Notes from last week.

July 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

Dear AAB friends,

last week we met for our final meeting of the fourth session. Our time together this round was brief, but very stimulating. We examined the dynamics and intentions of the group as a whole, re-evaluating our values, our politics, and our boundaries. Our readings this round were meant to make more explicit a context that we believed to be already implicit in our analyses of the texts in previous sessions. We dealt with issues of race, sex, gender, structural violence, poverty, and colonialism.

For the last meeting, we read Jackie Wang’s “Against Innocence,” which examines the politics of “innocence” as a legitimising criteria for rallying against unjust violence. She cites incidents of violence against black bodies that caused widespread uproar (the most recent and mainstream example of which would be the Trayvon Martin case), whose victims were viewed as innocent (not carrying a weapon, not violent). She also discusses violence against women of colour, sex workers, poor women, et al. as often using the rhetoric of the “loose woman,” a victim-blaming process in which a woman’s chastity is her only evidence of violence done onto her, and any woman who falls outside of the definition of a “virtuous woman” is not a subject who can give consent and is not considered human (NHI). What is also discussed in the text is the popular, but internalised conception that subjects who are not proper (innocent, defenseless, non-violent) victims cannot be acceptable political actors.

We also examined the phenomenon of “safe space,” and how the safety of already privileged individuals tends to override the needs of others and, in fact, re-introduces structural violence and oppressive hierarchies into what is supposed to be a “radical” space.

Our work this session is to chew on these texts, evaluate our own behaviours and interactions. The meetings were filled with accounts of personal experiences that related to the theories discussed in our readings. We’d like everyone to hang onto those for the time being, and please stay tuned for a call for submissions for the next publication.


July 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

Last week we read texts by Frank B. Wilderson III and Angela Davis. They both open the discourse for radical social movements, explicitly addressing how the interconnection to race and racism has been stifled in prison abolition and anti-rape movements.

For Wilderson civil society itself is what has and continues to destroy Black bodies (he refers to prison-slaves and the prison-slave-in-waiting as well as bodies that “magnetize bullets”), and to concede to its democratization solely perpetuates violence and racism. He unflinchingly calls for disorder and “the disconfiguration of civil society” as this aligns with the essential positionality of the Black subject and corporeality. Demanding the system to reform and repair its historical splinters does not put an end to the hegemonic terror and violence inflicted upon Black bodies. He begs the question: can the junior partners (immigrants, white women, working class) be in unity with Black communities if they concede to policies and small crumbs from the State that are fortified upon anti-Black rhetorical structures?

Davis looks at both particular cases of sexual violence and how official policy and the judicial system is often the perpetrator of violence against women. Rape is used as a political weapon, from racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, to racist instructions employed by the US military, to the maintenance and upkeep of civil society. The myth of the Black rapist is an image Davis frequently explores in her work whereby white women are socialized to fear black men and desire protection from white men.

There are tendencies in social movements (rooted in Gramscian discourse) to view capitalism as the base rather than white supremacy. We questioned Marxism’s “conceptual anxiety” as it merely demands to democratize production and labour rather than demanding “production stop.” Production itself being the site of death. We were excited to see this interrogation and adjustments to radical discourse, venturing so far as to see possibilities in necessarily excessive language. Davis’ speeches and writing are clear and unashamed, demanding more from everyone.

Join us for our last week as we read Jackie Wang’s “Against Innocence” published in LIES, a journal of materialist feminism. As a young contemporary, Wang makes reference to many of the writers in this session of about a bicycle, and will compliment last week’s discussions. We will look at how the notion of innocence is “just a code for nonthreatening to white civil society” and how “safe space” becomes appropriated in rhetoric in order to redeem whiteness. The journal in its entirety is available on the schedule and definitely worth a read if you haven’t already done so.

Restating the Problem of One-Size-Fits-All

July 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

Last week, we encountered Rey Chow’s discussion of postmodernism and its various encounters. Postmodernism’s “global” (though unapologetically occidental) perspective groups feminism with other “marginalised discourses”– a sort of levelling out that erases difference between struggles and material experience. Federici gave us an example of a material struggle taking place in various countries in Africa.  Colonialism brought a relation to land that was incompatible with the pre-colonial relation to land. The neoliberal drive to privatise land and sell to outside corporations is acting as a new colonialism. Both processes leave women without land, which means that they cannot subsistence farm, that they cannot feed their families, that they have no income.

This week we’ll be reading Frank B. Wilderson III’s “The Prison Slave as Hegemony’s (Silent) Scandal” and Angela Davis’s “We Do Not Consent: Violence Against Women in a Racist Society,” in which we’ll see the postmodern indifference reproduced in white supremacy, and clashing material struggles within a broadly feminist framework.

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