Violence and time in North America – some thoughts from Isabel Allende


Actually, as well as liking some of Isabel Allende’s ideas about Memoir and memory, I also found her comments on violence and time interesting. She wrote (and I hope I haven’t eliminated the context in which she writes this):

“I’ve been so thoroughly incorporated into the California culture that I practice mediation and go to a therapist…. I have adapted to the rhythm of this extraordinary place….”

“The North Americans’ sense of time is very special. They are short on patience. Everything must be quick, including food and sex, which the rest of the world treats ceremoniously. Gringos invented two terms that are untranslatable into most languages: ‘snack’ and ‘quickie,’ to refer to eating standing up and loving on the run … that, too, sometimes standing up. The most popular books are manuals: how to become a millionaire in ten easy lessons, how to lose fifteen pounds a week, how to recover from your divorce, and so on. People always go around looking for shortcuts and ways to [-p.189] escape anything they consider unpleasant: ugliness, old age, weight, illness, poverty, and failure in any of its aspects.
This country’s fascination with violence never ceases to shock me. It can be said that I have lived in interesting circumstances, I’ve seen revolutions, war, and urban crime, not to mention the brutalities of the military coup in Chile. Our home in Caracas was broken into seventeen times; almost everything we had was stolen, from a can opener to three cars, two from the street, and the third after the thieves completely ripped off our garage door. At least none of them had bad intentions; one even left a note of thanks stuck to the refrigerator door. Compared to other places on earth, where a child can step on a mine on his way to school and lose two legs, the United States is safe as a convent, but the culture is addicted to violence. Proof of that is to be found in its sports, its games, its art, and, certainly not least, its films, which are bloodcurdling. North Americans don’t want violence in their lives, but they need to experience it indirectly. They are enchanted by war, as long as it’s not on their turf.” (pp.188-189)

Ref: Isabel Allende (2003) My Invented Country: A Memoir. Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden. Flamingo: London

how everyday emotions are being transformed by post 9/11 measures and terror talk


According to Setha M. Low (writing from the USA 5 years ago): “We are enmeshed in a historical period when fear and anxiety are being manipulated to produce unhealthy political ends. The consequences of this social atmosphere are not just political, but produce increasing fears in children and an obsession with safety and security that is claiming ground and appropriating feelings even within the ultimate retreat – home.” (p.62)

Since September 11, 2001, the Bush administration has mobilized a discourse of insecurity to create a psychological environment that allows the constriction of liberty in the USA, while continuing an unpopular war in Iraq.” (p.47)

She goes on to say that “political manipulation of terrorism and threat from outside is inscribing a new structure of feeling based on fear, and re-inscribing the paranoia of the Cold War period to further militaristic and imperialist aims. / This fear and insecurity discourse is becoming equally salient in Western Europe, in the form of a war against terrorism and discrimination against Muslim immigrant populations. These repressive actions have been justified by the well-publicized terrorist attacks in London and Madrid, while France has experienced widespread riots in the immigrant suburbs of Paris, based on anti-Muslim sentiment.” (p.47)

“One [-p.48] response to this production of insecurity,” Low writes, “has been increased surveillance and policing, as well as residential fortification, including the building of gated communities. Even though gating predates this period of homeland security and terrorist threat, it symbolically and materially accommodates these fears and provides a superficial sense of protection.
Catherine Lutz and Geoffrey White argue that the months of terror post-9/11 generated a tremendous overload of emotion and that this emotion has been ‘‘learned, half-learned, resisted, reformulated or ignored’’ by intense cultural tutoring that shapes how we make sense of what we feel (Lutz & White 2002:6). They conceptualize the emotions and the practices they represent as ‘‘emotive institutions’’, illustrating how media discursive practices evoke and reform emotions through television war news.
These emotive institutions are one component of the production of a new structure of feeling expressed in a variety of material and discursive forms including architecture and urban planning. Neoliberal practices of the shrinking state and the re-inscription of responsibility on individuals and communities are the second component in this process. Individuals and communities in cities are encouraged to protect themselves from perceived threats, thus contributing to the emergence of a new pattern of civic militancy even at home.” (pp.47-48)

“In this article,” Low explains, “I outline my concerns [about how everyday emotions are being transformed by post-9/11 measures and terror talk and how they are infiltrating the most private of spatial domains, that of home] and provide ethnographic illustrations from gated communities on how new emotive institutions are emerging and transforming the domestic emotional climate.” (p.48)

Low presents a very interesting discussion of how our concept of (and relationship with) the ‘home’ has developed in recent centuries (pp.48-50). She also presents a history of gated communities in the USA along with an ethnographic study of gated communities in New York and Texas (pp.50-61).

