7 8 9
by the authorities on the ‘criminality’ of terrorism, with a stream of rhetoric from politicians and police commanders referring to the ‘godfathers’ of the IRA, to ‘gangs’, ‘thugs’ and ‘racketeering’’.6 The expansion of the province’s prison regime was a by-product of this approach: between 1972 and 1979, Northern Ireland’s prison population ballooned from 745 to 3,000. This quantitative shift was mirrored by a qualitative development in prisoners’ status: namely, the withdrawal of ‘special category’ status. Militant republican convicts were to have the privilege of ‘political’ status removed, in deference to the attempt to cast their activities (and ambitions) as ‘criminal’. As Gerry Adams puts it, ‘the British government consciously decided to make the prisons a battleground, to try and defeat in prison those who it couldn’t defeat in the field of armed struggle’.7 For the next decade, the British State was resolute in endeavouring to link Irish republicanism with the rhetoric of terrorism. In the phraseology of the Wilson government, groups like the PIRA sought ‘to destroy Northern Ireland as a political society, terrorists who break the law are not heroes but criminals; not the pioneers of political change but its direst enemies’. When the Conservatives took office in 1979, they readily embraced this mantra. Thus, Northern Ireland Secretary Humphrey Atkins asserted unequivocally that The IRA are a small and isolated group of terrorists, representing no-one but themselves and engaged in a brutal attempt to coerce a law-abiding people and a democratic government into their way of thinking.8 In her own characteristic way, during a visit to Belfast in 1981, Margaret Thatcher voiced her government’s belief that ‘there is no such thing as political murder, political bombing, or political violence. There is only criminal murder, criminal bombing, and criminal violence’.9 Westminster’s approach to the Troubles was, therefore, defined by an urge to deprive dissidents of the ability to cast their actions as ‘political’. In short, the British State sought to pathologise republicanism in the north: a strategy that reflects, in miniature, Michel Foucault’s conception of modern state power. As Foucault asserts, when the state perceives itself to have come under threat, it resorts instinctively to a typology of criminality, terrorism, and depravity: in order that ‘the social enemy [may be] transformed into a deviant, who brought
Weber, M. (1994). Political Writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 311. Mulholland, M. (2002). 65, 127, 72. Beresford, D. (1987). 15 Sands, B. (2001). One Day in My Life. Cork: Mercier Press. 5. Hennessey, T. (2014). 13, 69. Margaret Thatcher, ‘Speech in Belfast’. (1981). Parliament Buildings, Stormont.
A weathered football rests among weeds in the courtyard of HM Maze. Photo courtesy Andrew McConnell.
Cells sit empty inside H-Block of HM Maze. Photo courtesy Andrew McConnell.
with him the multiple danger of disorder, crime and madness’. The upshot of this mechanism is that the struggle between the state and its competitors can be shifted away from the consideration of material ‘causes’ – such as, in Northern Ireland, endemic unemployment, inadequate housing, grubby gerrymandering, and poverty within the Catholic community. By repetitively substituting ‘terror’ and ‘crime’ for ‘politics’, the modern state is able to sterilise dissidence; in so doing, it preserves its monopoly on the territory of politics. As Foucault puts it, this is ‘the disturbing moment when criminality became one of the mechanisms of power’ – when ‘crime’ and ‘terror’ become a means of self-preservation for the modern state.10
...if the British government succeeded in casting republican inmates in the mould of criminality, the political base for the struggle would evaporate. Ulster republicanism, however, responded in kind: vigorously defending the ‘political’ nature of its cause. One statement by Maze inmates read: We have asserted that we are political prisoners and everything about our country, our interrogation, trials and prison conditions shows that we are politically motivated and not motivated by selfish reasons for selfish ends.11 Prisoners in the Maze fought in defiance of Britain’s criminalisation policy (through the blanket and dirty protests; and