According to Low: “The gated community is a response to transformations in the political economy of late-20th century urban America. The increasing mobility of capital, marginalization of the labour force, and dismantling of the welfare state began with the change in labour practices and deindustrialization of the 1970s, and accelerated with the ‘‘Reaganomics’’ of the 1980s.” (p.51)

Walls can provide a refuge from people who are deviant or unusual, but this necessitates patrolling the border to make sure no-one gets in. The resulting vigilance necessary to maintain these ‘‘purified communities’’ actually heightens residents’ anxiety and sense of isolation, rather than making them feel safer (Flusty 1997). In some cases, the micro-politics of exclusion is about distinguishing oneself from the family who used to live next door. Status anxiety about downward mobility due to declining male wages and family incomes, shrinking job markets, and periodic economic recessions has increased concern that children will not be able to sustain a middle-class lifestyle. Middle-class status anxiety also takes the form of symbolic separation from other families who have fallen on hard times, families who share many of the same values and aspirations, but who for some reason ‘‘did not make it’’. The ‘‘exclusivity’’ and ‘‘status’’ advertised by new gated communities is being marketed to an already anxious audience created by the economic turbulence of the 1980s. Assurances that walls and gates maintain home values and provide some kind of ‘‘class’’ or ‘‘distinction’’ is heard by prospective buyers as a partial solution to upholding their middle- or upper middle-class position. / Crime and the fear of crime also have been connected to the design of the built environment.” (p.53)

Most gated community residents say that they are moving because of their fear of crime, but what residents are expressing is a pervading sense of insecurity with life in the USA. Policing, video surveillance, gating, walls and guards do not work because they do not address the basis of what is an emotional reaction. An ever-growing proportion of people fear that they will be victimized. Not surprisingly, then, fear of crime has increased since the mid-1960s, even though there has been a decline in all violent crime since 1990 (Brennan & Zelinka 1997, Flusty 1997, Stone 1996). It is not an entirely new sense of insecurity, but comes from increasing globalization, declining economic conditions and economic restructuring, the retreat of the state from social reproduction and the overall insecurity of capitalism. 9/11 and Homeland Security combined with neoliberal practices that have shifted the responsibility for security to individuals and communities have exacerbated it.” (p.56)

“Compared with most large cities, suburbs do not have many public places were strangers intermingle, and the relative isolation and homogeneity of the suburbs discourages interaction with people who are identified as the ‘‘other’’.” (p.56)

“Barry Glassner (1999) argues that news reporting capitalizes on our greatest fears proposing that it is easier to worry about ‘‘Mexicans’’ or ‘‘workers’’ – focusing on symbolic substitutes – rather than face our moral insecurities and more systematic social problems. The bombing of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 has [-p.60] added to this discursive repertoire of fear and insecurity for New York residents.” (pp.59-60)

West and Orr (2005) [found] ‘‘The more people talked about 9/11, the more worried they became about becoming a victim’’ (West & Orr 2005:99). Defensive behaviour of not going downtown and staying home, encouraging increased home surveillance (Low 2003), and hiring professional security guards (West & Orr 2005) as well as building home based safe rooms and keeping two weeks of supplies on hand in a safe place, have emerged as common home behaviours with negative– fearful and anxious–emotional reactions. 9/11 has had an impact on people not only in New York City but also along the entire Northeast corridor, and in other large cities like Los Angeles.
Whether it is black salesmen, errant workers or fear of a terrorist attack, the message is the same: residents are using walls, gates and guards to keep perceived dangers outside of their homes and neighbourhoods. Contact with others and symbolic substitutes or explanations for their sense of insecurity incites palpable fear and real concern, and in response they are moving to secured residential developments where they can keep other people out. The perceived threats of crime, other people, a porous neighbourhood that is easily entered, and terrorist attacks engender a defensive emotional climate within which residents attempt to create safe and comfortable homes. But the reactive emotions of home – fear, insecurity, worry, paranoia and anxiety – dominate their conversations.” (p.61)

“…fear of others and an emotional shift in the local environment play significant roles in the transformation of how residents feel about their home places.” (p.61) “These reactive emotions, however, are not independent of the historical moment in which they occur and are sustained by a social and political context of fear and distrust.” (p.62)

“A new structure of feeling promoted by the Bush administration is creating a citizenry more concerned with protecting their homes than with protecting social and political freedom.” (p.62)

Ref: (emphases in blue bold, mine) Setha M. Low (2008): Fortification of Residential Neighbourhoods and the New Emotions of Home, Housing, Theory and Society, 25:1, 47-65

ABSTRACT Research on the fortification of residential environments and the spatial production of ‘‘security’’ within gated communities has lead to a broader understanding of how everyday emotions are being transformed by post 9/11 measures and terror talk. A new structure of feeling is infiltrating the most private of spatial domains, that of home, and further rationalizes and legitimates the practices of social exclusion, fortification, and racialization of space that mark current sociospatial politics. This article presents ethnographic illustrations from gated communities in New York and San Antonio, Texas, of how new emotive institutions are emerging and transforming the domestic emotional climate.

Reference is to: Lutz, C. & White, G. (2002) Emotions, war and cable News, Anthropology News, February, pp. 6–7.

“The Spectral Lives of 9/11” – Banita


Introducing her essay in Popular Ghosts, Georgina Banita writes: “This essay draws on Jacques Derrida’s concept of the hauntology of terror to point out the spectrality of the images we associate with terrorism and with 9/11 in particular by focusing on such popular culture staples as the portrait of Osama bin Laden, the terrorist as invisible ghost – “the enemy within” – and other spectral conceptions of evil and criminality. In doing this I hope to challenge received notions of haunting in relation to spatiality and futurity in the context of a particular form of hauntology related to a specific locale – here the Twin Towers in Manhattan – which, however, becomes diluted through its infinite mechanical reproduction in the media. My interest is divided among several layers of popular attention to post 9/11 “apparitions.” First, I look at the haunting presence of the WTC victims in the popular imagination, victims whose bodies were never recovered and whose photographs were [-p.96] scattered in a traumatized city that learned to associate presence with image rather than with concrete corporeality. Second, I consider the proliferating metaphors linking terrorism to ghost-like invisibility and tenacious haunting. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden has often been likened to a specter that resists “capture” – both in the sense of retrieval and visual representation. Third, I investigate several explicitly post 9/11 mainstream films that not only mention the attacks but offer an unsubtle reification of the events. While Cloverfield (Reeves, 2008) points to the attacks as its unstated backdrop, as the reality that always inhabits a portion of the viewer’s mind but does not receive any explicit mention in the film itself, other productions such as Reign over Me and 25th Hour (Lee, 2002) contend with 9/11 trauma as a hidden tumor written into the fabric of the film’s narrative and artistic strategies. I conclude that the imbricated layers of media representation itself have performed a kind of spectral haunting by reiterating images that have become ingrained in the popular perception of an event which still seems to derive its potency from hauntic repetition, involuntary memory, and a subtle process of postmortemization. The attacks, I argue, have not claimed a position in popular memory as an event, but rather as a post-event – less as the happening of one September morning and more as the era it ushered in through its abrupt disruption of everyday life and normality.” (pp.95-96)

Banita continues:

“In a brief comment entitled “Where Are the Ghosts of 9/11?” published shortly before the 2008 presidential elections in the U.S., David Simpson – author of 9/11: The Culture of Commemoration – writes: “Seven years after 9/11 one of the strangest things is that there are no ghosts. There never were.” To some extent this failure of the attacks to haunt and harass those they did not kill can be traced back to the rapid responses of the authorities and of the media toward a patriotic eulogization of heroism and a dismissal of the more troubling consequences of the attacks. “The photographs that appeared day after day in the New York Times,” Simpson continues, seemed [‘]… flagrantly dishonorable in their very effort to commemorate. They left little to be haunted by as they reconstructed the lives of the dead as Disneyfied icons of optimistic upward mobility, dreams achieved, selfless happiness, and civic virtue amidst an energetic and responsive democracy. No one was cruel, unhappy, or disappointed, no one unappeased.[‘] Simpson astutely argues that by preventing the work of mourning implicit in the act of being haunted, post 9/11 political games manufactured a pervasive fear of the exterior “other” while paying too little attention to the otherness within – the confrontation with uncanny remnants and specters of the attacks: “Except for the immediately bereaved who have hardly been allowed to speak but are constantly spoken for, we have continued to be kept (do we keep ourselves?) from our own hauntings, our own Godzillas or jungles of screaming souls.”” (p.96)

Defining terrorism as a form of visual warfare, Mitchell suggests that the war on terror is “a war on a projected specter or phantasm, a war against an elusive, invisible, unlocatable enemy, a war that continually misses its target, striking out blindly with conventional means and waging massive destruction on innocent [-100] people in the process” (185). Resembling shadow-boxing more than an act of selfdefense carried out with moral scrupulousness and precision, the war on terror can be seen as the struggle of a possessed person to ban the spirit that they are possessed by – a struggle that damages the self more than it banishes the parasitic spirit. Perhaps the most symptomatic embodiment of the terrorist as poltergeist is the symbolic head of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, whose frequent video appearances, coupled with the impossibility of tracking him down, have bestowed upon him the aura of a demon, a supremely evil figure who appears and disappears at will.” (pp.99-100)

Ref: (emphases in blue bold, mine) Georgina Banita Shadow of the Colossus: The Spectral Lives of 9/11, pp.94-105 in Esther Peeren, and María del Pilar Blanco (Eds.). Popular Ghosts : The Haunted Spaces of Everyday Culture. London, GBR: Continuum International Publishing, 2010.

ghosts, 9/11 and the spectrality of everyday life


Introducing their book, Popular Ghosts, Esther Peeren and María del Pilar Blanco begin to explore the connections between ‘the ghost’ and the everyday. They explain that they are interested in “the changed relationship between the ghost and the everyday” (p.xii) and assert that: “Ghosts are no longer just perceived as mysterious, otherworldly manifestations that need be put to rest elsewhere to restore order, but are seen to reveal something of the enigma of everyday life….” (p.xiii)

“The everyday is like a ghost – secretive, ungraspable, yet with an acutely felt presence – and is itself beset by ghosts. Michel de Certeau famously posited that “haunted spaces are the only ones people can live in” and the “Ghosts in the City” chapter in the second volume of The Practice of Everyday Life draws attention to the way the modern city is haunted by its pasts; taking the form of old buildings, trees, furniture, photographs, and other “wild objects,” a population of spirits “spreads out its ramifications, penetrating the entire network of our everyday life … this population traverses time, survives the wearing away of human existences, and articulates a space.” A different connection between the everyday and the ghost is established when, in his introduction to The Everyday Life Reader, Ben Highmore writes: “everyday life is haunted by implicit ‘others,’ who supposedly live outside the ordinary, the everyday” (1). Whether the everyday is haunted by what is outside it or by what used to be part of it, it is insistently represented as a haunted/haunting structure, where what you see is never quite what you get.” (p.xiii)