eventually via the first and second hunger strikes). Bobby Sands determined that ‘I shall never give up. They can do what they will with me but I will never bow to them or allow them to criminalise me’.12 Similarly, the PIRA’s ‘H-Block Song’ epitomised its refusal to submit to the British State’s framing tactic: I’ll wear no convict’s uniform, Nor meekly serve my time, That Britain might brand Ireland’s fight Eight hundred years of crime.13 Clearly, then, the representatives of two antagonistic ideologies found themselves engaged in a struggle to define instabilities in Northern Ireland discursively. This battle to frame the Troubles as a ‘civil’ or ‘political’ struggle was of vital relevance to both sides, because of the concrete material advantages its conclusion would entail. As put by the prisoners’ public relations officer Richard O’Rawe: if the British government succeeded in casting republican inmates in the mould of criminality, ‘the political base for the struggle would evaporate, and the IRA could be portrayed as a criminal organisation rather than a freedom movement’.14 The prison protests attain a double relevance in this respect when we consider another of Foucault’s core concepts of power: biopolitics. For Foucault, ‘the body is also directly involved in a political field; power relations have an immediate hold upon it; they invest it, mark it, train it, torture it’.15 This form of power is felt most intensely in situations like the modern prison: where all aspects of an individual’s life (clothing, diet, sleep, exercise) are under the constant pressure of state supervision. In the Maze, for instance, state-of-the-art ‘H’ block architecture facilitated both physical restriction of movement, and symbolic restriction of communicative power. Equally, guards were encouraged to deploy physical and psychological means (cavity searches, forced shaving; claims about family members’ health, or sexual infidelities) – to spell out for protesters ‘the seeming omnipotence of the state’, as put by Tim Pat Coogan.16 The very bodies of Maze inmates were, therefore, a site for the exercise of the authorities’ power over them. As a result, however, prisoners’ bodies were also a potent locus for resistance to state hegemony. The hunger strike itself was a powerful form of body politics: with participants using the degradation of their bodies as a weapon with which to challenge the state’s power. Laurence McKeown,
Foucault, M. (1991). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. London: Penguin. 299, 283. Beresford, D. (1987). 61. 12 Sands, B. (2001). 55. 13 Morrison, D., ed. (2006). Hunger Strike. Dublin: Brandon. 64. 14 O’Rawe, R. (2016). Blanketmen: An Untold Story of the H-Block Hunger Strike. Dublin: New Island. 25. 15 Foucault, M. (1991). 25. 16 Coogan, T.P. (2002). On the Blanket: The Inside Story of the IRA Prisoners’ ‘Dirty’ Protest. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 22. 10 11
one of the hunger strikers, outlined the connection unambiguously when he claimed that ‘we were captured soldiers, and so we used our bodies as the last weapons we had’.17 The use of their bodies was an integral part of the framing strategy adopted by the strikers to justify their claims to ‘political’ status. Jenny Pickerill writes of framing tactics that ‘groups typically attempt to align their claims with values and beliefs held widely across the population… creating a dynamic relationship between existing cultural heritage and the development of a social movement’.18 In this instance, the symbolism of hunger and the Irish body was itself the pre-existing cultural meme. Hunger striking is an especially meaningful weapon in Irish political culture. Medieval legal documents cite the acts of troscadh (fasting against an adversary) and céalachan (achieving justice by starvation) as pivotal parts of the Senchus Mor (civil code). According to this code, fasting could be used to resolve perceived injustice – with the defendant’s magnanimity (to avoid the claimant’s death) playing an important moral role. W.B. Yeats wrote of this in his poem The King’s Threshold: Disgrace upon me; for there is a custom, … that if a man Be wronged, or think that he is wronged, and starve Upon another’s threshold till he die, The Common People, for all time to come, Will raise a heavy cry against that threshold…19 Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich, Primate of All Ireland at the time of the protests, recognised Maze inmates’ situation within this tradition in his petitions to the British: ‘it seems they prefer to face death rather than submit to being classed as criminals. Anyone with the least knowledge of Irish history knows how deeply rooted this attitude is in our country’s past’.20 The hunger strike, then, served as a dialogical petition to its intended audience – namely, nationalist Ireland. Again, in Pickerill’s analysis, ‘the cultural perspective adopted by activists enables them to mobilise supporters into action, tap into resources, form alliances, and communicate clearly’.21 The strikers’ self-sacrifice generated significant popular sympathy; in so doing, it created an opening for republicanism to enter into the electoral sphere. Thus, following the death of Frank Maguire (Independent MP for Fermanagh/ South Tyrone) in March 1981, the PIRA took the step of