“…the ghost has become an increasingly appropriate metaphor for the way marginal populations – like the Dominicans seeking access to the U.S. – haunt the everyday, living on the edge of visibility and inspiring a curious mix of fear and indifference; and the everyday exhibits an ever-growing reliance on spectral technologies like the Internet, mobile telephony, and digitalized media. In addition, the inherent spectrality of money, central to Marx’s theory of capital, has reemerged with startling visibility in the exploitative structures of global capitalism and its creation of “spectral labor,” as well as in the current global economic crisis (which, incidentally, is seeing the return of the ghost town as an everyday phenomenon). And since 9/11, the everyday has been haunted by the specter of the “War on Terror,” which itself features an unprecedented degree of spectrality, waged as it is against mysterious, unlocalizable, and endlessly mediated enemies, in an indeterminate space (everywhere yet nowhere), and within an infinite timeframe (the threat never abates but promises eternal regenerations).” (p.xiv)

“…it is necessary to take stock of the theorization of the ghost to date. Located in the ambivalent realm between life and death, ghosts have always inspired cultural fascination as well as theoretical, philosophical, and theological consideration, but until recently such consideration was either focused on the ontological question of whether they exist or it used the ghost as a metaphor to address another, more important quandary (as in Gilbert Ryle’s critique of the Cartesian mind– body split in terms of the ghost in the machine). The ghost has also often been used within established disciplines or fields to elucidate a particular concept or problem. Thus, in psychoanalysis, the ghost, in some form or another, has been crucial to Freud’s uncanny, Lacan’s discussion of desire, and Abraham and Torok’s theory of intergenerational trauma. In literary studies, it is integral to the Gothic, as a primary genre characteristic. It was, however, with Derrida’s Specters of Marx that the ghost not only acquired a deconstructive dimension, but emerged as a methodology in and of itself. Derrida’s extrapolation of the disjointing function of the ghost in Hamlet to ontology, history, and the wider social realm, as well as his association of the specter with absolute alterity, notions of inheritance, hospitality, and the messianic, have proved immensely popular and productive. However, whereas Derrida’s hauntology ultimately plays upon much the same aspects of deferred meaning and absence-presence as other, earlier figures of deconstruction like the trace and the hymen, thus subsuming it to a wider theoretical framework, this volume aims to put the ghost center stage.” (p.xv)

The increasing normalcy of the ghost also manifests in the way many ghosts in current fiction, film, and television are portrayed in an exceedingly mundane manner, as part of the everyday and as having everyday concerns. Whereas it used to be common to find ghosts trying to drag the living out of the everyday into a world of horrors on “the other side,” what contemporary ghosts want more than anything, it seems, is to be normal. Consequently, one of the prevailing fears in relation to the contemporary ghost is not that it might terrify us, but that we might not notice or recognize it at all.” (p.xiv)

“Each speaking for different ghostly realms, the essays in Popular Ghosts produce an eclectic map of the ways in which the global everyday continues to incorporate haunting into its operative functions and creative representations. Taking the popular to mean that which attempts to encompass the varied tastes, movements, and fascinations of subjects in the various societies here represented, each chapter reflects on the importance of incorporating, questioning, and renewing the languages of haunting in(to) the world of the living to explore the historicity of being and location, the nature of community, and the ways in which we can continue existing with ghosts.” (pxxii)

Ref: (italics in original, emphases in blue bold, mine) Esther Peeren and María del Pilar Blanco ‘Introduction’ pp.ix-xxiv in Esther Peeren, and María del Pilar Blanco (Eds.). Popular Ghosts : The Haunted Spaces of Everyday Culture. London, GBR: Continuum International Publishing, 2010.

stitching together of everyday life with the war on terror?


Thinking of violence as it relates to geography, this article by Louise Amoore caught my eye. Pointing to former senior American politicians who went into business in security (eg former under Secretary, Asa Hutchinson, who established the Hutchinson Group, a homeland security consulting company), Amoore writes:

There is, as William Connolly describes it, an emerging “resonance” between security activities: [‘]Airport surveillance, internet filters, passport tracking devices, legal detention without criminal charges, security internment camps, secret trials, “free speech zones”, DNA profiles, border walls and fences, erosion of the line between internal security and external military action—these security activities resonate together, engendering a national security machine that pushes numerous issues outside the range of legitimate dissent and mobilizes the populace to support new security and surveillance practices against underspecified enemies[‘] (Connolly 2005:54).

Neither a militarization of society, nor even a commercialization of security, then, what we are seeing is a stitching together of the mundane and prosaic calculations of business, the security decisions authorized by the state, and the mobilized vigilance of a fearful public. It is important to stress here that questioning the logic of militarization is not to underplay the acute violence inherent to this different kind of war. What I call here “algorithmic war” is one specific appearance of Foucault’s Clausewitzian inversion—the “continuation of war by other means”, its appeal to technology and expertise rendering the violent force of war somewhat ordinary and invisible (2003 [1976]:16). “The role of political power”, writes Foucault, “is perpetually to use a sort of silent war to reinscribe the relationship of force, and to reinscribe it in institutions, economic inequalities, language, and even the bodies of individuals” (16–17). Understood in this way, the political practices of homeland security—what Derek Gregory and Alan Pred call “expert solutions” (2007:1)—are actually sanctioning and reproducing the war-like relations of power seen in the overtly militarized spaces of Afghanistan and Iraq. They target individual bodies, designate communities as dangerous or risky, delineate safe zones from targeted locations, invoke the pre-emptive strike on the city streets.” (p.50)

Algorithmic security is war-like, then, not primarily because it brings military force into closer proximity with our daily commute or airport check-in queue (though of course it does do this), but because it functions through a war-like architecture. It deploys an “architecture of enmity”, a drawing of the lines between self/other; us/them; safe/risky; inside/outside, that makes going to war possible (Shapiro 1997). Though political geography has given critical attention to the performativity of the violent imagination of threat, this has most commonly focused on spaces where the presence of war is visceral and visible—where uniformed military personnel are present on the city streets (Katz 2007); when urban spaces are the targeted sites of war (Graham 2004); or in the tangible violences of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay (Minca 2005). In this paper, I explore the less visible spaces where the architecture of enmity is present in the form of algorithmic war.” (p.51)

According to Amoore, “Algorithmic war appears to make it possible for the imagination of an open global economy of mobile people, objects and monies, to be reconciled with the post-9/11 rendering of a securitized nation-state.” (p.51)

NB: Amoore explains: “Rules of association are produced by algorithms—models or “decision trees” for a calculation (Quinlan 1986). In effect, algorithms appear to make it possible to translate probable associations between people or objects into actionable security decisions. In 2003, for example, a US Joint Inquiry concluded that “on September 11, enough relevant data was resident in existing databases”, so that “had the dots been connected”, the events could have been “exposed and stopped” (2003:14). It is precisely this “connecting of dots” that is the work of the algorithm.” (p.51) [I couldn’t help thinking of Person Of Interest here!]

Person Of Interst LogoAmoore quotes US Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff: “[‘]If we learned anything from September 11 2001, it is that we need to be better at connecting the dots of terrorist-related information. After September 11, we used credit card and telephone records to identify those linked with the hijackers. But wouldn’t it be better to identify such connections before a hijacker boards a plane?[‘] Amoore then explains: “The algorithm appears to make possible the conversion of ex post facto evidence in the war on terror into a judgement made in advance of the event. The significant point here is that probabilistic knowledge, based on the databased residue of daily life, becomes a means of securitization.” (p.52)

What is novel in the contemporary moves to algorithmic war, then, is the specific form that the aligning of science, commerce, military and the state is taking.” (p.54)

“Surveillance cameras, equipped with facial and gait recognition technologies, track “atypical” movements such as repeated traversals of a platform (Hale 2005); “smart” travel payment cards store journey data and identify anomalies; and poster displays urge the public “if you suspect it, report it”. The calculations of the algorithm appear to translate the observation of uncertain and contingent human life into something with the credibility of scientific judgement.” (p.55) “The specific deployment of scientific knowledge, then, incorporates the affective domain, rendering fears and anxieties a means of anticipating the future.” (p.55)

“Citing international relations scholar Michael Shapiro, Derek Gregory argues that “geography is inextricably linked to the architecture of [-p.56] enmity”, to the overlapping practices through which “collectivities locate themselves in the world and thus how they practice the meanings of Self and Other that provide the conditions of possibility for regarding others as threats or antagonists” (2004:20). Yet, Gregory’s “spiraling networks” do not fully push the limits of Shapiro’s architecture because they return the geopolitics of violence to the disciplinary norms of battlefield spaces, obscuring the subtle differential violences of the “surveillance network” of the “end-of-violence organization” that Shapiro later depicts (2004:121). In the name of homeland security (the end of violence), algorithmic war reinscribes the imaginative geography of the deviant, atypical, abnormal “other” inside the spaces of daily life. The figure of enmity to be feared and intercepted need not only dwell in a represented outside in the geographies of Iraq or Afghanistan, for the outside can be inside—in the body of the migrant worker (differentially normal in the space of the economy and abnormal in the spaces of immigration), the young Muslim student (permitted to study but observed in the college’s Islamic society), the refugee (afforded the hospitality of the state but biometrically identified and risk-rated), the British Asian traveler (granted visa waiver but ascribed an automated risk score).” (pp.55-56)

“Here the architecture of enmity becomes the means of securitization itself, such that the distinction between “real” war (with accompanying visceral violence and bloodshed) and the war by other means (legitimated by securing against future violence) becomes permeable.” (p.56)

Ref: (italics in original, emphases in blue bold mine) Louise Amoore (2009) AlgorithmicWar: Everyday Geographies of the War on Terror. Antipode Vol. 41 No. 1, pp.49-69