In this instance, the symbolism of hunger and the Irish body was itself the pre-existing cultural meme. putting a volunteer up for election to Westminster. And, on 9th April 1981, Bobby Sands was elected to parliament – with 30,500 votes. Further electoral victories (to Westminster and the Dublin Dáil) followed in June and August. On the back of these successes, the PIRA developed a new strategy – advanced by Danny Morrison at Sinn Féin’s annual conference in 1981: Who here really believes we can win the war through the ballot box? But will anyone here object if, with a ballot paper in one hand the Armalite in the other, we take power in Ireland?22 Over the course of the next twenty years, Sinn Féin became the dominant nationalist party in Northern Ireland. This reversal of the substance of Northern Irish politics was only made possible by the PIRA’s Gramscian ‘War of Position’ with the British State in the Maze. As O’Rawe puts it, it was ‘only after seeing the potential for a mass political movement during the hunger strike [that Gerry] Adams [opted to] strike out and embrace electoral politics’.23 This was the necessary precursor to the peace process. Hence, Paddy Logue’s conclusion that ‘the hunger-strike campaign first imagined and then helped to create a credible Sinn Féin and, in doing so, laid the foundations for a peace process’.24 Clearly, there are lessons of both a practical and theoretical nature to be drawn from this narrative – most significantly, lessons about the character of the modern state. Carl Schmitt’s theories of ‘friend-foe’ politics are useful here. For Schmitt, the creation of ‘enemies’ is an existential feature
Morrison, D., ed. (2006). 149. Pickerill, J. (2009). ‘Symbolic Production, Representation, and Contested Identities’, Information, Communication & Society, Vol. 12, 7. 972. 19 Yeats, W.B. (1903, 2010). The King’s Threshold. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 3. 20 Morrison, D., ed. (2006). 8. 21 Pickerill, J. (2009). 971. 22 Mulholland, M. (2002). 139, 140. 23 O’Rawe, R. (2016). 67. 24 Morrison, D., ed. (2006). 76. 17 18
of the modern state. In his own words, ‘political thought and political instinct prove themselves theoretically and practically in the ability to distinguish friend and enemy. The high points of politics are simultaneously the moments in which the enemy is, in concrete reality, recognised as the enemy’.25 The modern state is thus on the constant lookout for opportunities to distinguish friend from foe; for it is by this process that it is able to produce and reproduce itself. On the other hand, the example of the Maze protest reveals that the state’s power and identity are, in fact, negotiated fluidly. In Pickerill’s words, ‘identities are neither fixed nor constant, but rather constantly emerging in continuous negotiation within and between groups’. Maze inmates’ identities as variously ‘criminal’ or ‘political’ were precisely such matters for negotiation, in dynamic relationship with the British State and the outside world. A costly negotiation indeed, fought over the bodies of the prisoners themselves, but one that reaped a rich harvest for republicanism. Meanwhile, the British State’s identity as the sole political authority in Ulster was also at stake – with the outcome of that battle being equally significant for the cessation of strife. Thus we see, once more in Pickerill’s words, that ‘the process of negotiating collective identities… ultimately shapes the political direction of particular social movements’.26 The struggle for political power, then, as exemplified by the battle played out in the Maze, is productive: it creates identities, relationships, and opportunities. Weber once wrote that the true politician ‘must, in a very simple sense of the word, be a hero’.27 Despite the darkness of the Maze, it is hard not to sense that heroism in the courage of Bobby Sands, and his peers: Tomorrow would only bring more pain and torture and suffering, boredom and fear and God knows how many humiliations, inhumanities and horrors. Darkness and intense cold, an empty stomach and the four screaming walls of a filthy nightmare-filled tomb… that’s what lay ahead for hundreds of naked Republican Political Prisoners-of-War, but just as sure as the morrow would be filled with torture so would we carry on and remain unbroken.28 █
Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political (The University of Chicago Press, 2007), p.67 Pickerill, J. (2009). 973. 27 Weber, M. (1994). 369. 28 Sands, B. (2001). 117. 25 26
UNMEDIATED / JOURNAL OF POLITICS AND COMMUNICATION
LOWELL GASOI ANGELS MIRALDA CLEMENS POOLE JOÃO INADA YARA FARRAN SAM LAWYER SARA SAGAII SOPHIE CHAUVET KARISA SENAVITIS BELEN FEBRES-CORDERO YASUHITO ABE OLIVER CASE ADAM FISH BRADLEY GARRETT EUGENIA STAMBOLIEV JOSHUA McNAMARA ANA RAMOS CHANTAL MENG VIRGINIA STAGNI BEN ANDERSON MICHAEL LIVESEY
33 37 41
44 49 53 56 60 64 68
ISSUE 01 VOL 01
Non-canonical and thoroughly unorthodox, UnMediated is an interdisciplinary, student-led research journal. We welcome agitative and original...
Published on Sep 1, 2017
Non-canonical and thoroughly unorthodox, UnMediated is an interdisciplinary, student-led research journal. We welcome agitative and original...