Abstract: Technologies that deploy algorithmic calculation are becoming ubiquitous to the homeland securitization of the war on terror. From the surveillance networks of the city subway to the biometric identifiers of new forms of border control, the possibility to identify “association rules” between people, places, objects and events has brought the logic of preemption into the most mundane and prosaic spaces. Yet, it is not the case that the turn to algorithmic calculation simply militarizes society, nor even that we are witnessing strictly a commercialization of security. Rather, algorithmic war is one form of Foucault’s sense of a “continuation of war by other means”, where the war-like architectures of self/other, here/there, safe/risky, normal/suspicious are played out in the politics of daily life. This paper explores the situated interplay of algorithmic practices across commercial, security, and military spheres, revealing the violent geographies that are concealed in the glossy techno-science of algorithmic calculation.” (p.49)

Reference is to: Gregory D (2004) The Colonial Present. Oxford: Blackwell

Gregory D and Pred A (eds) (2007) Violent Geographies: Fear, Terror and Political Violence. New York: Routledge

Shapiro M (1997) Violent Cartographies: Mapping Cultures of War. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
Shapiro M (2004) “The nation-state and violence”: Wim Wenders contra imperial sovereignty. In J Edkins, V Pin-Fat and M Shapiro (eds) Sovereign Lives: Power in Global Politics (pp 101–124). New York: Routledge

‘Defining’ globalization


In his (c2003) Globalization: A Very Short Introduction, Manfred B. Steger offers an incredibly lucid account of the subject. I really enjoyed it and (as with all the books in this series), found it quick and easy to read, as well as helpful in providing a kind of cognitive framework around which to work…. Steger explains:

Since its earliest appearance in the 1960s, the term ‘globalization’ has been used in both popular and academic literature to describe a process, a condition, a system, a force, and an age. Given that these competing labels have very different meanings, their indiscriminate usage is often obscure and invites confusion. For example, a sloppy conflation of process and condition encourages circular definitions that possess little explanatory power. For example, the often-repeated truism that ‘globalization [the process] leads to more globalization [the condition]’ does not allow us to draw meaningful analytical distinctions between causes and effects. Hence, I suggest that we use the term globality to signify a social condition characterized by the existence of global economic, political, cultural, and environmental interconnections and flows that make many of the currently existing borders and boundaries irrelevant. Yet, we should not assume that ‘globality’ refers to a determinate endpoint that precludes any further development. Rather, this concept points to a particular social condition that, like all conditions, is destined to give way to new, qualitatively distinct constellations. For example, it is conceivable that globality might be transformed into something we could call ‘planetarity’ – a new social formation brought about by the successful colonization of our [-p.8] solar system. Moreover, we could easily imagine different social manifestations of globality: one might be based primarily on values of individualism and competition, as well as on an economic system of private property, while another might embody more communal and cooperative social arrangements, including less capitalistic economic relations. These possible alternatives point to the fundamentally indeterminate character of globality; it is likely that our great-grandchildren will have a better sense of which alternative is likely to win out.

Conversely, the term globalization should be used to refer to a set of social processes that are thought to transform our present social condition into one of globality. At its core, then, globalization is about shifting forms of human contact. Indeed, the popular phrase ‘globalization is happening’ contains three important pieces of information: first, we are slowly leaving behind the condition of modernity that gradually unfolded from the 16th century onwards; second, we are moving toward the new condition of (postmodern) globality; and, third, we have not yet reached it. Indeed, like ‘modernization’ and other verbal nouns that end in the suffix ‘-ization’, the term ‘globalization’ suggests a sort of dynamism best captured by the notion of ‘development’ or ‘unfolding’ along discernible patterns. Such unfolding may occur quickly or slowly, but it always corresponds to the idea of change, and, therefore, denotes the transformation of present conditions.

Hence, scholars who explore the dynamics of globalization are particularly keen on pursuing research questions related to the theme of social change. How does globalization occur? What is driving globalization? Is it one cause or a combination of factors? Is globalization a uniform or an uneven process? Is globalization extending modernity or is it a radical break? How does globalization differ from previous social developments? Does globalization create new forms of inequality and hierarchy? Notice that the conceptualization of globalization as an ongoing process rather than as a static condition forces the researcher to pay [-p.9] close attention to shifting perceptions of time and space. This explains why globalization scholars assign particular significance to historical analysis and the reconfiguration of social space.

To argue that globalization refers to a set of social processes propelling us towards the condition of globality may eliminate the danger of circular definitions, but it gives us only one defining characteristic of the process: movement towards greater interdependence and integration. Such a general definition of globalization tells us very little about its remaining qualities. In order to overcome this deficiency, we must identify additional qualities that make globalization different from other sets of social processes. Yet, whenever researchers raise the level of specificity in order to bring the phenomenon in question into sharper focus, they also heighten the danger of provoking scholarly disagreements over definitions. Our subject is no exception. One of the reasons why globalization remains a contested concept is because there exists no scholarly consensus on what kinds of social processes constitute its essence.

Despite such strong differences of opinion, however, it is possible to detect some thematic overlap in various scholarly attempts to identify the essential qualities of globalization processes [a statement, Steger goes on to discuss….]” (pp.7-9)

“…globalization involves the intensification and acceleration of social exchanges and activities. The Internet relays distant information in mere seconds, and satellites provide consumers with real-time pictures of remote events. As Anthony Giddens notes in his definition, the intensification of worldwide social relations means that local happenings are shaped by evens occurring far away, and vice versa. In other words, the seemingly opposing processes of globalization and localization actually imply each other. The ‘local’ and the ‘global’ form the endpoints of a spatial continuum whose central portion is marked by the ‘national’ and the ‘regional’.” (p.11)

“As images and ideas can be more easily and rapidly transmitted from one place to another, they profoundly impact the way people experience their everyday lives. Today, cultural practices frequently escape fixed localities such as town and nation, eventually acquiring new meanings in interaction with dominant global themes.” (p.70)

“…globalization is an uneven process, meaning that people living in various parts of the world are affected very differently by this gigantic transformation of social structures and cultural zones. Hence, the social processes that make up globalization have been analysed and explained by various commentators in different, often contradictory ways.” (p.13)

“Like all social processes, globalization contains an ideological dimension filled with a range of norms, claims, beliefs, and narratives about the phenomenon itself. For example, the heated public debate over whether globalization represents a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ thing occurs in the arena of ideology.” (p.93)

“Glowing neoliberal narratives of globalization have shaped a large part of public opinion around the world, even where people’s daily experiences reflect a less favourable picture.” (p.96)

“Today, neoliberal decision makers have had to become expert designers of an attractive ideological container for their market-friendly political agenda. Given that the exchange of commodities constitutes the core activity of all market societies, the discourse of globalization itself has turned into an extremely important commodity destined for public consumption.” (p.96)

“The neoliberal portrayal of globalization as some sort of natural force, like the weather or gravity, makes it easier for globalists to convince people that they must adapt to the discipline of the market if they are to survive and prosper.” (p.100)

“Once large segments of the population have accepted the globalist image of a self-directed juggernaut that simply runs its course, it becomes extremely difficult to organize resistance movements. As ordinary people cease to believe in the possibility of choosing alternative social arrangements, globalism’s capacity to construct passive consumer identities gains even greater strength.” (p.103)

“Even if one were to accept the central role of the economic dimension of globalization, there is no reason to believe that these processes must necessarily be connected to the deregulation of markets. An alternative view might instead suggest linking globalization to the creation of a global regulatory framework that would make markets accountable to international political institutions.” (p.99)

“The dominant ideology of our time, globalism has chiselled into the minds of many people around the world a neoliberal understanding of globalization, which, in turn, is sustained and reconfirmed by powerful political institutions and economic corporations. Yet, no single ideology ever enjoys absolute dominance. Gaps between ideological claims and people’s actual experience may usher in a crisis for the dominant paradigm. At such a time, dissenting social groups find it easier to convey to the public their own ideas, beliefs, and practices.

As the 20th century was drawing to a close, antiglobalist arguments began to receive more attention in the public discourse on globalization, a process aided by a heightened awareness of how extreme corporate profit strategies were leading to widening global disparities in wealth and well-being Between 1999 and 2001, the contest between globalism and its ideological challengers erupted in street confrontations in many cities around the world, climaxing in an unprecedented terrorist attack on the Unites States that claimed over 3,000 lives. Who are these antiglobalist forces?” (p.113) Steger then responds to this question, dividing the antiglobalists into two groups – which he groups under the terms ‘Particularist protectionism’ and ‘Universalist protectionism’ – and separates according to the following logic, which is fascinating on several levels: “…let us keep in mind that these groups must be distinguished not only in terms of their political agendas but also with regard to the means they are willing to employ in their struggle against globalization – means that range from terrorist violence to nonviolent parliamentarian methods.” (p.115) [Can we divide the ‘democracies’ of the world according to the same criteria???]

“Without question, the terrorist attacks of 11 September have seriously impacted the shape and direction of those social processes that go by the name of globalization. ” (p.134)

Ref: Manfred B. Steger (c2003) Globalization: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press: Oxford

Terrorism shapes the nation


I really liked this article of Beck’s; to my mind, it offers theory for analysis of  representations of violence, threat, and villainy, as well as spy fiction, oh and several others. Beck explains:

‘Risk’ inherently contains the concept of control. Pre-modern dangers were attributed to nature, gods and demons. Risk is a modern concept. It presumes decision-making. As soon as we speak in terms of ‘risk’, we are talking about calculating the incalculable, colonizing the future. [-p.41] In this sense, calculating risks is part of the master narrative of first modernity. In Europe, this victorious march culminates in the development and organization of the welfare state, which bases its legitimacy on its capacity to protect its citizens against dangers of all sorts. But what happens in world risk society is that we enter a world of uncontrollable risk and we don’t even have a language to describe what we are facing. ‘Uncontrollable risk’ is a contradiction in terms. And yet it is the only apt description for the second-order, unnatural, human-made, manufactured uncertainties and hazards beyond boundaries we are confronted with.” (pp.40-41)

He continues:

“There is a dialectical relation between the unequal experience of being victimized by global risks and the transborder nature of the problems. But it is the transnational aspect, which makes cooperation indispensable to their solution, that truly gives them their global nature. The collapse of global financial markets or climatic change affect regions quite differently. But that doesn’t change the principle that everyone is affected, and everyone can potentially be affected in a much worse manner. Thus, in a way, these problems endow each country with a common global interest, which means that, to a certain extent, we can already talk about the basis of a global community of fate. Furthermore, it is also intellectually obvious that global problems only have global solutions, and demand global cooperation. So in that sense, we can say the principle of ‘globality’ (Albrow, 1996; Robertson, 1992), which is a growing consciousness of global interconnections, is gaining ground. But between the potential of global cooperation and its realization lie a host of risk conflicts. [/] Some of these conflicts arise precisely because of the uneven way in which global risks are experienced.” (p.42)

The quest for global solutions will in all probability lead to further global institutions and regulations. And it will no doubt achieve its aims through a host of conflicts. The long-term anticipations of unknown, transnational risks call transnational risk communities into existence. But in the [-p.43] whirlpool of their formation, as in the whirlpool of modernity, they will also transform local cultures into new forms, destroying many central institutions that currently exist. But transformation and destruction are two inescapable sides of the necessary political process of experimentation with new solutions.

Ecological threats are only one axis of global risk conflict. Another lies in the risks of globalized financial markets.” (pp.42-43)

Both ecological and financial risks incorporate several of the characteristics we have enumerated that make risks politically explosive. They go beyond rational calculation into the realm of unpredictable turbulence. Moreover, they embody the struggle over the distribution of ‘goods’ and ‘bads’, of positive and negative consequences of risky decisions. But above all, what they have in common is that their effects are deterritorialized. That is what makes them global risks. And that is what sets in motion the formation of global risk communities – and world risk society. But while they show similarities, there are also important differences between the various kinds of global risk that significantly influence the resultant conflict. One is that environmental and technological risks come from the ‘outside’. They have physical manifestations that then become socially relevant. Financial risks, on the other hand, originate in the heart of the social structure, in its central medium. This then leads to several other differences. Financial risks are more immediately apparent than ecological risks. A consciousness leap is not required to recognize them. By the same token, they are more individualized than ecological risks.” (p.43)

A further distinction can be made, however, between ecological and financial threats on the one hand, and the threat of global terrorist networks on the other. Ecological and financial conflicts fit the model of modernity’s [-p.44] self-endangerment. They both clearly result from the accumulation and distribution of ‘bads’ that are tied up with the production of goods. They result from society’s central decisions, but as unintentional side-effects of those decisions. Terrorist activity, on the other hand, is intentionally bad. It aims to produce the effects that the other crises produce unintentionally. Thus the principle of intention replaces the principle of accident, especially in the field of economics. Much of the literature on risk in economics treats risk as a positive element within investment decisions, and risk-taking as a dynamic aspect linked to the essence of markets. But investing in the face of risk presupposes trust. Trust, in turn, is about the binding of time and space, because trust implies committing to a person, group or institution over time.

“This prerequisite of active trust, in the field of economics as well as in everyday life and democracy, is dissolving. The perception of terrorist threats replaces active trust with active mistrust. It therefore undermines the trust in fellow citizens, foreigners and governments all over the world. Since the dissolution of trust multiplies risks, the terrorist threat triggers a self-multiplication of risks by the de-bounding of risk perceptions and fantasies.” (pp.43-44)

One of the consequences thereof is that the principle of private insurance is partly being replaced by the principle of state insurance. In other words, in the terrorist risk society the world of individual risk is being challenged by a world of systemic risk, which contradicts the logic of economic risk calculation. Simultaneously, this opens up new questions and potential conflicts, namely how to negotiate and distribute the costs of terrorist threats and catastrophes between businesses, insurance companies and states.
Therefore, it becomes crucial to distinguish clearly between, on the one hand, the conventional enemy image between conflicting states and, on the other, the ‘transnational terrorist enemy’, which consists of individuals or groups but not states. It is the very transnational and hybrid character of the latter representation that ultimately reinforces the hegemony of already powerful states.
The main question is: who defines the identity of a ‘transnational terrorist’? Neither judges, nor international courts, but powerful governments and states. They empower themselves by defining who is their terrorist enemy, their bin Laden. The fundamental distinctions between war and peace, attack and self-defence collapse. Terrorist enemy images are deterritorialized, de-nationalized and flexible state constructions that legitimize the global intervention of military powers as ‘self-defence’.” (p.44)

Bush’s alarmism has a paradoxical effect: it gives Islamic terrorists what they want most – a [-p.45] recognition of their power. Bush has encouraged the terrorists to believe that the United States really can be badly hurt by terrorist actions like these. So there is a hidden mutual enforcement between Bush’s empowerment and the empowerment of the terrorists.” (pp.44-45)

“The second big lesson of the terrorist attack is: national security is no longer national security. Alliances are nothing new, but the decisive difference about this global alliance is that its purpose is to preserve internal and not external security.” (p.46)

Ref: (italics in original, emphases in blue bold mine) Ulrich Beck (2002) The Terrorist Threat : World Risk Society Revisited Theory, Culture & Society 19: 39-55